What does Blackboard use at Wentworth look like?

Last fall Blackboard researchers published a report on course design in Blackboard based on student use of the tools in Blackboard (Whitmer et al, 2016).  The data sample used was an aggregate of over 600,000 learners , 70,000 courses from 927 institutions and included measures of time spent using tools. Using cluster analysis the authors looked for patterns within the student usage data that suggested ways in which instructors were designing their courses using Blackboard. From their analysis, the authors identified five basic archetypes, Supplemental (content posting), Complementary (announcements, content posting and grades), Social (discussion board focused), Evaluative ( heavy use of evaluations), and Holistic (use of wide variety of tools in an integrative pattern).

Another study of Blackboard usage examined course design patterns based on the tools chosen and implemented in Blackboard by instructors (Machajewski et al, 2017). A team at University of Illinois at Chicago collected data on approximately 2500 courses from Fall 2016 which included categorical indicators (used/didn’t use) for the use of 7 categories of tools in each course. Using latent class analysis, the study’s authors found three classes of Blackboard use in their courses which they describe as Holistic (use of ca. 5  tools) , Complementary (average of 3 tools used), and Content Repository (1 tool used) archetypes. Examining the distribution of class (archetype) assignments generated by the analysis by college, the authors found that the proportions of courses in each archetype varied among colleges. Different colleges seem to use Blackboard in different ways which relate to the proportion of online, hybrid and face-to-face courses.

In light of these findings, we wondered are there unique patterns of Blackboard use here at Wentworth? An initial latent class analysis of tool use data across 11 Blackboard tools in over 13,000 course sites over 10 terms (Spring 2014 through Spring 2017) revealed four latent classes which correspond to non-use and three usage classes. The three course usage types at Wentworth corresponded to the Holistic, Supplemental, and Complementary/Evaluative archetypes found in the Blackboard study. Approximately 35% of the course sites evaluated did not use Blackboard. Of those courses using Blackboard, most fell into the Supplemental category (64%) , followed by Complementary/Evaluative at (28%) and Holistic (8%).  At Wentworth Supplemental course sites used the announcements and files features, while the Complementary/Evaluatative courses used announcements, files, tests, assignments, video and rubrics. Robust courses at Wentworth used the most diverse set of tools: announcements, files, tests, assignments, discussion boards, blogs, journals, groups and rubrics.

In general, instructors at Wentworth are using Blackboard in ways similar to those at other institutions. The results also are consistent with findings from the COF BLES study which found that Blackboard use for most courses is as a file repository with pockets of more robust use in some programs.


Whitmer, J., Nuñez, N., Harfield, T., & Forteza, D. (2016). Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use : Five Course Design Archetypes, 1–8.

Machajewski et al. 2017. Course Design Patterns: Latent Class Analysis With Open Source BbStats. Blackboard World 2017 Presentation, July 24, 2017.