A Bluenotes GLOBAL Like No Other

Written by Explorance.

The 7th annual Bluenotes GLOBAL conference kicked off in early August. For two days, Bluenotes community members, Explorance product experts, and industry thought leaders came together to share and discuss how student feedback can help continuously improve teaching and learning in higher education.

The 2020 edition, however, was unlike previous versions of Bluenotes GLOBAL. This year’s event occurred entirely online. The virtual format offered a unique structure that provided a truly global experience for attendees. Although it was a 2-day affair, Bluenotes was greatly expanded, with over 60 community-led sessions, including keynotes, presentations, panel discussions, and virtual meetups occurring in time zones friendly to NA, EMEA, and APAC regions.

Outstanding Keynotes

Salma Ghanem, PhD, Provost, DePaul UniversityDr. Salma Ghanem Ph.D. – Provost of DePaul University – delivered the keynote for the NA region. It was titled The Dialectical Tension in the Relationship of Faculty and Administration: An Intercultural and Communication Approach. Dr. Ghanem has extensive experience as a leader in various Higher Education Institutions, including Central Michigan University, University of Texas-Pan American, and most recently, DePaul University. During her presentation, she provided her perspectives on the dialectical tensions that exist in Higher Education, advice on how to lead in the world of Higher Education and discussed the importance of communication.

“By getting a better understanding of these three elements,” Dr. Ghanem explained. “We can help Higher Education Institutions implement their visions and provide a framework for success by creating a sense of community that encourages all faculty and all staff to perform effectively and, most importantly – innovatively.”

Dr. Ailsa Crum, Head of Quality and Enhancement, The Quality Assurance Agency, ScotlandFor the EMEA region, Dr. Ailsa Crum, Head of Quality and Enhancement at The Quality Assurance Agency, Scotland, delivered her keynote speech, Students as Partners or Customers? Does Our Relationship with Students Affect How We Hear and Respond to the Student Voice? Commenting on the new reality due to Covid-19, Dr. Crum noted that, “engaging in a digital space in discussions about the management of learning and teaching has actually opened up more opportunities for students, and there’s a sense that the opportunities they have are more democratic.”


Get your copy of “The Student Voice: How can UK universities ensure that module evaluation feedback leads to continuous improvement across their institution?”

Covid-19 Impact on Higher Education Panel Discussions

There were various sessions dedicated to the shift to remote learning due to Covid-19. These included two panel discussions titled COVID-19 Impact on Course Evaluations – occurring in time zones friendly to APAC and NA. In NA, the discussion was moderated by Stephanie Klein from the University of Minnesota. It included participants from Rutgers University, The Ohio State University, McGill University, and the University of Pittsburgh.

For the APAC region, panelists were from Murdoch University, University of Western Australia, The University of New South Wales, and The University of Melbourne. Panelists discussed the many challenges their Higher Education Institutions continue to face due to the pandemic and also looked at how the Bluenotes community served as a critical resource for institutions making adjustments to their course evaluation strategies.


Other Covid-19 presentations included:

  • Supporting Faculty with the Shift to Online Course Delivery during COVID-19 – King Abdullah University
  • Chaos and Opportunity: COVID-19 at the University of Minnesota
  • Can Formative Evaluation tools such as Bluepulse Help Engage Students When Moving to Online Learning? – University of Strathclyde, University of Sharjah, Birkbeck, University of London, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and University of Dubai


What Course Evaluation Practitioners Need Most Amid COVID-19? Technologies to Connect, Clear Directions and Transparent Communication

Community Meetups: Business Schools, Medical & Health Sciences, and more

Bluenotes community members working in different categories of Higher Education Institutions – i.e., Business Schools, Medical & Health Sciences – came together to connect and share. These meetups saw participants discussing specific topics that were relevant to their institution, problem-solving, and addressing unique requirements and challenges they all face, in a virtual roundtable discussion format,

Faculty Research Grant Presentations

Explorance’s Faculty Research Grant recipients had the opportunity to present their research findings at the conference. Fifteen presentations were given throughout every region focused on using assessment or course evaluation data to enhance instructional design and teaching and learning. Additionally, a Faculty Grant Workshop was led by Robert Goldstein, the Bluenotes Faculty Research Grant Review Committee chair, from the University of Louisville. During this session, Robert went over the blind review process, rubric used to review the research proposals for funding, and the review process and rubric for the 2021 Faculty Research Grant.

One of many highlights from the Faculty Research Grant presentations was that of Dr. Leanne Stevens, Senior Instructor at Dalhousie University. Titled What Makes Feedback Usable for Instructors?, Dr. Steven’s presentation highlighted an example of instructor-solicited course feedback – beginning with question development and refinement, and then processing, summarizing and interpreting the qualitative data.


Other Faculty Grant presentations topics included:

  • Learning Outside the Box: A Data-driven, Cross-sectional Learner Behaviour Analysis – María Óskarsdóttir and Anna Sigríður Íslind from Reykjavík University
  • Investigating the Relationships between the Learning Ecology, Self-efficacy, and Academic Achievement after COVID-19 – Sadiq Midraj (Zayed University), Jessica Midraj, & Asli Hassan (Khalifa University), and Jake Madden (Al Yasat Private School)
  • Do Instructor and Course Evaluations in STEM Gateway Courses Predict STEM Retention? – Joseph Rios, Stephanie Klein, & Samuel Ihlenfeldt, University of Minnesota

Virtual Social Meetups and Activities

Even though Bluenotes GLOBAL 2020 was virtual, there were time zone friendly social gatherings and games. Community members from different parts of the world were able to join any of the gatherings and get to know those in the other time zones. There was also a pre-conference scavenger hunt where anyone who registered was given several clues to find keywords on the Bluenotes Group website. Once all the words were found, they formed a quote. During the conference, attendees also tested their knowledge with three rounds of trivia. These moments allowed everyone to socialize, chat, and play some trivia for great prizes.

Bluenotes GLOBAL 2020 VX was unlike any previous edition of the user conference. On opening day, there were over more than 450 participants from Higher Education Institutions across the globe, ready to engage, share, and learn. It was a true feat of dedication from the presenters, keynote speakers, participants, and those behind the scenes to create a seamless experience. The knowledge shared and the accessible environment created has shown that no matter what format the conference takes, the most important part will always be the people.

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