Center receives Blackboard Catalyst Award for Leading Change

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Center staff receive catalyst award from Blackboard executives
Peter Gowen and Stephanie Richter accepting the Catalyst Award for Leading Change on behalf of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center with Tim Atkin and Bill Ballhaus of Blackboard, Inc.

The NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center was recently selected as a recipient of a 2017 Catalyst Award for Leading Change, by Blackboard Inc.

Founded in 2005, the annual Catalyst Awards recognize and honor innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community.

Winners are selected by a team of Blackboard experts. As one of 22 honorees from across the world, the NIU Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center was recognized during BbWorld 2017, Blackboard’s annual worldwide user conference.

The Catalyst Award for Leading Change recognizes institutions that have developed practices and/or technologies that have had a measurable effect on learning outcomes, student performance or academic progression. This marks the fifth Catalyst Award that the NIU team has received since 2011.

“We are honored to be recognized as leading institution for the work we do to support Blackboard at NIU,” said Jason Rhode, director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. “It is a testament to the hard work of our faculty and staff and a sign of NIU’s commitment to student success.”

Rhode said that this year, his team was recognized due to their involvement in several new Blackboard initiatives and innovations on campus, including the roll-out of an ePortfolio platform.

Stephanie Richter, Assistant Director of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, said the implementation of the Blackboard EPortfolio tool stands out among her department’s many noted innovations with Blackboard Learn since the university licensed with it in 2002.

Richter said the Blackboard EPortfolio tool has been used in the UNIV 101: University Experience course since the fall 2015 semester. In other cases, it allowed programs that were already using an ePortfolio to migrate from paper-based ePortfolios to an ePortfolio, or from other digital systems, like Google Sites, to the centrally-managed and supported Blackboard EPortfolio.

Since the tool was implemented at NIU, 17 templates have been created for nine different departments or degree programs. In the first year alone, 41 courses used ePortfolio templates, 6,332 ePortfolios were created and 3,447 individuals created at least one ePortfolio. At the end of the second year of implementation, usage had increased to 9,471 ePortfolios created by 5,294 users.

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center supported this use by offering 12 hands-on training sessions attended by nearly 200 faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants. The resources they created were also quite popular: the YouTube playlist of video tutorials on building an ePortfolio have been watched over 1,000 times, and the web pages with written instructions have been viewed over 11,000 times.

“While the implementation has been valuable to NIU, it is also earning NIU a positive reputation with other universities,” Richter said, explaining that she and colleagues have presented about the implementation twice at the international Blackboard User’s Conference, and have been approached by 16 other universities to provide advice or guidance on implementing the Blackboard EPortfolio tool.

Story reposted from NIU Today, August 30, 2017

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.

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.

New Features for Combined Courses in Blackboard

Wrapped into the new, faster course request process are a few feature enhancements for those teaching a Master Course in Blackboard. Now when combining student enrollments from multiple course sections into a single course, a Blackboard Group and Grade Center “Smart View” will automatically be created for each section, with students assigned to them according to the section they originally enrolled in. These will make assigning section-specific assignments, and grading section by section, easier. Enrollments in these Groups will be updated as students add, drop, or change sections.

Let’s assume that you have combined several sections into a Master Course, and now you have multiple Groups for these sections. How can you use those Groups to make your teaching more effective and efficient?

Adding Content and Assessments for each Section

Teaching multiple sections of the same course is very common. Whether it is undergraduate and Honors sections, or an undergraduate and graduate section, students work through the same material. In these cases, it makes sense to combine enrollments from all sections into one, within Blackboard. Having done so, however, there may be a need to offer additional material or assignments to one or more of the combined sections, which will now be much easier.

For example, an Honors or graduate section of a combined course may be required to submit an extra assignment. Once you have added any relevant materials (readings, links, etc) and created an Assignment for it, you can use an Adaptive Release rule to limit access to only the students in the relevant Group. Students who were enrolled in another section of the course would not be able to see the content or Assignment.

Selecting the Adaptive Release option from the contextual menu on a content item

Alternatively, you may want the students in one or more sections to participate in a Discussion Forum that is limited to only the students in that section. Perhaps this is an extra assessment for them, or you want TAs to monitor different sections of students. Blackboard Groups include their own Discussion Board (as well as Blogs, Journals, and Wikis), from which any number of forums may be set up for students to take part in a discussion, graded or not. Again, students from other sections of the course would not be able to access the Group Discussion Board. Note that the Groups are unavailable by default, and you will need to edit the groups to make them available to students before you can use the Group Discussion Board feature.

Grading by Section

The other new feature for combined courses is the automatic creation of a Smart View, allowing you to see a given section by itself in the Grade Center.  Previously, if you, or your TA(s), wanted to grade each of your sections independently, you would have to consult MyNIU’s section rosters, going down each list, and mentally skipping over students that weren’t on the current section’s roster. Or, you would have to replicate the rosters using Blackboard Groups and creating a Smart View for each. Now, all of that work is done for you!

To use a Smart View, go the Full Grade Center, and click the Filter button. You can use the Current View drop down menu to select the Smart View you want to focus on. You can also enable a Smart View as a Favorite by clicking the Manage button, choosing Smart Views from the drop-down menu, then, on the Smart Views page, clicking the Star for each of the Smart Views you would like as a Favorite. From then on, you’ll have quick access to each sections’ roster by expanding the Grade Center menu in the Control Panel, then clicking the relevant Smart View.

Adding a Smart View as a favorite, for easy access from the Grade Center menu in the Control Panel

Emailing Students by Section

It is easy to email students in a single section of a combined course, with the new automatically-created Groups. In the Control Panel, click Users and Groups, and then click Groups. Click on the Group Name to open the group, and then Send Email to select students from that section to email. You can use the Select All button and then the right arrow to quickly select all of the students in that section. If you have made the Groups available to students, you can also use the Send Email tool in Course Tools to select a single Group to email.

emailing a group of students

Summary

These new groups can be very powerful for making your teaching more efficient, and to enable student collaboration within a single section of a Master Course. What other use cases can you think of? Post them in the Comments – we would love to hear how you are using them!

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