New Features for Combined Courses in Blackboard

Wrapped into the new, faster course request process are a few feature enhancements for those teaching a Master Course in Blackboard. Now when combining student enrollments from multiple course sections into a single course, a Blackboard Group and Grade Center “Smart View” will automatically be created for each section, with students assigned to them according to the section they originally enrolled in. These will make assigning section-specific assignments, and grading section by section, easier. Enrollments in these Groups will be updated as students add, drop, or change sections.

Let’s assume that you have combined several sections into a Master Course, and now you have multiple Groups for these sections. How can you use those Groups to make your teaching more effective and efficient?

Adding Content and Assessments for each Section

Teaching multiple sections of the same course is very common. Whether it is undergraduate and Honors sections, or an undergraduate and graduate section, students work through the same material. In these cases, it makes sense to combine enrollments from all sections into one, within Blackboard. Having done so, however, there may be a need to offer additional material or assignments to one or more of the combined sections, which will now be much easier.

For example, an Honors or graduate section of a combined course may be required to submit an extra assignment. Once you have added any relevant materials (readings, links, etc) and created an Assignment for it, you can use an Adaptive Release rule to limit access to only the students in the relevant Group. Students who were enrolled in another section of the course would not be able to see the content or Assignment.

Selecting the Adaptive Release option from the contextual menu on a content item

Alternatively, you may want the students in one or more sections to participate in a Discussion Forum that is limited to only the students in that section. Perhaps this is an extra assessment for them, or you want TAs to monitor different sections of students. Blackboard Groups include their own Discussion Board (as well as Blogs, Journals, and Wikis), from which any number of forums may be set up for students to take part in a discussion, graded or not. Again, students from other sections of the course would not be able to access the Group Discussion Board. Note that the Groups are unavailable by default, and you will need to edit the groups to make them available to students before you can use the Group Discussion Board feature.

Grading by Section

The other new feature for combined courses is the automatic creation of a Smart View, allowing you to see a given section by itself in the Grade Center.  Previously, if you, or your TA(s), wanted to grade each of your sections independently, you would have to consult MyNIU’s section rosters, going down each list, and mentally skipping over students that weren’t on the current section’s roster. Or, you would have to replicate the rosters using Blackboard Groups and creating a Smart View for each. Now, all of that work is done for you!

To use a Smart View, go the Full Grade Center, and click the Filter button. You can use the Current View drop down menu to select the Smart View you want to focus on. You can also enable a Smart View as a Favorite by clicking the Manage button, choosing Smart Views from the drop-down menu, then, on the Smart Views page, clicking the Star for each of the Smart Views you would like as a Favorite. From then on, you’ll have quick access to each sections’ roster by expanding the Grade Center menu in the Control Panel, then clicking the relevant Smart View.

Adding a Smart View as a favorite, for easy access from the Grade Center menu in the Control Panel

Emailing Students by Section

It is easy to email students in a single section of a combined course, with the new automatically-created Groups. In the Control Panel, click Users and Groups, and then click Groups. Click on the Group Name to open the group, and then Send Email to select students from that section to email. You can use the Select All button and then the right arrow to quickly select all of the students in that section. If you have made the Groups available to students, you can also use the Send Email tool in Course Tools to select a single Group to email.

emailing a group of students

Summary

These new groups can be very powerful for making your teaching more efficient, and to enable student collaboration within a single section of a Master Course. What other use cases can you think of? Post them in the Comments – we would love to hear how you are using them!

Trends in Blackboard Tool Usage at NIU – 2016

Blackboard Learn, the primary course management system used by faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and students at NIU, continues to be an important platform for facilitating teaching and learning at NIU with over 95% of students and 88% of teaching faculty using the system during fall 2016.  To gain even more insight into how NIU is using Blackboard, the Division of Information Technology implemented custom reporting capabilities within Blackboard that extends the built-in statistics tracking features for recording individual tool usage by course. As a result, we have an even better understanding of overall Blackboard adoption and tool use at NIU, and have the ability to track usage trends over time.

Here are some notable trends in Blackboard tool usage at NIU (also available for download here):

NIU Blackboard Tool Usage Report, 2016

A few noteworthy usage trends as of Fall 2016 include:

  • Between fall 2015 and fall 2016, Blackboard continued to be used at a very high level (95% of students using, 88% of faculty)
  • Overall tool use continues to grow, including of the most-used tools
  • Usage of the Assignment tool (for collecting students’ assignments electronically) has continued to grow at a rapid pace, and has been used by at least half of all courses in Blackboard, for a year
  • Most course instructors make use of Blackboard for communicating important information through the Announcements tool, posting content items (such as PowerPoint Slides, PDFs, Images, etc.), as well as posting students’ grades
  • Assignments, tests, discussion boards, and Collaborate web conferencing continued their trend of increased use during the summer semester

Thank you to the Division of Information Technology for providing these usage statistics, as they have been useful in identifying what tools are being used most in Blackboard as well as recognizing trends usage over time.

For more information about Teaching with Blackboard at Northern Illinois University, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard.

Review of Classroom Response Systems Complete

posted in: News, Newsletter | 0

clickersFrom the end of March through mid-April 2016, faculty and staff from Northern Illinois University participated in a review of five classroom response (“clicker”) systems, facilitated by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center (for an overview of the process, timeline, and the faculty needs assessment, please see this earlier article). The review was undertaken because of intermittent issues with the current officially recognized and supported clicker system, rapidly changing clicker technology, and the recent increase in adoption of multiple competing clicker systems across campus which potentially forces students to buy more than one device.

However, due to low participation in the review process, any change of systems would not represent perspectives of everyone who uses a clicker system across NIU. The faculty who participated in the review recommended not changing systems at this time, and the Faculty Development Advisory Committee (comprised of faculty across all colleges) concurred with the decision. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Turning Technologies will remain the officially-supported clicker system at NIU.

Whenever possible, faculty are encouraged to use the officially-supported clicker system, to reduce costs to students, increase the value of the purchase they make, and take advantage of student familiarity with a common system. However, there are many factors to consider when adopting technology, so faculty are not required to use the officially-supported system.

When choosing a clicker or student-response system, there are a number of alternatives you may consider to minimize cost to students. First, if your purpose is to increase student engagement as opposed to testing, a physical clicker device may be unnecessary. For Turning Technologies’ clickers, the ResponseWare license is cheaper than the clicker remote and students can participate using their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. In that case, ask the Bookstore to add license cards to the list of recommended materials for your course. Second, if your class is not large, you may be able to use one of several free systems, such as Poll Everywhere (free up to 40 students) or Socrative (free and supports up to 50 students).

If any lingering issues or concerns regarding the use of clickers for instructional purposes arise, please don’t hesitate to contact the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at facdev@niu.edu or 815-753-0595.

NIU to Conduct Review of Classroom Response Systems

posted in: News, Newsletter | 7

clickersFive years ago, at the request of faculty and teaching staff, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center facilitated a search for classroom response (“clicker”) systems, in order to standardize their use at Northern Illinois University. At the time, some students had been required to buy and use multiple systems as part of their class materials, which faculty and instructors found untenable. At the end of that search, faculty chose Turning Technologies as the officially-recognized clicker system vendor at NIU.

Because of faculty and staff feedback, rapidly changing technology in this sector, as well as the recent adoption of competing clicker systems on campus once again, we surveyed faculty and instructors who have experience using clickers. Of those who responded, the majority (63%) have three of more years of experience with clickers. Check out the infographic below for interesting results that came out of that survey.

Some key findings:

  • Physical Devices: dedicated response devices – clickers – were once the primary tool used for classroom response systems. However, 71% of faculty reported that they currently allow students to use laptops or mobile devices instead of a physical clicker, and 100% reported that they would allow students to do so if it would decrease costs to students.
  • Blackboard Integration: Blackboard integration was considered very important. Currently, 53% of respondents report using the integration, and 74% indicated it is Critical or Important.
  • Multiple Polling Options: Respondents also indicated that they appreciate having multiple options for polling. 74% use polling embedded in PowerPoint, 58% use polling over other applications, and they were both among the top 5 critical features identified in the survey.

NIU clicker use stats 2016

The responses also indicated a strong desire among the faculty to conduct a fresh review of systems, to ensure that NIU uses the system that best suits their and students’ needs, and the Faculty Development Advisory Committee, comprised of faculty representatives from each college, agreed. During March and April, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will be facilitating a new round of product demonstrations and reviews from multiple response system providers. Following the reviews, we will also facilitate group discussions among faculty to determine which product to adopt as the centrally-supported clicker system. The faculty who attend the demonstrations will make a formal recommendation to be presented to the Faculty Development Advisory Committee in April, and implementation would begin in fall 2016.

Product demonstrations will take place from March 22, through April 7. The following vendors will present their products from noon to 1pm on each of the following days. The process is open to faculty, instructors, teaching assistants, or staff members at NIU, and your feedback will be important for guiding the future direction of clicker usage and support at NIU moving forward.

March 22 – Poll Everywhere

March 30 – NIUResponse.com by Chuck Downing

March 31 – Turning Technologies

April 5 – Top Hat

April 7 – i>clicker

If you plan to attend, you may register for one or more of the sessions in our registration system, so that we will have an estimate of how many people will attend, and so that you will receive reminders about the upcoming sessions. However, walk-ins are welcome.

Blackboard Open Labs, August 24-28

posted in: News, workshops | 2

Blackboard Open LabEvery day next week, from 11am-1pm, August 24 – 28, 2015, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will host a Blackboard Open Lab. This is an excellent opportunity for NIU faculty, staff, and TAs to ask specific questions about how to set up their courses in Blackboard. Whether you want to know how to communicative effectively with students to increase retention, add videos that stream flawlessly, set up your weighted grading formula in the Grade Center, or establish Groups to simplify collaboration, the staff from Faculty Development will be on hand to answer your questions individually.

The Open Lab is available Monday, August 24 through Friday, August 28, from 11 am to 1 pm every day in Adams Hall, Room 323. Feel free to drop in – no registration required! Unfortunately, we cannot provide a general overview of Blackboard at this session, but we will be happy to answer specific questions about using Blackboard.

If you can’t attend an Open Lab session, please complete the Ask a Question form at http://facdev.niu.edu/bbq, and one of our staff will respond within 2 working days (though we strive to respond the same day).

1 2 3 4