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

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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

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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).

Blackboard Learn Upgrade: Memorial Day Weekend 2015

posted in: News, Technology Trends | 0

See What's BetterA significant upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System over Memorial Day weekend. The upgrade will begin at 5:00 AM on Saturday, May 23, 2015, and will complete by 5:00 AM on Sunday, May 24, 2015. The Blackboard Learn system (https://webcourses.niu.edu) will be unavailable during this time.

The latest version of Blackboard Learn, April 2014 Release, will introduce several new and exciting features, including:

  • Portfolios
    A rebuilt Portfolio system aimed at assessing student learning.
  • Anonymous and Delegated Grading
    Grade Assignment submissions anonymously and share grading responsibilities with one or more graders.
  • Student Preview
    The new Student Preview feature provides faculty with the ability to easily see the course exactly how a student would see it.
  • Assignment and SafeAssignment Integration
    SafeAssign is now integrated with the Assignment tool, making it easy to check student submissions for plagiarism by clicking a checkbox when creating an Assignment.
  • New Look and Feel
    New flat color schemes and navigation banner.

To learn more about the upcoming features, please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade.

The Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center will be holding workshops and hands-on sessions to preview the new features. To sign up for a workshop please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade/workshops.shtml

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the DoIT Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

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