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:

New Blackboard landing page and navigation

Our upgrade in May introduced a new landing page and navigation for Blackboard to help faculty and students stay up to date on what is happening in their courses. The Institution Page contains important information on how to use Blackboard and get help with it. Other tools like the Activity Stream, Calendar, Messages, and Grades aggregate information from across all of your current courses to help you prioritize what needs your time and attention. Learn more about navigating Blackboard.

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 automtically 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.

Requesting a new course on Blackboard

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. Individuals requesting master courses must be instructor of record in both sections to be combined. 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. 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

Our upgrade in May 2019 introduced a new base navigation that everyone will use and an optional Ultra Course View that faculty can choose to use. The Ultra Course View is cleaner and more modern than the Original Course View (what faculty and students are accustomed to using in Blackboard). All courses will continue to use the Original view by default, and faculty will be able to preview and convert their course to the Ultra Course View if they are interested in using it.

There are some features of the Original Course View that are not yet available in the Ultra Course View and some features that work differently, so we recommend that faculty explore the Ultra Course View before converting their course. This is particularly true for anyone who uses Blackboard extensively or teaches online. We have 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 review recordings of workshops that were offered this summer about Ultra, attend an upcoming workshop, or request 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.

Learn more about Blackboard 

Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center 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. Going forward, Blackboard workshops will focus on helping faculty transition to the Ultra Course View. 

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. Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center staff are also available for individual consultation on using the Original Course View.

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: 8/13/2019