Establish Social Presence with a Welcome Message Video

One great way to begin a new year/semester is to prepare and share a welcome message video for students enrolled in your course(s). Whether the course format is face-to-face or online, posting a welcome message online can facilitate the establishment of social presence, and thus begin the process of creating a sense of community. This initial effort to connect with students can provide opportunities to orient students to a course, where an instructor discusses course expectations/organization and encourages students to obtain course materials and assigned textbooks early. In addition, students may have an opportunity to observe an instructor’s passion for their field. The welcome message can also work to set a student’s mind at ease, as they perceive their instructor as a real person.

While providing a welcome message video can be especially important for students of online courses, it is also relevant for face-to-face courses. Instructors can send a welcome message in advance of the start of the semester, and provide an introduction to the course before the first day of class regardless of the course format.

Faculty can create videos with their smart phone or tablet, or with a webcam on a desktop workstation or from a laptop. A welcome message video can be added to a Blackboard course through MEDIAL or YouTube.

Considerations for Creating Your Own Welcome Message Video

When planning the creation a welcome message video, here are a number of considerations that faculty and instructors should keep in mind:

  • Although the expression of a welcome message can be heart-felt and spontaneous, consider using a script or outline. Captions derived from a script can be added to the video to enhance accessibility, benefiting students with a range of abilities and disabilities.
  • Think about the setting where you would want to record the video. Lighting and sound quality can enhance or compromise the quality of the recording.
  • What image do you want to project to your students? Formal or informal. Will you be recording inside your office, or outside in front of an iconic landmark or well-known university building.  Or perhaps inside you automobile.
  • How long should the video be? It is recommended that welcome messages be brief and to the point, rather than extended descriptions of each aspect of the course. Remember, you are establishing social presence in advance of the first class session, not just giving a shorter version of your initial lecture.

For more information or tips on creating your own welcome videos for your students, please contact Dan Cabrera, Multimedia Coordinator (dcabrera@niu.edu or 815-753-0613).

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.

Tools To Go Paperless: Blackboard’s Inline Grading

Continuing with the mission started by the GreenUp NIU initiative, many faculty and instructors are exploring different ways to leverage technology to support a more paperless teaching and learning environment. This also helps to reduce costs for students, as they no longer have a printing allotment in the computer labs or using the Anywhere Printers.

One tool of particular note has been Blackboard’s inline grading feature. Instead of requiring student work to be downloaded to view or edit submissions, faculty and instructors can take advantage of inline grading to review student-submitted files ‘inline’ – directly in the web browser without requiring any special plugins. With this tool users can preview, comment, and grade these assignments without ever leaving the grading page.

inline grading example
Many faculty have already transitioned to using technologies like Blackboard to accept and grade assignments and other work electronically.

 

The inline grading feature also hosts several annotation tools which make it easy to markup digital documents with comments, highlights, and drawings directly online, without needing to download and open the document in a separate program. Currently, the following document types are supported: Word (.doc, .docx), PowerPoint (.ppt, .pptx), Excel (.xls, .xlsx), photos (.jpeg, .png) and PDFs. Any formatting and embedded images in the original document are preserved when viewed inline.

Note that students will not be able to add/edit annotations on their work, but they will see their work in an inline viewer after submitting them. Additionally, if students upload files in unsupported formats, faculty will be prompted to download and view the file.

If you are interested in learning more about the inline grading feature, you can view our Blackboard support page, download a PDF quick guide, or view a recorded workshop highlighting the tool’s features.

Faculty Development will also be hosting a workshop on the inline grading feature next month (November 9, 2016). You can register for the event here.

 

Adapted from a previous post.

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.

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