Two BCCC professors recognized by Blackboard

Published 7:08 pm Friday, January 18, 2019

Two professors at Beaufort County Community College were rewarded for their dedication to superior online course design. Math professor Kimberly Mullis and music professor Dr. Stacey Russell had courses honored through Blackboard’s Exemplary Course Program (ECP). Three professors at BCCC have now achieved the award through the online platform, and the community college is one of only three colleges in eastern North Carolina with Blackboard-certified Exemplary Courses.

“What sets BCCC apart is our quality of instruction,” said Mullis. “If we design better online courses, we can better serve our students. We strive to offer a superior online experience so students will choose BCCC for their distance learning needs.”

Blackboard is the primary platform for online communication and instruction at BCCC. With most classes having an online component and some classes being exclusively online, how instructors utilize the platform has a significant effect on student success. The awards program recognizes faculty from schools, colleges and universities around the world who develop engaging and innovative courses that represent the very best in technology and learning. Mullis and Russell are both part of the Arts and Science Division, primarily focused on students who plan to transfer to other institutions. BCCC, University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Wake Tech are the only colleges in eastern North Carolina with Blackboard Exemplary Course award-winning faculty.

Mullis won for her MAT 110 course, “Math, Measurement and Literacy”, while Russell won for her MUS 110, “Music Appreciation”. Their courses demonstrated excellence in design, interaction and collaboration, assessment, and learner support.

These 110 classes broadly impact students’ success early in their college careers. Many high school students, who are accustomed to taking classes in person, take these classes through dual enrollment programs such as early college high schools or Career and College Promise. Mullis said that stronger online engagement in these classes will improve student success and help them shape their attitude toward the rest of their college career. Since most summer courses are online, the redesigned courses will also benefit those students. In the next year, the two professors expect up to 150 students to benefit.

Certification through Blackboard’s ECP is part of a larger initiative at BCCC to make online education a valuable option for students. The college expects to certify at least another eight instructors in the next year.

“It’s encouraged collaboration between the faculty as we develop these courses,” said Russell. “I’ve looked at what others have done and used it as motivation to be innovative about my own courses.”

For example, Mullis had mostly used Blackboard Collaborate to communicate one-on-one with students. Now, she is opening the feature to all of her learners to create a community experience that resembles seated classes. Russell is using Collaborate for her students’ final exams, so that it feels like an oral presentation for the students, instead of a submitted written exam.

The two professors said the difference between their classes a year ago and now are night and day. “It spills over into your other courses, not just the award-winning ones,” said Mullis. “It changes you as an instructor.”

“You only move forward from this,” added Russell. “I’m much more specific about my instructions thanks to this program.” Russell said the students who enjoy her online classes will often seek out her in-person classes.

IT professor Robin Lilly was the first BCCC faculty member to be awarded this honor in July of 2018, leading the way for other faculty members. “I learned a lot from Robin as she developed her award-winning course,” said Mullis.

For 17 years, the ECP has recognized faculty and course designers whose courses demonstrate best practices. Since its founding, thousands of instructors, teachers and designers have used the ECP to evaluate and improve their courses with recognized best practices. To be considered for the honor, applicants must be a user of the Blackboard Learn learning management system. Submitted courses are evaluated by other course developers, instructional designers, teachers and professors using the ECP Rubric.

Mullis and Russell will be honored alongside other outstanding recipients on the Blackboard website, as well as in the Blackboard Community, a platform where the largest organized network of Blackboard users connect, collaborate and learn from their peers.

To learn more about the Exemplary Course Program, visit