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.

Microsoft Office 365 Collaboration Tips for Faculty

o365 iconNorthern Illinois University subscribes to Microsoft for Education, a comprehensive service that provides email, calendars, Microsoft Office applications for both work and personal use, OneDrive for Business for cloud storage, SharePoint Servers for document management, and Skype for Business for instantaneous communication, plus much more. All faculty and staff have an Office 365 (O365) account; student email will migrate to Office 365 starting August 11, 2016.

 

The following list of tips and tricks will help you get the most out of the collaborative features of Microsoft Office 365.

Email

mIcrosoft outlook iconStudents will now send and receive email using Microsoft Outlook. This means it will be easier for students to contact you, because they can search using the Global Address Book. It also means it is easier for you to contact them from within Outlook, instead of looking up their email address in another system!

Another great benefit of students using O365 email is that Microsoft is HIPAA-compliant for students in health sciences study and practice.

Be careful with Clutter, however. Clutter helps you filter low-priority email messages out of your Inbox automatically by tracking what you do and do not read. If you delete messages without opening them, Clutter uses this behavior to determine that you do not want to see messages like that one. Unfortunately, this can catch messages you and your students need to see, such as Course Announcements from Blackboard or campus updates. You may want to turn Clutter off.

Tip: The Global Address Book will contain all faculty, staff, and students. There are 2 new address book lists: All Employees (contains faculty, staff, graduate assistants, and student employees) and All Students (contains all student Z-ID emails). If you email colleagues more often than students, you may want to change your default address book to All Employees, so that it is easier to find your intended recipient. Because students who work for the university (such as Graduate Assistants and student employees) have both student and employee email addresses, these lists will also help to differentiate between those addresses.

Calendar

As with email, students will be able to view your Outlook calendar like other faculty and staff can. This can be a great way for students to find a good time to set up a meeting with you—if you are using your Outlook calendar. It is a best practice to set expectations for communication early in your courses. Let students know if your Outlook calendar is accurate, and if they may send you meeting requests.

Tip: Check the permissions on your calendar to ensure they are set the way you want. By default, anyone at NIU can see whether you are free or busy at a specific time. You can change the default access to None, which prevents everyone (including your colleagues) from seeing your calendar information. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to differentiate between what faculty/staff and students see.

O365 and OneDrive

microsoft onedrive iconWith Office 365, you get access to the latest versions of Office, including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and powerful new tools like Sway and Power BI. You and your students can install Office on 5 PCs or Macs, use the software directly on the web, or install the mobile apps on up to 5 mobile devices. This means every student has access to Microsoft Office at no additional cost – they do not need to purchase their own copy or use Google’s free tools. This reduces barriers for students to complete their assignments in your course, and removes issues of file compatibility from using different or out of date software.

OneDrive gives you 1TB of individual storage space in a secure environment that is FERPA- and HIPAA-compliant. You can share any file stored in OneDrive for easy collaboration among colleagues or with students.

Tip: You can use OneDrive for departmental collaboration, too, but an O365 Group or SharePoint site might be better choices, because the content is not removed when the employee who posted it leaves. You can use O365 Groups for classes and student organizations, too. Review What Does What? for more information.

Skype for Business

skype for business iconSkype for Business lets you quickly connect with NIU faculty, staff, and students. It is very similar to “regular” Skype, but with added features that help you work more efficiently. With Skype for Business, you can hold one-on-one or group conversations using instant messaging (IM), audio, or video. Unlike regular Skype, Skype for Business includes the ability to present a PowerPoint with others in your meeting, or to share your computer screen.

It’s easy to connect with others at NIU in Skype for Business. For example, you can easily add contacts from the NIU address book (faculty/staff for now, students after August 11). This makes it a great tool for holding office hours, or for impromptu questions from students. It is also a great replacement for an office phone, for NIU contacts at least. Your colleagues and students can call you using Skype for Business instead of dialing your phone number.

Tip: You are entirely in control of your availability in Skype for Business. You can set your availability manually, let it follow your Outlook Calendar, or you can sign out when you do not want to be contacted. With the free Skype for Business app installed on your iOS or Android device, you can even log in on your mobile device, so you can help your students when you are not in your office!

Training and Support

There is much more that you can do with Office 365, now that student email is migrating to O365 from Gmail. To learn more, consider attending one of the upcoming “Teaching with O365” workshops offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. The Division of IT has compiled a list of useful courses by Lynda.com that cover the most common O365 tools. Finally, Microsoft has put together a wealth of resources in their Office Training Center.

Blackboard Portfolio Tool: Faculty Perspectives

Blackboard Portfolio ImageDuring the summer of 2015, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center team worked collaboratively with many faculty and staff to prepare for the Fall 2015 implementation of the new Blackboard Portfolio tool. Blackboard portfolios were created in a variety of courses including UNIV 101 and First Year Composition courses, as well as other undergraduate and graduate level courses and programs.

The easy-to-use portfolio tool allows students and faculty to create several portfolios for different purposes. For example, portfolios may be created for a specific course, program of study, or job search.  Faculty can request templates to serve as a guide for students and grade the portfolio assignment in the Blackboard Grade Center. Students can upload completed assignments, projects from co-curricular activities, and career information using the portfolio tool. Students can then share their portfolio by submitting it to a course or via email to NIU users or non-NIU contacts with only an email address.

NIU faculty who have used the Blackboard Portfolio tool found it beneficial for their students. Some of the comments from faculty include:

It was easy to set-up.

 

The portfolio gave me (as instructor) far deeper insights…what really had an impact on their learning and how beneficial different teaching strategies or activities were from the students’ perspective.

 

For the students, I believe this portfolio really helped them explore and recognize everything that they accomplished in a very short time frame.

 

The portfolio also helped the students reflect on what type of learner they are…and how to adjust their approach to their own education and learning in the future.

 

It is so important to have all of the resources…in one place and this functionality in Blackboard made it especially convenient.

 

Students were able to include a variety of media (ppt, animation, audio, documents, links, etc.).

 

I was able to create a checklist/rubric to go along with the portfolio assignment, which made grading painless.

 

I was very pleased with the pilot of the e-portfolio. I would like to experiment with setting up an e-portfolio for another class I am teaching this semester.

We have extensive information and tutorials on using the Blackboard Portfolio tools at go.niu.edu/portfolios, including tutorials specifically for faculty and students to help you get started using Blackboard Portfolios. Contact us at facdev@niu.edu for more information on using the Blackboard Portfolio for your course or departmental ePortfolios!

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