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

Dropbox Integration

Following this update, faculty and students will be able to attach files from personal Dropbox accounts directly into Blackboard. In the text editor, click Mashups, then Dropbox to link your Dropbox account and to select files. This integration is available anywhere the text editor is available, such as Items, Assignments (creating or submitting), and Discussion Boards.

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.

Congratulations to the 2016-2017 Recipients of the Graduate Teaching Certificate!

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graduate teaching certificateThe Graduate Teaching Certificate recognizes graduate teaching assistants (GA/RA/TAs) for their participation in the development programs offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. The certificate acknowledges these individuals’ commitment to effective teaching and can enhance their academic credentials.To qualify for this recognition, a graduate teaching assistant must have attended the full-day TA Orientation and at least five (5) programs of shorter duration offered by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. You can learn more about the certificate at facdev.niu.edu/tacert.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, 6 individuals earned the certificate:

  • Beheshteh Abdi, Department of Educational Technology, Research and Assessment
  • Steven Chun, Department of Geography
  • Villanueva Edel, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
  • Asa Kultida, Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
  • Ramanpreet Singh, Department of Physics
  • Taneisha Vilma, Department of Psychology

It is easy to apply for the Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center Graduate Teaching Certificate! The application form is available online at facdev.niu.edu/tacertapp. If you have forgotten which workshops you have attended, or how many you have attended, you can review your workshop history at facdev.niu.edu/myprograms. Log in with both your A-ID and Z-ID to see all of your programs (if you have used different IDs at different times).

New for 2016-2017, we offered a recommendation on recipients’ LinkedIn Profiles, to validate the recognition. Recipients will also be recognized at the Outstanding Graduate Student Recognition Reception.

Certificates are sent to the teaching assistants’ department to acknowledge their commitment to effective teaching and present the certificates to them. If TAs need a few more workshops to qualify for the certificate, they are encouraged to check the current schedule of TA programs on the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center website.

Trends in Blackboard Tool Usage at NIU – 2016

Blackboard Learn, the primary course management system used by faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and students at NIU, continues to be an important platform for facilitating teaching and learning at NIU with over 95% of students and 88% of teaching faculty using the system during fall 2016.  To gain even more insight into how NIU is using Blackboard, the Division of Information Technology implemented custom reporting capabilities within Blackboard that extends the built-in statistics tracking features for recording individual tool usage by course. As a result, we have an even better understanding of overall Blackboard adoption and tool use at NIU, and have the ability to track usage trends over time.

Here are some notable trends in Blackboard tool usage at NIU (also available for download here):

NIU Blackboard Tool Usage Report, 2016

A few noteworthy usage trends as of Fall 2016 include:

  • Between fall 2015 and fall 2016, Blackboard continued to be used at a very high level (95% of students using, 88% of faculty)
  • Overall tool use continues to grow, including of the most-used tools
  • Usage of the Assignment tool (for collecting students’ assignments electronically) has continued to grow at a rapid pace, and has been used by at least half of all courses in Blackboard, for a year
  • Most course instructors make use of Blackboard for communicating important information through the Announcements tool, posting content items (such as PowerPoint Slides, PDFs, Images, etc.), as well as posting students’ grades
  • Assignments, tests, discussion boards, and Collaborate web conferencing continued their trend of increased use during the summer semester

Thank you to the Division of Information Technology for providing these usage statistics, as they have been useful in identifying what tools are being used most in Blackboard as well as recognizing trends usage over time.

For more information about Teaching with Blackboard at Northern Illinois University, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard.

Course Request Process in Blackboard Now Faster with More Features

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screenshot of course request table and my courses moduleThe Division of IT has released version 2.0 of the Blackboard Faculty Tools (BFT), with faster course requests, an auto-availability option, and helpful notifications, based on feedback from faculty. Overall, the course request process is largely unchanged, so it will be familiar and easy to use. Courses will still need to be requested each semester, but thanks to the custom-built tool by NIU’s Blackboard system administrators, the process will be easier than ever.

What’s New

Real-Time Course Requests

Course requests will now be processed immediately, instead of taking 24 hours. You can submit your course request and start building your course right away! Requests for new Shells will also be processed immediately.

 

Course Request Notifications

Once the course request is processed (instantly), you will receive an email notification that the course is ready to use. The notification will include a summary of the courses requested along with some helpful tips for getting started with common Blackboard tasks.

Auto-Availability Option

When you request a course, you can also set a date for the course to automatically become available to students. By default, Blackboard suggests the start date of the course in MyNIU, but you can override it with any date you prefer. You can also disable the auto-availability option, and manually make the course available to students when you feel it is ready.

Automatic Groups for Each Section in a Master Course

When two or more sections are combined into a Master Course, there will also automatically be a group in the Master Course for each of the combined sections, and a Smart View for each of the groups. This will make it easier to communicate with students in a particular section, and to filter the Grade Center to only see grades for a single section.

Learn more about how you can use the automatically-generated groups in exciting and innovative ways.

Dig Deeper

Those are the highlights, but there’s more to know!

Changes to Enrollment in MyNIU

As students add and drop courses, the updates will not occur immediately. It may take up to 24 hours for a student to be added or dropped from your course. Those changes will also be reflected in the automatic groups created in a Master Course.

Course Request Timing

Going forward, you may begin requesting your courses 100 days before the semester begins, or 100 days before the course’s scheduled start date, whichever comes first. In general, that means fall courses can be requested in mid-May, spring courses can be requested in mid-October, and summer courses can be requested in mid-March. The course must be scheduled in MyNIU, and you must be listed as the Instructor of Record before you would be able to request it.

Combining Courses with Different Instructors of Record

If you want to combine your Blackboard course with one taught by someone else, into a single master course, you may due so through the Service Desk. This requires written approval from all Instructors of Record involved, so the best approach would be to send an email to ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

Shells

Just like course requests, shell requests will also be processed immediately, and an email notification will be sent when the shell has been created. In addition, the names of shells have been updated to include the word “shell”, so that they are easier to distinguish from courses.

Outstanding graduate TAs sought for awards

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Graduate Students

NIU’s Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is seeking nominations for the 2017 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards.

These awards acknowledge outstanding graduate teaching assistants for their contributions to the teaching mission of NIU.

Each recipient of the award will be presented with a plaque and recognized at the Graduate Students Reception sponsored by the Graduate School at the end of the spring semester.

At least one of the awards will be presented to an outstanding teaching assistant pursuing a master’s degree.

To be eligible for this award, each candidate must:

  • be enrolled as a graduate student in good standing at NIU during the semester the award nominations are due;
  • have been employed as a graduate teaching assistant for one or more semesters (excluding the semester of nomination) during the past 2 years at NIU;
  • have been responsible for teaching a course fully as the primary instructor of record or teaching-related support (example: leading discussions, grading, tutoring, recitation, etc.) which involved student contact as part of the graduate teaching assistant employment;
  • have contributed above and beyond the general expectations of the position; and
  • have not previously received this award at NIU.

Nomination Process and Deadline

Each academic or academic support unit that employs graduate TAs for teaching and related activities is invited to nominate two (2) outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants, one at the master’s level and the other at the doctoral level, from its department/school for the awards. Nominations should be submitted by the head of the academic department/school or designee.

Nominators must complete the nomination form for each nominee and email it with any supporting documents by Friday, March 3, 2017 to tadev@niu.edu with the subject line “Nomination for 2017 Outstanding TA Awards.”

Additional Information

For additional information, check the Frequently Asked Questions section or contact Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at (815) 753-0595 or tadev@niu.edu.

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