Upgrade Details for TurningPoint Cloud

turningpoint_cloud_logo_200wThis is the second of two announcements about the upgrade the TurningPoint, which is currently planned for the Memorial Day weekend.
Registering a Turning Technologies Account
Once the upgrade occurs, everyone—faculty/staff and students—will need to register an account with Turning Technologies: https://account.turningtechnologies.com/account/user/validateEmail

For faculty and staff who teach with TurningPoint, the account will be necessary for logging into the TurningPoint Cloud desktop software.

For students, the account will be where they enter their physical clicker and/or ResponseWare license information. (It is up to the faculty or staff member teaching the course to decide if the ResponseWare app is an acceptable polling option.) Additionally, they will still need to access the Turning Technologies tool within Blackboard; doing so is what will allow your TurningPoint software to tie their polling grades to the Blackboard Grade Center.

Upgrading TurningPoint Software
By the start of the summer semester, all centrally-managed Smart Classrooms will be updated to TurningPoint Cloud. For those who are used to running TurningPoint off your USB drive or Turning Technologies clicker receiver, you will want to replace it with the new software. For those with older receivers, we have a number of new ones on hand that we can swap for your old one, if you wish; please come see Peter Gowen or Cameron Wills on the third floor of Adams Hall.

If you have registered a Turning Account, you can find the software in the Downloads section on your account page. You can also find the latest software (the version that’s installed in the Smart Classrooms), within the “Download TurningPoint Software” folder in the “TurningPoint Info” section of this Blackboard Community.

**TIP** Back up your session data before the upgrade. As with other student data, it’s always a good idea to make sure you keep a backup of your clicker session data, especially for any of it that wasn’t sent to the Blackboard Grade Center, in case of student appeals.

Requesting Clickers from the Bookstore
If you will be teaching with clickers, please remember to tell the Bookstore. They need to know roughly how many students will be buying clickers, in order to keep enough on hand for sale. Last semester, several classes weren’t listed, and there was a shortage; students had to wait for Turning Technologies to send them their clickers, which may have been disruptive for those faculty/staff who planned on using clickers during the first week of classes.

QT Clicker (1-Year Turning Account) 978-1-934931-52-3 $53.35
QT Clicker (4-Year Turning Account) 978-1-934931-75-2 $73.35
Turning Account (1-Year) 978-1-934931-71-4 $18.80
Turning Account (4-Year) 978-1-934931-73-8 $32.90

Preparing for the First Day of Class
Turning Technologies has a number of resources for the TurningPoint Cloud software, including helpful sample slides that you may want to incorporate in your lectures during the first week of classes: http://www.turningtechnologies.com/best-practices-higher-education/getting-started/turningpoint-cloud

More documentation and tutorials can be found here: https://www.turningtechnologies.com/training-documents/turningpoint-cloud

Lastly, Turning Technologies runs weekly online trainings for all aspects of their software: https://www.turningtechnologies.com/online-classes

For further information on the upgrade, please contact Benjamin West from Turning Technologies (bwest@turningtechnologies.com), or get in touch with Peter Gowen (pgowen@niu.edu) or Cameron Wills (cwills@niu.edu) at the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.


  • Q: Will my Turning Account work across institutions I attend (if I’m a student) or teach at (if I’m a professor)?
  • A: Turning Accounts will work across multiple institutions, and students will only pay to register a new Turning Account once (though they will have to pay the yearly renewal fee, for any year after the first).
  • Q: When TurningPoint is updated, will I be able to use the older software from my USB drive? Will I still be able to upload to Blackboard?
  • A: After the upgrade, the Blackboard integration will no longer be available for older versions of the software. All users on campus will need to install TurningPoint Cloud in order to upload grades to the Blackboard Grade Center and download student class lists to the TurningPoint desktop software.
  • Q: Will my students’ older devices still work with TurningPoint? Will they need to re-license them each year? How?
  • A: Yes. Come Summer 2015, once TurningPoint has been upgraded to the new “cloud” version, new devices (the ones with the single year Turning Account license “bundle”), will be sold to NIU. Any devices that students had previously bought (whether in Spring ’15 or earlier) will need to be registered with a Turning Account, which they can do for a one time fee of $20.
  • Q: After the upgrade, will students be able to sell each other their devices, if those devices are tied to a Turning Account?
  • A: Yes. The receiving student will be able to re-register it, but will have to pay the $20 registration fee to tie it to a new account.
  • Q: Will my current PowerPoint slides I built with TurningPoint still work?
  • A: Yes, you should still be able to open and edit them with the PowerPoint Polling features in TurningPoint Cloud.
  • Q: What happened to the “E-mail unregistered students” link in the Turning Technologies Tool?
  • A: The new module in Blackboard does not include this function any longer. Instead, the new TurningPoint software will display a list of unregistered students after you use the Integration to pull down a Participant List. If there are only a handful of students, you could look up their email addresses within Blackboard or within the NIU Directory, and email them directly. Otherwise, we would recommend informing your class about the necessity of registering their device, either in your face-to-face class, or through a Blackboard Announcement: students receive no credit for their submitted answers (though their data is saved for later) until they register their device.

TurningPoint Cloud to replace TurningPoint 5.3


TurningPoint is the desktop software used by faculty as part of the student response system (SRS), or “clickers”, to receive immediate feedback from students in class. The current version of TurningPoint, installed across Smart Classrooms at NIU, is 5.3.

TurningPoint will be upgraded at the end of May, after the Spring semester ends and before Summer classes begin. The new version comes with a mix of benefits and costs, which we wanted to make sure you were aware of.

The most obvious change to TurningPoint will be the requirement of registering a Turning Account. Both you and your students will need to create an account with Turning Technologies, which you can do here: https://account.turningtechnologies.com/account/user/validateEmail This will be necessary for you to access the new TurningPoint Cloud (TPC) desktop software. This will also be necessary for your students, in order for them to register their clicker device and/or ResponseWare license.

While an extra step for you and your students, the TurningPoint Account will work with the software to encrypt your clicker session data, making it secure from prying eyes. Noone else will be able to access your data, unless you choose to share it with them!

Turning Technologies is also instituting a new recurring annual fee to students. The up-front cost to students will remain the same for the clicker device at the bookstore (and will now include a license for the ResponseWare app for free, as a “bundle”): about $53. The bundle will include a one-year license for use of the clicker and the ResponseWare app. If a student needs to use either the device or the app after that first year, they will have to buy a 1-year license renewal; they can instead opt to buy a 4-year license renewal, if they anticipate needing the device or app for more than the first couple years, saving them some money over the course of their NIU career. Student financial aid will apply to both the clicker bundle and the license renewal codes at the Bookstore.

Here is a detailed breakdown of costs from the NIU Bookstore:

  • QT Clicker, 1-Year Turning Account, 978-1-934931-52-3, $53.35
  • QT Clicker, 4 Year Turning Account, 978-1-934931-75-2, $73.35
  • Turning Account – 1-Year, 978-1-934931-71-4, $18.80
  • Turning Account – 4-Year, 978-1-934931-73-8, $32.90


The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will follow up later with information on managing the upgrade process for you and your students. If you have any questions about the upgrade, you can email Benjamin West from Turning Technologies (bwest@turningtechnologies.com) or get in touch with Peter Gowen (pgowen@niu.edu) or Cameron Wills (cwills@niu.edu) at the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

For more information on using clickers at NIU, please visit: http://niu.edu/blackboard/assess/clickers/index.shtml.

Learning Communities as a High-Impact Practice

posted in: Newsletter, Teaching | 1

multiple curving arrows of different colors to represent a community forming

What used to be an innovative trend in teaching and learning is now a “credible and proven curricular model” (Laufgraben, J. L., & Shapiro, N. S., 2004, p. xiii). Learning communities are high-impact instructional practices that engage people to work together toward a common goal—students working with students, faculty working with faculty within the same discipline or from different disciplines, or students working with faculty. Learning communities can have a “high-impact” on student outcomes through the “integration of learning across courses” and disciplines (LEAP, n.d.). Although each learning community may take on a slightly different focus, they consist of a group of individuals who collaboratively engage in a learning endeavor toward a common goal during a prescribed period of time. The typical time period for a successful learning community in an academic setting is one semester.

A number of characteristics, components, and features have been identified which make up a learning community (Burden, 2003; Cox, M. D., 2007; Iowa State University, 2006; Wilson & Ryder, n.d.; Wojcicki, E. 2002).

  • Membership in the community is often voluntary
  • Members in the community share common goals, objectives, values, and vision
  • Community members share connectedness and trust
  • Community members develop and encourage a supportive learning environment
  • Community members are encouraged to have open and autonomous communication
  • Instructors act primarily as a facilitator and then as a motivating and caring instructor
  • Students assume leadership roles, self-regulated learning, and support everyone in the community

Getting Started with Learning Communities

Consider the following steps to initiate and sustain a high-impact learning community in your own teaching and learning activities (Leigh Smith, MacGregor, Matthews and Gabelnick, 2004).

  1. Seeing the opportunity in the idea through existing models taking place in academic departments, at other institutions, or learning about them from attending conferences.
  2. Establishing a collaborative leadership team by having a willing and able person or persons lead and be responsible for the learning community, which is vital to its success. A faculty member, an administrator, or another individual can serve in this role who can work with the broader leadership team made up of stakeholders in the learning community.
  3. Defining learning community goals will assist in the formation of appropriate activities for successful outcomes and help students learn and promote creativity, vitality, and collaborative cultures. Learning community constituents have different goals and should have students’ learning in mind. Goals will evolve over time and the learning community and everyone connected to it should be open to and learn from changes that can take place.
  4. Choosing a curricular structure that can 1) take place within courses that are unmodified where students enroll in courses together which are not modified on behalf of the community. Students will, however, enroll in another course or courses which integrate and perpetuate the learning community. Learning communities can also be structured in 2) linked or clustered classes, where instructors who teach different courses collaborate to link content to each other’s courses. This structure could link an introductory skill building course to a more content-intense course; link “foundation courses for a major,” to related courses toward a minor; or link general education courses “around an interdisciplinary theme” (Leigh Smith, et al., 2004, p. 77).
  5. Team-taught learning communities are taught by a number of faculty members who can be from the same general discipline (English Composition and American Literature, for example) or from unique disciplines (Humanities, Composition, Art). This structure can be created around a central theme related to a particular content, an academic college, or a problem/issue. Students receive one syllabus which integrates each of the courses around the central theme.
  6. Recruiting students who want classes that are relevant to their interests, fit in their busy academic and personal schedules (fit into a semester rather than longer commitment), “count” toward their academic majors, and can be transferred to other schools. Leigh Smith et al. (2004) suggest that learning community developers consider these points rather than creating a learning community that is interesting to them rather than their students.
  7. Marketing and promoting learning communities through marketing plans that include information about the value of the learning community, how it fits students’ personal and academic needs, and when and where the learning community will take place.
  8. Advising students about transitioning to and functioning within a learning community can act as recruitment efforts. Leigh Smith et al. (2004) suggest that advisers be included when planning learning communities for their perspective on students’ personal, academic, and scheduling needs.
  9. Registration and scheduling strategies that can focus on getting student buy-in to actually commit to a learning community by promoting its purpose, its overall goal, and how students will benefit from it. Leigh Smith et al. (2004) state that learning communities can help students adjust to college life, can assist students in registering for bundled courses, and provide a means to make new friends and study partners.
  10. Assessing student learning using strategies that should be well thought out and start at the beginning of the learning community experience and include both formative (throughout the learning) and summative (at the end of learning) formats. As with any teaching strategy, assessment methods should evaluate the goals and instructional objectives (the purpose of the learning community) and meet the needs of all the stakeholders – the students, the instructors, the administrators, the institution, the curriculum, and any other people who are involved in the learning community.

Learning Community Models at NIU

Leigh Smith et al. (2004) identify four learning community models, all of which are offered in some format at NIU.

  1. Paired or Clustered Courses. The College of Education, for example, requires student cohorts to enroll in courses in their senior semesters, which are sequenced in blocks that allow them to learn through integrated course content.
  2. Cohorts in Large Courses or TLCs (Themed Learning Communities). “Themed Learning Communities are a group of two or three courses taken the same semester and consisting of the same group
    of students [in which they focus] on a common theme across several different classes and disciplines”
    (Northern Illinois University, 2015b, para. 1).
  3. Team-taught Programs. The College of Business offers UBUS 310, Business Core: Lecture, a 9-credit hour course for undergraduate business students. This course is team-taught and introduces “students to the three primary functional areas in business…[with an] emphasis on interdisciplinary application of the business principles, and the cross-functional relationships between functional areas in business” (Northern Illinois University, 2015c, para. 4).
  4. Residence-based Learning Communities. These are models that intentionally link the classroom-based learning community with a residential life component. A sample of NIU Living-Learning Communities include Leadership and Service Community; LGBTQA Community; Fine Arts House; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Careers House; Business Careers House; Fine Arts House; Health House; Health Professions House; and Teacher Education and Certification House. The NIU “Living-Learning Communities promote academic success… [and strengthen] connections between students and faculty within a chosen course of study.” (Northern Illinois University, 2015a, para. 1).


High-imapct learning communities create interdisciplinary learning environments that can assist students in becoming partners in their own learning. Learning communities encourage students to take an active role in their learning through open communication, creative thinking, negotiation, and mutual respect of each member of the community.

(This article was adapted from the Instructional Guide for Faculty and Teaching Assistants found at http://www.niu.edu/facdev/resources/guide/index.shtml)


Burden, P. R. (2003). Classroom management: Creating a successful learning community. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Cox, M. D. (2007). Website for developing faculty and professional learning communities (FLCs) to transform campus culture for learning. Retrieved from http://www.units.miamioh.edu/flc/

Iowa State University (2006). Learning Communities. Retrieved from

LEAP (n.d.). High-impact educational practices. Retrieved from http://www.aacu.org/sites/default/files/files/LEAP/HIP_tables.pdf

Laufgraben, J. L., & Shapiro, N. S. (2004). Sustaining & improving learning communities. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Leigh Smith, B., MacGregor, J., Matthews, R. S., & Gabelnick, F. (2004). Learning communities: Reforming undergraduate education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Northern Illinois University (2007a). Housing and Dining. Academic residential programs. Retrieved from http://niu.edu/housing/llc/

Northern Illinois University (2007b). Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. Themed learning communities (TLC). Retrieved from http://www.niu.edu/engagedlearning/themed_learning/pdfs/2015-2016/tlc_fall_15_informational.pdf

Northern Illinois University (2007c). Undergraduate and Graduate Catalogs. UBUS 310. Business Core: Lecture. Retrieved from http://catalog.niu.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=9&poid=1373

Wilson, B., & Ryder, M. (n.d.). Dynamic learning communities: An alternative to designed instructional systems. Retrieved from http://carbon.ucdenver.edu/~mryder/dlc.html

Wojcicki, E. (2002). Characteristics of an effective classroom culture. Retrieved from http://gallery.carnegiefoundation.org/collections/castl_k12/ewojcicki2/outcomes/characteristics_culture.htm

For more information on Learning Communities, please read the full article in our Instructional Guide for University Faculty and Teaching Assistants at http://www.niu.edu/facdev/resources/guide/index.shtml and refer to the resource list.

New Clicker Device on Campus

Turning Technologies' full-keyboard "QT" deviceIn Spring 2015, Turning Technologies began selling a new student response system device, their “QT” model. This QT device replaces the previous NXT model that was sold the last few years. The full keyboard on the QT makes providing text-based answers easier, useful for those times when short answer or essay questions are preferred over multiple choice or true/false questions. This makes it easier to use short answer and essay questions for higher-stakes in-class quizzes and exams using clickers.

While the device is different, the cost to students remains the same at the NIU Bookstore. The only necessary change to the existing clicker system is on the faculty side, as the older, grey radio receivers need to be replaced with newer black-and-white receivers. If you are still in need of a new receiver, please contact Peter Gowen (pgowen@niu.edu or 815-753-5882) or Cameron Wills (cwills@niu.edu or 815-753-3239) in the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, and we will get you a more up-to-date Instructor Kit.

The QT device also presages a future update to the TurningPoint desktop software used to create and run polls using the clicker system. More details will follow, as that update draws nearer.

For more information on using clickers in your classroom, please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/assess/clickers/index.shtml.

Spring 2015 Teaching Effectiveness Institute on Getting Credit for What You Do

posted in: News, Newsletter, Teaching | 0

Laurie RichlinLaurie Richlin, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Education, Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine presented two, half-day workshops on getting credit for what you do. Upon check-in for both workshops, participants were presented with a copy of Dr. Richlin’s book, Blueprint for Learning: Creating College Courses to Facilitate, Assess, and Document Learning, which details much of what was presented during the institute.

During the morning workshop, Getting Credit for What You Do: Designing an Evidence-Based Course, Dr. Richlin discussed ways faculty can demonstrate how well their teaching facilitates their students’ learning. Using a worksheet and through discussions, participants had the opportunity to document their teaching/learning decisions and results so that their colleagues and intelligent non-experts can understand what they are doing. Participants were lead through the evidence-based course design process, which allowed them to identify traditional activities and ideas they felt were appropriate for documentation.

In the afternoon workshop, Getting Credit for What You Do: Creating the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, participants, after having documented their work, were shown how and why to share their findings about effective ways to help students learn better in their discipline and the university. “The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) promotes teaching as a scholarly endeavor and a worthy subject for research, producing a public body of knowledge open to critique and evaluation” (Michigan State University Office of Faculty & Organizational Development). During the workshop, Dr. Richlin described how to turn teaching strategies and results into presentations and publications. She offered anyone who attended either workshop to contact her to answer questions about her workshops or give a preliminary review of a manuscript.

For more information on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, read The Status of the Scholarship of Teaching in the Discipline (2007) by Paul D. Witman and Laurie Richlin.

To learn about current and practical applications of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, consider attending the 2015 Midwest Conference on the Scholarship of Teaching, on April 10, 2015, hosted by Indiana University South Bend.

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center offers the Teaching Effectiveness Institute twice each year, at the beginning of fall and spring semesters. Day one of the fall Teaching Effectiveness Institute is offered as a one day workshop, which is designed to introduce faculty to the basic principles of teaching, information about teaching-related support resources available at NIU, and ways faculty can address students’ learning needs.

The second day of the institute is offered either as a one, all-day workshop or two, half-day workshops that center on a more focused topic presented by an outside expert in the field. The Fall 2015 Teaching Effectiveness Institute will take place on Thursday, August 14 and Friday, August 15. Look for more details about the institute on our webpage later this spring semester at www.niu.edu/facdev.


Michigan State University Office of Faculty and Organizational Development (n.d.). Scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL). Retrieved from: http://fod.msu.edu/oir/scholarship-teaching-and-learning-sotl

Richlin, L. (2006). Blueprint for learning: Constructing college courses to facilitate, assess, and document learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Press.

Witman, P. D. and Richlin, L. (2007). The Status of the Scholarship of Teaching in the Discipline. Retrieved from: http://digitalcommons.georgiasouthern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1013&context=ij-sotl

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