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Blackboard Catalyst Awards / Exemplary Course Programme

This page explains the Blackboard Catalyst Awards and the Blackboard Exemplary Course Programme, some rationale as to why you might like to get involved, the processes of submission for the Catalyst awards, and how you can be supported through this by the Faculty of Humanities eLearning team. You will also find out information about our past winners of the award and also links to further resources.

Catalyst Award logo

What are the Blackboard Catalyst Awards?

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards is an annual competition held by Blackboard to recognise and reward teaching programmes that have 'pushed the boundaries of educational programmes and technologies in order to deliver innovative and effective learning experiences" (Blackboard Inc.)

There are a number of categories within the award, the category which takes up the main focus is the Blackboard Exemplary Course Award. Course teams self-nominate their programme, having first completed a stage of self-evaluation using Blackboard's Exemplary Course Rubric. Nomination are then then reviewed by a global reviewer panel made up of educators and industry professionals who decided where courses are exemplary, and put these forward to receive an award. Awards are given out at the annual Blackboard World conference, and it's Blackboards aim that every student should have the opportunity to learn through a Blackboard Catalyst awarded course during their studies.

Rarely UK or European universities have picked up an award, but tutors from the Faculty of Humanities have so far been successful twice: Dr Andrew Whitworth (Institute of Education 2012) and Dr Adam Ozanne (School of Social Sciences 2014).

For more information on the awards see:

What are the benefits of taking part?

Firstly the international awards organised by the leading educational technology provider, brings recognition to the university, school and instructor. A winning course can be a marketing asset potential students (see Drew Whitworth's course blog here for an example). Being awarded at the BlackboardWorld provides you with an opportunity to meet up with fellow instructors to meet and share ideas.

Secondly, and probably most importantly, the awards present an opportunity for development with the process of entering a submission providing an opportunity for reflection and review. The Blackboard Exemplary Course rubric is a well made tool that very broadly covers all areas of online/blended-course delivery in terms of student learning environment and interaction, and is a useful tool for evaluating a course's current provisioning in these areas and to chart improvements. This is also an opportunity to work alongside eLearning Technologist and your peers on improving course design. And finally this is an opportunity to receive independent feedback and potentially validation of your methods, all submissions receive detailed comments and suggestions on their course from the team of reviewers.

How do I take part?


The deadline for submissions to the award takes place in February. This presents a lead time in bringing together a course submission including work with peers and eLearning Technologists.

The components of a submission are:

Ahead of starting a submission, course teams may like to discuss with a member of the eLearning team and their peers about how the course matches up against the Blackboard Exemplary Course rubric, to generate some ideas about key course 'Stand-out activities', and discuss ideas improvements that can be made to enhance courses. Depending upon the timeframe and the amount of work involved this work might be initiated 6-months prior to submission, or submission may be one outcome of a wider review process so submission may be for a years time or more once practices have had a chance to 'bed in'.

A simple first step for anybody interested in taking part is to download a copy of the Blackboard Exemplary Course rubric, read how the categories are made  up and compare to their own teaching programme.

How can the eLearning team help?

Throughout the year we run promotional events to raise awareness of the awards, including presentations by past-winners.

The eLearning team have helped with all winning entries so far from the university. Their involvement depends upon your needs, and may consist of the purely technical elements of making a reviewer copy of the course available for the external reviewers, but they can also help with writing the nomination form and assisting with small enhancments. Through our Humanities eLearning Design (HeLD) workshops we can support programme teams through longer-term curriculum design. For winners we can help to generate resources to highlight and showcase your achievement.

If there are a number of courses in a discipline area who are interested in taking part that we can also help to establish a peer-review structure whereby staff have access to reviewer copies of courses and the tools to anonymosly review against the rubric. Depending upon demand for support within schools we might need to prioritise submissions, or find sustainable methods of support (e.g. through peer review). We'd also be keen to refer instructors to the excellent Blackboard MOOC 'Designing an Exemplary Course' through which tutors can support themselves through the review process.

If you'd like help in your submission please contact the faculty eLearning team at elearning@manchester.ac.uk.

Resources by past-winners

Dr Adam Ozanne, 'ECON10061 Introductory Mathematics', School of Social Science


Poster displayed at Blackboard World:

Thumnail of Adam's winning Catalyst poster
http://man.ac.uk/vWc44L


A 'course-tour' in video format in which Adam shows viewers around his course:



Reviewer feedback:

Feedback reviewer 1: http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=21431
Feedback reviewer 2:
http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/display.aspx?DocID=21432