Blackboard News and Announcements

The following archive serves as a permanent record of the NIU Blackboard news and announcements posted on the NIU Teaching and Learning with Blackboard website since April 2007. Stay up-to-date with latest news regarding teaching and learning with Blackboard at NIU by following @NIUBlackboard on Twitter.

2022

Blackboard Courses from Fall 2016 Summer 2017 to be Deleted Beginning December 1, 2022 - 10/27/2022

In accordance with NIU’s course retention guidelines for Blackboard, only the last 5 years of courses are retained in Blackboard. The Division of IT will begin removing courses from the 2016-2017 academic year. Shells and Organizations will not be affected at this time.

Courses to be deleted: All courses from Fall 2016, Spring 2017, and Summer 2017 will be deleted. Courses from Fall 2017 to Fall 2022 will be retained in Blackboard.

Removal date: The removal process will begin on December 1, 2022

You may save any courses you wish to retain before the course removal process begins by exporting the courses from Blackboard. You can store the exported package (a .zip file) on your computer or in OneDrive. Faculty members are responsible for exporting their own courses. Learn more about exporting your Blackboard course.

You may also download the Grade Center if you wish to retain the grades for your records. Learn more about downloading the Grade Center in Original or Ultra Course View.

If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please feel free to contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at 815-753-0595 or citl@niu.edu. If you experience technical issues while exporting a course or downloading your grades, please contact the Division of IT Service Desk at it.niu.edu, 815-753-8100 or servicedesk@niu.edu.

Announcing Blackboard Ally Digital Badges - 5/19/2022

You can now earn recognition for the great work that you are doing at NIU to improve the accessibility of your course materials and being a champion for accessibility.

You can earn a digital badge for your work to be student centered, increase your overall accessibility score, find and fix accessibility issues, and add captions to multimedia materials. When you earn them all, you will truly be an Ally Hero!

Because improving accessibility is an ongoing process and not an all-or-nothing endeavor, most of the badges offer multiple levels. Start small and work your way up to the top!

Fight For Good: Student-Centered Focus On Accessibility

The easiest way to get started with Ally is to ensure that your syllabus is accessible and that your students are aware of the alternative formats. Check out the communication toolkit for resources to help you tell students about Ally. This badge has one level.

Requirements

  • Syllabus accessibility score is 90% or higher
    AND
  • You have shared information with your students about alternative formats, such as posting information in your Blackboard course, adding a statement to your syllabus, sending information via email, or demonstrating it in class

Super Strength: Lifting Your Overall Accessibility Score

Your overall accessibility score is a great indicator of how accessible your course materials are. As you improve the accessibility of your content, you will lift your overall accessibility of your content, you will lift your overall score, as well. This badge has three levels so that you can start small as you build your super strength.

Requirements

  • Level 1: Increase the overall accessibility score in one course by 10% or more
  • Level 2: One course has an overall accessibility score of 80% or more
  • Level 3: One course has an overall accessibility score of 90% or more

Detective Work: Finding And Fixing Accessibility Issues

Finding and fixing accessibility issues in your course materials requires a keen eye for detail. This badge has three levels so that you can hone your investigation skills as you become a super sleuth.

Requirements

  • Level 1: Make 5 or more fixes in one or across multiple courses
  • Level 2: Make 10 or more fixes in one or across multiple courses
  • Level 3: Make 20 or more fixes in one or across multiple courses (or have no issues left to fix in a course)

X-Ray Vision: Focus On Captions

Captions are a critical element of accessibility for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, but they can benefit all students. This badge has three levels so that you can focus your X-ray vision to see through the sound to the text captions.

Requirements

  • Level 1: One of the following:
    • Edit captions on one video or multimedia presentation that you created
    • Replace a video or multimedia presentation created by someone else in order to have accurate captions
  • Level 2: All video or multimedia content used that were created by others have corrected, accurate captions (i.e., not auto captions)
  • Level 3: All video or multimedia content that you created have accurate, edited captions (i.e., not auto captions)

Ally Hero

When you have mastered all of the superhero skills for accessibility, then you will truly be an Ally Hero. To earn this badge, you must have achieved the highest levels of all of the individual skill badges. Truly, Ally Heroes are elite champions of accessibility!

Requirements

  • Fight for Good: Syllabus accessibility score is 90% or higher
  • Fight for Good: You have shared information with your students about alternative formats
  • Super Strength III: One course has an overall accessibility score of 90% or more
  • Detective Work III: Make 20 or more fixes in one or across multiple courses (or have no issues left to fix in a course)
  • X-Ray Vision II and III: All video or multimedia content used in the course (whether created by you or others) have corrected, accurate captions (i.e., not auto captions)

APPLY FOR A BADGE!

Blackboard Collaborate Recordings Made Prior to December 1, 2021 to be Deleted - 5/3/2022

In accordance with the Blackboard Collaborate Recording Retention Guidelines, all recordings made prior to December 1, 2021 will be deleted beginning on June 1, 2022.

Blackboard Collaborate is built specifically for the education environment and helps you build and share engaging content, build instructor presence, and develop a learning community. While it is primarily a synchronous tool, to ability to record sessions is a critical component of any web conferencing tool, enabling students to catch up on sessions they missed or review key content from sessions they attended.

In the past, NIU has retained all Blackboard Collaborate recordings indefinitely, we have finite storage available for recordings. The recent growth in the use of Blackboard Collaborate has vastly exceeded that capacity. Continuing to retain recordings above our storage limit will incur significant additional charges to NIU. Therefore, reasonable limitations on recording storage must be implemented to ensure long-term feasibility and access to resources.

Effective April 30, 2022, Blackboard Collaborate recordings will be retained for 6 months. If recordings are needed for re-use or longer retention, you may download recordings from Blackboard Collaborate. Recordings that will be viewed frequently can be uploaded to Kaltura. Videos that are needed for long-term retention but which will not be viewed frequently should be stored in Microsoft OneDrive.

There are also benefits to storing Blackboard Collaborate recordings on other platforms for long-term use or retention.

  • When courses are deleted from Blackboard, you lose access to the recording via the Blackboard Collaborate Scheduler, which is necessary to download the recording, edit captions, or generate a link to view the recording.
  • Storing recordings that will be frequently viewed in Kaltura provides benefits such as automatically generated and easily edited captions, basic editing tools, the ability to embed videos within Blackboard courses or web pages, and analytics on viewing history.
  • For long-term retention of recordings that will not be viewed frequently, Microsoft OneDrive provides significantly more storage capacity. Videos can be played from OneDrive and shared with individuals or groups both within and outside of NIU.

All NIU Blackboard Collaborate users are encouraged to download recordings from the Blackboard Collaborate scheduler at the end of each semester for upload to Kaltura or Microsoft OneDrive.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact the Division of IT Service Desk at servicedesk@niu.edu or the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at citl@niu.edu.

Join NIU's inaugural "Fix Your Content Day" May 19th - 5/2/2022

Each year, the global accessibility community unites on the third Thursday of May (this year it’s May 19) for Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD) to highlight the need for more inclusive digital content. This year, NIU is joining in by hosting our inaugural Fix Your Content Day.

On May 19, 2022, the NIU community has 24 hours to make as many content fixes as possible via the Blackboard Ally instructor feedback tool. By the end of the day, we hope to have made a significant impact on the accessibility of our course materials, reducing barriers for students with disabilities and creating a more inclusive environment for all our students!

Fix Your Content Day will include two events to help you get started with Ally and improve your content accessibility:

  • 10 to 11 a.m. — Improving Accessibility with Blackboard Ally.
  • 2 to 3 p.m. — Office Hours: Get Help on Accessibility.

Any NIU faculty member, instructor, teaching assistant or staff member can participate in Fix Your Content Day. Participants will receive a digital badge to recognize their commitment to reducing barriers for students with disabilities. Learn more about the event and register to participate.

Timeline for Transition to Blackboard Ultra Course View - 3/30/2022

The Blackboard Ultra Course View has been available as an option for anyone teaching at NIU since Summer 2019. During that time, Ultra Course View adoption has grown, with over 23% of NIU faculty and over 14% of all course sections using the Ultra course View. At the same time, it has evolved from a core set of essential features to a robust learning platform, with over 50 additional features released. Recently, Blackboard has also announced that they are accelerating development further by tripling their product development team and are currently working on some of the most requested features for release in summer and fall 2022.

At the same time, Blackboard has only guaranteed that the Original Course View will remain available through the end of 2023. Because Blackboard is used by nearly 100% of faculty and students at NIU, we want to provide sufficient time for faculty to make the transition to the Ultra Course View.

NIU will plan for full migration to Ultra Course View no later than December 31, 2023. It is recommended that faculty plan to teach their Fall 2023 courses in Ultra Course View. All Spring 2024 courses will use the Ultra Course View.

Learn more about the rationale and timing for the transition to Blackboard Ultra Course View and check out the frequently asked questions at go.niu.edu/bb-ultra-transition.

About the Ultra Course View

The Ultra Course View features cleaner, more modern design, easy-to-use workflows, and powerful new tools.

Screenshot of Ultra Course View

Key Benefits

  • Content is displayed on a single page to make it easier for students to find their content and assessments.
  • Fully mobile-responsive design that provides faculty and students with the full course experience in the browser on tablets and smartphones.
  • Course building is quicker and easier thanks to drag-and-drop file uploads, the ability to place an item at a specific place on the page (instead of defaulting to the bottom), an easy-to-use text editor, and intuitive settings for controlling visibility of materials.
  • Multiple views for the Gradebook, including an Item View that provides at-a-glance feedback on submission and grading progress, a Student View that provides key information on student access and progress, and a grid view that resembles a spreadsheet.
  • Key efficiencies for instructors, such as automatic zeroes in the Gradebook, granular copying to reuse a single piece of content or assessment, and course-level accommodations you set once that apply to all assessments in the course.
  • Ultra is always improving, with new features and enhancements added every month.

Please note that the Ultra Course View is different from the new base navigation introduced in 2019. If your course has a black course menu to the left, you are using the Original Course View.

Support for the Transition to the Ultra Course View

When you are ready to learn more about the Ultra Course View, the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) provides extensive support for faculty looking to adopt the Ultra Course View, including:

  • *NEW* For those who are ready to move to Ultra Course View for fall 2022: a three-week online Blackboard Ultra Transition Academy with asynchronous content and a dedicated partner for ongoing consultation (a member of CITL or a faculty member serving as an Ultra Ambassador)

If you have questions or concerns, please contact the Division of IT Service Desk at servicedesk@niu.edu or the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at citl@niu.edu.

2021

Blackboard Ally Available in All Courses on December 15 - 12/7/2021

To support NIU’s commitment to being an inclusive institution, the Division of IT will be enabling Blackboard Ally in all courses on December 15. Ally provides your students with alternative formats of the files in your course that fit their device, need, and learning preference. It also helps you to assess the accessibility of your course content and make improvements over time.

accessibility scores are visualized with a red gauge and alternative formats can be downloaded via a large icon of an A

After Ally is enabled, you will notice alternative format icons (a large A) and accessibility indicators (red, orange, light green, and dark green gauges) next to your course files.

Alternative Formats

Ally provides alternative formats for students based on their needs, whether that is due to a disability, using a mobile device for their coursework, or their preferences for how and where they learn. These formats are made available with the original content (which is not modified) so students can find everything in one convenient location.

The best part is that you don’t need to do anything! The alternative formats are created automatically.

Accessibility Score Indicators

Ally also measures the accessibility of each file attached in a course and shows you at-a-glance how it scores (these scores are not visible to students). Scores range from Low to Perfect. The higher the score, the fewer the issues.

For files with Low to High scores, Ally provides you with information about the issues and gives step-by-step guidance on how to fix them.

Learn More

We hope you are excited to explore Ally and take some first steps to improve the accessibility of your course content. We have developed resources to get started, including a helpful video overview, a guide to improve content accessibility, an FAQ, and a communication toolkit to let your students know about Ally.

Blackboard Courses from Fall 2015 Summer 2016 to be Deleted Beginning December 1, 2021 - 10/18/2021

In accordance with NIU’s course retention guidelines for Blackboard, only the last 5 years of courses are retained in Blackboard. The Division of IT will begin removing courses from the 2015-2016 academic year this fall. Shells and Organizations will not be affected at this time.

Courses to be deleted: All courses from Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Summer 2016 will be deleted. Courses from Fall 2016 to Fall 2021 will be retained in Blackboard.

Removal date: The removal process will begin on December 1, 2021

You may save any courses you wish to retain before the course removal process begins by exporting the courses from Blackboard. You can store the exported package (a .zip file) on your computer or in OneDrive. Faculty members are responsible for exporting their own courses. Learn more about exporting your Blackboard course.

You may also download the Grade Center if you wish to retain the grades for your records. Learn more about downloading the Grade Center.

If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please feel free to contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at 815-753-0595 or citl@niu.edu. If you experience technical issues while exporting a course or downloading your grades, please contact the Division of IT Service Desk at it.niu.edu, 815-753-8100 or servicedesk@niu.edu.

New Course Availability Settings Tool Helps You Open Your Course with Confidence - 8/12/2021

When you request your course in Blackboard, you can specify a date when you would like the course to open to students. It is easy, however, to overlook that date and simply submit the course without noting the date on which the course will open, or to revise it. While it is possible to modify the start date of a course in the Original Course View, it is not possible in the Ultra Course View. And, until an update in September, the Course page says that your course is open despite not being available to students until the start date of the course. This, understandably, leads to confusion for both faculty and students.

Fortunately, the Division of IT have developed a new Course Availability Settings tool that gives you a definitive answer as to whether your course is visible to students, and allows you to modify all of the availability settings on one page. This includes the Ultra Course View!

You can access the Course Availability Settings in 3 locations:

  • From the Tools tab on the base navigation, click Course Availability Settings
  • In Original Course View, in the Control Panel, click Course Tools and then click Course Availability Settings
  • In Ultra Course View, in the Details & Actions panel, click View Course & Institutional Tools and then click Course Availability Settings

from the Blackboard base navigation, click the Tools link on the menu, then click Course Availability Settings

This tool lists all of your courses and identifies whether they are available to students. You can also edit the availability or course start and end dates, if you want to open the course to students.

edit the course availability settings by clicking the edit button for a given course

For a course to be open to students, it must be set to Open and either today must fall between the start and end dates or the availability type must be set to Continuous.

Learn more about course availability.

LMS Review Outcome Announcement - 6/17/2021

Our Learning Management System (LMS) review task force completed its review and has recommended in its final report that NIU continue with Blackboard Learn as our LMS. Senior leadership has approved this recommendation and the Board of Trustees at its meeting earlier today approved a five-year contract extension with Blackboard, thru August 2026.

While each system has strengths and weaknesses, Blackboard Learn received the highest review score, taking into account all the review elements. The overall scoring included feedback from faculty, instructors, staff, and students; technical review; pricing (both for transition and multi-year contract); roadmap of new feature development; and vendor support for transition and training.

Continuing with Blackboard allows faculty to be thoughtful and deliberate about transitioning to a new system on a longer timeframe. Blackboard Learn Ultra has a robust feature set that is being added to rapidly over the next year. Staying with Blackboard is the most affordable solution to the university and provides the most value to our students and faculty.

Moving forward, both Blackboard Original and Blackboard Ultra will continue to be available and faculty can choose when the time is right for them to transition to the Ultra Course view. Faculty are encouraged to check What’s New in Ultra? for the latest updates and feature enhancements.

In addition to our existing Blackboard system functionality, we will be implementing Blackboard Ally and Blackboard Training and Development Manager, which will offer new capabilities for further extending our digital teaching and learning environment. More details and answers to frequently asked questions can be found on our Teaching and Learning with Blackboard website.

On behalf of the entire LMS review task force, thank you to all the members of our NIU community who actively engaged in the review process and provided valuable feedback.

Jason Rhode and Matthew Parks
LMS Review Co-Chairs

New Features Coming to Ultra Course View in April 2021 - 4/5/2021

There are some exciting updates to Blackboard Ultra Course View (UCV) this month! Keep reading for new ways to share content with specific students, facilitate peer review feedback, and format text. You can always view past and upcoming Ultra Course View features on the What’s New in Ultra? page.

These features are expected to be available on April 8, 2021.

Release Content to Students and Groups

Release Conditions is replacing Conditional Availability in all visibility options for the UCV. Beyond the name change, the Sequence setting for Learning Modules has moved to release conditions. This makes it easier to enable it at the same time as other visibility settings. When enabled, students must progress through the module contents in the specified order. Enforcing sequential viewing also allows students to which items they have already viewed. Future updates will allow you to monitor students’ progress.

The more exciting change, however, is the addition of group and membership options to the Release Conditions. For example, you could add an individual student to limit access to any content or assessment to a single student. You could also open an entire module or folder to members of a group while preventing other students from viewing it.

screenshot of release condition settings in Blackboard Ultra Course View

Release Conditions are available on all content tools, like folders, learning modules, documents, and files, as well as assessment tools, such as assignments, tests, or discussions.

Peer Assessment

Peer review and feedback are powerful tools to help students build their own skills and content knowledge while providing valuable feedback to one another. This month, Blackboard is introducing the first phase in a completely redesigned Peer Assessment tool in the Ultra Course View.

In this first release, the Peer Assessment tool will facilitate randomized, anonymous reviews with qualitative feedback. Future updates will include scoring via a rubric, integration with the groups feature, non-anonymous options, and more.

screenshot of peer review settings in Blackboard Ultra Course View

Peer Assessment is an option in the settings for any Assignment. You can customize the number of reviews per student and set due dates for the initial submission and reviews. Any late submissions are flagged in the Gradebook, and students who submit their work late are included part of the review process.

Student reviews are distributed randomly and are anonymous from the student perspective. You will be able to see the names of students who provided feedback, even though this is hidden from students. You can provide a rubric to guide student reviews and feedback, but students are not able to enter a grade during their peer review at this time.

Text Formatting

The final update includes additional options for formatting text. You will now be able to change the alignment of text (left, right, centered, justified) and the line height (single, 1.15, 1.5, double). Don’t forget that the + button in the text editor allows you to include rich media in your content, such as embedding videos, adding math formulas, and more!

2020

Manage your Zoom Sessions in Blackboard - 11/19/2020

While Microsoft Teams remains the primary collaboration tool for the university, and Blackboard Collaborate is available for all faculty and staff to use for teaching, Zoom is now also available as another alternative synchronous collaboration tool for academic purposes.

The Zoom integration in Blackboard allows you to schedule your Zoom sessions from within your Blackboard course. You and your students can then access your upcoming sessions and cloud recordings of past sessions within your Blackboard course.

The Zoom integration in Blackboard has separate links for faculty and students to access the Zoom scheduler. Be sure that you are using the correct link; you will receive an error if you try to access the student link.

In Ultra Course View, you access Zoom under Details & Actions, by clicking Books & Tools. Students can do the same, or you can create a link for them using the Content Marketin your course content list.

In Original Course View, you access Zoom in the Control Panel under Course Tools. Students access Zoom via the Tools link on the course menu. You can also customize your course menu to add a link directly to the Zoom scheduler, to make it easier for students to find their Zoom sessions.

Learn more about accessing and using the Zoom integration in Blackboard and using Zoom to deliver a session.

Review of Blackboard and Other Learning Management Systems to Be Conducted - 11/13/2020

NIU is in the final year of a three-year contract with Blackboard, the current Learning Management System (LMS) vendor. While faculty usage of Blackboard and overall satisfaction remains high, the university hasn’t conducted a formal evaluation of other LMS systems in many years.

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) and the Division of Information Technology (DOIT) will be coordinating a review of learning management systems during this current academic year. The evaluation will be broad in scope with input from faculty and students on not only their current satisfaction with NIU’s current LMS (Blackboard Learn) but also what features, etc. are desired in an LMS moving forward. This review will include in-depth feature comparison and demonstrations of the leading learning management systems used in higher education today.

The evaluation will supply the data to prepare a recommendation that will influence whether an alternative LMS should be considered at this time.

The task force to guide the review process is being formed and a new website with more details is under development.

New Content Editor for Blackboard Original Course View - 11/4/2020

new content editor in Blackboard Original Course View

Posted: 11/04/2020

We are excited to announce the launch of Blackboard’s new Content Editor in the Original Course View! These updates offer improved accessibility, simplified workflows, and many other added features. The update will occur during off hours on Thursday, November 4, 2020. It should be available in your courses that use Original Course View on Friday, November 5, 2020. This update will not affect any existing content.

Toolbar Wraps Based on Screen Size

The toolbar now conforms to the size of your screen by wrapping tools on multiple lines. You can find additional tools by clicking on the ellipsis icon.

content editor displayed widescreen, smaller screen, and smartphone to demonstrate the toolbar wrapping on multiple lines
The toolbar wraps on multiple lines based on the width of your screen.

Use the Plus Button for All Attachments, Images, and Mashups

The new plus (+) button allows you to attach files from your computer or cloud storage (like OneDrive/O365, Google Drive, or Dropbox). This replaces the separate buttons for files (the paperclip), images, and videos. You can also embed media from Kaltura from the same button (it used to be under the Mashup button). Check out the section below on copying and pasting for a HUGE improvement to embedding YouTube videos!

Improved Accessibility and New Accessibility Checker

The brand new accessibility checker can help you improve the accessibility of your content. For example, if you forgot to add alternative text for an image (used by students with visual impairments so that screen reading software can provide a description of the image), Blackboard will identify that and provide instructions for how to add it.

Pop-ups have also been eliminated, making the content editor more accessible and easier to use on smaller, mobile device screens.

Copy/Paste Improvements and Simple Embed for YouTube

When you copy and paste content from Microsoft Word or a website, you can use the remove formatting option to keep basic formatting, like bold/italics, bullets, or tables, but simplify the underlying HTML code. If you choose to keep formatting, then Blackboard will retain a lot of unnecessary HTML that can cause your content to display oddly.

Even better – if you paste a link to an outside website and press enter, Blackboard will change the link to add a preview of the content. For a website, you’ll see a banner with a snippet of the page that students can click to access the site (if the site is formatted with the metadata necessary for the preview). For YouTube and other video sites, Blackboard will automatically embed the video!

website preview in the new content editor
A sample of the banner Blackboard embeds for a web link.

Display Computer Code

The new code tool allows you to add a snippet of HTML, XML, JavaScript, CSS, PHP, Ruby, Python, Java, C, C#, or C++. The code will display with proper formatting and be separated from the other content you add.

Many More Features

These are just some of the features the new Content Editor has offer. You can learn more with the Quick Guide or the full Feature Comparison Guide.

What About Ultra Course View?

Right now, these features are only being introduced in the Blackboard Original Course View. If you are using the Ultra Course View, many of these features will be added to the content editor in Ultra very soon!

Blackboard Courses from Spring 2010 to Summer 2015 to be Deleted Beginning December 1, 2020 - 10/28/2020

Because Blackboard courses have not been deleted since 2010, we have greatly exceeded the amount of storage we are allowed to use on Blackboard’s cloud-hosting platform. This increases the cost of Blackboard for us. In these difficult circumstances, it is more important than ever that we reduce expenses whenever possible. As a result, we will begin deleting the oldest courses from Blackboard.

Based on feedback from faculty and instructors, we will keep courses from the last 5 academic years. Shells and Organizations will not be affected at this time.

Courses to be deleted: All courses from Fall 2010 to Summer 2015 will be deleted along with a handful of courses that are still in the system from 2008 and 2009. Courses from Fall 2015 to Fall 2020 will be retained in Blackboard.

Removal date: Starting on December 1, 2020

You may save any courses you wish to retain before the course removal process begins by exporting the courses from Blackboard. You can store the exported package (a .zip file) on your computer or in OneDrive. Faculty members are responsible for exporting their own courses. Learn more about exporting your Blackboard course.

You may also download the Grade Center if you wish to retain the grades for your records. Learn more about downloading the Grade Center.

If you have any questions or concerns about this process, please feel free to contact the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at 815-797-2477 or citl@niu.edu. If you experience technical issues while archiving a course or exporting your gradebook, please contact the Division of IT Service Desk at it.niu.edu, 753-8100 or servicedesk@niu.edu. 

Updated Course Menu for Blackboard Original Course View Debuts in Time for Fall 2020 Course Requests - 7/10/2020

Starting July 10, 2020, you will be able to request Blackboard courses for the fall semester for any course that starts the week of August 24 (i.e., the start date in MyNIU is August 24, 2020). While course requests usually open 100 days prior to the start date of the course, this was reduced to 45 days temporarily to allow time for changes to course offerings in MyNIU. Here are a few new features and reminders for building your course in Blackboard.

Updated Course Menu in Original Course View

In keeping with the Flexible Teaching approach that incorporates practices to support student success regardless of course modality, the default menu in Original Course View has been updated with a few new areas. You can still customize your course menu to suit your teaching style and course structure, so this is just the starting point for your course.

Welcome Page

The Welcome Page is the new course entry point (if you leave it empty or delete it, the Home Page will be the course entry point instead). This is a great way to establish the first impression that students have of your course and help them focus on what to do first. Consider including a welcome message, a course intro video, and a checklist of how to get started. Check out this Getting Students Started checklist for more ideas of what to include on the welcome page.

Your Instructor

The new Your Instructor content area replaces the former Contacts link. Contacts was very restricted in what you were able to post. Your Instructor allows you to share more information, such as your contact information, office hours, and some details about yourself. Consider sharing photos, your professional bio, or information about your hobbies and interests. Sharing some basic personal information will help students feel more connected to you, even if you are not meeting face-to-face.

Media Gallery

This link directs students to the Kaltura Media Gallery for your course. If you are storing your course media in Kaltura, this will give students a single library of all of your videos. We still recommend embedding them directly in your weekly/module/unit folders for ease of access, but this provides another means for students to access these videos.


Ultra Course View

Ultra

As you build your course for fall 2020, consider trying out the Ultra Course View. It has a cleaner, more modern design, easy-to-use workflows, and powerful new tools. In the last year, it has also been updated with many new features, like Journals, controlling visibility of correct answers on tests, and self-enroll groups. You can learn whether Ultra is right for you, try out Ultra, watch some tutorials on the Ultra experience, or attend an upcoming workshop.

Copy Materials Into Your Course

If you started building your upcoming course in a Shell due to the delay in course requests, you can easily copy your materials in to the Course, once you have requested it. Learn more about copying courses.

New Course Templates

Not sure where to start with building your course? We have new course templates that might help! The templates provide a structure and some prompts to help you build a course that is easy for students to navigate and provides support for them throughout the course. Interested in trying one out? Request a shell (so that you can make sure you like it before you add it to your course) and then reach out to us via the Ask a Question form to let us know you would like us to load the course template in your shell (be sure to include the course ID, like UNIV 300, for the shell!). The templates are available for either Original or Ultra Course View, so let us know which version you would like us to share with you.

Create Microsoft Teams Meetings from Within Blackboard - 5/6/2020

Blackboard has recently released an integration with Microsoft Teams that allows you to quickly create Teams Meetings from within Blackboard.

Ultra Course View

Under Details & Actions select Books & Tools. Then, select Microsoft Teams. You will need to click Sign In for Blackboard to connect to your O365 account. Click the Create Meeting Link button and set up your meeting date and time. Once the link is created, you can click Add to Calendar to add the meeting to your course calendar and create a link at the top of your course content (you can use drag and drop to move the link to a more convenient location once it has been created).

Original Course View

In the Control Panel, open Course Tools. Then, select Microsoft Teams. You will need to click Sign In for Blackboard to connect to your O365 account. Click the Create Meeting Link button and set up your meeting date and time. Once the link is created, you can click Add to Calendar to add the meeting to your course calendar and create a link in the first Content Area in your course menu (you can click the drop down arrow next to the link and click Move to move the link to a more convenient location once it has been created). The link will have Adaptive Release enabled, so students will not see the link until 1 hour before it is scheduled to begin.

Known Issue

If you are using the Chrome browser and you click the link immediately after creating it, you will receive an error that the session could not be launched. Your session was created, however, and you can access it by copying and pasting the link or using the link that you created in your course by clicking the Add to Calendar button. This error only occurs if you click the link immediately after creating it.

Recordings

If you record your Meeting, the recording will be placed in your Stream account within O365. You will need to manually retrieve the link to the recording from Stream and then post it in your Blackboard course.

Support Available to Use Blackboard During COVID-19 Disruption - 3/13/2020

In an effort to make it as easy as possible for faculty who aren't using Blackboard in their teaching but may wish to do so as they alter their course delivery due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, all Blackboard courses that have not yet been requested by faculty for the spring 2020 semester have been created and set to be unavailable to students by default. Faculty not previously using Blackboard but who choose to now do so will be able to simply login to Blackboard at webcourses.niu.edu and access their automatically created course(s). 

Getting Started with Blackboard

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff are available to assist any faculty, staff, or teaching assistant who has questions about Blackboard or would like assistance in getting started with the basics of using Blackboard. Schedule an appointment for one-on-one assistance either in-person, by phone, or virtually or stop by Founders Library 293 anytime between 9am-4:30pm, Monday, March 16th - Friday, March 20th. You can also call 815-753-0595 or email facdev@niu.edu for assistance.

Try Blackboard Ultra!

If you are new to Blackboard, you will likely find the new Blackboard Ultra course experience to be simple and easy to use. When accessing your Blackboard course, you can preview Blackboard Ultra and convert your course to Ultra. 

steps to convert course to Ultra

Open Your Course to Students

Once you are ready for students to access your course, you will need to open it so that your students can access it. From the Course list, you can open your course by clicking the ... menu to the right and choosing Open course.

click open course to make your course available to students

Keep Teaching Support

For additional resources and assistance with modifying your course delivery, including teaching with Blackboard, visit the Keep Teaching website or contact Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

Blackboard Courses Automatically Created for Spring 2020 - 3/12/2020

In an effort to make it as easy as possible for faculty who aren't using Blackboard in their teaching but may wish to do so as they alter their course delivery due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, all Blackboard courses that have not yet been requested by faculty for the spring 2020 semester will be created and set to be unavailable to students by default. Faculty not previously using Blackboard but who choose to now do so will be able to simply login to Blackboard and access their automatically created course(s). Faculty who are already using Blackboard may see additional Blackboard courses in their list of courses and can choose to hide them.

How to Hide Additional Blackboard Courses

From within the Courses view, look to the right of the title (if in list view) and click on the ellipses (...). Then select Hide course.

To show hidden courses, select the Hidden from me filter and then repeat the same process, but instead select the option to Show course.

how to hide and show courses

Keep Teaching Support

For additional resources and assistance with modifying your course delivery, including teaching with Blackboard, visit the Keep Teaching website or contact Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

New Process to Link eReserves Content in your Blackboard course - 2/3/2020

As of February 3, 2020, faculty who use eReserves will have to follow a different process to create a link to the eReserves content in their Blackboard courses. Existing links for the Spring 2020 semester will continue to work, and faculty will not need to update those links. This process only applies to creating a new link to the materials during or after the Spring 2020 semester.

Electronic Reserves, or eReserves, are managed by the NIU Library. Those resources can be made available to students via a link from within Blackboard or directly using a link provided by the library. In both cases, the resources will be password protected, in accordance with copyright requirements.

Going forward, students can automatically access the materials via your Blackboard course, once the Library has posted them. You no longer have to create a link to the materials. Students can access them within your Blackboard Course via Books & Tools (in Ultra Course View) or via Tools (in Original Course View).

You can create a link to make it easier for students to access the eReserves materials, as well. This allows students to access the materials more quickly, and, in Original Course View, allows students to access the materials even if you have hidden or removed the Tools link from your Course Menu.

Add an Optional Link in Ultra Course View

In the Details & Actions section to the left of the course, find the Books & Tools heading. Click the View course & institution tools link, then click the plus sign (+) next to eReserves. Once the link has been created, you can move it anywhere in your list of content as well as into a folder or module by clicking and dragging on the arrows on the right side of the link (the arrows appear when your cursor is over the link).

Add an Optional Link in Original Course View

Click the plus sign (+) at the top of the course menu. Click Tool Link from the menu. Type eReserves in the Name field. Open the Type drop down menu and choose eReserves from the list of tools. Click the Available to Users checkbox. Click the Submit button.

2019

Blackboard Ultra Course View coming in May 2019 - 4/29/2019

Near the end of May NIU is upgrading to the Blackboard Learn Ultra Experience. The new Ultra Experience is completely redesigned with simplified, intuitive workflows; a modern look and feel; and an improved mobile experience.

While everyone will use the new base navigation, courses will continue to use our existing version of Blackboard, now dubbed “Original,” as the default view. You will also have access to explore and adopt the new Ultra Course View.

The Ultra Course View extends the benefits of the base navigation to courses with cleaner, more modern design, easy-to-use workflows and powerful tools. Grading is streamlined, and it is easier to track your grading responsibilities. Content is quicker to build, and it is easier than ever for students and faculty to connect with one another with messages, discussion boards, conversations, and profiles.

All courses in Blackboard will use the Original view by default, and faculty can choose whether to enable the Ultra Course View on one or more of their courses.

Learn more about the new Blackboard Ultra or attend an upcoming workshop on the new Ultra Navigation or the Ultra Course View at niu.edu/blackboard

Blackboard Ultra Course View

The Ultra Course View extends the benefits of the base navigation to courses with a cleaner, more modern design, easy-to-use workflows, and powerful new tools. All courses will continue to use the Original view by default, and faculty can choose whether to enable the Ultra Course View on one or more of their courses. Learn more about the Ultra Course View by watching the Ultra Course View Preview, or by attending an upcoming workshop.

Blackboard Ultra coming in May 2019 - 4/15/2019

This May, NIU is upgrading to the Blackboard Learn Ultra Experience. The new Ultra Experience is completely redesigned with simplified, intuitive workflows; a modern look and feel; and an improved mobile experience.

Initially, this will only change the base navigation, such as the landing page. The new base navigation highlights the most important information from all of your courses in the new Activity Stream, like upcoming due dates, new messages or recent student submissions, and lets you efficiently take action on them with one click.

Faculty will be able to continue using the Original Course View, which does not change the features or look and feel of courses, or to try out the new Ultra Course View. The Ultra Course View extends the benefits of the base navigation to courses with cleaner, more modern design, easy-to-use workflows and powerful new tools.

Learn more about the new Blackboard Ultra at go.niu.edu/2019-bb-upgrade or attend an upcoming workshop on the new Ultra Navigation or the Ultra Course View.

2018

What's New in Blackboard for Fall 2018? - 8/24/2018

Announcements – New Behavior

While this isn’t really a new “feature,” it is a change to how Announcements are sent via email. When you post an announcement and do not check the box to send it as an email immediately, it will be sent to students via email as a notification. The notification email has a link to log in and view the announcement as opposed to the text of the announcement. Unfortunately, in some email clients (including Microsoft Outlook), that link often directs the student to their browser home page, or appears as a broken link.

We recommend always clicking the checkbox to send the announcement as an email immediately, if you are posting the announcement in real-time (i.e. not pre-loading them to launch automatically). This will send the full text of the announcement in the email, and the email will come from you as opposed to a system email address, so students can easily reply with questions.

Attendance

Blackboard now includes a new Attendance tool, which allows you to record whether students are present, late, absent, or excused. Using the Attendance tracker will automatically create a Grade Center column that will calculate an overall attendance score for each student. Students can review their attendance record in MyGrades.

There currently is no mechanism for students to check themselves in; you must manually record attendance. Attendance records can be exported as a .csv file for further analysis. 

Mobile Grading

The Blackboard Instructor mobile app now includes the ability to grade student submissions to Assignments, directly from the app! You can review, annotate, and grade submissions from anywhere, and quickly publish the grades back to students and the Grade Center. 

Respondus LockDown Browser

The Respondus LockDown Browser is a custom browser that locks down the testing environment for tests taken in Blackboard. If you enable LockDown Browser for a Blackboard tests, students will be unable to copy, print, access other applications, visit other websites, or close the test until it is submitted. 

Starting this fall, Respondus LockDown Browser is available in Blackboard for all courses, although it is hidden by default. To enable Respondus LockDown Browser in your course, go to Control Panel > Customization > Tool Availability. Once enabled in your course, you will be able to access the Respondus LockDown Browser settings in Control Panel > Course Tools, to set it to be required for a Blackboard Test.  Students will need to download and install the browser on their own computers; the link to do so is on the Respondus LockDown Browser documentation page and the student page on Taking a Test with Respondus LockDown Browser.

For installation in a computer lab or on any computer where the user does not have administrative privileges, the IT admin for your department will need to install a different version of the software, which we can provide and is packaged in SCCM. 

VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a multimedia tool that encourages student engagement and community formation via audio and video. For example, you can use it to replace text-only discussions, to create interactive lectures, or annotate on videos. We are piloting it this fall, with training opportunities available later in the semester. Contact us at facdev@niu.edu if you are interested in trying out VoiceThread. 

Extended Grade Submission Window

Previously, the window to submit grades from Blackboard to MyNIU closed at midnight of the night before grades were due. Now, this has been extended to 11 a.m. on the morning that grades are due. This allows for more time to calculate final grades in Blackboard but still allows for 1 hour to ensure that the data transfers properly and for you to review and post the grades in MyNIU. 

Downloadable Annotations for Assignments – Available September 7

The ability to download a PDF of assignment submissions with inline grading annotations was available via the Crocodoc integration, but not in the replacement integration with Box.com that was added in January 2018. Blackboard has listened closely to client feedback on the importance of this feature, and has worked quickly to make it available again. After the update is rolled out on September 7, you will be able to download a PDF of assignments submitted as .doc, .docx, or .pdf files, with the grading annotations included.

Summer 2018 Blackboard Grade Submission Window - 8/10/2018

Student course evaluations must be completed before faculty are able to submit grades in MyNIU, to preserve students' objectivity by not biasing their responses based on their final grade. To be able to extend the course evaluation time period, Registration & Records has changed the timing of summer grade roster creation. To be consistent with other terms, grade rosters will not be created in MyNIU until the day following the end of the session. For the summer 2018 session, grade rosters will be created in MyNIU on August 13, 2018, with grades due by noon on August 14, 2018.

The Blackboard Grade Submission tool cannot be used until the grade roster is available in MyNIU. This means faculty can begin using the Grade Submission tool after the morning server synchronization between the two systems. As a result, the Grade Submission tool will be available after approximately 7:30 a.m. on August 13, 2018. In the past, the Blackboard Grade Submission tool closed at midnight of the night before grades were due, to ensure there was sufficient time for data to transfer and for faculty to verify and post grades in MyNIU, but this would be too short of a window to be practical. Starting with the summer 2018 session, the Blackboard Grade Submission tool will be available until 11 a.m. on the day that grades are due, leaving a one hour buffer for reviewing and posting grades. After 11 a.m., faculty will have to enter grades manually in MyNIU.

For summer 2018, the window for using the Blackboard Grade Submission tool is as follows:

  • Monday, August 13 at 7:30 a.m. - Blackboard Grade Submission tool becomes available
  • Tuesday, August 14 at 11 a.m. - Blackboard Grade Submission tool closes

For future terms, the window for using the Blackboard Grade Submission tool will be:

  • Day following the close of the term at 7:30 a.m. - Blackboard Grade Submission tool becomes available
  • Day on which grades are due at 11 a.m. - Blackboard Grade Submission tool closes

If you have any questions about using the Blackboard Grade Submission tool, please contact the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at facdev@niu.edu or 815-753-0595.

Blackboard Learn Outage Associated with May 2018 Upgrade - 4/30/2018

An upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System to migrate from local servers to Blackboard's Cloud Service (SaaS) and to upgrade to the Q2 2018 Release.

The upgrade and migration will require 2 outages, during which Blackboard Learn will be unavailable. Between these outages, Blackboard Learn will be in read-only mode for all completed courses, all future courses, all Shells, and all Communities. Intersession and College of Law courses will still be active, with the exception of the outages, so that students and faculty can participate fully in these courses.

Timeline

  • 1

    12-Hour Outage

    Friday, May 18 @ 11 PM

    Blackboard will be unavailable at this time for all courses.
  • 2

    Migration to the Cloud

    Saturday, May 19 @ 11 AM to Monday, May 28 @ 12 PM

    Blackboard will be available, but completed and future Courses, Shells and all Communities will be in read-only mode. Any changes made during this time will be lost during the second outage.

    Intersession courses (any course which is scheduled to begin before or during the read-only window) and Spring 2018 College of Law courses will be live and will be migrated automatically during the second outage.
  • 3

    12-Hour Outage

    Monday, May 28 @ 12 PM

    Blackboard will be unavailable at this time for all courses.
  • 4

    Upgrade Complete

    Tuesday, May 29 @ 12:01 AM

    Blackboard will be available and fully operational for all courses.

Read-Only Phase

During the read-only phase of the migration (May 19, 11 AM to May 28, 12 PM) you will be able to access all of your Blackboard Courses, Shells and Communities. This will allow you and your students to review materials, download files and access grade information. Any changes made during the read-only phase will be lost during the second outage and will not be available on the new cloud servers.

You will be reminded that the system is in read-only mode with a banner when you log into Blackboard.

Intersession and College of Law Courses

Spring 2018 College of Law courses and any course that is active during intersession will remain live throughout the read-only phase and will be manually migrated during the final outage. If you are teaching an affected course, you will receive further information about this directly.

For the purposes of this migration, intersession includes any course that begins before or during the read-only phase. Between May 19, 11 AM and May 28, 12 PM, you and your students can interact with these courses normally, including uploading materials, submitting student work, or grading. All data from these courses will be preserved during the final move to the cloud servers.

If your course has been identified as an intersession course, you will be notified with a banner when you log into Blackboard. Note that only your intersession course(s) will be live; your other courses will be in read-only mode.

More Information

The latest version of Blackboard Learn, 9.1 Q2 2018, will introduce several new exciting features, including:

  • Migration to Blackboard Cloud Service (SaaS): more flexibility for server capacity, quicker feature releases, and future upgrades without an outage
  • A built-in tool to track attendance: mark student attendance for each class meeting and incorporate it into grade calculations
  • Quick clean up the Grade Center : delete multiple columns at once
  • Assignment submission receipts: students will receive email confirmation for assignment submissions in addition to seeing a confirmation code in the browser

To learn more about the upcoming features and more, please visit www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade

If you have any questions or concerns, please review the Frequently Asked Questions, or contact the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

May 2018 Blackboard Learn Upgrade - 4/13/2018

This May, NIU's instance of Blackboard Learn will be updated to the latest version and will be migrated from NIU's data center to Blackboard's cloud-hosted service. This move will reduce costs to the university and provide benefits typically associated with a more modern cloud architecture, such as zero or minimal downtime in future updates, and easy scalability during periods of high usage.

Very little will change with this update, despite the change in servers. All course materials and student data will be available following the move. Dates for the upgrade and required system outage are still being finalized, and will be communicated as soon as they are available.

The update will introduce a few new features and enhancements, like a new attendance tracking feature. In addition to the information below, you can learn more about these features and the upgrade, review frequently asked questions, or attend the What's New in Blackboard? workshop online on June 11 or August 14 from 12-1 CT to learn more.

Record Attendance in Blackboard Learn

With the new Attendance tool, you can mark whether a student is present, late, absent, or excused for each class meeting. The attendance records for each student appear in a single column in the Grade Center, instead of having a column for each session. On the Attendance page, profile pictures appear so you can easily identify students (if they have added a photo to their Blackboard Profile). You can use attendance as part of calculating grades just as you can for an assignment grade column.


blackboard attendance tracker

Easily Check and Change Course Availability

Now it will be easier to determine if your course is available to students, and to change that with a single click. If you have the Instructor or teaching assistant role in a course, you will now see a lock icon in the upper right corner, near the Edit Mode and Student Preview icons. The lock icon is open when the course is available and closed when it isn't. You can toggle the course availability by clicking the icon, instead of using the Course Properties.

 

Students Receive Email Submission Receipts for Assignments

Introduced in our 2017 upgrade, Submission Receipts provide students with a confirmation number when they have submitted an Assignment. Now these receipts will also be sent to students via email so that they can be confident that their assignment was successfully submitted, and as evidence of submission, if necessary.

student submission receipt for an assignment

Discussion Board Replies to Me

Keeping up with large Discussion Board forums is easier with a quick view of how many new and unread posts are replies to you for each discussion forum or thread. You can click the value to see the list of replies to your posts and stay up to date on the conversation.

discussion board replies to me

Full Grade Center Column Names

More easily identify specific Grade Center columns by viewing the full name in the Grade Center. Now longer column names will wrap onto multiple lines, so that you can see the full column name. If your column headers are too tall, you can use the Grade Center name to override your view to a shorter column name, while students will still see the full name in My Grades.

q22018-grade-center-names.jpg

Grade Center Cleanup

Quickly clean up multiple Grade Center columns at once on the Column Organization page. Simply select the columns using the checkbox and click the Delete button. Any manual or calculated columns you select will be removed completely. If you select any columns which are associated with a gradable item (such as an Assignment, Test, or Graded Discussion), any student submissions or posted grades will be deleted but the columns will remain in the Grade Center. You will need to delete the gradable item directly in the course to remove the columns. Naturally, you should use care when deleting columns in this way, as they cannot be recovered.

delete multiple grade center columns at once

Learn More

Check out the full list of features, review frequently asked questions, or attend the What's New in Blackboard? workshop online on June 11 or August 14 from 12-1 CT to learn more.

SafeAssign Outage on April 2, 2018 - 3/5/2018

Blackboard SafeAssign, a plagiarism prevention tool that detects potentially unoriginal content in students' papers, will be unavailable on April 2, 2018, from 2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., CDT. During this time, any files students submit to an Assignment with SafeAssign enabled will not be processed by SafeAssign, and will not generate an originality score or report. The submissions will be available as usual for grading, however, and no student submissions will be lost due to the outage.

Once SafeAssign has become available again, faculty can download student submissions that occurred during the outage and submit them manually for SafeAssign review using the Direct Submit feature. 

safe assign report

Blackboard scheduled this maintenance outage in order to migrate SafeAssign to the Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting platform. Because AWS provides highly reliable and scalable hosting, this move should reduce or eliminate future performance issues for SafeAssign, like exceptionally long processing times or minor outages. Blackboard utilized analytics data on SafeAssign usage across institutions to select a maintenance window that should affect the fewest users. 

2017

Update to Inline Grading for Assignments - 12/20/2017

The Inline Grading view for Blackboard Assignments has been a convenient way to grade student submissions directly in the browser. Behind the scenes, that has used Crocodoc to display the submission within the browser. Unfortunately, Box.com acquired Crocodoc in 2013, and was discontinued as of January 15, 2018. 

Fortunately, Blackboard has updated the inline grading service to leverage the New Box View API. It offers several improvements over Crocodoc, including improved rendering fidelity and expanded support for new file types. While there are a few differences between the two services, the new Box View will still provide a simple and convenient way to view and annotate on student Assignment submissions. In addition, existing student work in Crocodoc will be migrated to the new Box View, and will continue to be available. 

comparison of crocodoc with new box view

New Features

The new Box View supports a wider variety of file types, including image, video, and audio files, which can be viewed or played in the browser, instead of downloading them. It also includes the ability to print student submissions from the browser.

Features Lost

Unfortunately, some features are not available in the New Box View, because Box has not included them in their API. 

  • Annotation Types: Box View only includes point-based or highlighting-based comments, as well as drawing annotations. You cannot strike-through text, as you could in Crocodoc.
  • Download AnnotationsYou can download the student's original file regardless of file type, but you can only download the file with the annotations included if the original submission was a Word document.

Blackboard has been working with Box to request that these features be added, and Box has been receptive to the feedback. You can view the suggestions and vote on their priority on the Blackboard Idea Exchange

How Does the New Box View Work?

The New Box View is very similar to Crocodoc. You can add comments as a point-based or highlight on .doc, .docx, .ppt, .pptx, and .pdf files, or point-based only comments on .ai, .bmp, .dcm, .eps, .gif, .png, .ps, .psd, .svs, .tga, .tif, and .tiff files.

To add a point-based comment, click on the text bubble in the toolbar.

click the text bubble in the toolbar and type your comment, then click post

 

To highlight text and add a comment, click and drag to select the text, then click either the highlight or comment icon.

 select the text and then click the text bubble to add a comment

New Blackboard Instructor App Joins Blackboard's Mobile App Suite - 8/14/2017

This summer, Blackboard released the new Blackboard Instructor mobile app, which enables you to stay connected to the courses you are teaching on the go, from any Apple or Android mobile device. With the Blackboard Instructor app, you can view course content, connect with students in discussions, and interact with your class in Blackboard Collaborate.

App Store Google Play

At the same time, Blackboard renamed the previous Bb Student app to "Blackboard App", so that it is easier for students to find in their mobile app stores. You can provide a link to information on the Blackboard App in your course to encourage students to use the Blackboard App to access course content, engage with peers and teachers through the discussion board or Blackboard Collaborate, stay informed with course announcements, and prioritize their work by tracking their progress and upcoming deadlines.

Blackboard Instructor Features

  • Navigation - Blackboard Instructor categorizes and groups the most relevant features in one place, for quick and easy access to courses and content
  • Course Management - View a list of all courses for available terms and get a summary of each course, including upcoming assignments, announcements, discussions, and more
  • Content and Assessment Preview - Review course content and assessments on mobile to ensure content is accurate and mobile-friendly. Note that you cannot create or post content from the mobile app at this time
  • Discussions - Participate in discussions from anywhere via a mobile device, including viewing, creating, and editing discussion board threads and replies. Note that you cannot create a discussion board from the mobile app at this time; you can only participate in discussion boards that already exist by posting threads or replies
  • Announcements - Create, review, and send out announcements to students. Students who use the Blackboard app will be alerted with a notification in the Activity Stream when you post an announcement, from either the app or from a browser
  • Collaborate - Engage in real-time video conferencing to collaborate with video, voice, files, chat, and interactive whiteboard

Give it a try! Blackboard Instructor is available for free on Apple and Android phones and tablets. With exciting new features in development for grading, messaging, or taking attendance, the Blackboard Instructor app is undoubtedly going to be an important part of your mobile toolkit for teaching!

Blackboard Learn Upgrade: Memorial Day Weekend 2017 - 5/19/2017

A significant upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System over Memorial Day weekend. The upgrade will begin at 5:00 AM on Saturday, May 27, 2017, and will complete by 5:00 AM on Sunday, May 28, 2017. The Blackboard Learn system (https://webcourses.niu.edu) will be unavailable during this time.

The latest version of Blackboard Learn, Q4 2016 Release, will introduce several new and exciting features, including:

  • Mobile-Responsive Design
    The new look of Blackboard features a more mobile-friendly design that adapts based on screen sizes.
  • Improved Course Request Process (Available Now)
    Instant processing, notifications, auto-availability, and auto-group creation for Master Courses are just some of the new features of the new and improved course request process. 
  • New Mobile App for Students
    The Bb Student app provides an intuitive way for students to interact with courses, content, instructors, and each other. 
  • Improved Behavior for Self and Peer Assessments
    An update to the existing Self and Peer Assessment tool makes it possible to exclude students who did not participate during the submission period.
  • Drag and Drop File Attachments
    It is now easier than ever to attach files in Blackboard. You can now add files to Items and Assignments by dragging files from your computer to the "hot spot" in the Attach Files area.
  • Assignment Submission Receipts
    You and your students will be able to better track whether Assignments submit successfully with submission receipts. When students submit Assignments successfully, the submission page will display a banner with a confirmation number. Students can copy and save this number as proof of their submission and evidence for academic disputes.
  • Assignment Reminders
    Faculty will be able to easily send system-generated reminders for missing coursework in the Grade Center to students who have not submitted work.
  • Fewer Needs Grading Items
    When you allow multiple attempts on an Assignment or Test, you may not need to grade all of them. With this update, the Needs Grading page will automatically be filtered to only display the attempts that need grading.
  • Dropbox Integration
    Faculty and students will be able to attach files from Dropbox directly into Blackboard. This integration is available through the Mashups tool anywhere the text editor is available, such as Items, Assignments (creating or submitting), and Discussion Boards.

To learn more about the upcoming features, please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade.

The Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center will be holding workshops and hands-on sessions to preview the new features. To sign up for a workshop please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade/workshops.shtml

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the DoIT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

New Features for Combined Courses in Blackboard - 4/13/2017

Wrapped into the new, faster course request process are a few feature enhancements for those teaching a Master Course in Blackboard. Now when combining student enrollments from multiple course sections into a single course, a Blackboard Group and Grade Center “Smart View” will automatically be created for each section, with students assigned to them according to the section they originally enrolled in. These will make assigning section-specific assignments, and grading section by section, easier. Enrollments in these Groups will be updated as students add, drop, or change sections.

Let's assume that you have combined several sections into a Master Course, and now you have multiple Groups for these sections. How can you use those Groups to make your teaching more effective and efficient?

Adding Content and Assessments for each Section

Teaching multiple sections of the same course is very common. Whether it is undergraduate and Honors sections, or an undergraduate and graduate section, students work through the same material. In these cases, it makes sense to combine enrollments from all sections into one, within Blackboard. Having done so, however, there may be a need to offer additional material or assignments to one or more of the combined sections, which will now be much easier.

For example, an Honors or graduate section of a combined course may be required to submit an extra assignment. Once you have added any relevant materials (readings, links, etc) and created an Assignment for it, you can use an Adaptive Release rule to limit access to only the students in the relevant Group. Students who were enrolled in another section of the course would not be able to see the content or Assignment.

Selecting the Adaptive Release option from the contextual menu on a content item

Alternatively, you may want the students in one or more sections to participate in a Discussion Forum that is limited to only the students in that section. Perhaps this is an extra assessment for them, or you want TAs to monitor different sections of students. Blackboard Groups include their own Discussion Board (as well as Blogs, Journals, and Wikis), from which any number of forums may be set up for students to take part in a discussion, graded or not. Again, students from other sections of the course would not be able to access the Group Discussion Board. Note that the Groups are unavailable by default, and you will need to edit the groups to make them available to students before you can use the Group Discussion Board feature.

Grading by Section

The other new feature for combined courses is the automatic creation of a Smart View, allowing you to see a given section by itself in the Grade Center. Previously, if you, or your TA(s), wanted to grade each of your sections independently, you would have to consult MyNIU’s section rosters, going down each list, and mentally skipping over students that weren’t on the current section’s roster. Or, you would have to replicate the rosters using Blackboard Groups and creating a Smart View for each. Now, all of that work is done for you!

To use a Smart View, go the Full Grade Center, and click the Filter button. You can use the Current View drop down menu to select the Smart View you want to focus on. You can also enable a Smart View as a Favorite by clicking the Manage button, choosing Smart Views from the drop-down menu, then, on the Smart Views page, clicking the Star for each of the Smart Views you would like as a Favorite. From then on, you’ll have quick access to each sections’ roster by expanding the Grade Center menu in the Control Panel, then clicking the relevant Smart View.

selecting smart view as favorite in Grade Center

Emailing Students by Section

It is easy to email students in a single section of a combined course, with the new automatically-created Groups. In the Control Panel, click Users and Groups, and then click Groups. Click on the Group Name to open the group, and then Send Email to select students from that section to email. You can use the Select All button and then the right arrow to quickly select all of the students in that section. If you have made the Groups available to students, you can also use the Send Email tool in Course Tools to select a single Group to email.

email a group of students

Summary

These new groups can be very powerful for making your teaching more efficient, and to enable student collaboration within a single section of a Master Course. What other use cases can you think of? Post them in the Comments - we would love to hear how you are using them!

Upgrade to Blackboard Coming May 2017 - 4/12/2017

This year, Blackboard will be upgraded to the Q4 2016 Release, which consists of several exciting new features and several bug fixes. The upgrade is targeted for the Memorial Day weekend (May 27-29), and will require an outage during which Blackboard will be unavailable. Exact timing of the outage will be announced by the Division of IT prior to the upgrade. You can learn more about these features and the upgrade at niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade, or by attending the upcoming Preview workshop on April 21 from 12 - 1 CST.

Here are some of the exciting changes that will be available after the upgrade (some are even available now!):

New Mobile-Responsive Theme

The new look of Blackboard is specifically designed to be mobile-friendly. It resizes based on screen size for use on smaller devices like smartphones, and the Submit button is always at the bottom of the screen instead of the bottom of the page (so there is less scrolling). The new design also includes new icons for most content and assessments, to match the new look.

new course theme in blackboard

This does require a few other changes that you will notice. First, the modules on the landing page in Blackboard have been reordered, so that My Courses is the first box on the left. This helps the various modules show up in a useful order on smartphones, where Blackboard can only display one column at a time. Also, the new theme does not let you customize colors for course menus, for consistency of the experience between Blackboard in the browser compared with using the Bb Student mobile app. More info and answers to questions about the new mobile-responsive course theme »

Improved Course Request Process

NIU's custom-built course request process which was already excellent is now even better. Course and Shell requests are processed immediately, instead of taking 24 hours, and you receive an email notification to confirm that the Course or Shell has been created. When requesting a Course, you can request auto-availability at a specified date, or leave it off to make the course available manually whenever you are ready. When two or more courses are combined into a Master Course, the process will automatically create a group for each of the combined sections, to make it easier to communicate with individual sections or to view the Grade Center for a single section at a time.

screenshot of course request table and my courses module

Learn more about the updated course request process »

New Mobile App for Students

The Bb Student app provides an intuitive way for students to interact with courses, content, instructors, and each other. Bb Student helps students:

  • Access course content anytime, anywhere
  • Stay on task with push notifications, a due date list, and activity stream updates
  • Submit assignments, take tests or quizzes, and review submissions
  • View course grades as well as individual assessment grades
  • Participate in discussions
  • Collaborate with classmates through Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
  • Attach assignment files from cloud storage like Google Drive or Dropbox

discussions in the Bb Student mobile app

Bb Student is available free for Apple, Android, and Windows devices. It replaces Blackboard Mobile Learn, which will no longer be supported this fall.

Look for a future announcement about the new Bb Instructor app, custom-built for the most important tasks faculty need to use while on the go. Bb Instructor launches later this year!

Learn more about Bb Student app »

Improved Behavior for Self and Peer Assessments

Self and Peer Assessment allows students to evaluate one another's work in a structured environment, based on criteria you set for them. With this update, Blackboard has added an important change in how Self and Peer Assessment distributes evaluation assignments. Going forward, students who do not participate during the submission period are excluded from the evaluation process. Any student with a partial or complete submission will be assigned to their classmates for evaluation, and will be included in the pool of evaluators.

By pairing this with Adaptive Release, Self and Peer Assessment can now be used for students to evaluate group or team members! With three groups and three Self and Peer Assessments, you can use Adaptive Release to limit the visibility of each one to only a single group. Have the students submit a reflection on their contribution to the group as the initial submission. Then, during the evaluation phase, students will only see members of their own group.

Learn more about Self and Peer Assessments »

Drag and Drop File Attachments

It is easier than ever to attach files in Blackboard. As a faculty member, you can now add files to Items and Assignments by dragging files from your computer to the "hot spot" in the Attach Files area. Students can also drag files to upload when they submit assignments.

drag and drop hot spot in a blackboard item

Assignment Submission Receipts

You and your students will be able to better track whether Assignments submit successfully with submission receipts. When students submit Assignments successfully, the Review Submission History page will include a banner and confirmation number. Students can copy and save this number as proof of their submission and evidence for academic disputes. For assignments with multiple attempts, students will receive a different number for each submission. For group attempts, each student will receive a separate confirmation number.

assignment submission receipt

You can access all of your students' confirmation numbers from the Grade Center. Access the Reports menu and select Submission Receipts.

Learn more about Submission Receipts »

Assignment Reminders

Faculty will be able to easily send system-generated reminders for missing coursework in the Grade Center to students and members of groups who have not submitted work. Students will receive a system-generated email that lists the course, coursework, and the due date (if included).

Learn more about Assignment Reminders »

Fewer Needs Grading Items

When you allow multiple attempts on an Assignment or Test, you may not need to grade all of them. With this update, the Needs Grading page will automatically be filtered to only display the attempts that need grading. When you set up the assessment, you can specify whether the grade is based on the first attempt or the last attempt, and now the Needs Grading page will only display one attempt per student based on that choice. You can still display all of the attempts, if you want to see the others.

needs grading view with filter

Attempts that you do not need to grade will also now display with a special icon to indicate they do not need to be graded, in the Needs Grading view and in the Inline Grading display.

Learn more about Needs Grading and multiple attempts »

Export Rubrics

Previously, a bug prevented faculty from exporting Rubrics. That bug is fixed in this release, making it easier to reuse and share Rubrics.

The Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center will be holding workshops and hands-on sessions to preview the new features. To sign up for a workshop please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade/workshops.shtml

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

Trends in Blackboard Tool Usage at NIU - 2016 - 3/7/2017

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:

NIU Blackboard Tool Use 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.

Course Request Process in Blackboard Now Faster with More Features

course request process

The 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.

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.

2016

Students May Now Use a Preferred Name in Blackboard - 11/22/2016

NIU students who choose to go by something other than their legal name are able to change their name on class rosters and Blackboard in a single step. Beginning Tuesday, November 15, 2016, NIU allows students to specify the name they would like to be known by in MyNIU. This name will be carried over to Blackboard.

Students will be able to make the change by logging in to MyNIU and editing their personal information. Within about 24 hours, the proper name will be the one seen on rosters in MyNIU and Blackboard. This will help faculty use the correct or preferred name for all students. It will also help students connect to one another when using the interactive tools in Blackboard, such as discussion boards or email.  

There are some cases in which a student’s legal name must still be used, such as admission documents, official transcripts, diplomas, reports for state and federal agencies, financial aid documents and employment records, to name a few. In order to change the name on official records and transcripts, a student would have to legally change their name and present a Social Security card and photo ID showing the new name to Registration and Records. Inappropriate use of the preferred name option, such as using it for misrepresentation or attempting to avoid a legal obligation, could lead to the name change being denied.

Read the full announcement on NIU Today for more information.

MEDIAL: Updated Video Management with Webcam Recording Now Available in All NIU Blackboard Courses - 8/22/2016

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.

MEDIAL on mobile devices

Faster

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 record buttons

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.

Breakout Groups, Polling, Closed Captioning Added to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra - 8/19/2016

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra continues to evolve as Blackboard adds new features to improve your teaching and learning experience! Just recently, Blackboard released two 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, including:

  • 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 facdev@niu.edu for a one-on-one consultation about Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

Introducing Blackboard Collaborate Ultra - 8/8/2016

Beginning fall 2016, all NIU courses will have access to the new Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. This updated version of the existing Blackboard Collaborate web conferencing tool has a modern and streamlined interface, improved audio and video quality, and (best of all) runs directly in a web browser. Now there is nothing to install or download to join a session – no Java or launcher needed! See the full list of new features in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra.

NIU faculty piloted Collaborate Ultra during fall 2015 and spring 2016. Their feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The pilot faculty found Collaborate Ultra to be easy to use, intuitively designed, and convenient for students. Faculty found that students learned how to use Collaborate Ultra very quickly, as well, so that they could focus on learning and collaboration as opposed to the technology.

Beginning this fall, every Blackboard course will have access to two Blackboard Collaborate tools: Bb Collaborate Ultra, and Bb Collaborate Classic. The latter, which requires a Java launcher to be installed in order to run, will remain available through the end of the year to allow for a more seamless transition.

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will be offering workshops and hands-on sessions covering the new features of Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. To sign up for a workshop please visit facdev.niu.edu/fsprograms. This video also provides a brief overview of everything you can look forward to in Collaborate Ultra.

Blackboard Learn Upgrade: Memorial Day Weekend 2016 - 5/5/2016

A significant upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System over Memorial Day weekend. The upgrade will begin at 5:00 AM on Saturday, May 28, 2016, and will complete by 5:00 AM on Sunday, May 29, 2016. The Blackboard Learn system (https://webcourses.niu.edu) will be unavailable during this time.

The latest version of Blackboard Learn, October 2014 Release, will introduce several new and exciting features, including:

  • Spell Check
    The Content Editor spell check option is now ON by default.
  • Goal Performance Dashboard
    The Goal Performance Dashboard can help you better understand how your students are performing in a course. The dashboard displays course goals and the assessments that you map to them. You can quickly determine how a student's individual grades contribute to their achievement of course goals.
  • Blackboard Collaborate Ultra
    Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is a real-time video conferencing tool that lets you add files, share applications, and use a virtual whiteboard to interact. Collaborate with the Ultra experience opens right in your browser, so you don't have to install any software to join a session.

To learn more about the upcoming features, please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade.

2015

Blackboard Notifications Issue - 9/23/2015

Due to a server processing issue, Push Notifications that were scheduled to be delivered between the dates of 8/28/2015 and 9/20/2015 were not delivered. The issue was resolved on 9/21/2015 and all queued up notifications were finally delivered.

Emails sent from Blackboard courses or Announcements (where the instructor specified that an email be delivered) were not affected.

If you have any questions about this or any related issue, please contact the DoIT Helpdesk at doit@niu.edu or 753-8100.

Blackboard Reminders for the Beginning of the Semester - 8/7/2015

As many new faculty, teaching staff, and TAs may request course space on Blackboard this week and get ready to develop their courses on Blackboard, I thought of sending the following useful links as reminders for some of the "beginning of the semester" frequently asked questions:

  1. Requesting a new course on Blackboard - After logging into http://webcourses.niu.edu click the "Services" tab at the top of the page and then "Blackboard Faculty Tools". Click "My Courses" and then follow the links on the displayed window. Instructions and step-by-step tutorials can be found at: request. In order to request a Blackboard course, individuals must be the "instructor of record” for the course in the MyNIU system.

    Course space requests take 1 working day to be processed by the automated process in DoIT. It takes an additional day for someone newly assigned as instructor of record in MyNIU to have permission to request the course in Blackboard.
  2. Combining course sections - Those teaching dual level courses (e.g. 400 and 500 or cross-listed courses) or multiple sections may want to combine their sections into one master course. Information about doing that can also be found at multiple sections. "Course combine requests" also take 1 working day to be processed. Individuals requesting master courses must be instructor of record in both sections to be combined.
  3. Making courses "available" to students - After creating and posting documents on a Blackboard courses, faculty should make those courses "available" to students. Otherwise, students will not be able to see the courses. The instructions for making courses "available" to students can be found at: availability.
  4. Blackboard workshops - Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center regularly schedules workshops on using Blackboard for teaching purposes, and the monthly program schedules can be found under Quick Links at http://www.niu.edu/facdev.

For those who are not able to attend a workshop, there is also now a Self-Paced Blackboard I workshop consisting of short video demonstrations, available at selfpacedbb1.

Answers to other Frequently Asked Blackboard-related questions can be found at: faq and Blackboard-related help information can be found at: atoz.

For login and password-related questions, please refer faculty to the DoIT helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu and for other teaching-related Blackboard questions, faculty can submit the questions at ask.

Avoid Using Force Completion in Blackboard Tests - 7/21/2015

Due to a recent influx of reported issues encountered while taking Blackboard Tests, we’d like to remind Faculty of the consequences of using Force Completion on Blackboard Tests.

Force Completion, found under Test Options > Test Availability, is typically used to prevent students from navigating away from a Test in order to minimize cheating. When a student navigates away from a Test, and the Force Completion option is turned on, the Test is automatically submitted for them by the system. However, should the student encounter any technical difficulties, such as losing internet connection, they will not be able to complete the test.

Because of this behavior, you may want to limit the use of the Force Completion option to supervised exams, where, if issues occur, an instructor can be available to reset the test.

As an alternative, we recommend using a timer to limit how long students have to complete the test. If a student encounters a technical issue, or closes their browser, the timer will continue to run on the server even though they have left the test. When the Auto-Submit feature is also used, the test will automatically be submitted when the timer expires. This approach will minimize cheating while also allowing those who encounter technical difficulties to log back in and continue the test within the time limit established by the instructor.

force completion options

To learn more, please visit the FAQ section of the Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center, or visit Blackboard's Test and Survey Options help page.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the DoIT Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

Changes to SafeAssign in Blackboard

As part of the recent Blackboard upgrade, changes were made to the way SafeAssignment works, and we wanted to make sure you were aware of how to enable it.

In the past, Assignment and SafeAssignment were distinct and separate features. Now, SafeAssign is integrated with the Assignment feature, making it easy to check student submissions for plagiarism by clicking a checkbox when creating an Assignment. In addition, all compatible submissions (including those that have been checked for plagiarism) can now be graded using the Inline Grading workflow currently available for Assignments.

SafeAssign settings

For more information, see SafeAssign in Blackboard.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the DoIT Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

Collaboration Tools to be Discontinued in Blackboard End of Summer Session 2015 - 6/19/2015

Due to an impending lack of browser support, the legacy Blackboard Collaboration Tools "Lecture Hall" and "Office Hours", typically accessed by navigating to course Tools > Collaboration, are scheduled to be discontinued at the end of the 2015 Summer session.

Instructors who wish to continue holding online meetings or office hours should consider using Blackboard Collaborate --a more robust, fully-featured online meeting platform that has already been adopted by hundreds of users at NIU.

With Blackboard Collaborate, instructors can schedule online meetings ahead of time, or they may use persistent "rooms" which are ideal for drop-in situations, such as office hours.

To access Blackboard Collaborate in your course simply navigate to Tools and select Blackboard Collaborate.

To learn more about using Blackboard Collaborate in your Blackboard course, visit the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center's website, or register for one of their upcoming workshops.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the DoIT Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

Blackboard Learn Upgrade: Memorial Day Weekend 2015 - 5/8/2015

A significant upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System over Memorial Day weekend. The upgrade will begin at 5:00 AM on Saturday, May 23, 2015, and will complete by 5:00 AM on Sunday, May 24, 2015. The Blackboard Learn system (https://webcourses.niu.edu) will be unavailable during this time.

The latest version of Blackboard Learn, April 2014 Release, will introduce several new and exciting features, including:

  • Portfolios
    A rebuilt Portfolio system aimed at assessing student learning.
  • Anonymous and Delegated Grading
    Grade Assignment submissions anonymously and share grading responsibilities with one or more graders.
  • Student Preview
    The new Student Preview feature provides faculty with the ability to easily see the course exactly how a student would see it.
  • Assignment and SafeAssignment Integration
    SafeAssign is now integrated with the Assignment tool, making it easy to check student submissions for plagiarism by clicking a checkbox when creating an Assignment.
  • New Look and Feel
    New flat color schemes and navigation banner.

To learn more about the upcoming features, please visit upgrade.

The Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center will be holding workshops and hands-on sessions to preview the new features. To sign up for a workshop please visit workshops.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the DoIT Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

Blackboard Video Everywhere: Message regarding Google API Changes - 5/5/2015

The Video Everywhere web-cam feature allows users to quickly record a video in the text box editors by connecting to YouTube accounts. Google/YouTube has recently changed the way that third-party apps (like Blackboard) interact with Google apps. Users attempting to record or post videos with Video Everywhere will receive an error that the Google Apps API has been deprecated.

In the meantime, the recommended approach is as follows:

Create the video in YouTube

  1. Log in to YouTube directly using the same account you use to log in to Video Everywhere
  2. Click the Upload button
  3. Next, in the Create area, select Web-cam Capture
  4. Record your video by selecting start recording, stop recording when you are finished
  5. Next, select Continue
  6. Change the name of the video or make other changes to edit, select Publish
  7. After the Publish is done, go to the Video Manager and click the video
  8. Once you are in the video settings, select the share area and choose the embed code, copy the embed code

Copy the YouTube video into your Blackboard Course

  1. In the area you wish your video to appear (Item, within a Text Editor), click on the html button.
  2. A new box will open up with code, pasted the embed code from YouTube, and click the Submit button
  3. You may want to also add the URL address to the content area as backup
  4. Click the Submit button to create or update the Item
  5. This is a temporary workaround to replace using Video Everywhere. If you have several videos to create, you may want to record them in YouTube and wait to add them to Blackboard until after the update has been completed. After the update you will be able to use Video Everywhere to browse for the video and embed it in the course.

This is a temporary workaround to replace using Video Everywhere.

Please contact Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center with questions or more detailed instructions, at facdev@niu.edu or 815-753-0595.

Learn the Basics of Using Blackboard, At Your Own Pace - 5/1/2015

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is proud to announce the release of a new online format for the Blackboard I: Introduction to Blackboard workshop. This new self-paced version makes it easier than ever to get started with Blackboard at NIU.

Through a series of video tutorials, you will get an overview of Blackboard's course layout and navigation, be exposed to various course tools, discover communication and assessment features, and see how to request your own Blackboard courses.

Trends in Blackboard Tool Usage at NIU - 2014 - 3/18/2015

Blackboard Learn, the course management system utilized by Northern Illinois University faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and students, continues to be an important platform for facilitating teaching at learning at NIU, with over 96% of students and 92% of teaching faculty using the system during Fall 2014. To gain even more insight into how NIU faculty and students are using Blackboard, the Division of Information Technologyhas implemented new custom reporting capabilities within Blackboard that extends the built-in statistics tracking features for tracking individual tool usage by course. As a result, we have an even better understanding of overall Blackboard adoption and tool use at NIU and will be able to track usage trends over time.

NIU Blackboard Tool Use 2014

A few noteworthy usage trends as of Fall 2014 include:

  • Overall Blackboard tool use by course instructors has continued to increase over the years - particularly tools relating to grading, testing and assignments, and online collaboration. Interestingly, the percent usage of these tools increases considerably over the summer semester.
  • Student use of the Blackboard system has remained high for the past several years (~96%).
  • Recently, Blackboard adoption by teaching faculty has made a significant jump from 82% (2013) to 92% (2014).
  • 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.
  • Use of Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing has risen significantly over the past year, with now 11% of courses using Blackboard Collaborate

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.

2014

Tips for Increasing Student Retention with Blackboard - 9/24/2014
There are many issues that impact student retention, such as financial needs, family issues, personal adjustment, curriculum design, teaching methods, and academic advising. Improving retention requires dedication and contribution from everyone at NIU. In this online workshop offered 9/19/14, we discussed some features in Blackboard that can impact student success and retention by creating a stronger community in the classroom and identifying potential problems early.
Scheduled Blackboard Outage - 8/12/2014

End-of-term maintenance is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System over this coming weekend. The upgrade will begin at 3:00 AM on Saturday, Aug 16, 2014 and will complete by 8:00 AM the same day. The Blackboard Learn System (http://webcourses.niu.edu) will be UNAVAILABLE during this time.

The latest update of Blackboard Learn, 9.1 Service Pack 14 (SP14), cumulative update 4, will fix numerous bugs, including:

  • Internet Explorer compatibility issues
  • Retention Center hanging in Google Chrome
  • Problems with Import/Export of Rubrics

We regret any inconvenience this may cause. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

New Tool Available for Posting Audio and Streaming Video - 6/19/2014

A new tool is now available in Blackboard that makes it easier for both faculty and students to add their own audio and video files to Blackboard. The Helix Media Library allows both faculty and students to upload audio and video files to a server that is optimized for streaming media and embed them within Blackboard.

The Helix Media Library is available as a mashup in the Text-Box Editor, which is used for most of the areas that text is typed into Blackboard, including (but not limited to) when adding an item, submitting an Assignment, posting to a Discussion Forum, or providing feedback in the Grade Center. 

Screenshot highlighting the Helix Media Library option under Mashups in the Text Box Editor

Files uploaded will not be included in the Course Quota. Faculty, staff, and students will have 4 Gigabytes (GBs) of storage space, and individual files can be up to 2 GB in size. If necessary, free 4 GB quota increases can be requested from ITS by completing the Computing Access Resources (CAR) form. 

To learn more about the Helix Media Library, please visit helix.

Scheduled Blackboard Outage - 4/29/2014

A significant upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System over Memorial Day Weekend. The upgrade will begin at 5:00 AM on Saturday, May 24, 2014 and will complete by 5:00 AM on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The Blackboard Learn System (http://webcourses.niu.edu) will be UNAVAILABLE during this time.

The latest version of Blackboard Learn, 9.1 Service Pack 14 (SP14), will introduce several new exciting features, including:

  • Quick Links: Improved navigation experience for keyboard-only users.
  • Date Management: Seamlessly "shift" content and dates in a course following a course copy.
  • Achievements: Add excitement and recognition to courses by offering badges and certificates for course progress.
  • Test Exceptions: Use Text Exceptions to define customized delivery settings for specific students or groups, such as number of attempts, timer, auto submit, etc.
  • Group Management - Enhancement: Easily manage multiple groups, create Grade Center Smart Views, and more.
  • Inline Assignment Grading - Enhancement: Grading just got even easier with new full screen mode. Inline grading is now also available for Blogs, Journals, and Discussion Boards..
  • Grade Center - Enhancement: Adjust total points possible for a test, use values greater than 100% for grading schemas, and more.
  • My Grades - Enhancement: New inline feedback and custom re-ordering options for students.
  • Course Message Notification: Course messaging notifications are now integrated into Notification Dashboard and My Blackboard.
  • Blackboard Collaborate - Enhancement: Schedule sessions with simplified settings or use permanent rooms for each course and faculty/instructor

To learn more about the upcoming features, please visit www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

Update to SafeAssign Originality Reports - 4/28/2014

Blackboard released an update to SafeAssign on April 26, 2014, that establishes a new look and feel for the Originality Report. Because Blackboard maintains the SafeAssign servers, NIU had no control over the timing of this change. The general features of the plagiarism check and report have not changed, and the new report is cleaner and easier to read. In addition, this update resolved a few issues that users may have experienced.

The new Originality Report opens as a small pop-up window with the text of the submitted document visible. Click the ... button in the upper right to view the details about the plagiarism check, including percent matching and citations that may have been plagiarized, or resize the window wider to display the right column.

Scroll down to see examples of the new Originality Report. Learn more about the new Originality Report.

Examples of the New Originality Report

The new Originality Report is condensed to make grading easier. Click the ... button to view the details about the submission

SafeAssign Originality Report

The details side bar includes when the submission was made, what percentage was found to match other sources, and the sources that match content in the submission.

SafeAssign Originality Report Details

Alternatively, resize the window to make it wider so that the details side bar can display next to the text.

SafeAssign Originality Report Right Column

Content that matches one of the sources is highlighted and the source is identified by number. Click the highlighted content to view a comparison of the submitted text with the source text.

SafeAssign Originality Report Suspicious Content
Issue with Java 7 Update 51 Causes Problem Running Apps - 2/13/2014

ITS has identified a problem with the latest version of Java 7, version 51, released 1/14/14. This Java security update does not allow unsigned Java applets to run. Users have encountered this problem in Blackboard, and WebCRMA, where the Java applets will not run but instead display an Application Error Security Exception "Missing required Permissions manifest attribute in main jar:"

One solution is to add trusted websites to Java 7 in the Exception Site List now included in version 51. To do this, open the Java control panel then on the security tab, go to "Edit site list" and click "Add" to add the following 3 sites, all trusted at NIU: https://bbcollab.niunt.niu.edu:8443 https://webcourses.niu.edu http://niu.edu

This will allow the Java applets to run. Users who do not have sufficient rights to edit their computer's Java settings should be referred to their LAN Admins for assistance.

2013

Blackboard Collaborate 12.5 Now Available - 6/10/2013

NIU has upgraded to the latest release of Blackboard Collaborate, version 12.5.

Some of the highlights include:

  • Support for Android devices!
  • Built-in phone conferencing with auto-provisioned call-in numbers, eliminating the need for a third-party teleconferencing provider
  • Single-click individual permissions and ability to toggle chat emoticons on/off for increased moderator control
  • Cloud-based MP3/MP4 conversion service, enabling instructors to make any recorded session easily accessible on desktop, laptop, and any mobile device
  • JAWS versions 13 and 14 now supported with the Java Access Bridge version 2.0.3

For more detailed information, view the tutorial here.

Scheduled Blackboard Outage - 4/18/2013

A significant upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System on June 8, 2013. The upgrade will begin at 12:00 AM and will complete by 11:00 PM. The Blackboard Learn System (http://webcourses.niu.edu) will be UNAVAILABLE during this time.

The latest version of Blackboard Learn, 9.1 Service Pack 11 (SP11), will introduce several new exciting features, including:

  • New Content Editor: Vastly improves the user experience for formatting text, pasting content from Word, and more.
  • Assessment Item Analysis: Provides statistics on overall test performance on individual test questions.
  • Assessment Fill-in-the-Blank Question Enhancement : Fill-in-the-Blank and Fill-in-Multiple-Blanks questions now offers regular expression options for grading answers.
  • My Blackboard: Create your own profile and discover and interact with others in your academic network.
  • Inline Assignment Grading: View, annotate, and grade student-submitted files "inline" without the need to download any files.
  • Retention Center: Identify at-risk students by using pre-configured rules or by creating your own.
  • New Calendar: Sporting a new UI, the new calendar now integrates fully into your courses. Never miss an assignment again.
  • Blackboard Drive: View, edit, and manage your Content System files right from your desktop.

To learn more about the upcoming features, please visit the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center's upgrade page at www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

2013 Blackboard Catalyst Awards - 1/17/2013

Have you developed an exemplary Blackboard course or initiative using Blackboard? Submit a nomination for the 2013 Blackboard Catalyst Awards! Deadline for submissions is February 15, 2013.

With the Blackboard Catalyst Awards, Blackboard honors those who push the boundaries of their educational programs and technology in order to deliver innovative and effective learning experiences. Check out the award categories at blackboard.com/catalyst.

Submitting your program or course to the Catalyst Awards has many benefits, including:

  • Develop a fresh perspective by seeing how other institutions are implementing industry best practices
  • Learn course design best practices to improve the engagement, collaboration, assessment and learner support within your own courses or courses you help develop
  • Gain peer, institution, and industry recognition for your accomplishments and participation in the program

Please take a look at the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Rubric that has been created to help prepare for an Exemplary Course Award submission. Find more details about the Exemplary Course Award Program.

If you have more questions, please send an email to community@blackboard.com

2012

Wimba Classroom to be Deactivated 12/21/12, Replaced by Blackboard Collaborate - 12/13/2012

This is a final notice that Wimba Classroom is being replaced by the Blackboard Collaborate "next generation" web conference platform. During Summer 2012, NIU tested Blackboard Collaborate and sought feedback from existing Wimba Classroom users concerning the timeline for upgrading from Wimba to Blackboard Collaborate.

Blackboard Collaborate was available on a limited release basis during Summer 2012 for any faculty/staff or teaching assistants who would like to use the tool within their Blackboard courses or communities. After positive feedback from faculty, Blackboard Collaborate was made available campus wide in all Blackboard courses and communities during the Fall 2012 semester. Based on the recommendations received from faculty, Blackboard Collaborate will replace Wimba Classroom by Spring 2013. Wimba Classroom will be deactivated at NIU on December 21, 2012. Those who were formerly using Wimba Classroom are recommended to instead use the new Blackboard Collaborate web conferencing tool.

New features in Blackboard Collaborate, not previously available in Wimba Classroom

  • Completely redesigned user interface for an improved user experience
  • Web tour, allowing for moderator to show web pages to participants and maintain control
  • Audio buffering, allowing for better audio quality
  • Up to 6 simultaneous video streams
  • Ability for end user to change video quality
  • Countdown timer
  • Annotations on whiteboard persist throughout session
  • Multimedia presentation tool
  • Free mobile app for participation on iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch (Android app to be available in early 2013)

A full comparison of the feature differences between Blackboard Collaborate and Wimba Classroom is available at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/guides/bbcollabvswimba.pdf

To see Blackboard Collaborate in action, short demos are available online at http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Resources/Recorded-Demos.aspx

Blackboard Collaborate continues to offer the same great seamless integration with the Blackboard learning management system that NIU faculty have grown accustomed to and expect with Wimba Classroom.

Opportunity to learn more

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center will be offering a hands-on introductory workshop on Blackboard Collaborate, "Intro to Live Online Classes Using Blackboard Collaborate" on Friday, January 18, 2013 from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. During this hands-on workshop, participants will receive an overview of the features of Blackboard Collaborate and step-by-step assistance with creating and managing Blackboard Collaborate sessions within Blackboard. Advance registration is required. If interested in attending, register online at https://facdevprograms.niu.edu/ERAP/registration/RegForm.aspx?ID=151

More information about using Blackboard Collaborate at NIU, including links to tutorials and archived online workshops previously offered, is available at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/communicate/collaborate.shtml

Designing an Exemplary Online Course: Open Online Course to be Offered - 9/14/2012

Blackboard has announced a new open online course “Designing an Exemplary Course,” as part of the CourseSites Open Course Series. The course will run from September 26th – October 17th, 2012. Registration is free and opens Wednesday, September 19th.

Whether you are just getting started or are an advanced online educator, this course will provide you with a framework to help identify and apply best practices for designing engaging online courses.

You will learn from 11 instructors and instructional designers including distinguished Exemplary Course Program (ECP) Directors and several of the 2012 ECP winners. Using the Blackboard ECP Rubric as a guide, the course will focus on the four critical elements of a course: design, interaction and collaboration, assessment, and learner support.

You will have the opportunity to participate in weekly live, online sessions, learn with peers in focus groups, and complete optional assignments to aid your course development and improvement. A panel of course design experts will facilitate each group to provide you with valuable feedback.

The learning environment will offer learners the flexibility to choose their own learning outcomes and time commitments based on individual needs. To maximize benefits of participation, optional homework assignments will be provided each week to apply concepts to build out one’s own course structure and materials. The course will provide a framework for forming collaborative teams.

For more details or to sign-up to be notified when registration opens, click here.

Introducing New iOS and Android Updates for Blackboard Mobile Learn - 5/29/2012

Blackboard has announced Blackboard Mobile Learn 3.0, the latest version of the mobile app available for Blackboard, which includes Push Notifications and Mobile Tests.

Push Notifications
Until now, your students have had to log in to Blackboard to check on their course activity, and to seek out new announcements, grades, tests, or assignments. With Mobile Learn 3.0, notifications generated by the existing Blackboard Learn notification engine will be pushed to users who have logged into Blackboard Mobile Learn.

Mobile Tests
Who says test taking can't be fun? Blackboard Mobile Learn 3.0 provides instructors with a streamlined interface to create mobile-compatible tests, and provides students with a beautiful new experience on iOS and Android devices for taking mobile-compatible tests.

Retina iPad
With this update, users can enjoy a gorgeous and crisp high resolution interface that leverages the quadrupled number of pixels of the new iPad.

Support for iOS 4.0+ and Android 2.2+
The all-new features of Blackboard Mobile Learn 3.0 are available for students and instructors with iOS devices running iOS 4.0 or greater and Android devices running Android OS 2.2 or greater. Please note that the iPhone 3G, 3GS, 4 and 4S are all capable of running iOS 4.0 or greater. Only the first generation iPhone is incapable of upgrading.

Download the App

Blackboard Mobile Learn is available on the iTunes App Store for iPad, iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPod touch, as well as on the Android Market (accessed directly from the device), BlackBerry App World, and Palm webOS.

More Information

The new features available in Blackboard Mobile Learn 3.0 will be incorporated into NIU's Mobile App by fall 2012.

Visit the Blackboard Mobile Learn Features Page for more information.

Blackboard Collaborate: Next Generation Web Conferencing Pilot for Summer 2012 - Full Release Expected Fall 2012 - 5/3/2012

Blackboard Collaborate™ gives you the functionality you need in a 21st century teaching and learning environment, such as two-way audio, multi-point video, interactive whiteboard, application and desktop sharing, rich media, breakout rooms, and session recording. Educators and students can engage as if they were in a traditional classroom, with as good as, or even better, outcomes.

Since 2009, the Wimba Classroom collaboration tool has been integrated into Blackboard at NIU and has been used by faculty, staff at teaching assistants for online web conferencing activities ranging from online lectures, office hours, to group activities.

In July 2010, Blackboard purchased both Wimba and Elluminate (another competing web conferencing platform) and has been in the process of developing a new "next generation" product that combines the best features of both Wimba Classroom and Elluminate and has released this new web conferencing platform, Blackboard Collaborate 11. Blackboard Collaborate includes a redesigned, easier-to-use interface that simplifies many of the tasks presenters typically perform. Institutions like NIU that currently have Wimba Classroom are encouraged to begin transitioning to the new Blackboard Collaborate as soon as possible.

To see Blackboard Collaborate in action, short demos are available online at http://www.blackboard.com/Platforms/Collaborate/Resources/Recorded-Demos.aspx

New Features

A few of the notable new features in Blackboard Collaborate include:

  • Completely redesigned user interface for an improved user experience
  • Web tour, allowing for moderator to show web pages to participants and maintain control
  • Audio buffering, allowing for better audio quality
  • Up to 6 simultaneous video streams
  • Ability for end user to change video quality
  • Countdown timer 
  • Annotations on whiteboard persist throughout session
  • Multimedia presentation tool

Blackboard Collaborate continues to offer the same great seamless integration with the Blackboard learning management system that NIU faculty have grown accustomed to and expect with Wimba Classroom.

Feature Comparison: Blackboard Collaborate vs. Wimba Classroom

While Blackboard Collaborate does include many new features not previously in Wimba Classroom, since it is built on the former Elluminate architecture, there are a few features previously in Wimba Classroom that are not currently available in Blackboard Collaborate 11, including:

  • Persistent settings and content
  • Content organized by presentation
  • Tracking information available to moderator
  • Telephony (per our installation)
  • Informal polling open ended question types
  • Mobile archives downloadable by students (mp3/mp4 files)

A full comparison of the feature differences between Blackboard Collaborate and Wimba Classroom is available here.

Blackboard Collaborate Preview

View this online preview of Blackboard Collaborate offered 4/27/2012 to see the new interface and features first-hand and learn more about NIU's options for moving forward with upgrading to Blackboard Collaborate. 

Limited Release Availability - Summer 2012

NIU is currently testing Blackboard Collaborate and seeking feedback from existing Wimba Classroom users concerning the timeline for upgrading from Wimba to Blackboard Collaborate.

Blackboard Collaborate will be available on a limited release basis during Summer 2012 for any faculty/staff or teaching assistants who would like to use the tool within their Blackboard courses or communities. If interested in using Blackboard Collaborate during the limited release this summer, please contact Jason Rhode at jrhode@niu.edu to express your interest.  Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff are available to provide assistance to those interested in using Blackboard Collaborate this summer.

More information about Blackboard Collaborate, including links to manuals, quick guides, and tutorials is available here.

Based on the feedback received from faculty, Blackboard Collaborate will likely become available campus wide by Fall 2012 and replace Wimba Classroom by Spring 2012.

Last updated: 4/19/2016

Scheduled Blackboard Outage - Memorial Day Weekend 2012 - 4/20/2012

A significant upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System over Memorial Day weekend. The upgrade will begin at 7:00 AM on Saturday, May 26th, 2012, and will complete by 7 AM on Monday, May 28th, 2012. The Blackboard Learn System (http://webcourses.niu.edu) will be UNAVAILABLE during this time.

The latest version of Blackboard Learn, 9.1 Service Pack 8 (SP8), will deliver a new interface more in-line with today's web 2.0 experience. The result will be a cleaner, less cluttered, and more contemporary user experience.

Blackboard Learn 9.1 SP8 will introduce several new exciting features, including:

  • Course-to-Course Navigation: Easily navigate from one course to another with one click.
  • Course Structures: Choose from a wide variety of pre-built course structures (number of content areas, menu layout, etc) to match the pedagogical needs of your course.
  • Course Themes: Personalize the look and feel of your course. A wide list of themes will be available.
  • Negative Marking: Allows the use of negative point values for incorrect answers on Assessment questions.
  • Automated Regrading: Change a Test question, and have Blackboard automatically recalculate the score for all submissions affected by the change.

To learn more about the upcoming features, please visit www.niu.edu/blackboard/upgrade.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

What's Next for Blackboard: 9.1 SP8 - 2/10/2012

The dust has settled on the May 2011 Blackboard upgrade, a major event which took us from Blackboard Version 8.0 to Blackboard Learn, Version 9.1 (Next Generation), and feedback surrounding this current version of Blackboard has been overwhelmingly positive.  Both students and faculty report an overall improved user experience.  Having acclimated ourselves well to Blackboard Learn, there are new changes on the horizon to Blackboard’s interface, features, and overall functionality.  These changes will be ushered in when NIU upgrades to Blackboard Learn, Version 9.1, Service Pack 8 (SP8)later in 2012.

The Blackboard Interface

SP8’s interface changes will be immediately noticeable and more in-line with today’s Web 2.0 experience.  Most apparent, will be the missing editing icons that allow users to drag-and-drop, access, make changes and add content to their course.  These functionalities, of course, will remain but will be replaced by rollover editing, meaning that editing icons are visible only when your mouse cursor hovers over certain areas.  The result will be a cleaner, less cluttered, and contemporary interface.

sample faculty profile

Faculty Workflows

  • Course-to-course navigation: When in a course, you will no longer need to navigate to Blackboard's main landing page to access your other courses.  You will now be able to move from course to course from within a course by clicking the drop-down menu in the upper left corner of the page.  Additionally, you will be able to specify where you would like to go in the other course.  For example, if you are in one course’s Grade Center, you can jump to the next course’s Grade Center easily to complete your grading tasks.

Course Structures and Course Themes

    • Course structures:  When a new course is requested in Blackboard SP8, you will be able to choose from a wide variety of pre-built course structures.  Options will be made available through a set-up wizard, and once selected, changes or customizations to the Course Menu can be made just as they had been able to in the past.  Course structures contain course areas, optional sample content, pedagogical information, and instructions to help you design your course.

Course Menu Structures
On the left, NIU's default course structure. On the right, sample course structure based on Constructivist learning theory.

  • Course themes:  Course themes will provide an easy way to create a visually engaging course environment. Course themes will be part of the set-up wizard, but will also be available within the course area.  Faculty can apply an available theme to match their preferences.  Course themes add a background image to the course display and change the color of the interface, including the Course Menu, buttons, and controls. Applying a theme does not affect course content, and a course's theme can be changed again at any time.

Enhanced Grading

    • Negative marking:  Negative marking will allow for the application of negative point values for wrong answers on test questions. This allows faculty to prevent (by penalty) guessing on a multiple-choice quiz.  A student would not be rewarded, therefore, for correctly guessing the right answer.

  • Automated regrading:  Ambiguous or problematic questions in a Blackboard quiz or test will be much easier to correct by simply editing the question directly and having all necessary updates flow automatically to the Grade Center.  For any given question, there will be able to drop, give full credit, change point value, or change the correct answer. After the question has been updated, Blackboard will recalculate the score of all submitted assessments that included the updated question, reflect the update in the Grade Center, and provides notification to both the faculty and optionally to the student for all impacted submissions.

For more details about teaching with Blackboard at NIU, visit www.niu.edu/blackboard

2011

Scheduled Blackboard Outage - 11/28/2011

Blackboard Learn (http://webcourses.niu.edu) is scheduled to be unavailable for approximately 2 days beginning at 7:00 AM on Monday, December 19th, 2011, for a hardware upgrade. Blackboard is scheduled to be available on Wednesday, December 21st at 7:00 AM.

Date: Monday, December 19th, 2011
Time: 7:00 AM
Duration: 2 days

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

2012 Blackboard Catalyst Awards - 11/11/2011

The time is nearing for the 2012 Blackboard Catalyst Awards submission period and Blackboard has announced an update on the Blackboard Catalyst Awards, including the Exemplary Course Program. Several aspects of the program have changed for this year’s award season in hopes of making the program more streamlined and easier to participate. Each year, Blackboard seeks to recognize and promote industry best practices and invites submissions for programs or courses that are believed to be truly exemplary.

With the Blackboard Catalyst Awards, Blackboard honors those who push the boundaries of their educational programs and technology in order to deliver innovative and effective learning experiences. This year, Blackboard will recognize innovators in the following categories: Community Collaboration, Exemplary Courses, Innovative Development, Mobile Innovation, Staff Development and a new category – Communications Strategy

Submitting your program or course to the Catalyst Awards has many benefits, including:

  • Develop a fresh perspective by seeing how other institutions are implementing industry best practices
  • Learn course design best practices to improve the engagement, collaboration, assessment and learner support within your own courses or courses you help develop
  • Gain peer, institution, and industry recognition for your accomplishments and participation in the program

The Blackboard Catalyst Awards team has developed a more streamlined timeline for all of the Catalyst Awards. To give you an idea of the new timeline, we have highlighted some important dates below:

  • December 1: Program is Open for Submissions
  • December 1: Call for Reviewers, ECP only
  • February 29: Submission Deadline
  • March 15 – April 7: Peer Review Period
  • Early May: Winners selected for all categories

To stay up-to-date on all things related to the Catalyst Awards, ‘Like’ the Blackboard Catalyst Awards Facebook page!

Please take a look at the ‘Blackboard Catalyst Awards Study Guide’ that has been created to help prepare for a Catalyst Award submission.

If you have any questions, please send an email to community@blackboard.com

Blackboard Scholar Bookmarking Service to be Discontinued 12/31/2011 - 10/20/2011

The Blackboard Scholar social bookmarking service will be discontinued after the Fall semester and will no longer be accessible after December 31st, 2011. To retain access to your Scholar bookmarks, you should export your bookmarks from the Scholar system before December 31st.

  1. Log in to Scholar. You can access Scholar by clicking on the Scholar tab in Blackboard Learn (http://webcourses.niu.edu).
  2. Click on Settings link in the upper right of the main screen.
  3. Click on Export Bookmarks.
  4. Select Export All My Bookmarks and click on the Export button.
  5. Your Scholar bookmarks, including the tag information, will be exported as an HTML file. This file can be imported into a browser to manage your bookmarks on your local computer or imported into some other social bookmarking services, like Delicious (http://www.delicious.com) or Diigo (http://www.diigo.com).

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

Blackboard Reminders for the Beginning of the Semester - 8/19/2011

As many new faculty, teaching staff, and TAs may request course space on Blackboard this week and get ready to develop their courses on Blackboard, here are a few useful links as reminders for some of the "beginning of the semester" frequently asked questions:

  1. Requesting a new course on Blackboard - After logging into http://webcourses.niu.edu click the red "Services" tab at the top of the page and then "Blackboard Faculty Tools". Click "My Courses" and then follow the links on the displayed window. Instructions and step-by-step tutorials can be found at: http://niu.edu/blackboard/manage/request.shtml. Blackboard course requesters should be "primary instructors of record" for their courses in the MyNIU system.

    Course space requests take 1 working day to be processed by the automated process in DoIT, and course requests submitted on Friday will be processed the following Monday.

  2. Combining course sections - Those teaching dual level courses (400 and 500) or multiple sections may want to combine their sections into one master course. The link with instructions for doing that can also be found at https://www.niu.edu/blackboard/manage/multiplesections.shtml.

    "Course combine requests" also take 1 working day to be processed.

  3. Making courses "available" to students - After creating and posting documents on a Blackboard courses, faculty should make those courses "available" to students. Otherwise, students will not be able to see the courses. The instructions for making courses "available" to students can be found at: https://www.niu.edu/blackboard/manage/availability.shtml.

  4. Pseudo-Student accounts - Some faculty may want to enroll themselves as a student in their Blackboard courses to see what students see, but to do this they need Z-IDs. Faculty using Blackboard to teach can request pseudo-Z-IDs for themselves at ITS's forms website at http://itsforms.niu.edu/app/itsformsby clicking "Computing Access Resource (CAR) and selecting "Faculty/Staff Account" in the drop down box, and clicking "Account Management" and "Continue.": Select "Create/Reactivate", then "Faculty / Staff Z-ID" and "Continue. Primary account is your Faculty ID. Add Z-ID to course: Fill out the appropriate info, then click "Next" and "Finish." Once requested, it will take approximately 1 business day for the Z-ID to be created and added to a course.

  5. Blackboard workshops - The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center regularly schedules workshops on using Blackboard for teaching purposes, and the monthly program schedules can be found under at http://www.niu.edu/facdev.

Answers to other Frequently Asked Blackboard-related questions can be found at: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/faq and the A-Z Index of Blackboard-related help information can be found at: http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/atoz.

For login and password-related questions, please refer faculty to DoIT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu and for other teaching-related Blackboard questions, faculty can submit the questions at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/ask

Scheduled Blackboard Outage - 7/28/2011

A minor upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard Learn System, beginning at 8 AM on Sunday, August 14th, 2011. Blackboard is scheduled to be available at 12 AM on Monday, August 15th, 2011.

The upgrade from 9.1 SP5 to 9.1 SP6, will deliver a set of bug fixes and will improve on a number of existing features. Some of the enhancements include:

  • Needs Grading tool now includes a larger set of gradable items.
  • Timed Assessments now allow for automatic submission when timer expires.
  • New Interactive Rubrics tool.
  • Added browser support for Google Chrome, Firefox 4.0, and IE 9.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

Scheduled Blackboard Outage - 6/28/2011

Blackboard Learn (http://webcourses.niu.edu), as well as most NIU online systems, are scheduled to be unavailable while emergency back-up systems are upgraded. The work will begin on Saturday, July 9th at 6 PM, and it's expected to be completed by 6 AM on Sunday, July 10th. 

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

Known Issues in Blackboard NG - 6/23/2011

On May 29, 2011, the upgrade to Blackboard Next Generation (NG) was completed at NIU. This upgrade was the most significant since Blackboard was first introduced at NIU almost ten years ago.

Since the upgrade, a list of current known issues regarding Blackboard NG (Release 9.1) at NIU has been created and is available at www.niu.edu/blackboard/issues. ITS is aware of these issues and is working with Blackboard to provide fixes in future service packs to the system. If you encounter any additional issues, please report them by contacting the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or email ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

Blackboard Next Generation Upgrade Completed - 5/29/2011

On May 29, 2011, the upgrade to Blackboard Next Generation (NG) was completed at NIU. This upgrade was the most significant since Blackboard was first introduced at NIU almost ten years ago.

The new version of Blackboard delivers a new set of social learning and teaching tools, as well as a more intuitive and easy-to-use interface. In addition to delivering a redesigned, updated interface, the Blackboard NG upgrade simplifies the process of creating and editing courses, facilitates classroom collaboration, allows for better organization of course materials and assignments, streamlines the notification system of course updates, and allows you to better customize the course to meet your needs.

Blackboard NG introduces many new exciting features, some of which include:

  • Course Wikis: Enable active collaboration around course content and group projects
  • Blogs and Journals: Promote conversation and reflection
  • Group Tools: Simplify group communication and collaboration
  • Web 2.0 User Interface: Create and deliver content with a more intuitive user interface
  • Mash-ups: Integrate resources from youtube.com, slideshare.com and flickr.com
  • New Notification System: Revamped notification system to help students better manage academic priorities and course deadlines
  • Increased Accessibility: Advanced Accessibility Options certified by the National Federation of the Blind for Non-Visual Accessibility
  • New Assignment Tool: Facilitates group assignments by assigning a grade that is automatically given to all group members NOTE: This new tool replaces the existing Digital Drop Box tool.

To see a complete listing of all upcoming features, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/ng.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

It is strongly recommended that current faculty, instructors, teaching staff and teaching assistants attend any of the upcoming May, June and July training programs on Blackboard NG. For information on workshops and programs for Spring and Summer 2011, please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/ng/workshops.shtml.

New Blackboard workshops for summer will include the following:

  • Hands-on workshops for new users
  • “Tune-up” workshops for experienced users
  • “Blackboard Boot Camp” days of in-depth advanced sessions
  • Open lab sessions every day of the first week of summer and fall semesters for individual assistance

A complete list of upcoming Blackboard workshops covering the new futures now available since the upgrade is available at www.niu.edu/blackboard/ng/workshops.shtml

Scheduled Blackboard Outage - 5/3/2011

On May 30, 2011, NIU will be upgrading to Blackboard Next Generation (NG). This is the most significant upgrade of Blackboard since it was first introduced at NIU almost ten years ago.

In addition to delivering a redesigned, updated interface, Blackboard NG will simplify the process of creating and editing courses, will facilitate classroom collaboration and allow for better organization of course materials and assignments. Additionally, it will streamline the notification system of course updates and will allow for a variety of course customizations.

It is strongly recommended that current faculty, instructors, teaching staff and teaching assistants attend any of the upcoming May, June and July training programs on Blackboard NG. Please be aware that in August 2011 priority registration will be given to new faculty, instructors, teaching staff and teaching assistants.

Information about Blackboard NG can be found at www.niu.edu/blackboard/ng

Blackboard NG

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center has started to offer a wide range of training programs and resources to assist faculty, instructors, teaching staff, and teaching assistants with the change. Spring and Summer 2011 workshops and programs on Blackboard NG will include:

  • Preview sessions prior to upgrade
  • Hands-on workshops for new users
  • "Tune-up" workshops for experienced users
  • "Blackboard Boot Camp" for in-depth all day instruction
  • Open Lab sessions every day of the first week of summer and fall 2011 semesters for individual assistance

Below you will find the Blackboard NG workshops and programs for Spring and Summer 2011:

May 2011

  • Tue, 5/3, 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm - Blackboard Next Generation Preview [hands-on]
  • Wed, 5/18, 10:00 am to 11:30 am - Blackboard Next Generation Preview [hands-on]

June 2011

  • Thu, 6/2, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - Blackboard I: Introduction to Blackboard *
  • Fri, 6/3, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm - Blackboard Next Generation Bootcamp **
  • Mon, 6/6, 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm - Blackboard Tune-up: New Features in the Next Generation of Blackboard **
  • Tue, 6/7, 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm - Blackboard Tune-up: New Features in the Next Generation of Blackboard **
  • Mon, 6/13, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Blackboard Open Lab, Adams Hall 323
  • Tue, 6/14, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Blackboard Open Lab, Adams Hall 323
  • Wed, 6/15, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Blackboard Open Lab, Adams Hall 323
  • Wed, 6/15, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - Blackboard I: Introduction to Blackboard *
  • Thu, 6/16, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Blackboard Open Lab, Adams Hall 323
  • Mon, 6/20, 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm - Blackboard II: Building Your Blackboard Course *

July 2011

  • Wed, 7/13, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - Blackboard I: Introduction to Blackboard *
  • Tue, 7/21, 10:00 am to 11:30 am - Blackboard Tune-up: New Features in the Next Generation of Blackboard **
  • Thu, 7/27, 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm - Blackboard Tune-up: New Features in the Next Generation of Blackboard **
  • Thu, 7/28, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm - Blackboard II: Building Your Blackboard Course [online] *

  * = workshop designed for new users
** = workshop designed for experienced users
Note - All workshops following the Blackboard upgrade May 30th will be hands-on, with the exception of online workshops.

You can also find our full Summer 2011 program schedule online at www.niu.edu/facdev/programs/summer2011.shtml. We look forward to seeing you at our programs.

Thank you.
Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center
========================================
Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!
http://facebook.com/facdev :: http://twitter.com/facdev

Important: Major Upgrade to Blackboard and Upcoming Training Programs - 5/03/2011

On May 30, 2011, NIU will be upgrading to Blackboard Next Generation (NG). This is the most significant upgrade of Blackboard since it was first introduced at NIU almost ten years ago.

In addition to delivering a redesigned, updated interface, Blackboard NG will simplify the process of creating and editing courses, will facilitate classroom collaboration and allow for better organization of course materials and assignments. Additionally, it will streamline the notification system of course updates and will allow for a variety of course customizations.

It is strongly recommended that current faculty, instructors, teaching staff and teaching assistants attend any of the upcoming May, June and July training programs on Blackboard NG. Please be aware that in August 2011 priority registration will be given to new faculty, instructors, teaching staff and teaching assistants.

Information about Blackboard NG can be found at www.niu.edu/blackboard/ng

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center has started to offer a wide range of training programs and resources to assist faculty, instructors, teaching staff, and teaching assistants with the change. Spring and Summer 2011 workshops and programs on Blackboard NG will include:

  • Preview sessions prior to upgrade
  • Hands-on workshops for new users
  • "Tune-up" workshops for experienced users
  • "Blackboard Boot Camp" for in-depth all day instruction
  • Open Lab sessions every day of the first week of summer and fall 2011 semesters for individual assistance

Below you will find the Blackboard NG workshops and programs for Spring and Summer 2011:

May 2011

  • Tue, 5/3, 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm - Blackboard Next Generation Preview [hands-on]
  • Wed, 5/18, 10:00 am to 11:30 am - Blackboard Next Generation Preview [hands-on]

June 2011

  • Thu, 6/2, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - Blackboard I: Introduction to Blackboard *
  • Fri, 6/3, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm - Blackboard Next Generation Bootcamp **
  • Mon, 6/6, 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm - Blackboard Tune-up: New Features in the Next Generation of Blackboard **
  • Tue, 6/7, 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm - Blackboard Tune-up: New Features in the Next Generation of Blackboard **
  • Mon, 6/13, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Blackboard Open Lab, Adams Hall 323
  • Tue, 6/14, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Blackboard Open Lab, Adams Hall 323
  • Wed, 6/15, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Blackboard Open Lab, Adams Hall 323
  • Wed, 6/15, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - Blackboard I: Introduction to Blackboard *
  • Thu, 6/16, 11:00 am to 1:00 pm - Blackboard Open Lab, Adams Hall 323
  • Mon, 6/20, 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm - Blackboard II: Building Your Blackboard Course *

July 2011

  • Wed, 7/13, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm - Blackboard I: Introduction to Blackboard *
  • Tue, 7/21, 10:00 am to 11:30 am - Blackboard Tune-up: New Features in the Next Generation of Blackboard **
  • Thu, 7/27, 2:00 pm to 3:30 pm - Blackboard Tune-up: New Features in the Next Generation of Blackboard **
  • Thu, 7/28, 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm - Blackboard II: Building Your Blackboard Course [online] *

  * = workshop designed for new users
** = workshop designed for experienced users
Note - All workshops following the Blackboard upgrade May 30th will be hands-on, with the exception of online workshops.

You can also find our full Summer 2011 program schedule online at www.niu.edu/facdev/programs/summer2011.shtml. We look forward to seeing you at our programs.

Thank you.
Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center
========================================
Follow us on Facebook or Twitter!
http://facebook.com/facdev :: http://twitter.com/facdev

Existing Courses and Shells will be Available in Blackboard NG - 4/25/2011

The upgrade to Blackboard Next Generation (NG), which will begin on Friday, May 27th at 10pm, and expected to be complete on Monday, May 30th, 2011, is fast approaching. In the meantime, the question has been raised about what will happen to existing course content after the upgrade. Faculty who have courses or course shells in the current version of Blackboard will not experience any loss of data during this transition. All Blackboard courses and course shells will be available after the upgrade. When faculty log in to Blackboard after May 30, 2011, their existing courses or shells will continue to be available, and they will be able to copy any content from any existing courses into their summer or fall courses.

In addition, faculty who have previously archived a course from the current version of Blackboard and wish to import it into Blackboard NG will be able to do so using the Import Package feature.

For a step-by-step tutorial demonstrating how to import an archived course into Blackboard NG, see http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/tutorials/importingcourse.shtml.

Want to learn more about Blackboard NG? Sign up for one of several preview sessions or workshops being offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Centerat www.niu.edu/blackboard/ng/workshops.shtml.

For more details on Blackboard NG, visit www.niu.edu/blackboard/ng.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

New Course Menu Features Coming in Blackboard Next Generation - 3/22/2011

On May 30, 2011, Blackboard Next Generation (NG) will make its campus-wide debut at NIU. In preparation for this upgrade, ITS is pleased to provide this preview of Blackboard NG’s new Course Menu features.

The Course Menu layout has been upgraded and faculty will no longer have to use the Control Panel to make changes to the Course Menu.  Customizing the Course Menu will take only a few clicks of the mouse:

Interface Components

Button 1- Rename, hide or delete menu items

Button 2- Reorder menu items by a simple drag-and-drop technique with your mouse

Button 3- Create a new Content Area, Tool Link, or even a Blank Page and customize your own Course Menu

Faculty members who begin preparing their Summer 2011 Blackboard courses prior to the May 30th upgrade will be the first to experience the new Course Menu layout in the current Blackboard version. The new interface components and customization features will be available following the May 30th upgrade.

For a step-by-step tutorial demonstrating how to customize the Blackboard Course Menu in Blackboard NG, see blackboardtutorials.niu.edu/customcoursemenu

Want to learn more about Blackboard NG? Sign up for one of several Preview Sessions or workshops being offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at niu.edu/blackboard/ng/workshops.shtml. For more details on Blackboard NG, visit niu.edu/blackboard/ng

Course Removal: Summer and Fall 2009 Courses - 3/7/2011

The processes to remove old Blackboard courses from the system will begin March 15, 2011.

Following the removal process, only courses taught within the last 13 months will appear among faculty members' lists of courses. Course ID numbers are used to identify courses taught within the last 13 months. Shell courses will not be affected.

The process is scheduled to run according to the following schedule.
Removal Date: March 15, 2011
Semesters Removed: Summer and Fall 2009

You will need to archive any courses you wish to retain before the course removal process begins. Faculty members are responsible for archiving their own courses.

The archival procedure should be a two-step process:

    1. Download all grade centers that need to be retained. Downloaded grade center files can be saved and accessed in Excel. Instructions are online at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/gradecenter/downloading.shtml

  1. Archive course materials and save them on a zip, CD or hard drive. Visit the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center online documentation for instructions at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/manage/archive.shtml

If you have any problems archiving a course or have other concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu

Blackboard Next Generation Upgrade Scheduled for May 2011 - 2/2/2011

On May 30, 2011, Blackboard Next Generation (NG) will make its campus-wide debut at NIU. This will be the most significant upgrade of Blackboard since it was first introduced at NIU almost ten years ago.

In addition to delivering a redesigned, updated interface, Blackboard NG will simplify the process of creating and editing courses, it will facilitate classroom collaboration, it will allow for better organization of course materials and assignments, it will streamline the notification system of course updates, and it will allow you to customize the course to meet your needs.

The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center has been busy preparing for the upgrade through a variety of testing and piloting projects, and we will soon be offering a wide range of training programs and resources to assist faculty and teaching assistants with the change.

New workshops for the spring and summer will include the following:

  • Preview sessions prior to upgrade (online and F2F)
  • Hands-on workshops for new users
  • “Tune-up” workshops for experienced users
  • “Blackboard Boot Camp” days of in-depth advanced sessions
  • Open lab sessions every day of the first week of summer and fall semesters for individual assistance

Keep an eye out for additional Blackboard NG announcements and workshop schedules and registration details. Blackboard NG Preview sessions will be offered beginning in March.

Blackboard Mobile Learn App Now Available on All Devices and Carriers - 01/03/2011

Blackboard Mobile Learn takes interactive teaching and learning to the mobile device, giving students and teachers instant access to their courses, content and communities anywhere.

Blackboard Mobile Learn is available now on all major smartphone platforms (Android, Blackberry, and iOS) and works across all carriers. It may be downloaded now from the Android Market, Blackberry App World and the iTunes App Store.

What CAN you do with Mobile Learn?

  • View/post announcements
  • Review/post Discussions Threads
  • View rosters
  • Access documents uploaded by the instructor
  • Access music, video and images uploaded by the instructor

What you CANNOT do with Mobile Learn

  • Add new content to a course
  • Build tests, quizzes, and surveys
  • Submit tests, quizzes, and surveys
  • Submit assignments
  • Grade assignment

Please visit the Teaching with Blackboard website at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/mobile to learn more about the app's features and limitations.

If you have any questions please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

2010

Blackboard Mobile Learn: Apps for iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, BlackBerry, and Android - 6/17/2010
Availble in the App Store

Blackboard Mobile Learn takes interactive teaching and learning to the mobile device, giving students and teachers instant access to their courses, content, and communities anywhere. Blackboard Mobile Learn is a mobile app available currently on the iTunes App Store for iPad, iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPod Touch over Wi-Fi, as well as on Android and BlackBerry phones on Sprint.

Mobile Devices

More details, including links to tutorials and additional documentation, are available at niu.edu/blackboard/mobile

SafeAssign Error for the Course Building and Organization Builder User Role - 2/19/2010
There is a known issue with adding SafeAssignments in a course or organization by a user with the role of a Course Builder or Organization Builder. Course (or Organization) Builders should NOT attempt to create SafeAssignments, since the attempt will not only fail, but also prevent the users from being able to create SafeAssignments in the same course/organization, even if their role is changed to that of an Instructor or Leader.

2009

New Blackboard Grade Submission Tool Available Soon for Faculty to Submit Grades to MyNIU - 11/12/2009

At the request and under the guidance of NIU faculty, ITS has been working throughout the summer and fall 2009 to develop a building block for Blackboard that will allow NIU faculty to send course grades from the Blackboard Grade Center directly to course grade rosters in MyNIU.

Faculty who use the Blackboard Grade Center to calculate final grades will soon be able to choose to export final grades from Blackboard instead of manually entering grades in MyNIU, saving time and the reducing the opportunity for data entry errors. This tool will especially be helpful to faculty who teach classes with large enrollments. After submitting grades from Blackboard using this new tool, faculty will have to login to MyNIU to view the final grades, and post them officially.

The grade submission tool was designed and pilot-tested successfully with the help of faculty focus groups and the tool will be available for use in December 2009.

Features of the new Blackboard Grade Submission Tool include:

  • One-time submission of final grades from Blackboard to MyNIU
  • Submission from any of the following types of Blackboard courses:
    • Individual Courses
    • Master Courses
    • Combined Courses
  • Compatible with all course rosters in MyNIU regardless of grading schema

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center in conjunction with ITS will offer several workshops in December to demonstrate the new Blackboard Grade Submission Tool and will provide faculty with step-by-step instructions on submitting their final grades from Blackboard to MyNIU.

For more details or to register, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/workshops

More details about the New Blackboard Grade Submission Tool are available at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/assess/gradesubmission.shtml

Scheduled Blackboard Outage and Upgrade to Version 8.0 - 4/18/2009

A major upgrade is scheduled to be performed to the Blackboard system over Memorial Day weekend. The outage is scheduled to begin at 8 AM on Saturday, May 23rd. The new version of Blackboard, version 8.0, is scheduled to be available at 9 PM on Sunday, May 24th. The Blackboard system (http://webcourses.niu.edu) will be UNAVAILABLE during this time.

Version 8.0 will bring many new exciting features, including a revamped grade center and new portfolio and self and peer assessment tools. To learn more about these new features please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/resources/version80.shtml.

We regret any inconvenience this may cause. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu

New Master Course Tool Available in Blackboard - 4/1/2009

NIU faculty can now use the Blackboard Faculty Tools (BFT) to combine one or more course sections into a master course in Blackboard. By combining enrollments of related or cross-listed courses, you will save time by managing only one course in Blackboard.

The new master course functionality, which had been previously available only by request, will allow you to:

  • Combine enrollments of sections for which you're the official instructor of record into a single "master" course in Blackboard.
  • Manage the master course by adding or removing sections before the semester starts.

The tool can be accessed by logging in to Blackboard and following the 'Blackboard Faculty Tools' link under the Services tab.
To learn more about the new tool and/or to watch a 2 minute tutorial, please visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/manage/bft.shtml#mastercourse.

If you have any questions please contact the ITS Helpdesk at 815-753-8100 or helpdesk@niu.edu.

2008

Requesting Blackboard Courses Using the New Blackboard Faculty Tools - 10/24/2008

A new integrated set of tools is now available in Blackboard for NIU faculty to request new Blackboard courses or shells. The new Blackboard Faculty Tools (BFT) replace the former Faculty Blackboard Course Utilities (FBCU) and provide a more robust and easy to use set of tools for faculty to do the following:

  • Request a New Course in which student enrollment is automatically uploaded and refreshed daily.
  • Request a New Shell for course development long before a course is to be offered.
  • Remove a Shell to purge unwanted development courses.

Note: All requests to the BFT go through the processing server, which runs twice daily every weekday throughout the semester. This means that changes will not appear immediately. Requests will be processed by mid-morning of the next business day. If you do not see the result of your request by noon of the following work day, please contact the ITS Call Center at 815-753-8100 for assistance.

A new 5 minute tutorial highlights the steps to using the new Blackboard Faculty Tools.. The free QuickTime player is required to view the high resolution tutorial. It is also available on YouTube or as a podcast.

To learn more about the new Blackboard Faculty Tools (BFT), visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/manage/bft.shtml.

Enabling Guest Access to Wimba Classroom - 10/1/2008

Faculty who utilize the Wimba Classroom tool within Blackboard may want to invite a guest speaker to participate in a synchronous online session. It is possible to enable guest access to a Wimba Classroom so that a guest speaker can participate in a Wimba Classroom session without having an NIU AccountID or password. A new 4 minute tutorial highlights the steps to enabling guest access to a Wimba Classroom. The free QuickTime player is required to view the high resolution tutorial. It is also available on YouTube or as a podcast.

To learn more about Wimba Classroom or to request that it be enabled for your Blackboard course or community, visit http://www.blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/resources/wimbaclassroom.shtml.

Wimba Classroom Online Collaboration Suite - 7/30/2008

After reviewing feedback from faculty regarding the Wimba Classroom pilot, the Provost's Office has decided to continue the Wimba Classroom license. Therefore, the Wimba Classroom tool will continue to be available in Blackboard for all NIU faculty to utilize in extending their communications with students throughout the 2008-2009 academic year.

To request that Wimba Classroom be enabled in your Blackboard course(s), each semester after requesting the creation of your Blackboard courses, simply complete the online request form at http://www.blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/resources/wimbaclassroom.shtml#requestform

A wealth of helpful documentation, video tutorials, and online training resources regarding Wimba Classroom are available at http://www.blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/resources/wimbaclassroom.shtml

Those planning on using Wimba Classroom this fall you may find the upcoming online workshop, "Success with Wimba Classroom" to be of great benefit. This one hour introductory session is designed to equip you with the five teaching tips for engaging, interactive sessions. You will learn the recommended techniques to prepare your participants before attending your live session. You will also learn how to communicate with and manage the interactions of your participants. Best practice tips will be covered regarding your content along with an overview of the importance of archives. Complete details are available at http://www.wimba.com/eventreg/participant/registration.php?eventid=1159

New Online Collaboration Suite Features in Blackboard - 2/26/2008

Many faculty consider live audio and visual interactions to be important elements of effective teaching and learning experiences online. Yet, such interactions can be difficult to foster in an online learning environment.

NIU has arranged for a six month, campus-wide trial license of Wimba Classroom, an online collaboration suite designed exclusively for education that integrates with Blackboard and allows educators and students to engage effectively by combining interactive technologies with instructional best practices.

Some of the features of Wimba Classroom include:

  • presentations with audio and video narration
  • multi-way audio and video chat
  • public and private text chat
  • electronic whiteboard for annotating, diagramming, etc.
  • polls, quizzes, and surveys conducted in real-time and results available on demand
  • desktop sharing / application sharing
  • breakout rooms
  • full-featured archives
  • telephone access
  • accessibility features

A demonstration of Wimba Classroom will be held on Monday, March 3rd from 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm in Altgeld Hall, Room 100. NIU faculty/staff, graduate teaching assistants, and leaders of Blackboard communities are encouraged to come and learn more about the capabilities of this collaboration suite and how to participate in the pilot implementation for enhancing the teaching and learning experience.

For more details about this online collaboration suite and to request Wimba Classroom be activated in your Blackboard course(s) and/or organization, visit http://www.blackboard.niu.edu/blackboard/resources/wimbaclassroom.shtml.

New Content Management, Plagiarism Prevention, and Academic Resource Sharing Features in Blackboard - 1/14/2008

Beginning Tuesday, January 15, 2008, several significant new features will be available in Blackboard.

Content Collection
The Blackboard Content Collection is a tool that allows NIU faculty to store, manage, and share content in new ways. The Content Collection has a number of features that enhance the capabilities that already exist in the Blackboard Learning System. This tool will especially eliminate the need for copying the same content into multiple sections of a course or into course sections from one semester to next semester as the content will be stored centrally in the Content Collection and linked to course sections.

The Blackboard Content Collection

  • is fully integrated with the Blackboard Learning System that faculty and students are already familiar with
  • makes reusing files much easier -- faculty can save a file in the Content Collection once and link to that file from many courses or course sections
  • allows easy file management -- when a file that resides in the Content Collection needs updating, faculty can update it only once and there won't be any need to go into each course to upload an updated version of the file
  • reduces resource consumption because the files can be managed and shared without the need for copying course content from semester to semester as the files will be located in the Content Collection and linked to the courses each semester
  • makes it easy for faculty and students to share their files with users both within NIU and outside
  • provides an easy drag-and-drop interface through the Web Folder feature that makes copying and managing large number of files much easier
  • functions as a virtual hard drive that is available from anywhere by logging in to Blackboard

For more details about the Content Collection feature in Blackboard, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/content/collection.shtml.

SafeAssign: Plagiarism Prevention Using Blackboard
SafeAssign is a plagiarism prevention tool that allows faculty/staff to protect the originality of work and ensure a fair playing ground for all students. SafeAssign is integrated with Blackboard and prevents plagiarism by detecting unoriginal content in students' papers. SafeAssign can also further deter plagiarism by creating opportunities to educate students on proper attribution and citations while properly leveraging the wealth of information at their disposal.

For more details about SafeAssign, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/assess/safeassign.shtml. To learn more about an upcoming hands-on workshop for NIU faculty/staff introducing SafeAssign, visit http://www.niu.edu/facdev/programs/.

Scholar: Academic Resource Sharing Using Blackboard
Social bookmarking is an increasingly popular way to find, save, classify, evaluate and share Internet resources. Users can save or "bookmark" favorite Web sites and classify, or "tag" them any way that works for them. These bookmarks are then added not only to their personal list, but also to the overall repository where others can see them. Students and faculty can then use each other's classifications, as well as any of the other information they have regarding those resources (who saved it, how many people saved it, etc.) to evaluate and find what they are looking for.

Scholar is an academic resource sharing, or "social bookmarking", service that is customized for education and integrated with the Blackboard Learning System. Built on the principles of Web 2.0, Scholar provides students and faculty with an exciting new way to store, share and discover educationally viable resources on the Web and use them in their everyday teaching, learning and research.

For more details about Scholar, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/resources/scholar.shtml. To learn more about an upcoming hands-on workshop for NIU faculty/staff introducing Scholar, visit http://www.facdev.niu.edu/facdev/programs/january2008.shtml#jan29.

There will be several opportunities during the spring semester to learn more about these new features. For a complete listing of upcoming Blackboard workshops offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, visit http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/workshops.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at Helpdesk@niu.edu.

2007

Blackboard Content Collection Coming Soon - 2/17/2007

The Blackboard Content Collection is a new tool that allows faculty and students to store, manage, and share content. The Content Collection has a number of features that enhance the capabilities that already exist in the Blackboard Learning System:

  • Faculty can reuse their content easily; they can save a file in the Content Collection once and then they can link to that file from many courses.
  • The Content Collection allows easy file management. When a file that resides in the Content Collection needs updating, faculty can update it only once and there won't be any need to go into each course to upload an updated version of the file.
  • The Blackboard Content Collection reduces resource consumption because the files can be managed and shared without the need for duplication.
  • The Content Collection allows faculty and students to share their files with the users both within NIU and outside.
  • It allows faculty to access resources placed in eReserves and link to those resources from their Blackboard courses.

The Blackboard Content Collection is scheduled to be available to NIU faculty in January 2008. More details on how to use the new Blackboard Content Collection.

Blackboard Upgrade Completed - 5/29/2007

A major upgrade was successfully performed on Blackboard over Memorial Day weekend. The new version of Blackboard, version 7.1, includes many new features and changes to our Blackboard environment. Major feature changes are documented here.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the IT Service Desk at ServiceDesk@niu.edu.

Blackboard Outage / Upgrade Notice - 5/4/2007

A major upgrade is scheduled to be performed on Blackboard over Memorial Day weekend. The outage is tentatively scheduled to begin at 9 PM on Saturday, May 26th. The new version of Blackboard, version 7.1, is scheduled to be available at 8 AM on Tuesday, May 29th. During this time, Blackboard (webcourses.niu.edu) will be UNAVAILABLE. We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

Version 7.1 will bring many new features and changes to our Blackboard environment. There will be several opportunities to learn more about these upcoming features. Major feature changes are documented online at http://www.niu.edu/blackboard/resources/version71.shtml

There is also an upcoming workshop for faculty/staff scheduled to be held May 10th. More information can be found online at: http://www.niu.edu/facdev/programs/summer2007.shtml#may10

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the ITS Helpdesk at Helpdesk@niu.edu.

New Blackboard Features Available Soon - 4/18/2007

Prior to the start of summer semester, Blackboard is scheduled to be upgraded from version 6.3 to 7.1. While Blackboard undergoes regular updates behind-the-scenes that do not impact the user experience other than improving overall system performance, this particular upgrade includes some substantial new user features and system capabilities that previously have not existed. Subsequent tutorials and handouts will address new features in greater depth. These new features will be available in all NIU Blackboard courses and communities.


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Technical Support and Student Help

Division of IT Service Desk

815-753-8100
servicedesk@niu.edu

Teaching Support and Faculty Help

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

815-753-0595
citl@niu.edu

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