End of Semester Reminders in Blackboard

closeup of woman's hands using a laptopAs the semester draws to a close, there are some final tasks you can take care of in Blackboard, to make your courses end successfully and prepare yourself for the next semester.

    • Calculate final grades: If you have been recording grades in the Blackboard Grade Center, you can use it to calculate the final grades for your students. Remember to check that you have entered zeroes for any missing assignments or tests, so that the calculations are accurate. If you are using a Weighted Total, make sure that your categories are assigned correctly – you can do so quickly by going to Manage > Column Organization. Consider attending the Calculating Final Grades with the Blackboard Grade Center workshop on Friday, December 8, 2017, from 10:00 – 11:30 am; please register in advance for the workshop! We will also be holding an Open Lab for any who need help Calculating and Submitting Final Grades as well, on Thursday, December 14, from 11:00 – 1:00 pm in Adams Hall Room 323. Our staff will be on hand to assist you with the process.

 

    • Automatically assign letter grades in Blackboard: The Blackboard Grade Center uses a default grading schema to assign letters grades, with pluses and minuses. You can verify that the schema matches yours, and modify it if necessary, by going to Manage > Grading Schemas. To automatically assign letter grades, edit the Total or Weighted Total column (or create a new Calculated Column), and set Letter as the Primary Display option. You can use a Score or Percentage as a secondary display, which you will be able to see in the same column of the Grade Center.

 

    • Submit grades automatically from Blackboard to MyNIU: The Grade Submission tool can automatically submit your grades from Blackboard to MyNIU, so that you don’t need to enter grades in MyNIU with the drop down menus. This is particularly useful for large classes or when you have used a Master Course to combine sections. In Blackboard, you need a column of letter grades (either assigned automatically, or typed into a column with Text as the Primary Display). That column should be set as the External Grade column (there will be a green checkmark next to the column name). Use the Grade Submission tool in the Control Panel, under Course Tools, to send the grades to MyNIU. Once the submission is complete, you can log in to MyNIU to enter last attendance dates (for any F’s, U’s, or I’s), approve grades, and post them. The Grade Submission tool is available until the night before grades are due; after that you may only enter grades manually in MyNIU. Review the Quick Guide on submitting grades for more information.

 

    • Export the grades for safekeeping: While Blackboard is backed up regularly, it is a good idea to download your Grade Center as an Excel file for you to keep on your office computer. To do so, go to the Grade Center and click Work Offline > Download. Watch this video on How to Download Grades from the Grade Center to see how to do it.

 

  • Request your course(s) for next semester: Get a head start on developing your spring semester Blackboard courses now! You can request your spring semester courses now, so that you can develop them over the break. You can review how to do it in these tutorials: Request a Course or Request a Master Course (for combining two or more sections).

As always, you can contact the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center using our Ask a Question form for individualized assistance.

Trends and Motivation for Blackboard Use at NIU

Supporting faculty and teaching staff’s use of instructional technologies at Northern Illinois University is one the major functions of the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, which requires us to keep up with trends in their use on campus so we can provide better support. Last academic year, the center focused on understanding how and why faculty at NIU use Blackboard Learn to support their teaching.

Blackboard Tool Use

NIU adopted Blackboard in 2002. As of the 2016 fall semester95% of enrolled students at NIU use Blackboard for at least one course, and 88% of NIU faculty use Blackboard to teach at least one course. The majority (64%) of for-credit course sections have some presence in Blackboard (learn more on trends in Blackboard usage). In addition to an increase in overall usage, there has been an increase in the use of many of the individual tools. The figure below shows the trend in usage for the top 10 most-used tools. Some interesting trends:

  • All of the top tools are being used more, over time.
  • Most tools in Blackboard are used at higher rates during summer semesters (compared to both fall and spring). Much of that increase is due to a greater percentage of online courses being offered each summer, as online courses naturally tend to use more of the tools within Blackboard.
  • During the 2015 fall semester, the number of courses using several tools for posting content and collecting assignments electronically dramatically increased. We believe this was likely a response to university efforts to decrease the amount of printing on campus.

 

percentage of courses using a tool, per semester

Motivation for Using Blackboard

Since understanding motivations for using Blackboard could provide greater insight than looking at simple tool usage, we sent out a survey to faculty and teaching staff in fall 2016. Based on the expanded Technology Acceptance Model, to see why those new to the LMS are using it, and why long-term users continue to do so. Several things initially stood out to us, including:

  • Sentiment about Blackboard among NIU faculty is generally high:
    • 82% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I feel confident using Blackboard features in general”
    • 66% agreed with the statement “I find Blackboard easy to use”
    • 72% agreed with the statement “Using Blackboard increases my efficiency”
  • 95% had adopted Blackboard. The top reasons were its perceived requirement (though the University doesn’t require use of Blackboard, some departments may, or respondents may feel that students expect it), the value it brings to their teaching, and its ease of use.
  • 5% had never adopted it, due to the perceived lack of need or because alternative tools are available.

Takeaways

  • As online course delivery grows at NIU, Blackboard will be used even more heavily, by more students and faculty.
  • Adoption is more than an initial decision to use Blackboard. It is an ongoing and continuous process of evaluating teaching needs and the wide array of tools available in Blackboard.
  • While the vast majority of faculty at NIU use Blackboard in some way (and many find it easy to use for their purposes), there still exists a need for high quality support.

These data will continue to inform the center’s decision-making for providing resources and support, to maintain responsiveness and a commitment to serving NIU’s faculty.

Blackboard Tool Spotlight: Date Management, for efficiently updating Availability and Due Dates

With so many features in Blackboard, it can be easy to miss that one tool which could save you hours of work. If you’ve ever used the Course Copy tool to move materials from one semester’s course to the next, you may want to try Date Management. Located under Course Tools in the Control Panel, the Date Management tool can create a list of all content and assessments in your course which have Availability dates or Due Dates associated with them. From that one list, you can quickly and efficiently change all of those dates, instead of having to click through all of your content folders to find everything.

reviewing and updating dates using the date management tool

The Date Management tool can also be used to adjust all Availability and Due Dates at once, by specifying a new course starting date, or the number of days by which to offset the original dates. This can save even more time, as you will not need to change the individual dates. After the adjustment is made, however, you can still use the list of all of the dates to manually adjust any that need further modification.

automatically adjusting all availability and due dates in a course, using the date management tool
Have you ever tried the Date Management tool? Let us know in the comments!

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!

 

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