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

After logging into webcourses.niu.edu, click the "Services" tab at the top of the page, follow by "Blackboard Faculty Tools". Click "My Courses" and then follow the links on the displayed window. (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. Due to a known technical issue, Internet Explorer is currently not compatible with the course request process. Please use a different browser (such as Chrome, Firefox, or Safari) to complete your course request. 

Course space 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

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

"Course combine requests" also are processed immediately. The resulting “Master Course” will include all of the students from both sections, as well as automatic Groups and Grade Center Smart Views for each section. Learn more about combining course sections

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. This can be automated as part of the course request process, or it can be done manually. Learn more about course availability.

Using Blackboard on a mobile device

Faculty can download the Blackboard Instructor app for their Apple or Android devices, to be able to communicate with students and view course materials. Students can use a separate Blackboard App on Apple, Android, or Windows devices, which is specially designed for to allow students to engage with their coursework on the go. Both apps are free to use. The Blackboard Instructor app was recently updated to include the ability to grade student submissions to Assignments from your phone or tablet. Learn more about using Blackboard on a mobile device.

New Features in Blackboard

As part of the May 2018 upgrade and migration to cloud hosting, a number of new features are now available. New features include:

  • Attendance tracking: mark students as present, late, absent, or excused and optionally include attendance in Grade Center calculations
  • Course availability icon: easily view and change course availability from anywhere within a course using the lock icon in the upper right corner of your course (near Edit Mode and Student Preview)
  • Email confirmations to students for assignment submissions: students will receive an email confirmation that their assignment was submitted, along with a submission confirmation number
  • Replies to me: keep up with discussion forums more easily with a new Replies to Me column that shows if there are any new replies to your posts that you should read
  • Full Grade Center column names: longer column names now display on multiple lines, so that it is easier to identify the specific column you need
  • Grade from your mobile device: the Blackboard Instructor app now includes the ability to grade student submissions to Assignments on your phone or tablet

Learn more about the May 2018 Blackboard upgrade or watch the recording of the What's New in Blackboard? workshop.

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. 

For those who are not able to attend a workshop, there is also 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: 8/16/2018