New Features Coming to Blackboard at NIU in 2014

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Learn more about what's better in Blackboard

Blackboard continues to improve! Since NIU’s major upgrade to Blackboard NG three years ago, there have been a number of feature improvements and additions, and this year will be no different. Service Pack 14 is currently planned to be deployed Memorial Day weekend, May 23, 2014 – May 26, 2014. Most of the changes are helpful refinements to existing tools, such as an easy method to create exceptions to test settings, an improved Inline Grading view for Assignments, simpler Groups management settings, and multiple Grade Center enhancements. This upgrade also includes a few new features: a new Quick Links button will make it easier to use a screen reader with Blackboard, the new Achievements allows faculty to award badges and certificates, and the Date Management tool can adjust dates when copying course materials.

Here are a few of the more important features for the NIU community:


Tests Exceptions and Feedback Controls
Test Availability Exceptions are available directly from the Test Options page, once the test is deployed to a content area. Select one or more students (or groups) and make a number of exceptions to the already established availability settings. Exceptions can be created for:

  • Number of attempts
  • Timer
  • Availability dates
  • Force completion
  • Auto submit

This means a single test can have multiple timers for students with accommodation requests and can automatically open at different times for students who may have scheduling conflicts.

Tests will also have the ability to schedule when students can receive different types of feedback.

Inline Grading
The Inline Grading view for Assignments will now have a full screen mode to make it easier to read student work and to provide comments. In addition, Blogs, Journals, Discussions, and Wikis will present a side bar for grading that is consistent with Inline Grading for Assignments

Groups Management
Manage all course groups at once from the “All Groups” page, including deleting multiple groups at once, creating Grade Center Smart Views, and enabling or disabling Group Tools. Plus, on the Users page, group membership is now listed for each student.

Grade Center
New Grade Center enhancements make it easier to work in the Grade Center. For example, Grading Schemas can now reach past 100%, so students with over 100% can be automatically assigned a letter grade. My Grades has been redesigned to include comments directly on the page, so they are more visible, and to provide students with the option to view rows by “Course Order,” which is the order of the columns in the Grade Center.

New Features

Quick Links
Based on ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications Suite), the Quick Links tool allows a user to swiftly locate any heading or section within any page in the Blackboard Learn application and jump directly to it. Any available keyboard shortcuts for the page are also displayed. This significantly reduces the time needed to navigate the page for individuals who use screen readers.

The Achievements tool allows faculty and instructors to designate criteria for issuing rewards to students in the form of both Badges and Certificates. Students can see which rewards they have earned and what is required of them to receive additional rewards. Furthermore, students have the option to publish badges to the Mozilla Open Backpack, which lets them display and promote their learning outside of Blackboard. Instructors can easily see which students have reached learning milestones.

Date Management
Currently, the Course Copy tool duplicates dates (such as Availability and Due Dates) exactly, leaving it up to the professor or instructor to manually adjust them. The new Date Management tool will simplify this process by asking for the start date of the new semester, and automatically adjusting all previous dates accordingly. Some work may be necessary to update those dates, but the Date Management Review page provides a single interface for adjusting all dates on content and assessments in the course.

This is only a sample of the most significant enhancements and features. Learn more about upcoming features at and look for preview and tune-up sessions starting in April, 2014.

NIU Faculty Can Submit Grades from Blackboard to MyNIU

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Did you know that you can submit your grades from Blackboard to MyNIU? This can save you a great deal of time, particularly if you have been entering grades in the Blackboard Grade Center all semester. You can use the Grade Center to calculate final grades and then export them to MyNIU instead of manually entering them, saving time and reducing the opportunity for data entry errors.

Once you have submitted grades using this tool, you simply log in to MyNIU to review and post the final grades.

If you would like some assistance using the tool, please attend our Open Lab next week where Faculty Development staff will be on hand to answer your Blackboard questions about calculating and submitting final grades with Blackboard. No registration is required. Just stop by on Thursday, May 8, 2014 from 11:00 – 1:00 in Adams Hall, Room 323.


How do you use the grade submission tool?

The steps are simple and may vary slightly depending upon how you used the Grade Center (particularly whether grades are calculated automatically in Blackboard or tabulated manually). To use the Grade Submission Tool:

  1. If grades are calculated manually – Customize the default letter schema in the Grade Center to match the grading scale for the course. Note that the default letter schema matches the Graduate grading scale and includes a C-. This can be removed for undergraduate courses
  2. If grades are calculated manually – Assign letter schema to the total score and/or weighted total column by setting the Primary Display to Letter
  3. Set the column in the Grade Center that contains the final grade to be the external grade column
  4. Review letter grades in the external grade column for any errors
  5. Within the Control Panel select Course Tools, then Grade Submission and Submit Grades
  6. Review grades again, make any changes necessary (such as changing a grade to Incomplete), and click the Submit button
  7. Login to MyNIU to confirm grades and complete posting

Note – Steps 1 and 2 assume use of the Grade Center to tabulate a final grade for the course. If you make these calculations manually and/or simply post the letter grades in Blackboard, you can add a new column manually, enter final grades for each student, and then skip to step 3.

Note also – The grade submission tool is available from the day after grade rosters are available in MyNIU through midnight of the night before the official deadline to submit grades. After that deadline, it is necessary to enter grades manually into MyNIU.

For more details on using the Grade Submission Tool, you can visit our main help page and our FAQs.

Media Services Smart Classroom Training for Fall 2013

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Media Services is offering training on using the audiovisual equipment in Provost sponsored smart classrooms. Both new and returning instructors should benefit from these brief seminars. The seminars will include information about any recent changes to the equipment in the rooms.

Wednesday, August 21st, in DuSable Hall 422, from 8:00AM – 12:00PM and 1:00PM – 3:00PM

Thursday, August 22nd, in DuSable Hall 422, from 8:00AM – 12:00PM and 1:00PM – 3:00PM

Friday, August 23rd, by appointment during the day (call 753-0172)

These seminars are open-ended and run continually so you won’t miss a thing no matter when you drop by. A complete demonstration with hands on practice could take a half-hour of your time. If you cannot attend one of the above sessions, please contact Keith Bisplinghoff (753-0172) for other training opportunities.

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