New Blackboard Instructor App Joins Blackboard’s Mobile App Suite

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blackboard instructor app

This summer, Blackboard released the new Blackboard Instructor mobile app, which enables you to stay connected to the courses you are teaching on the go, from any Apple or Android mobile device. With the Blackboard Instructor app, you can view course content, connect with students in discussions, and interact with your class in Blackboard Collaborate.

download on the apple app store     get it on google play

 

At the same time, Blackboard renamed the previous Bb Student app to “Blackboard App”, so that it is easier for students to find in their mobile app stores. You can provide a link to information on the Blackboard App in your course to encourage students to use the Blackboard App to access course content, engage with peers and teachers through the discussion board or Blackboard Collaborate, stay informed with course announcements, and prioritize their work by tracking their progress and upcoming deadlines.

 

Blackboard Instructor Features

  • Navigation – Blackboard Instructor categorizes and groups the most relevant features in one place, for quick and easy access to courses and content
  • Course Management – View a list of all courses for available terms and get a summary of each course, including upcoming assignments, announcements, discussions, and more
  • Content and Assessment Preview – Review course content and assessments on mobile to ensure content is accurate and mobile-friendly. Note that you cannot create or post content from the mobile app at this time
  • Discussions – Participate in discussions from anywhere via a mobile device, including viewing, creating, and editing discussion board threads and replies. Note that you cannot create a discussion board from the mobile app at this time; you can only participate in discussion boards that already exist by posting threads or replies
  • Announcements – Create, review, and send out announcements to students. Students who use the Blackboard app will be alerted with a notification in the Activity Stream when you post an announcement, from either the app or from a browser
  • Collaborate – Engage in real-time video conferencing to collaborate with video, voice, files, chat, and interactive whiteboard

 

Give it a try! Blackboard Instructor is available for free on Apple and Android phones and tablets. With exciting new features in development for grading, messaging, or taking attendance, the Blackboard Instructor app is undoubtedly going to be an important part of your mobile toolkit for teaching!

 

2017 Blackboard Reminders for the Beginning of the Semester

man at desk using laptopAs many new faculty, teaching staff, and TAs are requesting course space on Blackboard this week and get ready to begin the semester teaching their courses using Blackboard, here are a few useful links as reminders for some of the “beginning of the semester” frequently asked questions:

1. Requesting a new course on Blackboard – After logging into 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: niu.edu/blackboard/manage/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 are processed immediately by the new automated process developed by 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. Learn more at niu.edu/blackboard/news/20170210.shtml

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. Individuals requesting master courses must be instructor of record in both sections to be combined. Information about doing that can also be found at niu.edu/blackboard/manage/multiplesections.shtml.

“Course combine requests” also are processed immediately. The resulting “Master Course” will include all of the students from both sections, as well as automatic Groups and Grade Center Smart Views for each section. Learn more at niu.edu/blackboard/news/20170413.shtml.

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. This can be automated as part of the course request process, or it can be done manually by following the instructions found at niu.edu/blackboard/manage/availability.shtml.

4. Using Blackboard on a mobile device – Faculty can download the Blackboard Instructor app for their Apple or Android devices, to be able to communicate with students and view course materials. Students can use a separate Blackboard App on Apple, Android, or Windows devices, which is specially designed for to allow students to engage with their coursework on the go. Both apps are free to use. Learn more at niu.edu/blackboard/mobile.

5. Blackboard workshops – Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center regularly schedules workshops on using Blackboard for teaching purposes, and the monthly program schedules can be found at niu.edu/facdev.

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

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

For login and password-related questions, please refer faculty to the DoIT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or servicedesk@niu.edu and for other teaching-related Blackboard questions, faculty can submit the questions at ssl.niu.edu/blackboard/ask/index.asp.

Faculty Development Receives 2017 SPS Award for Partnership and Collaboration

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SPS Award FacDev photo
Pictured L to R: Cameron Wills, Dan Cabrera, Tracy Miller, Stephanie Richter, Yvonne Johnson, Brenda Hodges, Jason Rhode, and Catherine Doederlein, SPS Council President
Not pictured: Amy Deegan, Janet Giesen, Peter Gowen

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center (FDIDC) received the 2017 Supportive Professional Staff (SPS) Award for Partnership and Collaboration at the SPS Awards Ceremony on April 12, 2017.  The award is given out annually by the Supportive Professional Staff Council to those who have the demonstrated a willingness to cooperate and collaborate for the betterment of the NIU community.

The FDIDC was nominated for the award by Dr. Ritu Subramony, director of Accreditation, Assessment, and Evaluation, who wrote in her support letter, “I have had the opportunity to interact even more closely with the FDIDC staff for several projects.  These recent opportunities, my observations of this unit over the years, and several occasions of seeking their expertise has left no doubt in my mind regarding FDIDC’s outstanding contribution to NIU and how extraordinary the staff of this unit are. Indeed, I hold this unit as a gold standard and am attempting to model my own team after these exemplar peers.”  Dr. Subramony highlighted the following examples of the FDIDC’s collaboration at the university:

  • Coordinating the pilot and developing special training and workshops on e-Portfolios for UNIV101 and First-Year Composition programs
  • Offering special workshops for international faculty scholars
  • Providing training and support for the Program Prioritization data platform
  • Assisting academic departments in piloting the new Blackboard goals alignment tool for program assessment
  • Facilitating the pilot of interactive rubrics for assessment of NIU PLUS student learning outcomes in undergraduate general education courses
  • Offering Faculty Qualifications Reporting training

Dr. Carolinda Douglass, vice provost for Institutional Effectiveness, wrote in her support letter, “Supportive Professional Staff such as the staff of FDIDC are a real asset to NIU and serve vital roles critical to the success of our institution. FDIDC staff typify the cooperative and collaborative spirit that many SPS routinely demonstrate across our institution. For these reasons FDIDC staff deserve recognition for their outstanding partnerships and collaborations that have resulted in significant advances to NIU in recent years.”

Dr. Jason Rhode, director of FDIDC, credits his staff with making a commitment to outstanding service and collaboration a core principle of the center’s operations, stating, “I’m so thankful for the team that we have in place and for the willingness of each of [the staff] to go above and beyond for the betterment of the university.”

This Summer’s Line-up of Free Online Workshops – Registration Open to the Public

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Altgeld - NIU

This summer the Northern Illinois University’s Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is offering 7 online workshops. These one hour, fully online sessions are now open to the public. We’d like to invite our colleagues in higher education to join our workshops and expand our conversations around these topics. There is no charge for participating in these workshops, but you will need to register.

Summer Workshops – May through August

Advanced Registration is required for all workshops. Click on the workshop title to register, then if you are not affiliated with NIU, click the Non-NIU Registration button.

Quality Online Course Series: Getting Students Started

May 19, 2017
12-1 pm CST

Getting Started . . . at Last? Now that you have designed a high quality online course based on the other standards, you are ready to introduce it to your students. Set the right tone and support student success by helping them get started with a welcome, a course tour, or a navigation guide. In this workshop you will explore best practices for introducing your course structure to your students and building community.

Quality Online Teaching Series: Best Practices for Delivering an Online Course

May 24, 2017
12-1 pm CST

Teaching an online course is not so different from teaching a face-to-face course. You still need to communicate with your students, grade student work, and support their learning. There are some differences, though, and research has shown that following some best practices can increase student success. In this online workshop, find out how to best support your students in the online environment. In this online workshop, you will discover practical strategies you can implement in your own online courses.

Creating Authentic Experiences for Your Online Course

June 14, 2017
12-1 pm CST

When designing an online course, remember everything doesn’t have to happen online or in isolation of the world around us. You can create authentic experiences for your online students, such as field experiences, real-world activities, and genuine, skill building tasks. In this online workshop we will explore ways to craft authentic experiences and assessments for our online students. Plus, we will look at how these experiences align with your course learning objectives.

**NEW** Enhancing Your Online Course with Images and Icons

July 13, 2017
12-1 pm CST

Sometimes a picture says a thousand words. You can enhance your course by adding images, icons, and other media into the online learning environment. Although images are plentiful online you still must consider the copyright of items you choose, even for educational purposes. In this workshop you will learn about helpful repositories that are free for you to use and how to find, evaluate, and incorporate visuals into your online course.

Free Software Tools for the Classroom

July 18, 2017
12-1 pm CST

Many of the software tools that are the most useful in the classroom are unfortunately also some of the most expensive software tools. Often, budgets require that software is limited to a few users or a few locations, which prevents faculty and instructors from utilizing the technology with their students. It even prevents students from learning from these valuable tools. Don’t let licensing fees hold you back! There are free versions of many of the expensive software tools, if you know where to look. This online session will introduce free versions of some of the most common software programs and share ideas for using them in the classroom.

Developing a Course Syllabus

July 26, 2017
12-1 pm CST

The course syllabus is an essential component of your course and should be thorough, precise, and clear. Since the syllabus is often one of the first means of communication between you and your students, it should set the tone for the entire semester. The ultimate goal of a well-designed syllabus, therefore, is to inform students about what is expected of them throughout the semester by outlining content, policies, and due dates. In essence, the syllabus acts as a road map to help students navigate the course. In this workshop, we will discuss key elements of a course syllabus, possibilities for design layout, and provide a checklist to help you create a well-organized and complete course syllabus.

Ensuring Quality in Your Online Course

August 29, 2017
12-1 pm CST

How do you know if your online course is good?  More importantly, how do you make it better? In this workshop, you will learn about why quality is important and how to create more student-centered online courses by using the Quality Matters rubric (a nationally-recognized benchmark for online course design based on research-supported best practices). After the workshop, you will be prepared to develop or improve an online course that is designed to promote student learning.

 

You can find out about free online faculty development workshops offered online by the Northern Illinois University Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center by subscribing to email notifications or following us on Facebook and Twitter.

Upgrade to Blackboard Coming in May

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This year, Blackboard will be upgraded to the Q4 2016 Release, which consists of several exciting new features and several bug fixes. The upgrade is targeted for the Memorial Day weekend (May 27-29), and will require an outage during which Blackboard will be unavailable. Exact timing of the outage will be announced by the Division of IT prior to the upgrade. You can learn more about these features and the upgrade at niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade, or by attending the upcoming Preview workshop on April 21 from 12 – 1 CST. Register for the workshop

Here are some of the exciting changes that will be available after the upgrade (some are even available now!):

New Mobile-Responsive Theme

The new look of Blackboard is specifically designed to be mobile-friendly. It resizes based on screen size for use on smaller devices like smartphones, and the Submit button is always at the bottom of the screen instead of the bottom of the page (so there is less scrolling). The new design also includes new icons for most content and assessments, to match the new look.

new course theme in blackboard

This does require a few other changes that you will notice. First, the modules on the landing page in Blackboard have been reordered, so that My Courses is the first box on the left. This helps the various modules show up in a useful order on smartphones, where Blackboard can only display one column at a time. Also, the new theme does not let you customize colors for course menus, for consistency of the experience between Blackboard in the browser compared with using the Bb Student mobile app.

Improved Course Request Process

NIU’s custom-built course request process which was already excellent is now even better. Course and Shell requests are processed immediately, instead of taking 24 hours, and you receive an email notification to confirm that the Course or Shell has been created. When requesting a Course, you can request auto-availability at a specified date, or leave it off to make the course available manually whenever you are ready. When two or more courses are combined into a Master Course, the process will automatically create a group for each of the combined sections, to make it easier to communicate with individual sections or to view the Grade Center for a single section at a time.

screenshot of course request table and my courses module

Learn more about the updated course request process

New Mobile App for Students

The Bb Student app provides an intuitive way for students to interact with courses, content, instructors, and each other. Bb Student helps students:

  • Access course content anytime, anywhere
  • Stay on task with push notifications, a due date list, and activity stream updates
  • Submit assignments, take tests or quizzes, and review submissions
  • View course grades as well as individual assessment grades
  • Participate in discussions
  • Collaborate with classmates through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
  • Attach assignment files from cloud storage like Google Drive or Dropbox

discussions in the Bb Student mobile app

Bb Student is available free for Apple, Android, and Windows devices. It replaces Blackboard Mobile Learn, which will no longer be supported this fall.

Look for a future announcement about the new Bb Instructor app, custom-built for the most important tasks faculty need to use while on the go. Bb Instructor launches later this year!

Learn more about Bb Student

Improved Behavior for Self and Peer Assessments

Self and Peer Assessment allows students to evaluate one another’s work in a structured environment, based on criteria you set for them. With this update, Blackboard has added an important change in how Self and Peer Assessment distributes evaluation assignments. Going forward, students who do not participate during the submission period are excluded from the evaluation process. Any student with a partial or complete submission will be assigned to their classmates for evaluation, and will be included in the pool of evaluators.

By pairing this with Adaptive Release, Self and Peer Assessment can now be used for students to evaluate group or team members! With three groups and three Self and Peer Assessments, you can use Adaptive Release to limit the visibility of each one to only a single group. Have the students submit a reflection on their contribution to the group as the initial submission. Then, during the evaluation phase, students will only see members of their own group.

Learn more about Self and Peer Assessments

Drag and Drop File Attachments

It is easier than ever to attach files in Blackboard. As a faculty member, you can now add files to Items and Assignments by dragging files from your computer to the “hot spot” in the Attach Files area. Students can also drag files to upload when they submit assignments.

drag and drop hot spot in a blackboard item

Assignment Submission Receipts

You and your students will be able to better track whether Assignments submit successfully with submission receipts. When students submit Assignments successfully, the Review Submission History page will include a banner and confirmation number. Students can copy and save this number as proof of their submission and evidence for academic disputes. For assignments with multiple attempts, students will receive a different number for each submission. For group attempts, each student will receive a separate confirmation number.

assignment submission receipt

You can access all of your students’ confirmation numbers from the Grade Center. Access the Reports menu and select Submission Receipts.

Learn more about Submission Receipts

Assignment Reminders

Faculty will be able to easily send system-generated reminders for missing coursework in the Grade Center to students and members of groups who have not submitted work. Students will receive a system-generated email that lists the course, coursework, and the due date (if included).

Learn more about Assignment Reminders

Fewer Needs Grading Items

When you allow multiple attempts on an Assignment or Test, you may not need to grade all of them. With this update, the Needs Grading page will automatically be filtered to only display the attempts that need grading. When you set up the assessment, you can specify whether the grade is based on the first attempt or the last attempt, and now the Needs Grading page will only display one attempt per student based on that choice. You can still display all of the attempts, if you want to see the others.

needs grading view with filter

Attempts that you do not need to grade will also now display with a special icon to indicate they do not need to be graded, in the Needs Grading view and in the Inline Grading display.

Learn more about Needs Grading and multiple attempts

Export Rubrics

Previously, a bug prevented faculty from exporting Rubrics. That bug is fixed in this release, making it easier to reuse and share Rubrics.

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