Fall 2015 Blackboard Reminders for the Beginning of the Semester

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BlackboardAs many new faculty, teaching staff, and TAs may request course space on Blackboard this week and get ready to develop their courses on Blackboard, the following useful links and reminders are provided for some of the “beginning of the semester” frequently asked questions:

  1. Requesting a new course on Blackboard – After logging into http://webcourses.niu.edu click the “Services” tab at the top of the page and then “Blackboard Faculty Tools”. Click “My Courses” and then follow the links on the displayed window. Instructions and step-by-step tutorials can be found at: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/start/request.shtml. In order to request a Blackboard course, individuals must be the “instructor of record” for the course in the MyNIU system.Course space requests take 1 working day to be processed by the automated process in DoIT. It takes an additional day for someone newly assigned as instructor of record in MyNIU to have permission to request the course in Blackboard.
  2. Combining course sections – Those teaching dual level courses (e.g. 400 and 500 or cross-listed courses) or multiple sections may want to combine their sections into one master course. Information about doing that can also be found at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/start/multiplesections.shtml.”Course combine requests” also take 1 working day to be processed. Individuals requesting master courses must be instructor of record in both sections to be combined.
  3. Making courses “available” to students – After creating and posting documents on a Blackboard courses, faculty should make those courses “available” to students. Otherwise, students will not be able to see the courses. The instructions for making courses “available” to students can be found at: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/start/availability.shtml.
  4. Blackboard workshopsFaculty Development and Instructional Design Center Center regularly schedules workshops on using Blackboard for teaching purposes, and the monthly program schedules can be found under Quick Links at http://www.niu.edu/facdev.

For those who are not able to attend a workshop, there is also now a Self-Paced Blackboard I workshop consisting of short video demonstrations, available at http://facdev.niu.edu/selfpacedbb1.

Answers to other Frequently Asked Blackboard-related questions can be found at: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/faq and Blackboard-related help information can be found at: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/atoz.

For login and password-related questions, please refer faculty to the DoIT helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu and for other teaching-related Blackboard questions, faculty can submit the questions at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/ask.

Blackboard Learn Upgrade: Memorial Day Weekend 2015

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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.

Learn the Basics of Using Blackboard, At Your Own Pace

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Blackboard I: Introduction to BlackboardThe Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is proud to announce the release of a new online format for the Blackboard I: Introduction to Blackboard workshop. This new self-paced version makes it easier than ever to get started with Blackboard at NIU.

Through a series of video tutorials, you will get an overview of Blackboard’s course layout and navigation, be exposed to various course tools, discover communication and assessment features, and see how to request your own Blackboard courses. By the end, you will be able to:

  • Request a course/shell and make it available to students and other participants
  • Use the features of the Blackboard Control Panel
  • Add, revise, and control availability of content in an online course
  • Structure a course by using folders, customizing the course menu, and adding events to the course calendar

New Blackboard Features Coming in May

Learn more about what's better in BlackboardThis year’s update to Blackboard is smaller than some years, but it still has a big impact on teaching and learning. The update (planned to occur over Memorial Day weekend, May 23-25, 2015) will move NIU to the April 2014 Release of Blackboard. Although there is a more recent release from October 2014, the April 2014 Release is considered to be more stable. Read on to learn about what changes you can expect.

Sample portfolio

Completely Redesigned Portfolio System

The biggest change coming is a completely redesigned and rebuilt portfolio system, although existing portfolios created with the current portfolio tool will continue to be editable and shareable. The new portfolios are easier to create, so students can focus on the most important aspect of portfolios: reflecting on their work. Students can create new artifacts by uploading or linking to files, or they can use artifacts that have been submitted and graded with the Assignment tool as part of their course work. For the latter artifact type, they can also include metadata about the artifact, including the Assignment details, the grade they received, and any feedback their instructor provided.

In addition to the new Portfolio system, the Assignment tool has been updated to include a Portfolio option. This requires that students create and submit a Portfolio to be graded, instead of uploading individual files.

Learn more about the new Portfolio System at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade/features.shtml#portfolio

SafeAssignment Integrated with the Assignment Tool

SafeAssign options integrated with the Assignment toolIn the past, Assignment and SafeAssign were distinct and separate features. Now, SafeAssign is integrated with the Assignment feature, making it easy to check student submissions for plagiriarm by clicking a checkbox when creating an Assignment. This means that many of the features of Assignments, which were not available to SafeAssignments, can now be used with plagiarism detection. For example, Group submissions can now be checked for plagiarism, multiple submissions can be enabled, and the submissions can be graded with rubrics.

 

New Student Preview Mode

Student Preview iconPreviously in Blackboard Learn, the Edit Mode On/Off control was the only way to approximate a student view. NIU faculty could request a student ID to view their courses, but that was not a convenient process. The new Student Preview features provides faculty with the ability to easily see the course exactly how a student would see it, including content, Assignments, Tests, Grades, and the Discussion Board. While in Student Preview mode the faculty member can interact with the course as a student, including taking quizzes/tests, submitting assignments, posting to forums, posting to blogs, and more.

Enhanced Anonymous Grading, and New Delegated Grading

Screenshot of reconciling delegated grading
Anonymous Grading provides a more useful, robust option and best practice than has been implemented previously by the “Hide User Names” capability to enable anonymous grading. This functionality meets the needs for high-stakes assessments, when you want to ensure anonymous grading to avoid bias. For Anonymously Graded Attempts, the system information that could identify a student will be replaced with a unique and anonymous identifier that can be used by the graders and instructors to identify a particular attempt for further discussion without discovering the identity of the student. If an Assignment is set to be Anonymous, the student will be informed of this when submitting the assignment, when reviewing the grade with My Grades, and on the Review Submission History page.

Delegated Grading is a new mechanism that facilitates sharing the responsibility for grading among anyone with the Instructor, Teaching Assistant, or Grader role in a given course. It promotes reliability of grading by using two or more grades from separate individuals to determine the final grade. Those teaching large courses can also use the tool to easily assign grading responsibilities to multiple TAs, whether or not multiple graders are used per student.

Significant Figures in Calculated Formula Test Questions

The Calculated Formula question type in Tests creates quantitative problem-solving test questions using a formula and variables. Questions can be dynamically generated, calculated, and scored automatically. Now, Calculated Formula questions can include specific rules for how many significant figures should be in the answer. In addition, the existing support for scientific/exponential notation has improved.

Learn More

Learn more about upcoming features at www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade and look for preview and tune-up workshops about the new features starting in April, 2015.

New Blackboard Observer Role Supports Student Success

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student working with counselorThis Spring, the Division of IT introduced the Observer role in Blackboard. This role is designed to allow academic counselors and other support staff to monitor the progress and performance of the students they work with. Observers have the potential to view the grades of the students they are observing as well as content in the courses in which their students are enrolled.

Of course, Observer access to student grades and course materials is entirely controlled by individual faculty. By default, Observers are not allowed access to any aspect of a given course until that is enabled by the faculty teaching the course. An Observer is never able to interact within the course, like posting to a Discussion Board or submitting assignments. If a student is assigned an Observer, that relationship will be visible to faculty and teaching assistants by viewing the Users list in Blackboard. Learn how to enable Observer access or what Observers can access in a course.

There are many benefits to allowing Observer access to a course:

  • An Observer is easily able to monitor their assigned students’ current standing in any courses that use the Grade Center. Depending on how access is enabled, the Observer may be able to view an overall grade or individual assignment grades. With this ability, Observers can identify students who may be struggling and connect them with valuable resources on campus.
  • If enabled, Observers can view course content, like the syllabus or schedule, and assignment instructions. This helps the Observer work with students on understanding course requirements and prioritizing study schedules.
  • Faculty can update all Observers about upcoming projects or assignments through the Send Email tool. In addition, faculty can contact the Observer assigned to a single student via Blackboard if an issue arises that puts the student at risk in the course, like poor performance on an exam or too many absences, through the Grade Center or the Retention Center.

This semester, a pilot is underway with the counselors of the Deacon Davis CHANCE Program, so they can work more closely with their students to help them be successful during their first year at NIU. Other programs interested in similar access should contact the Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center to learn more.

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