The Journey to Creating an Exemplary Course

Leonardo Tissot
Leonardo Tissot
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Quick Take: The Exemplary Course Program (ECP) allows Blackboard clients to examine their courses’ design, collaboration and interaction, assessment, and learner support characteristics, and to share insights with other community members through peer review.

Created in the year 2000 with the aim to disseminate best practices in high quality course design, Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Program (ECP) is a free of charge initiative that has helped thousands of clients (instructors, instructional designers, and trainers, among others) to reflect and act on meaningful topics such as Course Design, Interaction and Collaboration, Assessment, and Learner Support.

The Blackboard Exemplary Course Program (ECP) began with a clear goal in mind: identifying and disseminating best practices for designing high quality courses.

The core of the program is the ECP Rubric, a guideline which defines key characteristics of high quality courses within the framework of Course Design, Interaction and Collaboration, Assessment, and Learner Support. The ECP Rubric is, in fact, offered under a Creative Commons license to “encourage participants to reuse and remix it as part of their own discussions and standards on quality course design,” says Debbora Woods, Senior Manager of Global Client Programs at Blackboard.

ECP is a continuous effort, available to the Blackboard community with extensive opportunities for course reviews and collaboration. Participation is free of charge for all who are interested in joining the program, and Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Open LMS clients can submit their courses any time throughout the year for review. To this day, thousands of instructors, trainers, and designers have used the Exemplary Course Program to evaluate and improve their courses with recognized best practices.

There are three ways in which interested participants can be a part of the program:

Icon Self-reviewSelf-review
(where participants review their own course quality, assisted by ECP Rubric guidelines)

Icon Peer Review Peer Review
(which allows participants to review other people’s courses to help them achieve a higher quality)

Icon  Professional Services Professional Services
(offered by Blackboard for review and development of quality courses).

ECP Cohorts Offer a Deep Dive Into Exemplary Courses

Twice a year, participants can also join ECP Cohorts, consisting of five free webinars where each exemplary characteristic from the Rubric is covered, providing best practice examples, viewing course tours from Exemplary Course Winners, and hands-on walk through of building an exemplary course. The series concludes with a special Course Reviewer Training for those interested in volunteering to peer review submitted courses.

Illustration Why Participate in the Exemplary Course Program?

Why Participate in the Exemplary Course Program?

Through the ECP, you have the opportunity to:

  • Reflect on your course design through self-review
  • Complete professional development through the Cohorts
  • Gain insights from peer reviewers
  • Apply lessons learned to your courses
  • Network with other peers

How to Submit Your Course?

a. Click here to access the self-review form
b. Make a copy of your course (do not include student data)
c. Create a username and password for course reviewers
d. Complete your course self-review
e. Submit your course for peer review

Illustration How to Submit Your Course?

You Can Be a Voluntary Peer Reviewer as Well. But First…

  • Get familiarized with the ECP Rubric criteria
  • Explore learning resources in the ECP Community
  • Sign up to be a peer reviewer
  • Wait to be assigned a course via email (works on a rotating basis)
  • Complete your review within 4 weeks

Illustration You Can Be a Voluntary Peer Reviewer as Well. But First…

Illustration Benefits you Realize by Being a Peer Reviewer

Benefits you Realize by Being a Peer Reviewer

  • Explore a variety of courses
  • Get inspiration for your own courses
  • Share knowledge with your peers
  • Contribute to others’ success
  • Apply lessons learned to your courses

Time to Celebrate

See the steps that are taken once a course has been deemed Exemplary.

  • ECP winner notification via email with e-badge, certificate, and course review reports
  • Announcement in ECP Community and Blackboard blog
  • Institution’s communications/marketing team notification
  • Plan on-site celebration at institution
  • Send out letters to institution’s administrative and academic leaders
  • Send out press release, blog, and social media posts

Recognition at BbWorld on main stage and Awards Reception

Illustration Time to Celebrate

Join us in the ECP to reflect on course quality, share ideas, and work together to improve our community’s teaching and learning efforts.

How the Exemplary Course Program Helped EKU to Reinvent Their Courses

Eastern Kentucky University offers 24 online programs for students interested in getting a qualified education experience. By participating in the 2018 Exemplary Course Award, Instructional Designer Alix Heintzman and English Department Lecturer Margaret Frozena had the opportunity to see their courses from a different point of view, which led them to think of innovative ways to update their course content and to offer students a more interactive experience.

“We decided to participate mostly because a colleague of ours, Jennifer Perkins, who also works at EKU’s instructional design center, participated in the Catalyst Award a few years ago and was recognized for the work she did. I thought Margaret had great ideas too and I wanted her to be recognized for those as well,” Heintzman recalls.

Photo Alix Heintzman, instructional designer at EKU
Alix Heintzman, Instructional Designer at Eastern Kentucky University. 

How ECP Rubric Impacted EKU

Although the ECP Rubric was not actually used by EKU to build courses, it did help as a way to see them in another way. “Some of the things we emphasize pedagogically at EKU, such as interaction and collaboration, as well as learner support, were pretty much aligned with ECP Rubric and we could get great ideas from that,” Frozena explains.

There were also a couple of areas on the ECP Rubric that were not considered in the EKU course development process. For example, the need for synchronous and asynchronous communication, and individual instruction options to be made available for students, which both Heintzman and Frozena considered helpful and challenging at the same time.

Photo Maggie Frozena, English Department lecturer at EKU
Maggie Frozena, English Department lecturer at Eastern Kentucky University. 

Feedback Was “Easier to Understand”

Frozena recalls looking at the course reviewer reports that she worked on as a good experience. “I got good feedback about things I was already thinking of changing or updating in my courses. I also felt like the Blackboard peer review reports were easier to understand and more detailed than other experiences I have had prior to this one, so it was really good in terms of how to take the class and make it even stronger,” she says.

By winning the Exemplary Course Award, Heintzman and Frozena hope to raise awareness about the need to keep improving online courses at the university, making it clearer to fellow lecturers and instructional designers how a course can become more creative and interactive.

“Seeing things from Blackboard’s point of view helped us realize where our courses are doing well and where they aren’t working, so we can offer a better experience for students,” Frozena concludes.

Expert Analysis

BITS Program: Why 94% of Participants Share With Their Peers

Alix Heintzman, Instructional Designer at Eastern Kentucky University. 

Maggie Frozena, English Department lecturer at Eastern Kentucky University. 


AFP Mark Mahan


Triibu Studio 

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