There are various tools in Blackboard to help you monitor your students engagement with the course and its content.
Using some of these tools as part of your overall course management strategy could help identify students who may be struggling academically and/or technically, giving you the opportunity to provide early intervention and support.
Early intervention could also help improve retention.

Blackboard Control Panel Tools

Within the ‘Evaluation’ section of your Blackboard course’s Control Panel you will see links to three tools: ‘Course Reports’, ‘Performance Dashboard’ and ‘Retention Centre’.

Evaluation tool link

Within ‘Course Reports’ there are various reporting options for viewing course usage and activity by specific students, within a defined date range. For example, you may want to see which content areas and tools were most popular with the cohort during November The report would also highlight days and times that the activity took place. If you run a report for the whole cohort, you can see an overview of who has and who hasn’t been active on the site.

You can find more information about Course Reports here

The ‘Performance Dashboard’ provides an overview of the cohort. From here you can see when each person last accessed the course and how many days have passed since. You can also see how many discussion board posts they have made, and get an overview of the progress of each student through any ‘content pathways’ that you might have created, using ‘Adaptive Release’ rules (please email AQD if you wish to know more about creating pathways through content).

There is more information about the Performance Dashboard here

The ‘Retention Centre’ can highlight potential issues that individual students may be having with accessing or participating in your course. The Retention Centre is switched on by default, with a number of pre-defined (and customisable) rules already running. These rules can alert you to missed deadlines, grade issues, below average activity within the course and not accessing the course for a number of days. You can contact the students directly from the Retention Centre, and add notes as reminders to any intervention or extenuating circumstances.

There is more information about the Retention Centre here

There is also further guidance at the end of this document

retention centre overview

Item-level monitoring
Apart from these ‘central’ tools, it is also possible to monitor individual items within a Blackboard site.  With ‘Edit Mode’ switched on, click the chevron icon to the right of the item’s title and choose ‘Statistics Tracking

Statistics report toolstatistics report


Once switched on a new option (View Statistics Report)will appear in the menu that lets you generate reports to see who viewed the content and when.

General considerations

As with most reporting tools, care should be taken when interpreting results.  Triggering a below average activity rule in the Retention Centre, for example, may indicate that a student is falling behind, but it may be that they are currently researching away from the course.  Statistics Tracking may show that a particular student viewed the content, but how do you measure their understanding?

Along with evaluation and monitoring options, you may wish to consider strategies to encourage engagement within the course and help shape understanding, perhaps using discussion boards and tests.  Planning on how you will communicate with the cohort, such as via announcements and text messaging, as well as making the content as accessible as possible, for example by being ‘mobile friendly’, can all help encourage and support participation.

For more information, please email AQD

Important points for a successful use of the Retention Centre

The Retention Centre will not automatically email students who trigger an alert. This helps prevent potential anxiety and frustration for students who have been sent warning emails but who are properly and effectively participating in the course. You have the opportunity to review any students triggered by the rules and, by taking any mitigating circumstances into account, only contact those students who you feel are legitimately ‘at risk’.

If there is more than one tutor on your Blackboard site, then remember that each one has access to the Retention Centre. It is therefore worth establishing protocols for its use at the beginning of the course, thus preventing any misunderstanding and ensuring an effective use.

First you should decide on the risk areas and rules you wish to monitor. A good rule-set will avoid too many false-positive triggers:

  • What rules will you use?
  • What parameters will you select?
  • Will the rules be ‘locked’ for the course duration?
  • Who will administer the rules?

Your choice of rules and parameters are likely to be influenced by the nature of the course, its dependence on Blackboard access and interaction, as well as the assessment types and practices.

How are triggered rules handled and interpreted?

An access rule triggered at the beginning of the course may require a different response than if the same rule is triggered at other times in the course, for example.

Who will send messages from the Retention Centre to students?

To prevent important messages being missed, or alert messages being sent multiple times, it is important to establish who will send any messages.

The default message wording may not be appropriate in all instances. The wording should be checked before sending, and changed if necessary.

Details of emails sent via the Retention Centre are automatically logged in the student’s Retention Centre account. You can also add notes directly into this area, for example to record that you’ve had a conversation with the

student about a particular issue. Remember that this note could be viewed by other tutors on the site, so it may be best to record the intervention in a way that doesn’t reveal sensitive or personal details, and like emails, information stored here could be required as part of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

There is a section at the bottom of the Retention Centre page that shows some details about your activity in the course (last login etc.). This section only displays details of the tutor who is currently accessing the page. This means it will only show your information to you. You cannot see your colleagues’ information from the Retention Centre, and they cannot see yours.

When your course is complete, it will be useful for you to think about how you will evaluate the impact of the Retention Centre, in preparation for the next cohort. Do the rules need to be altered? Do you need to update your processes? What could you do better next time?

If you’d like more information or guidance about using Blackboard tools to monitor student engagement please contact