Activation of Blackboard Observer Function

Carl Lejuez interim provost and executive vice chancellor
Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019, 11:13 a.m.
KU Lawrence Faculty and Staff


Thank you to all who contacted my office and the University Governance office with comments and questions regarding activation of the Blackboard Observer function. As you may recall, the Observer function would allow KU Athletics academic counselors to monitor the academic progress of the university’s 500 student-athletes for NCAA compliance purposes. Your questions and thoughtful feedback were extremely helpful in considering a university-wide launch of the Observer tool.

The large majority of responses that both my office and University Governance received expressed no concerns and indicated strong support for turning on this feature for use by KU Athletics academic counselors. Concerns raised predominantly focused on whether participation by faculty was required and the extent to which advisor access would be limited to only the student-athletes in a course. We understand these concerns and can confirm that faculty do not have to use Blackboard, can opt out of allowing access, and KU Athletics academics counselors access is tightly limited to the student athletes they support. The default setting on Observer limits the counselor’s access to the “My Grades” page for their student-athletes, with no access to other Blackboard sections for the course.

Based on the feedback, I am moving forward in approving this feature, and the Blackboard Observer function will be turned on university-wide on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019.

For faculty or academic staff who use Blackboard and who have student-athletes enrolled in their 2019 spring semester courses, the Observer function will show “Athletics_Counselors” as an observer. As stated earlier, faculty are not required to use Blackboard and may choose to opt-out of allowing the KU Athletics academic counselors to be an observer on their Blackboard page. In either instance, Kansas Athletics academic counselors will contact faculty individually for student-athlete progress reports throughout the semester.

In the coming days, IT personnel and Provost’s Office staff will work to provide information and answers to all faculty and academic teaching staff who raised concerns or questions. Information about the Observer tool will also be available within Blackboard. Additionally, an FAQ page is being developed to answer many of the common questions that were raised during the question-and-comment period. The FAQ, as well as instructions to opt-out of the Observer tool, will be available soon. Online tutorials will be developed at a later date, and as needed, to provide further assistance in using the Observer tool.

If you have further comments or questions, you can:


Carl Lejuez
Interim Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor



Updated Feb. 22, 2019

Instructions to opt-out on Blackboard Observer are now available.