Mobility and Course Communications: Bb Connect

Eric Kunnen, Grand Rapids Community College
Kerri Reese, Jacksonville State University


  • About 40% of undergrads are non-traditional
  • Students don’t read emails!
  • Faculty need to be more confident that their message is reaching their students

Jacksonville State University is a four year public academically focused insitution in Northeast Alabama. They have about 9,500 students, 86% of those are undergraduates. 65% of their students are 18-24 years old. 68% are full time students.

Grand Rapids Community College is a community college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. About 17,000 students attend GRCC. There are 200-300 full time faculty and 600-800 adjunct faculty. There are two campus locations as well as a number of regional centers. There is a lot of mobility on the campus – everyone commutes – and some faculty and students attend courses at more then one location.

Connect for Learn lets instructors send emails, text messages, and text-to-voice messages to students.


  • In the first semester at JSO, over 1500 messages went out to students about their grades in just one semester.
  • Students are highly focused to get immediate feedback from their instructors.
  • There was a jump in usage in students updating their profiles and their contact information to take advantage of Connect.
  • To help with the implementation, Kerri helped faculty linked the Connect information into their courses.
  • Additionally, they utilized step-by-step instructions and short video tutorials to help students set-up their profiles.
  • If you want to eliminate 9 million questions about how to set-up a proctored test – send a text!
  • A promotion plan was created with web pages, promo videos, flyers and table tens, faculty PowerPoint and email templates as well.


  • A custom building block is used to allow students to easily opt-in to course notifications and enter their mobile number.
  • Recently, GRCC updated it to add the ability for students to add their home phone number as well.
  • Students are able to updated their mobile phone number at anytime using the custom building block.

Options for setting Bb Connect up

  • At JSU students log into Blackboard access their profile and go into their profile and edit their preferences.
  • At GRCC, students use the same screens, but are given a quicker way to get to the mobile phone preferences area.

Faculty Response

  • There is a high level of interest and response from faculty.
  • After sending an initial message about the new tool, there were lots of questions generated as to how it works and what they need to do to get the word out to their students.
  • JSU started at the beginning of the spring semester and the beginning of the fall semester.
  • There is a high adoption rate among online professors in particular.
  • The integration of the system within the course makes it so easy for faculty to communicate using this system – as long as students have opted-in.

Tips & Tricks:

  • Try to get the communication out to faculty in as many avenues as possible: newsletters, kickoff meetings, department meetings, emails, via text message.
  • Make the tool as effortless and indispensable for faculty. e.g. Three clicks to sending out notification to students.
  • It is a one screen workflow for faculty to send messages, so it is very fast and right in their Blackboard course.

Survey Results from GRCC:

  • 62% of students have signed up for automated notification such as new grades have been posted.
  • 59% of students who have not signed up yet did not know about the tool. Only 3% do not see the value.

At JSU it also works with Connect MNS

  • Students get a Connect phone call when there is an emergency on campus or their bill is due.
  • All other outreach communications are sent as text messages.

The Future of Notifications for Learn

  • Course notifications are now available for Learn 9.1 customers on SP9 at no additional cost.
  • Students can received automated text and text-to-speech messages.
  • Starting in August, a new two-way SMS tool will be launched. You can create a dialogue with students and have them text back!
  • To find out more, text NOTIFICATION to 97178
  • You lose text-to-speech, but gain the two-way functionality.
  • The building block is entirely free, but you do have to buy text message packages.

About Meegan
Meegan has over fifteen years experience working in higher education. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Statistics from Western Michigan University and a Master of Education with an emphasis on Instructional Technology from American InterContinental University Online. She is currently the Instructional Technologist/Designer at Grand Rapids Community College where her main focus is helping faculty to develop and deliver quality online and hybrid courses.

One Response to Mobility and Course Communications: Bb Connect

  1. Pingback: GRCC at BbWorld12 « GRCC BbWorld Conference Blog

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