MEDIAL: Updated Video Management with Webcam Recording

Helix Media Library (HML), the streaming media player for uploading and sharing video and audio content available to all NIU faculty, students, and staff, is now MEDIAL, available at hml.niu.edu. After a significant upgrade, the video management tool is faster, easier, and includes the ability to record video directly from a webcam.

Fastervideos on mobile devices

One of the primary benefits to MEDIAL is that videos are encoded and transcoded for streaming online to any device. This means videos are optimized for playing online, so that students are able to watch videos even with slow or intermittent internet connections, and multiple students are able to watch the video at once without issues. Transcoding the videos allows students to view them from a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

In the past, this has sometimes been a slow process with Helix Media Library, particularly with longer videos. The MEDIAL upgrade will speed the encoding and transcoding process up significantly, so there will be less time to wait after uploading a video. In some cases, encoding may happen at double the previous speed!

Easier

MEDIAL makes it easier for students to post videos in Blackboard. Students now have the ability to browse previously uploaded videos in addition to uploading a new video. The video playback controls have been enhanced, as well.

Record from Webcam

The most exciting new feature is the ability to record audio or video directly from a webcam. This functionality is similar to the Video Everywhere tool in Blackboard that no longer works since Google removed the ability to record from a webcam on YouTube.

medial-webcam

Video or audio can be recorded from within Blackboard and is stored securely within the MEDIAL library. That video can then be embedded within a Blackboard course. This feature is great for video announcements or providing feedback on an assignment. Students can use this, as well, to submit video or audio assignments – such as demonstrating for language proficiency, responding via sign language, or just for building a sense of community.

Tutorials

Learn more about using MEDIAL by watching these tutorials.

Breakout Groups, Polling, Closed Captioning Added to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra

screenshot of blackboard collaborate ultra breakout groupsBlackboard Collaborate Ultra continues to evolve as Blackboard adds new features to improve your teaching and learning experience! Just recently, Blackboard released 2 exciting new features, Breakout Groups and Polling, and a new tutorial on the existing Closed Captioning feature. Check them out!

Stay up-to-date on what’s new in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra by reviewing Blackboard’s What’s New page.

Breakout Groups

To facilitate small group collaboration, you can create breakout groups that are separate from the main room and assign participants to them. Breakout groups have their own private audio, video, whiteboard, application sharing, and chat. You can assign students to specific breakout groups or you can have Collaborate randomly assign them. You can even allow students to switch groups, so they can collaborate outside of their groups, as well.

Note: For now, you must be using version 52 of the Chrome browser to create breakout groups.

Learn more about Breakout Groups.

Polling

Polls are great to engage your participants and keep them interested. You can also use polls to get real-time feedback from your students by asking questions to see how well they understand the content.

Learn more about Polling.

Live Closed Captioning

Blackboard is fully committed to ensuring that all products and services they provide are usable and accessible to all users, regardless of age, ability, or situation. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is developed in accordance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Level AA as well as the Section 508 standards. Learn more about Accessibility in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

One way that Blackboard enables an accessible learning experience in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is through live closed captioning. The closed captioning system provides an integrated way for a captioner to transcribe the audio of the session in real-time so that students who need to can read the content.

Learn more about Live Closed Captioning.

Other New Features

There have been a lot of other great features recently, too.

  • Tour of new features – when joining a new session, go through a brief tour of new features
  • Attendance Reports – moderators can view a report of when and for how long participants were in the session
  • Diversified Emojis – use one of five support skin tones on any human emoji

Upcoming Workshop

NIU faculty who are new to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, or just want a refresher for the fall semester, can attend our upcoming workshop Introduction to Live Online Classes Using Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. The workshop will be held on Thursday, August 25, 2016, from 1:30 – 3:30. Register here. You can also email us at facdev@niu.edu for a one-on-one consultation about Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

Review of Classroom Response Systems Complete

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clickersFrom the end of March through mid-April 2016, faculty and staff from Northern Illinois University participated in a review of five classroom response (“clicker”) systems, facilitated by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center (for an overview of the process, timeline, and the faculty needs assessment, please see this earlier article). The review was undertaken because of intermittent issues with the current officially recognized and supported clicker system, rapidly changing clicker technology, and the recent increase in adoption of multiple competing clicker systems across campus which potentially forces students to buy more than one device.

However, due to low participation in the review process, any change of systems would not represent perspectives of everyone who uses a clicker system across NIU. The faculty who participated in the review recommended not changing systems at this time, and the Faculty Development Advisory Committee (comprised of faculty across all colleges) concurred with the decision. For the 2016-2017 academic year, Turning Technologies will remain the officially-supported clicker system at NIU.

Whenever possible, faculty are encouraged to use the officially-supported clicker system, to reduce costs to students, increase the value of the purchase they make, and take advantage of student familiarity with a common system. However, there are many factors to consider when adopting technology, so faculty are not required to use the officially-supported system.

When choosing a clicker or student-response system, there are a number of alternatives you may consider to minimize cost to students. First, if your purpose is to increase student engagement as opposed to testing, a physical clicker device may be unnecessary. For Turning Technologies’ clickers, the ResponseWare license is cheaper than the clicker remote and students can participate using their mobile phone, tablet, or laptop. In that case, ask the Bookstore to add license cards to the list of recommended materials for your course. Second, if your class is not large, you may be able to use one of several free systems, such as Poll Everywhere (free up to 40 students) or Socrative (free and supports up to 50 students).

If any lingering issues or concerns regarding the use of clickers for instructional purposes arise, please don’t hesitate to contact the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at facdev@niu.edu or 815-753-0595.

Trends in Blackboard Tool Usage at NIU

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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 96% of students and 92% of teaching faculty using the system during Fall 2015.  To gain even more insight into how NIU is using Blackboard, the Division of Information Technology has 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-bb-stats-2015

 

A few noteworthy usage trends as of Fall 2015 include:

  • Overall Blackboard use stayed the same (96% of students using, 92% of faculty) between fall 2014 and fall 2015
  • Recently, Blackboard adoption by teaching faculty made a significant jump from 82% (2013) to 92% (2014) which was maintained in 2015
  • Blackboard tool use generally declined over the Summer and Fall 2015 semesters
  • Most course instructors make use of Blackboard for posting announcement and content items (e.g., PowerPoint Slides, PDFs, Images, etc.), as well as for posting grades
  • Assignments, tests, 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.

When the Community and the Classroom Collide: Service-Learning at NIU

college student reads book to children

This article is guest-authored by Renique Kersh and Michaela Holtz from the Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, and Destiny McDonald from Student Involvement and Leadership Development. We are grateful that they have shared their expertise on Service Learning for our blog and spring 2016 newsletter!

Service Learning, as a practice, “deliberately integrates community service activities with educational objectives” (Bringle & Hatcher, 1990, p. 180). As a transformative learning pedagogy, service learning, uniquely combines student learning, perspective shifting and meaning making. The process of meaning making, for students, is important as it causes critical shifts in schema. At its root, meaning making assumes that students better understand how they fit into the world around them. Service learning experiences enhance this process and encourage a sense of social and civic responsibility. Student engagement in quality service learning experiences challenges their assumptions, ignites their moral compass and disrupts prior knowledge.

As previously explored in the fall 2015 newsletter from the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, service learning takes many unique forms. Academic Service Learning has been defined as “a specific pedagogy that integrates academic coursework with service which meets a community-identified need.” Important to the integration of Academic Service Learning into courses is the inclusion of critical reflection, which is the venue by which students begin to unpack old knowledge and create new knowledge. This practice results in a deepening of learning. It has been hailed as a practice that promotes an “enlightened understanding” for students and emboldens clarity around social responsibility and the interweaving of the student’s experience and the experiences of those in the world around them (Bringle & Hatcher, 1999, p. 179). Other scholars suggest that critical reflection is a means by which educators can assess student learning and therefore make assumptions about depth and breadth (Molee, Henry, Sessa & McKinney-Prupis, 2010).

Further, the definition of Academic Service Learning includes a reference to meeting a “community-identified” need. This suggests that incorporating these activities into courses cannot be one-sided and must include the thoughtful cooperation of community partners. This highlights the need for university collaborators to be reminded of the importance of the reciprocal relationship and collaborative problem solving (Bringle and Hatcher, 2002). There are a number of other important things to consider when coordinating service learning activities, which may pose challenges for community partners. These challenges include the lack of training for students engaged in these experiences and the impact that this may have on community organization’s ability to meet their identified mission. Other challenges include student’s level of interest, communication and sporadic schedules (Smith-Budhai, 2013).

Another important consideration for faculty interested in utilizing Academic Service Learning is how its use can be influential in the process of tenure and promotion. Institutions like Colorado State University provide faculty with guidelines for how to articulate the curricular impact of Academic Service Learning in the tenure and promotion dossier. The National Review Board for the Scholarship of Engagement confirms the importance of pedagogies like Academic Service Learning noting the importance of strategies that “engage faculty in academically relevant work that simultaneously meets campus mission and goals as well as community needs”.  Although much of the research on service learning focuses on student learning outcomes, faculty-related outcomes and community partner outcomes must be considered as well.

So where do you go from here? The Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning in partnership with the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, invite you to learn more about Academic Service Learning, community partner expectations, the use of critical reflection and considerations for tenure and promotion at the upcoming Service Learning Institute titled “When the Community and the Classroom Collide: Service Learning at NIU” on May 18, 2016, from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. This fully online institute will be easily accessible from any location and will include a keynote from service learning expert, Dr. Patrick Green of Loyola University in Chicago. At the close of the institute, participants will have an opportunity to learn about a new Faculty Fellows program scheduled to launch in the summer of 2016! The Faculty Fellows program creates a learning collaborative in which new and experienced service-learning faculty deepen their knowledge and share best practices. In addition, selected Faculty Fellows will receive a small stipend to support professional development and the integration of service learning pedagogy into new and existing courses.

We look forward to having you join us!

 

References

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1990). Reflection in Service Learning: Making Meaning or Experience. Educational Horizons, 179.

Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (2002). Campus–community partnerships: The terms of engagement. Journal of Social Issues, 58(3), 503-516.

Gerstenblatt, P.  (2014). Community as agency: Community partner experiences with service learning. Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship, 7(2). Retreived from http://jces.ua.edu/community-as-agency-community-partner-experiences-with-service-learning/

Smith Budhai, S. (2013). Two sides to every story: Exploring community partners’ perspective of their service learning experiences. Journal for Civic Commitment, 20, 1-13.

Mezirow, J. (1990). How critical reflection triggers transformative learning. Fostering critical reflection in adulthood, 1-20.

Molee, L. M., Henry, M. E., Sessa, V. I., & McKinney-Prupis, E. R. (2010). Assessing learning in service-learning courses through critical reflection.Journal of Experiential Education, 33(3), 239-257.

Web Sources

http://www.scholarshipofengagement.org/

http://www.gvsu.edu/servicelearning/service-learningdefinitions-11.htm

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