Course Request Process in Blackboard Now Faster with More Features

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screenshot of course request table and my courses moduleThe Division of IT has released version 2.0 of the Blackboard Faculty Tools (BFT), with faster course requests, an auto-availability option, and helpful notifications, based on feedback from faculty. Overall, the course request process is largely unchanged, so it will be familiar and easy to use. Courses will still need to be requested each semester, but thanks to the custom-built tool by NIU’s Blackboard system administrators, the process will be easier than ever.

What’s New

Real-Time Course Requests

Course requests will now be processed immediately, instead of taking 24 hours. You can submit your course request and start building your course right away! Requests for new Shells will also be processed immediately.

 

Course Request Notifications

Once the course request is processed (instantly), you will receive an email notification that the course is ready to use. The notification will include a summary of the courses requested along with some helpful tips for getting started with common Blackboard tasks.

Auto-Availability Option

When you request a course, you can also set a date for the course to automatically become available to students. By default, Blackboard suggests the start date of the course in MyNIU, but you can override it with any date you prefer. You can also disable the auto-availability option, and manually make the course available to students when you feel it is ready.

Automatic Groups for Each Section in a Master Course

When two or more sections are combined into a Master Course, there will also automatically be a group in the Master Course for each of the combined sections, and a Smart View for each of the groups. This will make it easier to communicate with students in a particular section, and to filter the Grade Center to only see grades for a single section.

 

Dig Deeper

Those are the highlights, but there’s more to know!

Changes to Enrollment in MyNIU

As students add and drop courses, the updates will not occur immediately. It may take up to 24 hours for a student to be added or dropped from your course. Those changes will also be reflected in the automatic groups created in a Master Course.

Course Request Timing

Going forward, you may begin requesting your courses 100 days before the semester begins, or 100 days before the course’s scheduled start date, whichever comes first. In general, that means fall courses can be requested in mid-May, spring courses can be requested in mid-October, and summer courses can be requested in mid-March. The course must be scheduled in MyNIU, and you must be listed as the Instructor of Record before you would be able to request it.

Combining Courses with Different Instructors of Record

If you want to combine your Blackboard course with one taught by someone else, into a single master course, you may due so through the Service Desk. This requires written approval from all Instructors of Record involved, so the best approach would be to send an email to ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

Shells

Just like course requests, shell requests will also be processed immediately, and an email notification will be sent when the shell has been created. In addition, the names of shells have been updated to include the word “shell”, so that they are easier to distinguish from courses.

End of Semester Reminders in Blackboard

closeup of woman's hands using a laptopAs the semester draws to a close, there are some final tasks you can take care of in Blackboard, to make your courses end successfully and prepare yourself for the next semester.

    • Calculate final grades: If you have been recording grades in the Blackboard Grade Center, you can use it to calculate the final grades for your students. Remember to check that you have entered zeroes for any missing assignments or tests, so that the calculations are accurate. If you are using a Weighted Total, make sure that your categories are assigned correctly – you can do so quickly by going to Manage > Column Organization. Consider attending the Calculating Final Grades in Blackboard Open Lab on Thursday, December 8, 2016, from 11:00 – 1:00 pm in Adams Hall Room 323.

 

    • Automatically assign letter grades in Blackboard: The Blackboard Grade Center uses a default grading schema to assign letters grades, with pluses and minuses. You can verify that the schema matches yours, and modify it if necessary, by going to Manage > Grading Schemas. To automatically assign letter grades, edit the Total or Weighted Total column (or create a new Calculated Column), and set Letter as the Primary Display option. You can use a Score or Percentage as a secondary display, which you will be able to see in the same column of the Grade Center.

 

    • Submit grades automatically from Blackboard to MyNIU: The Grade Submission tool can automatically submit your grades from Blackboard to MyNIU, so that you don’t need to enter grades in MyNIU with the drop down menus. This is particularly useful for large classes or when you have used a Master Course to combine sections. In Blackboard, you need a column of letter grades (either assigned automatically, or typed into a column with Text as the Primary Display). That column should be set as the External Grade column (there will be a green checkmark next to the column name). Use the Grade Submission tool in the Control Panel, under Course Tools, to send the grades to MyNIU. Once the submission is complete, you can log in to MyNIU to enter last attendance dates (for any F’s, U’s, or I’s), approve grades, and post them. The Grade Submission tool is available until the night before grades are due; after that you may only enter grades manually in MyNIU. Review the Quick Guide on submitting grades for more information.

 

    • Export the grades for safekeeping: While Blackboard is backed up regularly, it is a good idea to download your Grade Center as an Excel file for you to keep on your office computer. To do so, go to the Grade Center and click Work Offline > Download. Watch this video on How to Download Grades from the Grade Center to see how to do it.

 

  • Request your course(s) for next semester: Get a head start on developing your spring semester Blackboard courses now! You can request your spring semester courses now, so that you can develop them over the break. You can review how to do it in these tutorials: Request a Course or Request a Master Course (for combining two or more sections).

As always, you can contact the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center using our Ask a Question form for individualized assistance.

Tools To Go Paperless: Blackboard’s Inline Grading

Continuing with the mission started by the GreenUp NIU initiative, many faculty and instructors are exploring different ways to leverage technology to support a more paperless teaching and learning environment. This also helps to reduce costs for students, as they no longer have a printing allotment in the computer labs or using the Anywhere Printers.

One tool of particular note has been Blackboard’s inline grading feature. Instead of requiring student work to be downloaded to view or edit submissions, faculty and instructors can take advantage of inline grading to review student-submitted files ‘inline’ – directly in the web browser without requiring any special plugins. With this tool users can preview, comment, and grade these assignments without ever leaving the grading page.

inline grading example
Many faculty have already transitioned to using technologies like Blackboard to accept and grade assignments and other work electronically.

 

The inline grading feature also hosts several annotation tools which make it easy to markup digital documents with comments, highlights, and drawings directly online, without needing to download and open the document in a separate program. Currently, the following document types are supported: Word (.doc, .docx), PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx), Excel (.xls, .xlsx), photos (.jpeg, .png) and PDFs. Any formatting and embedded images in the original document are preserved when viewed inline.

Note that students will not be able to add/edit annotations on their work, but they will see their work in an inline viewer after submitting them. Additionally, if students upload files in unsupported formats, faculty will be prompted to download and view the file.

If you are interested in learning more about the inline grading feature, you can view our Blackboard support page, download a PDF quick guide, or view a recorded workshop highlighting the tool’s features.

Faculty Development will also be hosting a workshop on the inline grading feature next month (November 9, 2016). You can register for the event here.

 

Adapted from a previous post.

MEDIAL: Updated Video Management with Webcam Recording

Helix Media Library (HML), the streaming media player for uploading and sharing video and audio content available to all NIU faculty, students, and staff, is now MEDIAL, available at hml.niu.edu. After a significant upgrade, the video management tool is faster, easier, and includes the ability to record video directly from a webcam.

Fastervideos on mobile devices

One of the primary benefits to MEDIAL is that videos are encoded and transcoded for streaming online to any device. This means videos are optimized for playing online, so that students are able to watch videos even with slow or intermittent internet connections, and multiple students are able to watch the video at once without issues. Transcoding the videos allows students to view them from a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

In the past, this has sometimes been a slow process with Helix Media Library, particularly with longer videos. The MEDIAL upgrade will speed the encoding and transcoding process up significantly, so there will be less time to wait after uploading a video. In some cases, encoding may happen at double the previous speed!

Easier

MEDIAL makes it easier for students to post videos in Blackboard. Students now have the ability to browse previously uploaded videos in addition to uploading a new video. The video playback controls have been enhanced, as well.

Record from Webcam

The most exciting new feature is the ability to record audio or video directly from a webcam. This functionality is similar to the Video Everywhere tool in Blackboard that no longer works since Google removed the ability to record from a webcam on YouTube.

medial-webcam

Video or audio can be recorded from within Blackboard and is stored securely within the MEDIAL library. That video can then be embedded within a Blackboard course. This feature is great for video announcements or providing feedback on an assignment. Students can use this, as well, to submit video or audio assignments – such as demonstrating for language proficiency, responding via sign language, or just for building a sense of community.

Tutorials

Learn more about using MEDIAL by watching these tutorials.

Breakout Groups, Polling, Closed Captioning Added to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

screenshot of blackboard collaborate ultra breakout groupsBlackboard Collaborate Ultra continues to evolve as Blackboard adds new features to improve your teaching and learning experience! Just recently, Blackboard released 2 exciting new features, Breakout Groups and Polling, and a new tutorial on the existing Closed Captioning feature. Check them out!

Stay up-to-date on what’s new in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra by reviewing Blackboard’s What’s New page.

Breakout Groups

To facilitate small group collaboration, you can create breakout groups that are separate from the main room and assign participants to them. Breakout groups have their own private audio, video, whiteboard, application sharing, and chat. You can assign students to specific breakout groups or you can have Collaborate randomly assign them. You can even allow students to switch groups, so they can collaborate outside of their groups, as well.

Note: For now, you must be using version 52 of the Chrome browser to create breakout groups.

Learn more about Breakout Groups.

Polling

Polls are great to engage your participants and keep them interested. You can also use polls to get real-time feedback from your students by asking questions to see how well they understand the content.

Learn more about Polling.

Live Closed Captioning

Blackboard is fully committed to ensuring that all products and services they provide are usable and accessible to all users, regardless of age, ability, or situation. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is developed in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA as well as the Section 508 standards. Learn more about Accessibility in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

One way that Blackboard enables an accessible learning experience in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is through live closed captioning. The closed captioning system provides an integrated way for a captioner to transcribe the audio of the session in real-time so that students who need to can read the content.

Learn more about Live Closed Captioning.

Other New Features

There have been a lot of other great features recently, too.

  • Tour of new features – when joining a new session, go through a brief tour of new features
  • Attendance Reports – moderators can view a report of when and for how long participants were in the session
  • Diversified Emojis – use one of five support skin tones on any human emoji

Upcoming Workshop

NIU faculty who are new to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, or just want a refresher for the fall semester, can attend our upcoming workshop Introduction to Live Online Classes Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. The workshop will be held on Thursday, August 25, 2016, from 1:30 – 3:30. Register here. You can also email us at facdev@niu.edu for a one-on-one consultation about Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

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