Tips for Starting the Semester with Blackboard

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The following list of reminders and links can help answer frequently asked questions new faculty, teaching staff, and TAs may have, as they request course space and get ready to develop their courses in Blackboard:

Requesting a new course on Blackboard

Your courses are not automatically listed in Blackboard; you must request your courses to be able to build them.

After logging into webcourses.niu.edu, click the Tools tab at the left of the page, followed by Blackboard Faculty Tools. Click My Courses and then follow the prompts to request your upcoming courses. (Instructions and step-by-step tutorials for requesting your course are also available.) In order to request a Blackboard course, you must be the "instructor of record" for the course in the MyNIU system.

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. You must be instructor of record for both sections to be able to request a master course. The resulting “Master Course” will include all of the students from both sections.

Course requests are processed immediately by the new automated process developed by 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. Learn more about requesting Blackboard courses.

Accessing your courses

You can access all of your courses from the current and previous semesters by clicking Courses at the left of the page. Use the Current Courses drop down menu to select the appropriate term. Fall courses will be listed under Upcoming Courses until the start date. For quick and convenient access, you can use the search tool to find a specific course and you can favorite the courses you use most frequently by clicking the star icon. Learn more about the Courses page.

Ultra Course View

All courses start in the default Original Course View, but you can choose to switch to the newer Ultra Course View. The Ultra Course View is cleaner and more modern than the Original Course View. You are able to preview and convert your course to the Ultra Course View if you are interested in using it.

Many new features have been added to Ultra Course View in the last year (like Journals, integration with Pearson MyLab, and more). There are still some features of the Original Course View that are not yet available or that work differently in the Ultra Course View, so we recommend that faculty explore the Ultra Course View before converting their course. We have a list of new features, a feature comparison guide and a decision guide to help faculty determine whether the Ultra Course View would be a good fit for them at this time.

In addition, faculty can attend an upcoming workshop, watch tutorials on Ultra Course View, or schedule an individual consultation to discuss their course.

Making courses "available" to students

After creating and posting documents on a Blackboard courses, faculty should Open their courses to make them visible to students. In a course using the Original Course View, this is also referred to as making it Available. This can be automated as part of the course request process, or it can be done manually from the Course page or from within a course. Learn more about course availability.

Adding an image to your profile

Did you know you can add an image to your profile in Blackboard? It's an easy step that can help students to feel more connected to you. In the Ultra Course View, your profile image appears on the Course Content page, on the Roster, in Discussions, and in Messages. In the Original Course View, your profile appears in Discussions. You can add a photo of yourself or of something that symbolizes you. Your students can add a profile image, as well, which is visible to their classmates. 

Customizing email notifications

The most important information from across your courses, like new materials, discussion posts or replies, assignment and test submissions, or grades will be automatically emailed to you daily as a digest each night. You will only receive the daily digest email if there was activity in at least one of your courses. You can modify your notification settings to determine what you see in the daily digest emails from your profile or by clicking the gear icon in the upper right of the Activity Stream. Uncheck any notification you do not wish to receive; uncheck all of the items on the email tab to stop receiving the Daily Digest emails. Learn more about the Activity Stream and Notifications.

Learn more about Blackboard 

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning regularly schedules workshops on using Blackboard for teaching purposes. Faculty, Instructors, and Teaching Assistants receive the program schedule via email each month, or you can view the list of upcoming programs on our website. 

For those who need to learn more about the Original Course View, there is a Self-Paced Blackboard I workshop consisting of short video demonstrations, available at go.niu.edu/selfpacedbb1

The Teaching with Blackboard site contains instructions, tutorials, and other helpful information related to using Blackboard for your courses, including answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

For login and password-related questions, please contact the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or ServiceDesk@niu.edu, or use the Division of IT Self-Service system to submit a ticket. For other teaching-related Blackboard questions, faculty can submit questions at niu.edu/blackboard/ask.

Last updated: 8/16/2020