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Sep 2 / Geralyn Stephens


Your online courses are up and running and there have been very few student inquires. I am sure you implemented the online communication mechanisms including the course Welcome Letter, the Getting Started video and the Q&A Blogs. Yes, things are off to a good start!

Many of your students have begun their readings and reviewed your lectures, videos and some have completed their initial assignments. Unfortunately, not all students are ‘present and accounted for’! They simply have yet to log into the course.  This could potentially be a problem not only for the student, but for you, too! Federal regulations specifically related to Federal Student Aid dictate that attendance data be factored into financial aid calculations.

What does that mean for online instructors? Will we need to document student participation levels, stop-out and drop out dates? Documenting their levels of participation need not be difficult, if you employ the Blackboard tools designed to track participation and attendance. The Blackboard Retention Center provides a variety of tools to monitor student participation, attendance, achievement and performance. Click here for an overview and video.

Early in the term, I use the Blackboard Retention Center to track student NO SHOWS. These are students who have never logged into the course and/or who have not accessed any course information. I count the number of days since the beginning of classes to create the “Rule”. Blackboard generates a listing of students matching the criteria. Then, Blackboard allows me to notify the students of their non-performance status. The email message sent becomes a permanent part of the student’s records within Blackboard. The following is the narrative I used recently:

 Dear TED 6020: Computer Applications in Teaching student:

Just a note to let you know that you have yet to log into the Blackboard course site and an assignment is coming due tomorrow.  Please make time to complete course assignments and activities.  Lack of participation will negatively impact your grade.  Your prompt attention is expected.

This term, there were six (6) students receiving the message. Two responded within three (3) hours and provided an update regarding their status. So, it works! Please view the 1-minute No Show Video, a step-by-step view of the Retention Center and how I use it to track/monitor NO SHOW students.

Feel free to make modifications to the narrative above and include in your course. If you have a related question, please post.


  1. Geralyn Stephens / Sep 5 2014

    Thanks, Bob, for sharing! There are many ways to accomplish tasks within Bb. The strategy you suggest can be found under the Manage tab in the Grade Center. Then, select Column Organization. By default, it is a hidden column. One simply needs to select Last Access. And, then select the SHOW from the Show/Hide pull down menu. Click the SUBMIT button and the column will appear in the Grade Center.

  2. Bob Holley / Sep 5 2014

    Another way to do this, especially for a smaller class, is to use the “last access” column in the Grade Center. Clicking on the header will sort the data by access date. It is then easy then to click to select the students who haven’t accessed the course and to send them an email.

  3. Laurel Whalen / Sep 3 2014

    This is great! I didn’t even know about this feature in BB. Keep the great tips coming!

  4. Veronica Bielat / Sep 3 2014

    Thank you for this post Geralyn–this is so helpful!

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