Bluenotes GLOBAL 2019 – A Community Working Together to Advance Student Feedback

Written by Chanel Sutherland.

The Bluenotes GLOBAL 2019 conference in Chicago, Illinois, was an outstanding success attended by over 200 like-minded Bluenotes community members and practitioners from more than 100 higher education institutions from 12 countries, a significant increase from the first conference in 2014.

For the last six years, the Bluenotes Group brings together community members, Blue product experts, and industry thought leaders to share and discuss how student feedback can help continuously improve student learning and development in higher education. 2019 was the year of the “feedback matters” movement, gaining momentum at many partnering institutions, including Washtenaw Community College.

Conference Highlights

For four days, experience-rich, thought-leading minds in student feedback shared innovations, best practices, and creative solutions with each other and took full advantage of the many opportunities to expand their professional networks and learn from colleagues.

Highlights included Dr. Shirley Raines’, Ph.D. keynote presentation on Building Productive Partnerships to kick off the conference and Professor David Carless’ featured keynote speech on Feedback Literacy as a Key to Ongoing Improvement.

Both presentations were compelling in their own way. During her keynote, Dr. Raines focused on how to drive success with partnerships across faculty, institutional research offices, teaching and learning centers, and IT for more effective use of feedback and evaluation tools. She engaged audience members to help demonstrate the key components of, and the value of, partnerships within an institution and shared real-life success stories to a full-house. She elaborates on the concept in her book, An Uncommon Journey: Leadership Lessons from a Preschool Teacher who became a University President.

“Time to speak with participants after my presentation, during the social break, and before lunch was meaningful to me, and I hope productive for them,” said Dr. Raines. “I was able to include several of their thoughts in my keynote. “

In his presentation, Professor Carless inspired the attendees with the thought-provoking question: What does it take to develop feedback literate individuals, “in order to make sense of data and use data for continuous improvement” with a feedback literacy framework? A feedback literate person, Carless argued, sees the value of feedback and uses it to work towards improvement. “Good feedback is a dialogue. Anything that can begin a dialogue between teachers and students is a good way forward.”

Institution-Led Presentations

About 20% of the attendees at BN Global 2019 shared their experiences as presenters and panelists. Among the hot topics discussed, the one focus across the board was advancing student feedback and how to leverage technology in the classroom to give students a voice. Institutions from across the globe including the University of Minnesota, Kingston University, UC Berkeley, University of Toronto, British Columbia Institute of Technology, University of Newcastle, and Zayed University shared their current and upcoming initiatives as well as longer-term visions.

Interactive roundtable discussions facilitated attendees to discuss challenges and exchange ideas with their peers and Explorance staff. Topics included interpreting qualitative feedback, achieving response rates, and many other challenges that higher education often faces when managing student feedback.

“A great conference that was very worthwhile attending, both for meeting practitioners from around the world, and the high-quality papers and mix of topics from increasing response rates through to machine learning applied to text analytics. There were so many good sessions, and I am still writing up all of my notes,” commented Dr. Tim Linsey, Head of Academic Systems & Evaluation, Directorate for Student Achievement at Kingston University.

“I attend a variety of higher education professional development conferences. My first Bluenotes was among the best in my career. This excellent event is a continuation of the product/service excellence we receive from Explorance. Thank you,” said Rob Downie, Manager – Institutional Research, at Fanshawe College.

“My first Bluenotes was among the best in my career.”

“I will have a lot of information to pass on to my colleagues when our academic year starts soon,” added Kim Ponsaerts, Quality Assurance Manager and Lecturer, at Erasmus University College Brussels.

Daniel Glover, Senior Student Rating of Teaching Project Manager at the University of Minnesota highlighted the value of connecting with the community members at the conference: “Every year there is always someone with an answer to a particular question.  Often it’s not in the sessions themselves but the Q&A or hallway conversations.”

“It was such an amazing opportunity to meet up with people who do what we do, who face the same struggles and are coming up with innovative solutions,” said Meagan Morrissey, Manager Student and Staff Insights at the University of Newcastle. “I made great connections with people I would never have the opportunity to meet, and I learnt so many new things about Blue. I was excited to come back to work and start implementing these new ideas. This was definitely the best conference I have been to.”

BN GLOBAL 2019 and Beyond

The conference was truly a community-powered effort. The connections made, the stories shared, and the practical knowledge gained to help advance student learning and development were the true measures of success at this year’s event.

“I’d personally like to say thank you to everyone who attended, shared, partnered, and joined us in making the 2019 Bluenotes GLOBAL a rewarding success”, said Yeona Jang, Executive Vice President, Community Expertise & Learning Center at Explorance. “Bluenotes is a community working together to advance student learning and development. This annual conference allows us to connect, share, and learn together with community peers across the globe. I look forward to 2020 and beyond.” 


Chanel Sutherland

Manager, Content Marketing & Brand Strategy, Explorance


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