10 Years 10 Lessons: Impacting Student Learning and Teaching Effectiveness

Written by Explorance.

Student reading out of a paper

It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, we opened registration for the first Bluenotes conference – then called Bluenotes Americas – and started an exhilarating journey that continues to impact Higher Education across the globe. Hosted by the University of Louisville and sponsored by Explorance, the 10th annual Bluenotes GLOBAL 2023 took place in Kentucky from July 30 – August 3, 2023.

Since we started our work in 2013, we’ve had one overarching goal: To support Explorance Blue users by providing them with a community where they can connect to share successes, lessons learned and discuss new ideas for innovative problem-solving.

Bluenotes GLOBAL 2023 participants

This year’s conference theme, “Reflect and Reimagine: 10 Years of Shaping Higher Education,” presented an opportunity for Explorance to engage our Higher Education customers in crafting the next partnership phase as we all pursue our shared mission: improving teaching effectiveness and enhancing the student learning experience.

Here are 10 lessons learned at the 10th Bluenotes GLOBAL conference:

1.   10 Years of Milestones to Celebrate

The Bluenotes Community had so much to celebrate this year! We took time during the conference to recognize and celebrate a few of the milestones accomplished during the past 10 years as a community.

  • Perfect Attendance: Honoring those attendees who have joined us for every Bluenotes GLOBAL conference.
  • Most Certified: Honoring the institutions with the most certified Explorance Blue users.
  • Agents of Change: Honoring the top three institutions who have influenced the roadmap of Explorance Blue during the past 10 years.

Attendees that won the following mentions: Perfect Attendance, Most Certified, Agents of Change.

2.   Student Feedback is Still a Marker for Student Success

One of the benefits of the Bluenotes community is that it allows Explorance Blue users to share a common interest in a mission that the community focuses on. This year, like the last 10, saw leaders recommitting to student feedback data as a mode to navigate the accelerated transformations within Higher Education.  Whether through university-led presentations or panel discussions, the conference was packed with insights and lessons from peer-to-peer experience around their use of student feedback.

“One of the most consistent data you can collect every year in every term is course evaluations,” shared Taiwo Ande, Senior Associate Provost, California Lutheran University, during the day two panel discussion. “Course evaluations provide one of the most easily accessible information you can have to drive curriculum and program improvement.” 

Co-presented by California Lutheran University, Dalhousie University, and Saint Mary’s College of California, this panel focused on how effectively Higher Education institutions used feedback gathered through Student Evaluations of Teaching (SET) to help improve curriculum reviews and program development processes.

3.   Feedback is a Loop, not a Line

A common thread in most presentations was that feedback is not a linear process. Rather it operates as a continuous loop that cycles between students and educators. This dynamic loop entails an ongoing exchange of insights, opinions, and observations, where students provide their perspectives on the academic experience, and educators respond by adapting their methods accordingly.

During her session, invited speaker Gail DePuy, Ph.D., Senior Vice Provost at the University of Louisville, revealed, “Our student government association is in the room when decisions are being made, informing students of what’s happening behind the scenes and proving we are working on improvements based on their feedback.”

This iterative nature of feedback acknowledges the evolving nature of education and the diverse needs of students. It emphasizes the importance of consistent communication and mutual adaptation, fostering an environment where learning is a collaborative endeavor rather than a one-way street.

“We also encourage faculty to explain how they use feedback data for instructional changes,” added Robert Goldstein, Vice Provost, Assessment and University Decision Support/Analytics, University of Louisville. “When faculty takes the time to explain how they incorporate student feedback data into instructional changes, they get the best results [on SETS].” 

4.   Course Evaluations are one Part of the Equation

To truly understand the intricacies of student learning and teaching effectiveness, many Bluenotes Community members are adopting a holistic feedback approach that goes beyond course evaluations. It includes avenues for gathering feedback on various aspects inside and outside the classroom.

A holistic feedback approach includes the learning environment, support services, assessment methods, curriculum relevance, and overall educational climate.

  • Peer Reviews
  • Self-Evaluations
  • Midterm Reviews
  • 360 Degree Feedback
  • Alumni Surveys

Moreover, holistic feedback incorporates qualitative methods to dig deeper into open-ended comments where students articulate their experiences in greater detail. 

5.   Everyone Wanted to #MeetMLY –The AI-Powered Student Voice

As comment analysis and AI were at the forefront of discussions at the Bluenotes GLOBAL 2023 conference, Explorance revealed MLY, a specialized comment analysis solution that accurately consumes, analyzes, and categorizes up to 1 million student comments in 1 hour. MLY captured attendees’ imaginations at the MLY zone – where visitors were treated to customized MLY buttons and product demonstrations – and during various presentations from Explorance staff and faculty grant researchers. As we continue to explore the transformative potential of student comment data, we hope to partner with the Bluenotes Community to shape product development to meet their needs.

6.   Always Build with Flexibility and People in Mind

In their presentation “Take a Chance on Me – Taking Chances and Doing Things Differently,” Tufts University and The Ohio State University presenters demonstrated why software flexibility is not just a convenience but a strategic necessity. Two distinctly different institutions, each leveraging the flexibility of Explorance Blue to mitigate complicated evaluation situations.

The Ohio State University has 65,000 students across campus and 40,000 employees. Every division uses the same 10-question Student Evaluation of Teaching questionnaire. On the other hand, Tufts University has 6,000 undergrads, 6,000 graduates, and 6,000 faculty, staff, and clinicians.

“I would love to do everything one way, the same way [as The Ohio State University], but all our schools use Explorance Blue differently,” commented Candace Girard from Tufts. “We are on the same Blue instance, but they all have special needs. Over half of our schools are health sciences which adds a whole other level of complications. But this also gives us the opportunity to think outside the box.”

7.   Community is a Worthwhile Commitment

The Bluenotes Community is, first and foremost, for Explorance Blue users, and over the last 10 years, we have seen just how much value they have got out of it. From forming regional chapters and communities of interest to collaborating on forum discussions, webinars, and conferences, the community has become an organic entity that supports anyone using the Explorance Blue suite of products. It also acts as a driving force for product improvements to ensure that, as a company, we are constantly building software that better meets our customers’ needs.

As Boston University joins the Blue family, Kevin Wiles, Educational Platform Administrator, said: “As a university in the middle of implementing Blue, Bluenotes GLOBAL 2023 was an amazing way to welcome BU into the Blue family. Not only did we learn about relevant technical and operational pieces of Blue, but we created meaningful connections with people from our peer institutions, from those who have been using Blue for a decade to those like us who are building new relationships with Explorance. The appreciation shown to their clients lets us know that we chose the right product for our needs and the right company to stand behind it.”

8.   Support Services Should always be the Top Priority

Imagine a place where attendees’ questions find swift answers, concerns are met with understanding, and technical glitches are resolved before they can cast a shadow on the event. The Explorance Support Station at Bluenotes GLOBAL was not just a help desk but a sanctuary of support and solutions for those attending the conference. It embodied the commitment to our customer’s success. It showcases that our organization is dedicated to presenting groundbreaking solutions and ensuring that each Explorance Blue user maximizes their potential with our products.

9.   Fostering Connections Beyond the Conference

Beyond the workshops, presentations, and demos lies an essential dimension that brought that extra life into the Bluenotes GLOBAL conference—the networking events. These gatherings weren’t just about mingling; they were about cultivating relationships, sparking collaborations, and amplifying the impact of the conference experience. We started this year’s conference with a welcome reception at The Brown Hotel Rooftop, where we met and mingled before the official conference opening.

In addition, we had structured networking that brought together Explorance Blue users from different institutions to have purposeful conversations on a specific topic relating to student feedback. These structured sessions helped bridge the gap between different personalities, titles, and institution types and between newcomers and veterans. We hope to weave a tapestry of shared experiences and successes by facilitating these connections.

10.   Everyone’s Excited About the 2024 Conference

We told our customers at Bluenotes GLOBAL 2023, and now we’re ready to tell the world. Where will our 2024 conference take place? What will it be called? Watch the following video and find out.



Are you interested in reserving a spot or getting more information? Feel free to contact us.


Bluenotes user conferenceHigher educationMeet MLYStudent experienceStudent feedbackTeaching effectiveness

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