Blackboard-related Reminders for the Beginning of the Semester

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closeup of woman's hands using a 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 http://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: http://www.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 take 1 working day to be processed by the automated process in 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.

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. Information about doing that can also be found at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/manage/multiplesections.shtml.

“Course combine requests” also take 1 working day to be processed. Individuals requesting master courses must be instructor of record in both sections to be combined.

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. The instructions for making courses “available” to students can be found at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/manage/availability.shtml.

4. 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 http://www.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 http://facdev.niu.edu/selfpacedbb1.

Answers to other Frequently Asked Blackboard-related questions can be found at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/faq and Blackboard-related help information can be found at http://www.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 https://ssl.niu.edu/blackboard/ask/index.asp.

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.

Communicate with Your Students On-the-Go!

Tracy Miller using a selfie stickVideos can be a great way to deliver a message to students in your online course, and it’s never been easier. Many of us carry our video cameras with us everywhere we go, after all. So let’s start with pulling out your smart phone, and follow these four easy steps.

1. Pick a Location: Find a location that is convenient or important to your message. You will want a nice background, with minimal clutter but more interesting than a blank wall. Try different locations around campus or your home. Even better, record video at conferences or while completing field research, so that the location is relevant to your content.

2. Plan Your Message: Think about what you are going to say. Are you welcoming your students to a new week? Do you want to remind them of a due date? Did something important come up in the news? You can write a script, if that helps you feel more comfortable, but it is generally better to sound casual and conversational as opposed to reading a very formal written script. Students appreciate when you sound approachable!

3. Record Your Video: After you have thought about what your message is, just start recording. You can have a colleague record you, prop up your phone on a bookcase or other handy furniture, or use a “selfie stick” and record on your own.

4. Edit and Publish: After you’ve recorded, upload the video to a video hosting site like YouTube (where you can keep the video Unlisted, if you want, so that you don’t accidentally become a viral video star). You can do that directly from your phone using the YouTube app. The video can then be edited and enhanced if you wish, and you should edit the captions to improve upon the often-glitchy auto-captions YouTube provides automatically. Then you can add it to your Blackboard course by using Video Everywhere to search videos in your YouTube channel, by posting the Share link, or by using the Embed code.

Unfortunately, if you ever used Video Everywhere to record from a webcam, it is no longer an option in Blackboard Learn. Google eliminated the ability to record from a webcam on YouTube, so it is no longer available in Blackboard, either. However, using your mobile device to record is easy and unchains you from having to record from your desktop or laptop computer.

Some benefits of capturing these quick and easy videos:

Convenient: Recording short video clips from your mobile device be done anywhere, anytime. All the equipment you need is in the palm of your hand. This method is great for when you are at a professional event and you want to share the experience with your students.

Connective: Videos are useful in helping students feel like there is a human being guiding their learning process in an online course. By creating on-the-go videos you will allow your students to see into your professional world and that world doesn’t revolve around a desk.

Contagious: Videos work for you and your students. Students can use videos to respond to discussions, as part of an assignment submission, or as a presentation tool.

Tips for communicating with your students with a video message:

  1. Outline what you want to say, but keep it informal (It doesn’t have to be perfect)
  2. Keep it short and to the point!
  3. Take a few minutes to think about your location (lighting, background)
  4. Save your video as Unlisted within YouTube and embed it in your Blackboard course to keep the message between you and your students
  5. Use YouTube’s Manage subtitles and closed captions for accessibility and usability

Sitting at a computer is not the only online teaching and learning environment. Mobile technologies make connecting with your students simple, yet meaningful. It is important to communicate with your them frequently in an online course, and using videos can enhance your interaction. For more information about online learning technology, watch the recording of our workshop on Promoting Learning with Technology, below.

Universal Design for Learning **New 3-Part Online Series**

MP90043953621st Century college students bring a diverse set of preferences, skills and expectations to the classroom. Engaging and motivating students in the dynamic age in which we live can be a challenge. The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is pleased to announce a series of 3 new online workshops on the topic of Universal Design for Learning (UDL). To address the diverse needs and preferences of students in 21st century classrooms, we will explore how UDL concepts can be applied in both traditional and online courses.

During the first online session hosted on February 23, 2016, an overview of Universal Design for Learning was discussed. The three areas of Universal Design for Learning: Multiple Means of Engagement, Multiple Means of Representation and Multiple Means of Action/Expression, were introduced to provide the foundation for the series of workshops. Additionally, the first workshop provided a more in depth focus on Multiple Means of Engagement. Participants from a wide range of disciplines and departments shared many different perspectives as well as tips and strategies for incorporating UDL principles in courses they are designing and teaching. We enjoyed collaborating with NIU participants and colleagues from other institutions in this online workshop. View the workshop recording below.

The series of workshops will be fully online to allow participants to connect from the comfort of their home, office or other location using an Internet connection. The newly released Blackboard Collaborate Ultra platform will be used to conduct all of the online workshops.

All of the workshops will be held from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. CST. The second workshop Universal Design for Learning: Multiple Means of Representation will be hosted on March 24th. NIU faculty, teaching assistants, and staff can register here. Those who are interested from other institutions can register here. The final workshop Universal Design for Learning: Multiple Means of Action/Expression will be scheduled for April 2016. We look forward to engaging with you during the series of workshops.

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 http://go.niu.edu/Relation.

For more information on this tutorial, contact Dan Cabrera (dcabrera@niu.edu).

 

References

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.

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