Email Communications

Email communications to NIU faculty, teaching staff, and graduate teaching assistants from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Summer 2022

Blackboard access for new hires - 6/7/2022New

Department Chairs and School Directors:

As a reminder, for new hires that may be awaiting the processing of hiring paperwork and activation of their NIU Account ID necessary to access Blackboard, we continue to have a technical solution in place that allows for new hires to receive access to their Blackboard courses for the upcoming semester using a temporary guest Blackboard ID associated with their personal email address. With this temporary Blackboard guest ID, new hires are able to login to access their summer Blackboard course(s) to develop and begin teaching as needed until their employee NIU Account ID is activated and they've been assigned as instructor of record in MyNIU. They then will be able to transition to using their activated employee ID and password to login to their Blackboard course(s) without any need to transfer any course content or settings.

If you have any new hires for spring who are still awaiting their employee Account IDs for Blackboard access, please reply back to me or submit using the Blackboard Ask A Question Form the following for each new hire who still needs Blackboard access so we can expedite creation of temporary accounts: first name, last name, contact email, course(s) assigned to teach for spring (include course number and section). Upon receipt we will promptly ensure they receive access to their course(s) and follow-up individually with each to provide them their login details.

First Name Last Name Contact Email Course(s) Teaching for Summer (course number and section)

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Spring 2022

End-of-semester Blackboard Reminders - 5/5/2022

Dear Department Chairs/School Directors:

Please forward this to all your faculty, teaching staff, and TAs who may appreciate some help on wrapping-up the semester teaching with Blackboard.

As the semester draws to a close, there are some final tasks you can take care of in Blackboard, to make your courses end successfully and prepare yourself for the next semester.

Get Help

Staff of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning are available to assist you if you have any questions about calculating final grades or finishing your semester. You can book an individual consultation to meet with one of our team individually, either virtually or over the phone. You can also submit your question via our Ask a Question form for a response via email, or call or text us at 815-753-0595.

We are also holding virtual Office Hours on Tuesday, May 10 from 11 AM to 1 PM for anyone who would like to drop in and ask questions about calculating or submitting grades from Blackboard. Join us at citl.niu.edu/20220510openquestions.

Calculate final grades

If you have been recording grades in the Blackboard Grade Center, you can use it to calculate the final grades for your students. Remember to check that zeros are entered for any missing assignments or tests, so that the calculations are accurate. If you are using a Weighted Total, make sure that your categories are assigned correctly - you can do so quickly in Original Course View by going to Manage > Column Organization. In Ultra Course View, you can edit the columns to view the category or you can search for the category in the grid view of theGradebook.

Automatically assign letter grades in Blackboard

The Blackboard Grade Center uses a default grading schema to assign letters grades, with pluses and minuses. In the Original Course View, you can verify that the schema matches yours, and modify it if necessary, by going to Manage > Grading Schemas. To automatically assign letter grades, edit the Total or Weighted Total column (or create a new Calculated Column), and set Letter as the Primary Display option. You can use a Score or Percentage as a secondary display, which you will be able to see in the same column of the Grade Center. If you would prefer to enter letter grades manually, you can create a new column and set the Primary Display to Text.

In the Ultra Course View, you access the grade schema by clicking the gear icon in the Gradebook. To modify the overall grade, edit that item and assign weights to items or categories.

Send grades from Blackboard to MyNIU

The Grade Submission tool can automatically transfer your grades from Blackboard to MyNIU, so that you don’t need to enter grades in MyNIU using the drop down menus (although you will still need to use MyNIU to enter last attendance dates, approve the grades, and post them). This is particularly useful for large classes or when you have combined multiple Blackboard course sections

In the Original Course View, you need a column of letter grades that is set as the External Grade column (there will be a green checkmark next to the column name). Use the Grade Submission tool in the Control Panel, under Course Tools, to send the grades to MyNIU.

In the Ultra Course View, the Overall Grade is permanently set as the external grade; once you have checked the overall grade calculation for accuracy, you will submit grades by clicking Books & Tools in the Details and Actions panel and selecting Grade Submission Ultra.

The Grade Submission tool is available until an hour before grades are due; after that you may only enter grades manually in MyNIU. Review our page on the Grade Submission tool for more information or check out the Grade Submission Quick Guide for Original Course View or Ultra Course View.

Export the grades for safekeeping

While Blackboard is backed up regularly, it is a good idea to download your Grade Center as an Excel file for you to keep on your office computer. To download grades in the Original Course View, go to the Grade Center and click Work Offline > Download. In the Ultra Course View, click the download icon at the top left of the Gradebook.

Request your course(s) for next semester

Get a head start on developing your upcoming Blackboard courses now! You can request courses up to 100 days prior to the start of thecourse (for fall courses with a start date of August 22, you can request courses starting May 14). You can review how to do it in these tutorials: Request a Course or Request a Master Course (for combining two or more sections). Tip: Check the course availability date carefully when requesting your courses, as this is the date that the course will open to your students. You can select a different date or turn off the auto-availability feature, if you wish.

Once you have requested your course, consider using the Ultra Course View for a more modern look and feel, and request a consultation if you would like one-on-one assistance as you get started. Get a head start on setting up your new course in either Original or Ultra Course View by using one of our course templates, as well. 

Stay up to date on the latest news

Check out the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning blog for the latest news on teaching, workshops and other events, or new tools that become available. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Stephanie Richter, Director of Teaching Excellence and Support
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Invitation to inaugural Fix Your Content Day on Thursday, May 19th - 4/27/2022

Dear Colleague:

I’m sure you are busy with the end of the spring semester quickly approaching, so I’ll keep this email brief. I’m reaching out to personally invite you to save-the-date and consider participating in a one-day virtual event that I’m very excited about and can be transformational for our teaching and learning at NIU – Fix Your Content Day on Thursday, May 19th.

Each year, the global accessibility community unites on the third Thursday of May 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, a 24-hour global event sponsored by Blackboard, with the objective of improving the accessibility of as many digital course files as possible through Blackboard Ally.

On May 19, 2022, the NIU community has 24 hours to make as many digital 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 digital course materials, reducing barriers for students with disabilities and creating a more inclusive environment for all of our students!

While the goal is to do the right thing and support our students, there’s also a competition among institutions to keep us motivated. Using data from Blackboard Ally, there will be a global leaderboard ranking each participating institution by the ratio of files improved to the total number of students. Last year’s overall leader institution made 5,480 total fixes, which was 3.5 fixes per student.

I’m personally setting aside time in my calendar on May 19th to go through my Blackboard courses and make updates to my digital course materials and hope you will consider joining me in doing the same! In conjunction, CITL will also be offering an optional 1-hour virtual session, “Improving Accessibility with Blackboard Ally” during the morning on that day along with open office hours in the afternoon as an opportunity for additional assistance in resolving difficult accessibility issues. You can find complete details and register as a Fix Your Content Day participant at go.niu.edu/fix-your-content-day

Thank you,

Jason Rhode, Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Save the Dates: August 2022 Major Programs for NIU Faculty and Teaching Assistants - 4/20/2022

Deans, Associate Deans, Department Chairs, and School Directors:

With the end of the spring semester rapidly approaching, it’s time again to look ahead to planning for the fall startup programming. We wanted to share the details for our August Teaching Effectiveness programs to assist with your own planning for welcoming new and returning faculty, instructors and teaching assistants for the fall 2022 semester. 

Locations, additional details, and registration information for these programs will be available in the coming weeks and sent via email.

Where possible, please make every effort to avoid scheduling college meetings during these days/times so that faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants can attend.

Teaching Effectiveness Institute
In-person
Speaker: Todd Zakrajsek, Associate Professor of Family Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill, Director of the International Teaching and Learning Cooperative Lilly Conferences on evidence-based teaching and learning and author of The New Science of Learning.
Open to all NIU faculty, instructors, and staff

Thursday, August 11, 2022, 1–4 PM
Understanding and Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum
(helping students, particularly first-generation students, learn to be more effective university students)

Friday, August 12, 2022, 9 AM – 12 PM
Motivating and Engaging Students
(strategies to motivate and inspire students to stay engaged in their learning)

Teaching Assistant Institute
Virtual, mix of synchronous and asynchronous engagement
Open to all graduate teaching assistants

Monday, August 15 – Friday, August 19, 2022, virtual
Synchronous sessions from 9-10:30 AM on 8/15, 8/16, and 8/18 

Thank you,

Jason Rhode, Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Forthcoming announcement on transition to Blackboard Ultra by December 2023 - 3/29/2022

Department Chairs and School Directors,

I’m writing to you to provide advance notice of an announcement that will be sent to all instructors of record and teaching assistants regarding NIU’s timeline for transitioning fully to the Blackboard Ultra Course View.

Blackboard has only provided a guarantee that the Original Course View will be available through the end of 2023. Because of this, and after consulting with faculty and staff on several advisory committees, DoIT and CITL have set December 31, 2023 as the deadline for faculty to transition to the Ultra Course View. We recommend that faculty plan to teach in the Ultra Course View for the Fall 2023 semester.

We are making this announcement now to provide as much advance notice as possible for faculty. This provides over a year and a half for faculty to explore and learn more about the Ultra Course View. While the Ultra Course View began with a core set of essential features, Blackboard has released over 50 additional features in the last three years, and has recently announced accelerated development, with some of the most requested features and some innovative new capabilities being released in the next 3-12 months.

CITL has extensive support available for faculty, including frequent workshops, thorough documentation, tutorials, individualized consultations, ongoing partnerships for course migration, and optional course templates. We will also be announcing a new Blackboard Ultra Transition Academy for faculty, instructors, and teaching staff that starts May 16, 2022. This three-week online course for faculty who are new to the Ultra Course View will include asynchronous content and ongoing consultation with a member of CITL or a faculty member serving as an Ultra Ambassador. Faculty and staff who complete the academy and commit to teaching this fall in the Ultra Course View will receive a $500 stipend. Ultra Ambassadors will also receive a $500 stipend.

I have attached a draft of the message that will be sent to all instructors of record tomorrow. You can also learn more at go.niu.edu/bb-ultra-transition

We know your faculty will be coming to you with questions, so we will be holding two Q&A sessions for department chairs to learn more about the transition timeline and to ask questions. You can register for either session below:

  • Thursday, March 31, 9-10 AM
  • Wednesday, April 6, 3-4 PM

If you can’t attend or have additional questions, feel free to send them to myself or Stephanie Richter (srichter@niu.edu).

Best,

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

New Affordable Textbook Search and Filter in MyNIU - 3/10/2022

Dear Faculty Colleagues: 

Do you teach a course with zero-cost or low-cost course materials? Beginning with the Fall 2020 course schedule, students will be able to search for and filter courses with affordable course materials (defined as required books, textbooks, ebooks, streaming video, CDs, or DVDs) at the time of registration.

To make this functionality possible, the Course Materials Affordability Task Force has recommended the creation of two new course attribute values in MyNIU: one for courses with low-cost textbooks (total course materials cost of $40 or less) and the other for courses with zero textbooks costs. Department schedulers can add these attribute values to any courses in MyNIU that meet the criteria of low or zero-cost textbook courses. More details and answers to frequently asked questions are also available.

To ensure that MyNIU indicates which courses have free or low-cost course materials, please notify your department course scheduler and department chair which of your Fall 2022 courses should be designated as such. And if you choose different course materials in the future that alter whether your course(s) should be designated as using zero-cost or low-cost course materials, please likewise notify your course scheduler and/or department chair of the change to ensure the change is reflected in MyNIU. 

Course schedulers and department chairs are receiving separate communications from Registration and Records on the technical specifics for adding these new course attribute values in MyNIU.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Jason Rhode, Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

Fred Barnhart, Dean
University Libraries

Call for Nominations for Outstanding TA Awards 2021 - 2/4/2022

Department Chairs and School Directors:

This is to announce the Call for Nominations for Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Awards for 2022. You can find the details and submission guidelines at go.niu.edu/outstanding-ta-award and please forward this email to your Director of Graduate Studies.

Each academic or academic support unit that employs graduate TAs for teaching and related activities is invited to nominate two (2) outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants, one at the master’s level and the other at the doctoral level, from its department/school for the awards.

Nominations can be submitted to the department chair/school director or designee. Nominators must complete the nomination form (Word doc) for each nominee and email it with any supporting documents by Friday, March 4, 2022 to citl@niu.edu with the subject line “Nomination for 2022 Outstanding TA Awards”.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Thanks,

Jason Rhode, Executive Director
Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

How to print CITL program attendance report - 1/20/2022

As someone who has registered for at least one program this past year sponsored by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL), formerly Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, you are able to login and print on demand an attendance report of the institutes, workshops, and other programs you’ve attended. If you ever need to generate a listing of the events you’ve attended, perhaps for a service report or award nomination, follow these steps:

  • Go to go.niu.edu/citl-programs
  • Log in with your NIU Account ID and password
  • Click the Print Attendance Report button
  • View/print the list of workshops attended

Steps for how to print an attendance report

For further assistance or answers to questions regarding attendance at Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning events, call 815-753-0595 or email citl@niu.edu.

Tips for Starting the Semester Remotely - 1/11/2022

Department Chairs and School Directors,

Happy New Year. I wanted to make you aware of several new resources that we’ve put together in advance of the spring semester and Provost Ingram will be sharing more broadly with the campus community in forthcoming email communications. I wanted to get these to you as early in meetings week as possible so you might have the chance to review yourself and they might serve as food for thought or spur discussion amongst your faculty about how best to support our students in beginning the semester remotely.

These new resources that offer recommendations for starting the semester remotely include:

Faculty Tips for Starting the Semester Remotely

Student Tips for Starting the Semester Remotely (shortened URL: go.niu.edu/remote-start-tips)

Additionally, we’ve curated some new Student Success Tips and Tools that offer very practical, step-by-step guides for students on topics like: planning your schedule, setting goals, studying, reading, taking notes, being active in class, preparing for class, etc.

You might suggest that your faculty share these student success guides with their students at the beginning of the spring semester and include a link to them (go.niu.edu/student-success-tips) in their syllabus and/or Blackboard course.

If our CITL team can be of any further assistance to you or your faculty as you prepare for the spring semester ahead, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Go Huskies!

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Interaction requirement for your online course - 1/11/2022

Dear Colleague:

As someone who is scheduled to teach an online course during the upcoming spring semester, I wanted to make sure you were aware of an important federal requirement from the U.S. Department of Education of all online courses, that “there is regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors.”

What is “regular and substantive interaction?” You can find a detailed explanation with examples here, but in essence, regular and substantive interaction is:

  1. Initiated by the Instructor - To count as ‘regular and substantive,’ interactions need to be started by you. This doesn’t mean students should be discouraged from contacting you or asking questions – far from it! But you should expect to take an active part in initiating and guiding a range of interactions with your students throughout the semester. This ensures that interactions are not optional and left up to each student’s individual discretion; rather, they are an integral part of your instructional plan for the course.

  2. Frequent and Consistent - Interactions with students should be reasonably frequent and consistently repeated throughout the term. This means that once a course begins, long intervals of time shouldn’t pass between the interactions you initiate with students. The mode of interaction may vary throughout the course, depending on your aims and the needs of your students, but the regular cadence of interactions you establish should remain as consistent as possible. Daily communication isn’t required, but at a minimum you should seek to interact with every student at least once each week and you should log in to the course every 1-2 days.

  3. Focused on the Course Subject - Interactions should be connected to the subject of the course and contribute to the students’ progress toward course, program, and college learning objectives. Routine procedural interactions, such as reminders of upcoming deadlines, aren’t ‘substantive’ on their own; neither are activities like assigning grades, unless they are accompanied by personalized feedback or suggestions for improvement. This doesn’t mean that interactions designed to welcome students or build classroom community aren’t important, merely that they aren’t sufficient by themselves.

Please take a look at the regular and substantive interaction guide on the CITL website at https://www.niu.edu/citl/online/standards-and-principles/regular-and-substantive-interaction.shtml for recommendations for promoting regular and substantive interaction in online courses and consider as you are drafting the syllabus and preparing your online course for the spring semester how you will ensure that your online course is meeting this federal requirement. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me or any of the rest of our CITL team with any questions.

Have great spring semester ahead!

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Fall 2021

Blackboard access for new hires - 12/15/2021

Department Chairs and School Directors:

For new hires that may be awaiting the processing of hiring paperwork and activation of their NIU Account ID necessary to access Blackboard, we continue to have a technical solution in place that allows for new hires to receive access to their Blackboard courses for the upcoming semester using a temporary guest Blackboard ID associated with their personal email address. With this temporary Blackboard guest ID, new hires are able to login to access their spring Blackboard course(s) to develop and begin teaching as needed until their employee NIU Account ID is activated and they've been assigned as instructor of record in MyNIU. They then will be able to transition to using their activated employee ID and password to login to their Blackboard course(s) without any need to transfer any course content or settings.

If you have any new hires for spring who are still awaiting their employee Account IDs for Blackboard access, please reply back to me or submit using the Blackboard Ask A Question Form the following for each new hire who still needs Blackboard access so we can expedite creation of temporary accounts: first name, last name, contact email, course(s) assigned to teach for spring (include course number and section). Upon receipt we will promptly ensure they receive access to their course(s) and follow-up individually with each to provide them their login details.

First Name Last Name Contact Email Course(s) Teaching for Spring (course number and section)

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

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.

alt-format-acc-indicator.jpg

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.

End-of-semester Blackboard Reminders - 12/6/2021

Dear Department Chairs/School Directors:

Please forward this to all your faculty, teaching staff, and TAs who may appreciate some help on wrapping-up the semester teaching with Blackboard.

As the semester draws to a close, there are some final tasks you can take care of in Blackboard, to make your courses end successfully and prepare yourself for the next semester.

Get Help

Staff of the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning are available to assist you if you have any questions about calculating final grades or finishing your semester. You can book an individual consultation to meet with one of our team individually, either virtually or over the phone. You can also submit your question via our Ask a Question form for a response via email, or call or text us at 815-753-0595.

We are also holding virtual Office Hours on Wednesday, December 8 from 11 AM to 1 PM for anyone who would like to drop in and ask questions about calculating or submitting grades. Join us at citl.niu.edu/20211208openquestions.

Calculate final grades

If you have been recording grades in the Blackboard Grade Center, you can use it to calculate the final grades for your students. Remember to check that zeros are entered for any missing assignments or tests, so that the calculations are accurate. If you are using a Weighted Total, make sure that your categories are assigned correctly - you can do so quickly in Original Course View by going to Manage > Column Organization. In Ultra Course View, you can edit the columns to view the category or you can search for the category in the grid view of the Gradebook.

Automatically assign letter grades in Blackboard

The Blackboard Grade Center uses a default grading schema to assign letters grades, with pluses and minuses. In the Original Course View, you can verify that the schema matches yours, and modify it if necessary, by going to Manage > Grading Schemas. To automatically assign letter grades, edit the Total or Weighted Total column (or create a new Calculated Column), and set Letter as the Primary Display option. You can use a Score or Percentage as a secondary display, which you will be able to see in the same column of the Grade Center. If you would prefer to enter letter grades manually, you can create a new column and set the Primary Display to Text.

In the Ultra Course View, you access the grade schema by clicking the gear icon in the Gradebook. To modify the overall grade, edit that item and assign weights to items or categories.

Send grades from Blackboard to MyNIU

The Grade Submission tool can automatically transfer your grades from Blackboard to MyNIU, so that you don’t need to enter grades in MyNIU using the drop down menus (although you will still need to use MyNIU to enter last attendance dates, approve the grades, and post them). This is particularly useful for large classes or when you have combined multiple Blackboard course sections.

In the Original Course View, you need a column of letter grades that is set as the External Grade column (there will be a green checkmark next to the column name). Use the Grade Submission tool in the Control Panel, under Course Tools, to send the grades to MyNIU.

In the Ultra Course View, the Overall Grade is permanently set as the external grade; once you have checked the overall grade calculation for accuracy, you will submit grades by clicking Books & Tools in the Details and Actions panel and selecting Grade Submission Ultra.

The Grade Submission tool is available until an hour before grades are due; after that you may only enter grades manually in MyNIU. Review our page on the Grade Submission tool for more information or check out the Grade Submission Quick Guide for Original Course View or Ultra Course View.

Export the grades for safekeeping

While Blackboard is backed up regularly, it is a good idea to download your Grade Center as an Excel file for you to keep on your office computer. To download grades in the Original Course View, go to the Grade Center and click Work Offline > Download. In the Ultra Course View, click the download icon at the top left of the Gradebook.

Request your course(s) for next semester

Get a head start on developing your upcoming Blackboard courses now! You can request courses up to 100 days prior to the start of the course. You can review how to do it in these tutorials: Request a Course or Request a Master Course (for combining two or more sections). Tip: Check the course availability date carefully when requesting your courses, as this is the date that the course will open to your students. You can select a different date or turn off the auto-availability feature, if you wish.

Once you have requested your course, consider using the Ultra Course View for a more modern look and feel, and request a consultation if you would like one-on-one assistance as you get started. Get a head start on setting up your new course in either Original or Ultra Course View by using one of our course templates, as well.

Stay up to date on the latest news

Check out the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning blog for the latest news on teaching, workshops and other events, or new tools that become available. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Stephanie Richter
Director of Teaching Excellence and Support

upcoming Online Course Design Academy begins January 10, 2022 - 11/29/2021

Department Chairs and School Directors:

Please share with your faculty and instructors who might be developing a new online course or perhaps further developing an emergency remote course to a fully online course for the 2022 summer or fall semesters that the Spring 2022 Online Course Design Academy will be offered in January 2022. More details are provided below.

Dates: Monday, January 10 – Friday, February 4, 2022
Location: Online in Blackboard
Modality: 4-week, Asynchronous. One optional synchronous meeting will be held on Tuesday, January 11, 2022, 12-1pm
Audience: Faculty and instructors developing an online course for the 2022 summer or fall semesters.

Description:
During the four-week online academy, you will learn the practices and principles of effective online course design, including quality standards, and apply them to an online course you will develop. Throughout the academy, you will experience a variety of methods of quality online course delivery firsthand that have been shown to promote student success learning online.

Each participant will be partnered with a staff member from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning through the design and development process.

Registration is now open! For more information or to register, go to citl.niu.edu/ocda or email citl@niu.edu with any questions.

Best,
Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Registration is Open for the Spring 2022 Teaching Assistant Institute – Online Asynchronous, January 10-31, 2022 - 11/19/2021

Department Chairs:

To assist departments in planning efforts as we approach the Spring 2022 semester, I wanted to share the following dates of the Teaching Assistant Institute offered by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning to welcome new graduate teaching assistants.

Usually, we offer the Teaching Assistant Institute in August only, but this academic year, we are also making the Institute available for the spring semester in January. The August event was a week long and featured a mix of live online discussions and pre-recorded videos as well as asynchronous activities. Our Spring 2022 Institute will be completely asynchronous, and open to new TAs and TAs who did not attend TAI this fall. While some of the videos will be required for all TAs participating in the Institute, each TA will also be able to choose from a selection of elective videos based on their experience and role. Topics include cultural competency and inclusive teaching, engaging students, and resources at NIU to support teaching and learning.

The content for our Spring 2022 Teaching Assistant Institute will be the same as it was for Fall 2021, so those who have already received certificates for TAI do not need to participate again. Schedule and registration information are now available on the event webpage.

TAs will need to watch the recordings from the August live sessions, required core videos, and elective asynchronous videos to receive a certificate. We will track attendance for all requirements for departments that require TAs to complete the Institute. The Institute will open on January 10th and registration will be ongoing to accommodate late hires for Spring. TAs seeking a certificate should complete the training requirements by January 31st.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sincerely,

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Special Invitation: Inclusive Teaching for Equitable Learning course from ACUE - 11/4/2021

Dear Department Chairs and School Directors,

As part of our ongoing efforts to support culturally responsive teaching, the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning is now offering faculty (tenured/tenure-track/clinical/instructional) the opportunity to complete the Association of College and University Educators (ACUE) online course in Inclusive Teaching for Equitable Learning (ITEL). The first cohort launched this fall, and participants are deeply engaged.

I would like your help identifying and inviting key faculty and instructors in your departments and schools to participate in ITEL. In the 8-week course, they will collaborate with other NIU faculty as they learn about and implement strategies to make course design more inclusive and develop students’ sense of belonging, appreciation for diverse viewpoints, and ability to engage in productive dialogue.

Course Details for Spring 2022:

  • Starts February 14 and ends April 10 with a week off for spring break
  • Consists of 5 online modules
  • Mostly asynchronous (there is a recommended synchronous discussion at the end of the course)
  • Results in the ACUE microcredential in Inclusive Teaching for Equitable Learning, a digital badge that can be displayed on social profiles, faculty websites, and email signatures
  • Register at citl.niu.edu/acue-itel-faculty-registration

More information is available on the Inclusive Teaching for Equitable Learning web page. Faculty and instructors who are interested but would like more information can also attend an information session on November 10 at 1 PM (sign up for the information session).

Please share this information with faculty and instructors and encourage them to register for the course or sign up for the information session. This is an excellent opportunity in particular for those who teach general education or gateway courses.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at citl@niu.edu

Best,
Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Mid-term Check-in and Reflection - 10/18/2021

Dear Colleague:

It’s hard to believe we’ve already reached the mid-point of our fall semester. The mid-point of any course is a great opportunity to pause and check-in with students on their experience thus far as well as for faculty to reflect on their teaching practices and make adjustments that can further promote student success.

If you’ve not yet taken the chance to reflect on what’s working well and what can be improved in your course(s), let me encourage you to do so at this mid-term time of the semester. I’ve found this to be a refreshing exercise for myself in my teaching as well as can help guide my students in reflecting on their own journey, settings goals for continued success, and providing helpful feedback that can be incorporated into teaching practices for the remainder of the semester.

Student Questions for Reflection and Discussion

The following sample questions for reflection and discussion could be developed into a survey form or perhaps ask student to post in a reflection journal in Blackboard:

  • How has the class met your hopes, dreams, and expectations?
  • What kinds of efforts have you made that have helped you have a positive experience in this course?
  • What might you want to try next to enhance your learning in this course?
  • What are some of the key learnings you’ve gained from the course?
  • What connections with classmates have been significant for you?
  • How has this knowledge changed your understanding of the world and yourself?
  • In what ways can you apply the knowledge you’ve gained to the compelling issues of our day?
  • What steps will you continue taking to ensure your success in this course?
  • What adjustments would you suggest your instructor make for the remainder of this course?

Faculty Questions for Reflection

These questions are among those that you can reflect upon yourself to identify areas of strength as well as opportunities for adjustments in your teaching practices:

  • What types of learning community have you helped created in your course?
  • What steps have you intentionally taken to develop an inclusive teaching and learning environment?
  • How well are you connecting the material to your students’ personal and professional experiences?
  • Are your students gaining a greater appreciation of how your discipline explores the compelling issues of the day?
  • Are your students acquiring the skills to engage in constructive dialogue about the many challenges our world is facing?

As you seek to gain mid-term feedback from your students, if you have any questions about how to setup a survey or journal activity for your students in Blackboard or need additional assistance or support with any aspect of your teaching, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) team at 815-753-0595 or citl@niu.edu

Enjoy your day,

Jason Rhode
Executuve Director

Classroom Technology Support - Additional Workshop Dates - 8/27/2021

Hello!

I hope the first week of the semester went well for you. It was great to see so many students and colleagues back on campus!

Now that you have been in your classrooms and worked with the existing or updated technology, we thought you might have some questions. To help answer them, the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning is holding another set of workshops on Teaching with Classroom Technology. In these sessions, staff from CITL will provide brief demonstrations and answer questions about teaching with classroom technology, including methods for recording or streaming an in-person class.

Sessions are available in a variety of locations across campus. They will also be live-streamed!

Register for an Upcoming Session

  • Monday, August 30, 10-11 AM Graham Hall Room 333
  • Monday, August 30, 2-3 PM, Reavis Hall Room 205
  • Tuesday, August 31, 9-10 AM, LaTourette Hall Room 300
  • Tuesday, August 31, 3-4 PM, Barsema Hall Room 110
  • Wednesday, September 1, 11 AM-Noon, Anderson Hall Room 246 (Interactive Flat Panel - not recommended for anyone teaching in a classroom with a projector)
  • Wednesday, September 1, 2-3 PM, Engineering Building Room 337
  • Thursday, September 2, 9-10 AM, Visual Arts Building Room 100
  • Thursday, September 2, 3-4 PM, Wirtz Hall Room 103B

On-Demand Sessions

If you prefer, we also recorded samples of the sessions from last week that you can watch on-demand.

Request an Individual Consultation

CITL staff are also available for a limited number of individual consultations, in-person or online. To request a consultation about using classroom technology, email us at citl@niu.edu

Go Huskies!

Stephanie Richter
Director of Teaching Excellence and Support

Guide to a Good First Day of Class - 8/24/2021

Dear Colleague,

As we’re in the midst of launching our courses for the fall semester, I wanted to pass along this article in today’s Chronicle of Higher Education entitled, “How to Teach a Good First Day of Class” by our recent Teaching Effectiveness Institute speaker, James Lang, that is filled with great suggestions for getting your class off to a great start. Whether you’ve already held your first class of the semester or you are still preparing to do so, I hope you’ll find the article as insightful and inspiring as I did. 

Go Huskies!

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

New Course Availability Settings Tool in Blackboard - 8/19/2021

The Division of IT has developed a new Course Availability Settings tool in Blackboard that gives you a definitive answer as to whether your Blackboard course is visible to students and allows you to modify all of the course availability settings on one page.

You can access 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

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

Learn more about course availability in Blackboard

Accessible Syllabus and Course Materials for Your Students - 8/18/2021

Dear Colleague:

As I know you’re in the midst of preparing your course(s) for the fall semester, I wanted to quickly touch base with two resources that I thought you might find helpful in ensuring that your syllabus and course materials are fully accessible to all your students.

Tips for Creating Accessible Syllabi

PDF files, the predominant format in which most NIU syllabi are posted online for students, inherently lack accessibility features that are necessary for students with visual disabilities to be able to read with screen reader software. To make a PDF file accessible requires use of Adobe Acrobat Pro and some intricate tagging of the PDF file in order for it to be read correctly by a screen reader.

A simpler and more accessible solution for creating syllabi or other text-based documents that are fully-accessible for all students is to use the built-in accessibility features in Microsoft Word and create a Word document that is formatted using Word styles and tools. The steps to do so are actually quick easy and you can find them described in the guide, Creating an Accessible Syllabus in Word. You can also find additional syllabus development resources and a sample accessible syllabus template in this guide.

Blackboard Ally Pilot

Blackboard Ally is a powerful new tool in Blackboard that can make your courses more accessible to all students. Using machine learning algorithms, Ally scans any files you add to your Blackboard course to generate alternative formats for your students and provides you with feedback about the accessibility of your course materials. Ally will also provide you with guidance on how to improve the accessibility of your files, to help you build lasting skills for creating accessible materials.

Beginning this Fall 2021, anyone who is teaching a course at NIU is eligible to sign up to be part of the initial pilot of Blackboard Ally at NIU. You can be among the first to offer students the flexibility of accessing course materials in the format that best meets their needs. Learn more and sign-up for the Ally pilot today!

Let me or any of my team at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) know if we can be of any further assistance as you prepare for the fall semester ahead.

Go Huskies!

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Teaching Resources to Begin the Semester - 8/16/2021

Dear New Faculty Colleagues:

It was great to see many of you at the New Faculty Welcome earlier today and as promised, I’m following-up with information and links to a few of the resources that will be most helpful to you this week as you prepare to teach your first semester. You can find these and much more at the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) website – citl.niu.edu

New to Teaching at NIU

Find course policies, teaching policies, and teaching-related resources to help you start your teaching career at NIU successfully!
https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/teaching-at-niu.shtml

Syllabus Checklist
Design a course syllabus to best meet your teaching style, course content, activities, and departmental requirements. Consider creating a learner-centered syllabus that targets student learning and success!
https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/syllabus-checklist.shtml

Strategies for Starting the Semester Well
This list of strategies you can use the first day and into the first weeks of the semester that will help you create an engaging, motivating, and organized classroom environment.
https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/starting-the-semester.shtml

Support Units for New Faculty
Many support units are available at NIU to assist new faculty in their teaching, research, scholarship and artistry. This guide provides a quick overview and contact information to the support units that new faculty often connect with for support.
https://www.niu.edu/citl/resources/guides/support-units.shtml

Flexible Teaching Guides
Flexible Teaching is an approach to course design and delivery that helps students learn and succeed in any mode: face-to-face, online, or hybrid. Gain tips for designing courses that can be successful in any mode of delivery.
https://flexteaching.niu.edu

Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Faculty Toolkit
Resources for culturally responsive teaching,  navigating classroom dynamics, and bias in the classroom, and more.
https://www.niu.edu/diversity/resources/toolkit

Learning Technologies at NIU
Catalog of available and institutionally supported software and web tools to promote collaboration, enhance communication, share multimedia, teach online and more.
https://citl.niu.edu/learning-technologies

Tips for Starting the Semester with Blackboard
Answers to 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
https://www.niu.edu/blackboard/guides/tips-for-starting-the-semester.shtml

Blackboard Ultra Course View
Faculty have the option to adopt the Blackboard Ultra Course View which includes 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.
https://www.niu.edu/blackboard/ultra

Classrooms at NIU
Technology upgrades to classrooms are being implemented for fall 2021 that enable lecture-capture, two-way collaboration between faculty/instructor and in-person/remote students, and live-streaming of lectures to remote students.
https://doit.niu.edu/doit/services/desktop/classrooms

Our Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) is here to support you as you teach either in-person, hybrid, or online. If you ever have any questions or need assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally or anyone on our team. You can contact us by phone or text 815-753-0595, email citl@niu.edu or schedule an appointment with a member of our team. We look forward to serving you!

Go Huskies!

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Reminders for Starting the Semester with Blackboard - 8/12/2021

Dear Department Chairs/School Directors:

Please forward this to all your faculty, teaching staff, and TAs who are in charge of their own courses. The tips below will help those who are new to Blackboard get started, but they also highlight some new and exciting features for everyone.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. Open your course with confidence and welcome students 
    We recommend making your course available to students a few days early with a welcome message, to help them anticipate the structure and expectations of the course. Your course may open automatically at the date you specified when you requested your course in Blackboard, or you can open it manually if you did not set a date. This has led to some confusion in the past about whether a course is really "open" or not, but the new Course Availability Settings tool, custom-built by the Division of IT, will tell you definitively whether your course is open and let you modify any of the availability settings, including the start date of the course.

  5. 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. 

  6. 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.

  7. Join the Blackboard Ally pilot
    Blackboard Ally is a powerful tool that can make your courses more accessible to all students through principles of universal design for learning. Using machine learning algorithms, Ally scans any files you add to your Blackboard course to generate alternative, accessible formats for your students with no work or effort on your part. Ally also provides you with feedback (only visible to you) about the accessibility of your materials and guidance on how to improve the accessibility of your files, to help you build lasting skills for creating accessible materials. This fall, anyone who is teaching a course, including all NIU faculty, instructors, staff, and teaching assistants, are eligible to sign up to be part of the initial pilot of Blackboard Ally at NIU. Learn more about Blackboard Ally and consider joining the pilot!

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 citl.niu.edu/selfpacedbb1

The Teaching and Learning 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.

Sincerely,

Stephanie Richter
Director of Teaching Excellence and Support

Classroom Technology Training and Support for Fall - 8/4/2021

Department Chairs and School Directors:

As we prepare for a return to in-classroom teaching, we are planning a variety of workshops and services to help your faculty, teaching staff, and teaching assistants be successful with classroom technology this fall. While we’re still finalizing the details, I wanted to pass along to you the preliminary information we have available at this time. We’ll be emailing faculty in the coming days with more details and registration information as soon as we have locations confirmed with DoIT.

Workshops

We are offering fully online workshops about how to teach to a hybrid classroom as well as in-person hands-on workshops (which will also be live-streamed) on how to use the available classroom technology.

Strategies for Managing a Hybrid Classroom

Online

In this workshop, we will discuss strategies to manage a hybrid classroom in which students are in-person and remote, and introduce the technologies to support their learning.

  • Thursday, August 12, 9-10 AM
  • Friday, August 20, 1-2 PM

Livestreaming with Classroom Technology

In-person and live-streamed for online participation

In these sessions, staff from the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning (CITL) will provide brief demonstrations and answer questions about using the new technology for lecture capture, one-way streaming, and two-way streaming. Sessions will be available in a variety of locations across campus. Because equipment will vary based on the classroom you are assigned, we recommend selecting a session that uses the same base technology (instructor computer and projector vs. an Interactive Flat Panel) and camera (Meeting Owl vs. PTZ) as your assigned classroom.

Session locations and equipment are still being determined, but the times are as follows:

  • Wednesday, August 18, 9 - 10 AM, 11 AM - noon, and 1 - 2 PM
  • Thursday, August 19, 9 - 10 AM, 11 AM - noon, and 1 - 2 PM
  • Friday, August 20, 9 - 10 AM and 11 AM – noon

Consultations

CITL staff are also available for a limited number of individual consultations, in-person or online. To request a consultation about using classroom technology, email us at citl@niu.edu.

Enjoy your day,

Jason Rhode
Executive Director

Contact Us

Center for Innovative
Teaching and Learning

Phone: 815-753-0595
Email: citl@niu.edu

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