Linking Blackboard components to efficiently plan consecuetive feedback sessions

30 May 2013 by ICTO TEAM
Rudy Negenborn (3mE)

As a lecturer, I regularly assist the students that I supervise in person or via a webcam. In order to plan these events more efficiently, I developed an enrollment system Blackboard.

Project description

For the course “Control for Intelligent Transport Infrastructures” (ME1604), more than 80 students carry out a project in groups of four. The projects are always comprised of three phases: system definition, central control and distributed control. As a tutor, I can organise the meetings in several ways:

  1. No structure and allow students to do their own thing. This is idea tricky, since they might refuse to request feedback or wait until the very end of the course. Not optimal for student nor teacher.
  2. Strict structure of weekly assistances on a set day. I then need to reserve at least one hour per group to be able to discuss everything. Not ideal when a meeting lasts less than one hour, since the remaining time is too short for doing other work.
  3. A mix of the first two options: scheduling meetings the moment students are reflecting on the implementation of a phase. In this model, the tutor allocates time slots and students assign themselves to one block. In this way, consecutive meetings can be conducted, without losing time. Students are free to organise the project their own way. Also, the feedback sessions should become more efficient, since it will be clear beforehand what needs to be discussed. As a result, one hour discussions should no longer be necessary.


I developed a system to facilitate the third option. The meetings were planned in a much less time fragmenting fashion; prior and after the conversation sequences I was able to focus on other work. The students knew exactly what they could expect, when they could ask questions and about what specific issues. For the sake of efficiency, I wanted to communicate through Blackboard exclusively: no email, Excel sheets, Google Docs, physical subscription lists, etc.

This was the context:

  • The project is divided into three phases. Each phase addresses a particular topic and responds to specific learning objectives. Per project group, three feedback sessions are scheduled, always after the students have have been working on one of the phases.
  • Students receive feedback on a specific part of the project, and only when they have indeed prepared that part.

I brought a combination of the following Blackboard components into play:

  • Blackboard Groupset “Project Groups”, in which 22 project groups of four students are created. At the start of the course, students are invited to enroll via Blackboard Announcement.
  • Blackboard Groupset “Time Slots for Feedback Session X” (X = 1, 2 or 3), in which 25 groups are created and named after a specific date and time slot for feedback. The maximum number of participants (groups) for such a time slot is 1.
  • Blackboard Assignments facilitates the submission of three interim reports, one per phase, describing the group’s ideas with respect to the current phase.
  • Blackboard Self Enrollment allows students to enroll in one of the time slot groups.
  • Blackboard Adaptive Release ensures that the hyperlink to the enrollment system appears only after the group submitted the documentation for that specific part of the project.
  • Prior to a meeting the teacher can easily print a list of students who have enrolled.

The images below show some examples of the tools I used.

Group Sets

Figure 1. Group Sets for the chosen solution.

Figure 2. Setting up the groups in groupset “Project Groups”.

Figure 3. Groups in the groupset “Time Slots Feedback Session 1”.


Figure 4. Assignment information for the assignment “Submit the draft report of Project Part 3: Distributed control”.

Figure 5. Availability details of Assignment “Submit the draft report of Project Part 3: Distributed control”.

Figure 6. Recipients of Assignment “Submit the draft report of Project Part 3: Distributed control”.

Self Enrollment

Figure 7. Information regarding the Self Enrollment sheet for group “Time slots Feedback Session 3”.

Figure 8. Enroll settings for the Self Enrollment sheet for “Time slots Feedback Session 3”.

Adaptive Release

Figure 9. Date details for adaptive release of the Self Enrollment sheet for “Time slots Feedback Session 3”.

Figure 10. Membership options for Adaptive Release of Self Enrollment sheet for “Time slots Feedback Session 3”.

Figure 11. Grade options for the Adaptive Release of Self Enrollment sheet for “Time slots Feedback Session 3”.

Appointments Overview

Figure 12. Overview of the program “Time slots Feedback Session 3”.

The students really liked this approach, and so did I. Therefore, I will keep on using and perfectionising the system next year.

Tips for colleagues

  • First plan which days or dates you are willing to rerserve for meeting students. Book a room in advance (preferably the same room every meeting).
  • In between series of meetings, you will need a break. This scheme worked for me: 30-minute break; 2 x 30-minute meeting; 60-minute break; etc.
  • Setting up all the Blackboard components takes time; start early! You will have to carefully choose the dates on which the assignments will be shown to students.
  • Decide in advance which aspects of the project are important. Reserve enough time to review the documents submitted by the groups.
  • At the start of the course, inform your students about the modus operandi:
    • goal of the project and its structure;
    • dates on which feedback is given, provided that the relevant documents are submitted beforehand;
  • In view of the exams for other courses, offer a wide array of time slots at the end of the quarter.

More information

Lecturer: Rudy Negenborn (3mE); email:
Year: 2013–2014

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