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.

Tips to Engage Critical Thinkers & Writers – Transform Your Course Now!

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workshop_series_for_success

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is pleased to share a series of workshops designed to provide faculty, teaching assistants, and instructional staff tips to effectively engage students in critical thinking and writing assignments in their courses. The workshops include hands-on activities and strategies you can immediately apply in your course. Tips focus on providing effective feedback to students, managing the workload, avoiding plagiarism and more. Participants will learn and practice ways to engage students in the learning process. You may select individual workshops that meet your needs or attend all 5 in the series.

The workshops were first offered during the fall 2016 semester. Feedback from participants overwhelmingly indicated that the sessions will benefit both instructors and students.

Comments include:

I learned –

  • the value of using papers to motivate students
  • prioritizing feedback is key for both instructors and students
  • strategies for managing instructor workload by identifying trends in writing and commenting on trends rather than in-line editing
  • ways to add components to the classroom environment to require direct engagement
  • possible responses to plagiarism

Dr. Brad Peters from the Department of English will lead each workshop.

The Engage Students workshop series is sponsored by Writing Across the Curriculum and the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. Register Here

To share ideas for new workshop topics or if you would be interested in presenting at one of our Institutes, please contact Yvonne Johnson, Multimodal Teaching Coordinator at yjohnson@niu.edu, 815-753-2690 or Janet Giesen, Instructional Design Coordinator at giesen@niu.edu, 815-753-1085. We look forward to hearing from you!

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 in Blackboard Open Lab on Thursday, December 8, 2016, from 11:00 – 1:00 pm in Adams Hall Room 323.

 

    • 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.

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