Monitoring your students' learning activity

DecorativeThis page provides guidance on:

  • Quick ways to check in with students to measure their learning
  • Student attendance monitoring
  • Monitoring students’ activity in Blackboard and their engagement with course materials

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Checking in with students

It is important to dedicate time in your teaching for regular check-ins with your students about how their learning is progressing, what they find useful, and how they are finding or engaging with the learning experience. This not only helps you track your students’ learning, but provides you with valuable feedback on your teaching.

Here are some activities you can use.

  • Quick polls and “temperature checks” in live sessions (see below for details of Blackboard and other tools)
  • At the end of each week, ask students what they have enjoyed and what they have found difficult. You could do this as a short discussion task either live or on a discussion board or ask students to post on a jamboard.
  • “The muddiest point” - after presenting new content, ask students to make a note of what they are least clear about. As above students can either discuss or post on a jamboard.
Blackboard Collaborate Tools

For a quick ‘temperature check’ on how the class is getting on with the content, there are a few tools within Blackboard Collaborate that can be utilised.

The My Status and Settings menu can enable students to indicate preference on the speed of delivery (slower / faster) and whether they have understood a particular element (confused / happy).

Screenshot of a live blackboard collaborate session with the 'My status and settings' button and menu highlighted

You can also create Polls in Blackboard Collaborate that can be displayed at any time during the session.

It is possible to create ad hoc poll questions, but for most scenarios we recommend pre preparing your questions and answers as part of your presentation , and launching the poll at the relevant time. Guidance on pre-preparing poll questions and answers (see 'Polling' accordion section of this page).

Blackboard Collaborate's poll creator, with a snapshot of the poll answers in the middle of the screen. The 'share content' tab in the collaborate panel is highlighted.

Once participants have selected their answer, you will see their response in a circle next to their name (y or n for yes / no, or the number of the corresponding multiple choice answer that they have selected).

A snapshot of how people voted will appear on your screen, which you can make visible to participants.

Blackboard Collaborate's attendees view on the right with a snapshot of the poll results in the centre

Poll results can be downloaded at the end of the session.


The whiteboard in blackboard collaborate. In this example, participants have annotated a venn diagram to show whether they like different fruits.

The integrated whiteboard on Blackboard Collaborate can also be used to quickly gather information from your cohort (note that all contributions are anonymous). Annotations will appear on the session recording, but they can’t be downloaded. Take a screenshot if you want to save the contributions.

Dedicated polling tools

TurningPoint is an audience response tool that can be used in both online and in person teaching and offers a variety of different question types, allowing you to run quick polls and test knowledge with quizzes. Students just need access to a web browser or the mobile app to participate in sessions. More information about using Turningpoint polling is available from our support pages.

Although there are free polling and audience response tools available, these are classed as ‘third-party tools’. This means that they are not provided or supported via normal university channels and we cannot guarantee they meet information security or GDPR standards.

Guidance on which digital learning tools to use: supported and unsupported tools

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Using digital learning tools to monitor learning

There are a number of tools included in our digital learning systems which can help us to observe the activity of students and enable us to see student engagement with our resources.

If you are planning to use any of these tools, it is advisable to communicate this clearly with students so they understand the expectations.

Student Attendance Monitoring

Whilst the University's Student Attendance Monitoring policies expect face to face attendance to be monitored wherever possible, provision is available for online learning to form part of a student’s overall engagement record. For more information, see the guidance on Student Attendance Monitoring.

Monitoring activity in Blackboard

As the main digital learning environment for your students, Blackboard contains built in tools to help monitor student activity. At a Blackboard course level, you are able to see at a glance:

  • Date the student last accessed the course
  • Days since the student last accessed the course
  • How many discussion board posts have been made by the student
  • Deadlines that students have missed
  • Assessment score statistics

More detailed analytics are available for individual elements of your Blackboard course, such as synchronous Collaborate sessions and media content from Kaltura or Encore.

Engagement with Blackboard

You can quickly see when a particular student has last accessed your Blackboard course in the Performance Dashboard.

Access this area in the course Control Panel Under Evaluation > Performance Dashboard

Next to each student you will see the date and time they last accessed the course, as well as the amount of discussion board posts they have made.

Blackboard's performance dashboard with the "Last course access" column highlighted

The Retention Centre (Evaluation > Retention Centre) can be customised to give you an overview of students that have not been engaging with the course. The default view may not be the most helpful, click Customise to change the parameter. We suggest excluding the ‘Default Activity Rule’ & ‘Default Missed Deadline Rule’ to give a more useful overview. The Customisation menu will look like:

The customisation menu in the Blackboard retention centre

This then will show you who hasn’t logged on to your course in the past 5 days or more (you can edit the number of days), and might be a good indication of when a student isn’t engaging with your material. However, there could be a genuine reason for the student not logging on to your course, such as being on a leave of absence.

The retention centre allows you to monitor individual students, and email students directly. Click on a student name to access further information.

Course reports

There are a number of course reports available from the Control Panel > Evaluation > Course Reports menu. These reports are a bit more detailed than the Retention Centre, and can be harder to interpret, but two useful reports are:

Course Activity Overview shows the amount of time each student has been active on the course. You will see an overview of the days of the week students typically engage with your course, so it could be useful to know when to release new content, or monitor discussion board posts. You can access individual student activity from this view, to see which areas of the course students are spending the most time in.

All user Activity Inside Content Areas Displays the amount of hits the left hand menu areas of your course gets (some areas are not counted, such as Reading Lists or Announcements). This allows you to see the most popular areas of your course, but could also let you know which areas of the course you may need to highlight if students aren’t accessing them.

Assessment reports

Assessment reports are available for any assessment that has been marked electronically in Blackboard. In the Course Management section, access the Grade Centre > Full Grade Centre menu. Find the relevant assessment, and click on the column menu > Column Statistics.

This will display overall metrics for the assessment, such as the average grade, deviation and total number of submissions. This could assist you in providing cohort level feedback, as communicating the class average grade to students can help contextualise their mark alongside peers. 

Guidance on giving feedback

Engagement with Collaborate

You can view reports from the list of sessions in your Blackboard Collaborate tool.

  1. Find the session you want to see a report on, and select the Session options menu. (Use the Filter by menu to find historical Blackboard Collaborate sessions.)
  2. Select View reports.

Blackboard Collaborate's sessions listing. The view reports section of the options menu highlighted

The report will give you:

  • Date and time of the session
  • Number of attendees and average time in the session across all participants.
  • Participants name (if they accessed as a guest it will show the name they entered when they accessed the room)
  • Time they first joined the room and the time they last left the room. If they joined the room more than once you can see this under the Joins column.

A Blackboard Collaborate session report listing session and participants details

To the left of this page you are able to export the report as a printable sheet or export the information into a CSV file. The downloaded CSV also contains student usernames.

It is not possible at this time to view which attendees have accessed Blackboard Collaborate Session Recordings.

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Monitoring engagement with course videos

Videos that are inserted into your Blackboard course via Encore or Kaltura provide rich analytics. Both tools offer the ability to view student level insights into how content is consumed.


Engagement with all videos in your course

Open your Blackboard course, and choose Course Tools > Media Gallery. Click the Menu icon, and choose Analytics to get an overview of video performance. More information about Media Gallery Analytics is available here.

Engagement with a single video on your course

Login to Blackboard, and choose the Tools > My Media option. Search your My Media library for the relevant media item. To access the analytics, do either of the following:

a. Click the analytics icon on the relevant media item in your My media library.

b. Click the item’s title, select the Actions menu on the media page and select Analytics.

Two screenshots showing the two different ways to access media analytics in blackboard, as described above

This will display a wealth of information including: individual student engagement with the content, average percent of media viewed, number of plays and geographical location content was played from.

Video ‘heatmaps’ are also displayed, allowing you to identify the most popular sections of content.


Login to Blackboard, and find the appropriate course. Click on the Encore link, and find the Analytics tab. This displays an overview of lecture captures across the semester, alongside individual student engagement.

Further information about student activity is available from the Student tab, such as usage of notes and polling tools, alongside video views.

Video ‘heatmaps’ are also displayed on the media details page, allowing you to identify the most popular sections of content.

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Further information

Further reading