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Blackboard Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Academic Administrators' Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Blackboard

Note: Answers to frequently asked questions listed below are only meant to clarify issues related to access to Blackboard. NIU’s computing policies will apply under all circumstances.

1. What is necessary for a faculty member to have access to Blackboard?

All faculty (including faculty members and teaching staff) are given access to Blackboard when they are issued their NIU AccountID and password. The hiring department must complete all hiring forms for a new faculty and submit them to Human Resource Services (HRS) as soon as possible to ensure timely creation of an NIU AccountID. After HRS has processed the paperwork, an AccountID will be generated for that faculty and access to Blackboard will be granted on the following business day.

2. Is having access to Blackboard different from being able to create a course on Blackboard?

Yes. A faculty member may have access to Blackboard, but only when that faculty is listed as the "instructor of record" within the Registration and Records system for a given course can that faculty member request a Blackboard course section be created through the Blackboard Faculty Tools as explained in question 5.

3. What steps are necessary to make sure that a faculty member in a department is listed as the "instructor of record" for a course that he/she is assigned to teach?

The faculty member’s department scheduler needs to list the faculty member as the instructor of record in MyNIU for each course section he/she is assigned to teach. The association is fed into Blackboard on the next business day, after which the instructor should be able to request creation of the courses(s) in Blackboard.

The faculty member can check the course schedule in MyNIU to be sure he or she is listed as the instructor of record.

4. What if a faculty member needs access to Blackboard before his/her contract date starts or before necessary hiring paperwork has been fully processed by Human Resource Services and Registration and Records (in the case of a late hire)?

An individual cannot be issued access to university’s computing resources (including Blackboard) until that individual’s hiring paperwork has been received by Human Resource Services and has been entered into the HRS system.  Any concerns or questions about when an individual's AccountID will be available should be addressed to HRS at 753-6000.

5. What is the process for a faculty member who wishes to use Blackboard to request course space on Blackboard?

Faculty members who have access to the Blackboard system can request a Blackboard course for those sections for which they are listed as official instructors of record. Requests for Blackboard course space should be made through the Blackboard Faculty Tools (BFT), a web-based request form that can be found under the "Services" tab at the Blackboard site at http://webcourses.niu.edu.

Requests made through the BFT will take approximately one day to be processed. The processing interface runs twice daily on week days. After course requests are processed, faculty will see the course title under the Courses tab after logging into Blackboard with their AccountIDs.

6. If a faculty member is assigned to teach multiple sections of the same course, can several sections be combined into a single master course?

Yes. Faculty members who are assigned to teach multiple sections of the same course in a given semester have the option of consolidating these course sections in Blackboard into one master course so that the same course materials need not be manually uploaded to each of the course sections. To learn more about this process, please review the information provided at Multiple Course Sections and contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or email helpdesk@niu.edu with any further questions.

Please note that faculty members can use the Blackboard Content Collection to post content used in multiple course sections in one folder in the Content Collection and link to it from different sections of the same course on Blackboard.

7. If a faculty member is assigned to teach a course that is cross-listed across several departments, can the enrollments in the cross-listed courses be combined into a single course section in Blackboard?

Combining enrollments from cross-listed courses is a manual process that has to be performed by a faculty member using one of the following approaches:  1) enroll the cross-listed students manually into one course section; 2) use the Blackboard Faculty Tools to create a Blackboard course for each cross-listed section.  Then, copy the enrollments from each cross-listed section into a single Blackboard section that the faculty member selects to make available.  The creation of all cross-listed sections is done to obtain enrollment records for each section, so that those records could be combined into one course. Only one section must to be made available. Otherwise, the faculty member will have to maintain multiple sections in Blackboard.

8. Is it possible for several faculty members to share course materials in Blackboard?

Yes. There are several options available for faculty who wish to share course materials in Blackboard.   These include either sharing access to a common Blackboard development shell, sharing access to a scheduled course section in Blackboard, exporting and importing materials from one course to another, or using the new Blackboard Content Collection to store and share content within the secure Blackboard learning environment. More details concerning managing content in Blackboard is provided at Build Your Course page.

9. What steps are necessary for a faculty member to add a TA to a Blackboard course section?

Faculty can add one or more teaching assistants to a Blackboard course section and assign the role of "TA" to these individuals. This role provides them with access to most features of the Blackboard Control Panel.

The process to add a TA involves manually enrolling the individual and assignment the role of "teaching assistant" The teaching assistant's last name or AccountID can be used to find the student in Blackboard.

10. What special considerations are necessary if a course is offered in Blackboard for both credit and non-credit students?

Non-credit students are not automatically enrolled in Blackboard courses as they are not part of the Registration and Records' student enrollment information. Faculty in charge of credit/non-credit courses must manually enroll non-credit students (using either their existing Z-IDs, if those students are also taking a course for credit, or temporary Blackboard affiliate AccountIDs).

An affiliate AccountID is a Novell AccountID which is generated for someone who has an affiliation with NIU but does not fit into the usual classification of a faculty, staff or student. It is only meant to provide access to Blackboard courses and/or communities. Associated email accounts are not generated for a Blackboard affiliate AccountID. The Blackboard community leader or course instructor can fill out the online Computer Access Request form at http://itsforms.niu.edu/app/itsforms/ to request Novell AccountIDs for non-NIU participants. After non-credit students are manually enrolled in the course as students, they will also appear in the Grade Center of the course or community.  They can be enrolled as guests, if the course instructor or community moderator prefers to keep their records out of the Grade Center.

11. How long do courses created on Blackboard remain and what precautions should faculty members take to backup their courses?

Only courses taught within the last 13 months will remain in Blackboard and appear among faculty members' lists of courses. Course ID numbers are used to identify courses taught within the last 13 months. The 13-month limit is not applied to shell courses. Faculty members should make sure they archive any courses they wish to retain before the course removal process begins. Faculty members are responsible for archiving their own courses. Announcements about course removal are sent to faculty via email as well as posted each semester on the main Blackboard portal and on Teaching with Blackboard Web site at www.blackboard.niu.edu.

12. Can I use Blackboard for non-course related academic purposes such as distributing information to all students in my department or student organizations/groups? If yes, what is involved in getting Blackboard access for such purposes?

Faculty members can request to use a Blackboard Community for purposes which are not directly related to the instruction process and fall outside of the definition of Blackboard Courses. More information regarding communities, including pricing, is available at: http://www.its.niu.edu/its/blackboard/blackboard_community.shtml. To request a community the faculty member should fill out the online Computing Access Resource Form (http://itsforms.niu.edu/app/itsforms/). For more information or questions, faculty members should call 815.753.8100 or email helpdesk@niu.edu.

13. If a faculty teaching a course using Blackboard has to go on leave during a semester due to medical or other emergencies and another faculty has to take over that course, what do I have to do to get the second faculty access to that Blackboard course?

If the faculty going on leave during the semester is able, then he/she can give access to his/her Blackboard course to the second faculty by enrolling that faculty as an instructor in the course. If the faculty going on leave during the semester is not able to give access to his/her Blackboard course to the second faculty due to medical or other emergencies, then the department chair can contact ITS helpdesk at helpdesk@niu.edu and request access to the course for the second faculty and also submit a revised turnaround sheet to Records and Registration indicating the second faculty is the instructor of record for the course.

14. Where can I find more information about Blackboard at NIU?

Visit the Teaching with Blackboard website at www.niu.edu/blackboard


This list is maintained by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. Suggested revisions may be sent to facdev@niu.edu.

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Last Updated: 01/03/2013