NIU Brings to Campus

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Northern Illinois University students, faculty, and staff are the beneficiaries of a campus-wide license agreement recently signed by NIU and, founded in 1995, is a leading online learning company that helps users ‘…. learn business, software, technology and creative skills to achieve personal and professional goals’ (source: They have become one of the most popular and successful video learning service available, offering members access to a broad and varied video library of engaging, top-quality courses taught by recognized industry experts.

Members of this subscription-based company range from individuals committed to life-long learning, to corporate, academic, and government institutions. The campus-wide agreement provides the NIU community unlimited access to’s extensive collection of courses on many subjects. These include 3D + Animation, Business, Audio + Music, Business, CAD, Design, Developer, Education + Elearning, IT, Marketing, Photography, Video, and Web. Within each of these subject areas are multiple topics. Each course can offer a range of video tutorials, documents, and exercises. Under the topic of Education and Elearning, there are 170 courses and more than 7,000 video tutorials. A sampling of video tutorial titles includes Universal Principles of Design, Teacher Tech Tips, College Prep: Writing a Strong Essay, Student Tools, Microsoft Excel/Word/PowerPoint, Captivate, and Prezi. Although there are other websites that host tutorials on a plethora of subjects, such as YouTube, a common complaint is the lack of consistent quality.

With the availability of this new resource, faculty and instructors may want to consider how they might supplement and enhance their own instruction as they prepare for the spring semester. One possible scenario might have students viewing tutorials that build skills to better complete a course assignment. For example, an assignment might require students to create a class presentation. The course instructor might include links to tutorials on using PowerPoint or Prezi. In another scenario, an instructor might offer students an option to complete an assignment in a video format rather than submitting a more conventional MS Word document. Students with limited experience capturing, editing, and encoding video could benefit by reviewing one of more video tutorials on this subject. Faculty have the option to create and share a playlist of tutorials on a specific topic for their students. Students also have options, including the ability to take notes that synch with video tutorials, which can assist in the learning process.

Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to explore this resource that NIU has made available. Please note that it is necessary to enter by going through the NIU portal and then logging in with the NIU Account ID and password. For those individuals who have a current subscription account with, they will be asked to migrate their previous account information to a new NIU account. Once logged in to, users can browse the online training library, watch training courses, manage training courses and their account, and even problem solve with a specialist.

The Division of Information Technology – Training and Communication will host an open forum about on Thursday, November 19th, in the HSC Regency Room from 10:00 am to 10:30 am. Two NIU teaching staff will share how they have already used in their own courses. In addition, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is planning on offering a number of workshops to assist faculty and staff to use These include an online webinar to introduce features of in December and a hands-on workshop to be offered during the spring 2016 semester. Please visit  the Faculty Development’s Upcoming Programs webpage in order to register for one or both of these workshops.

For a series of instructional tutorials on how to use, visit

Faculty Student Relationships Tutorial

11-LAS-Reception-0819-SW-8_690x460The faculty student relationship can be one of the most gratifying experiences for college students.  Faculty who have positive relationships with their students during those interactions can help them succeed academically and increase their overall satisfaction with their educational experience at the university (Pascarella,1980; Fusani, 1994). However this can be achieved only when faculty demonstrate professional conduct in their interactions with students and promote a culture of mutual trust and respect.  NIU has a new online resource that can provide guidance, support, and recommendations to faculty to promote positive interaction, and help preserve the safety of students, faculty, and the institution. The ‘Faculty-Student Relationships: Maintaining Roles and Responsibilities’ online tutorial is now available for viewing by all teaching staff, including faculty, instructors, and graduate teaching assistants.

The tutorial content was originally developed for a faculty-student relationship workshop by NIU faculty/staff members Deborah Haliczer, Sarah Klaper and Toni Tollerud.  A major element of this material is the inclusion of Michael Davis’ Seven Step Guide to Ethical Decision making (Davis, 1999), which offers a practical framework for avoiding perceptions of improper relationships with students. Teaching faculty who are familiar these seven steps are better prepared to respond to challenging situations.

The material was compiled, formatted, and recorded as an instructional module by staff from the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. This resource was design to incorporate a number of features that enhance the learning experience. Users are not required to login, and no information is collected, stored, or shared. Once the session begins, it is self-running, automatically advancing from slide to slide. However, users have the option to advance the slides on their own, pause, go to a previous slide, or exit from the session by closing the browser tab. In addition to having an accompanying voice narration, the transcribed notes for each slide can be viewed on a side panel. Users can also download the entire transcription either as a MS Word or Adobe PDF version for their own review. This benefits a range of users and situations, including those who have a hearing impairment, whose first language is not English, or who cannot play the audio because they may be viewing it from a computer in a public setting, such as a library.

This self-running module was designed to incorporate a number of other features that enhance the learning experience. Interactive case scenarios are included that describe a range of situations that pose ethical dilemmas for teaching staff. An interactive quiz asks users to consider a ‘better’ response or action to take from among a list of possible options. While the posted options are not meant to represent an exhaustive list of possibilities, an explanation is provided for selecting one response over another. Users can also download a transcript of the case scenarios.

Faculty-Student Relationships Tutorial

The Faculty-Student Relationships: Maintaining Roles and Responsibilities’ online tutorial can be viewed either on a desktop/laptop computer, or on mobile devices. The tutorial can be viewed from

For more information on this tutorial, contact Dan Cabrera (



Davis, M. (1999). Ethics and the University. New York: Routledge Publishers, Inc.

Fusani, D. (1994). Extra-class Communication: Frequency, immediacy, self-disclosure, and satisfaction in student-faculty interaction outside the classroom. Journal of Applied Communications Research, 22, 232-255.

Pascarella, E. (1980). Student-faculty informal contact and college outcomes. Review of Educational Research, 50, 545-595.

Enhancing Live Online Sessions with the New Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

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Image01Personal interaction between you and your students is one of the most valuable elements of quality teaching and learning experiences. However, it can be challenging to maintain high levels of interaction when your students are not in a classroom, such as in blended or online courses, or with students who are not often on campus, like adult learners or commuting students. Web conferencing tools, when properly implemented, promote collaboration and interaction while still allowing flexibility in travel and space. These tools allow you to conduct live class sessions with students online as well as to offer virtual office hours to students who are not on campus. Students can use web conferencing to collaborate on group projects, as well.

Blackboard recently released an updated version of Blackboard Collaborate, the web conferencing tool many have relied on to provide opportunities for live interaction and personal connection in online and blended courses. Named ‘Collaborate Ultra’, the updated version offers a modern and streamlined interface for participating in a session. Collaborate Ultra has improved audio and video quality, including the group view which allows up to 6 videos at a time. Present PowerPoint slides or share a PDF file with students, or try the easy-to-use application sharing feature, with thumbnails of each program you have running so you can be confident youwill share the correct one. Best of all, unlike the current version of Blackboard Collaborate, Ultra opens directly in a web browser, so there is nothing to install or download to join a session. No Java needed!

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will be offering a preview to the new Blackboard Collaborate Ultra in November 2015. In this new hands-on workshop, you will be able to try the new Collaborate Ultra first-hand, and be among the first to explore this revised web conferencing tool before it becomes available campus-wide in 2016. Interested faculty and staff do not need any previous experience with Blackboard Collaborate or any other web conferencing system to quickly learn to present and communicate with Collaborate Ultra. Please check the Faculty Development Upcoming Faculty/Staff Programs webpage to register for this new workshop, ‘Preview of the New Blackboard Collaborate Ultra’.

For more information on registering for the workshop, go to Contact us at for more information on Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, and look for more information about Ultra coming soon!


Developing and Posting Recorded Lectures with Adobe Presenter

woman watching a recorded lecture on a computerWhen preparing to teach online, one should consider how a myriad of face-to-face activities might be reconfigured. For example, in a face-to-face setting, lecturing is often a major method for distributing content. This is live or synchronous activity, where students can observe and listen to the instructor for new course concepts and ideas. One can also conduct lectures, albeit in an asynchronous manner, using tools that can match displayed content with an accompanying voice narration.

Adobe Presenter is a plug-in for PowerPoint that allows faculty to convert slide presentations, such as lectures or tutorials, into interactive videos that can be posted online. Adobe Presenter allows faculty to enrich their presentations by adding multimedia content such as text, images, audio, and video, as well as incorporating numerous interactions to better engage students.

For face-to-face classes, this technology can extend teaching opportunities beyond classroom time by making instruction available in an online setting. Faculty can also use a narrated lecture presentation to flip the classroom by asking students to view lectures online before coming to class. During face-to-face class meetings, students are ready to discuss or ask questions about the material, or engage in other learning activities. Recorded lectures can also be quite useful for courses that are primarily online, as an efficient means of distributing instructor developed content. Cynthia Paralejas, Instructional Designer for eLearning Services, reports that Adobe Presenter is one of the major tools they employ to produce audio slideshows for online courses they develop. According to Paralejas, “My overall assessment of Adobe Presenter is that it is a very helpful and intuitive tool that online courses should continue to utilize to develop quality lecture/audio slideshow presentations.”

When contemplating whether to use Adobe Presenter to create lecture presentations or brief tutorials, faculty should consider matching specific course objectives with each learning activity. For example, a possible range of learning objectives for students might include 1) being able to remember and recall specific facts and information, 2) demonstrate a deeper understanding of core course concepts, 3) or being able to apply/analyze/evaluate or create (from the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy). Depending on the nature of specific objectives, faculty might design new material, consider how they might sequence this new course material in their PowerPoint slide presentation, and perhaps incorporate relevant Adobe Presenter features. For example, faculty could ask students to temporarily halt a lecture presentation, and reflect on material just presented, before being asked to continue the presentation. Alternatively, faculty could incorporate a quick self-assessment by having students take a brief quiz on content just presented. The format of quiz items could be true/false, multiple choice, or fill in the blank. Other features might include annotating course content with audio and video materials, using a built-in video recording feature that combines slide content with faculty input, posting URL hyperlinks within slides to access content from websites that complement lecture material, or use video clips to present the content as an alternative to simple text. In addition, the transcript of the narration could be made available to students, supporting the principles of accessibility and Universal Design.

A primary benefit of this technology is its 24/7 online availability. Students can access content by logging into their Blackboard course, and viewing the presentation with a desktop or laptop computer using the pervasive ‘Flash Player’ plug-in. In addition, the current version of Adobe Presenter now allows users to view content through mobile devices not running the Flash Player.

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center offers specialized workshops periodically, Getting Started with Adobe Presenter (beginners), and Moving Beyond the Basics of Adobe Presenter (Intermediate Users), for faculty and staff who are interested in learning how to use this tool. In addition, one-on-one consultations are also available.

Helix Media Library: A Secure Solution for Uploading and Sharing Video

A useful new tool for securely sharing video online is now available to the NIU community, the Helix Media Library (HML). The HML is an on-campus streaming media server that allows faculty, students and staff to store media content (audio and video). Even more intriguing is that the HML is integrated with the Blackboard Learn course management system, making it easier to incorporate media into Blackboard courses by encoding and converting media so that it is optimized for streaming and able to play on most devices, including computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones.

In the past, faculty who wished to post media content to Blackboard, especially video, may have experienced difficulty when adding it to their course. The process was unwieldy and awkward, yielding inconsistent results because the Blackboard server was not able to optimize the streaming video.

In addition, because video files are often larger than other course content, uploading media content could quickly fill up Blackboard course quotas. As a result, faculty might have resorted to using outside services such as YouTube or Vimeo, to post and distribute content. Now, with the HML, it is much easier to post audio and video files to this on-campus server and share them within the university or publicly. The HML operates behind a firewall, with content regularly backed-up by NIU.

The HML is a Mashups tool appearing in the Text Box Editor (see below). When you click the Mashups button, you can select the Helix Media Library link to begin the process of uploading content.

HML Mashup02

This means that media content can be uploaded anywhere in Blackboard that there is access to the text box editor, by both faculty and students. For example, faculty can add video or audio as an Item in a content area, or while creating Announcements, Assignments, and posting a Discussion Board topic. Students can upload their own media for a video assignment or when collaborating on the discussion board, blogs, wikis, or journals.

Currently, every NIU faculty, staff, and student has an HML account, with 4 GB of space available. However, if you need more space, you can submit a request to DoIT (Division of Information Technology) to increase that for free in 4 GB increments. Individual files can be up to 2 GBs in size, which allows you to upload longer video segments. Since video is uploaded into HML accounts, Blackboard course quota space remains unaffected.

When a video is uploaded, the Permissions feature allows you to determine who has access to view it. If the video is uploaded from within Blackboard, the ‘Personal’ setting allows only the instructor and students enrolled in the course to view the content. Selecting ‘Protected’ makes the content available to all NIU users (i.e., faculty, staff, students). Selecting ‘Public’ opens the content to potentially all online users.

You can check out your own HML account by logging into You will be asked to authenticate with your university-assigned username and password.

To learn more about using the HML, be sure to visit the HML informational website.

In addition, the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center offers a specialized workshop periodically, Adding Video to Your Blackboard Course Using the Helix Media Library, to train faculty and staff about how to use this tool. One-on-one consultation is also available.

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