Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

We have compiled some frequently asked questions to help you get started. Do you have a question that isn't answered below? Reach out to us for help!

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Accessibility

How do I create digital files that are accessible for my student with disabilities?
All digital files used for a course should be accessible to all students, regardless of disability. NIU has guidance on how to create accessible Word documents. Scanned PDFs are not accessible if the page is an image of the original document; verify whether you can select the text on the page and try copying the text into a Word document to see if it makes sense. If you use images or graphs, be sure to add descriptive alt text so that the student using a screenreader knows what the image contains.
I have a student who requires CART services in my face-to-face course and will likely also require services when I hold a virtual class session. Does Blackboard Collaborate have features that will accommodate this?
If you have any students in your course who have an accommodation identified with the Disability Resource Center (DRC), be sure to work with the DRC to ensure that the students' needs are met when you teach the course remotely. The DRC can help you to use the Blackboard Collaborate captioner feature and provide you with a captioner from the DRC.
Should I do anything differently for students who have Disability Resource Center accommodations?
If you have any students in your course who have an accommodation identified with the Disability Resource Center (DRC), be sure to work with the DRC to ensure that the students' needs are met when you teach the course remotely. Any media that has audio should be captioned (or transcribed if there is no visual content). Some tools, such as VoiceThread or YouTube, will create automatic captions for you. Automatic captions are a helpful shortcut but they are not accurate enough to be used as-is. You should always review and edit any automatic captions to provide accurate and complete captions for media that you create. Consider whether media is captioned when you are choosing to use media created by someone else, such as a video on YouTube or a resource provided by your textbook publisher.

Assessments

How can I collect assignments in Blackboard?

Blackboard Assignment - Create assignments in Blackboard so students can turn work in electronically. The assignments can be graded from anywhere you can access Blackboard, and you can provide feedback by commenting directly within any Word or PowerPoint file using Inline Grading. Consider using SafeAssign to avoid plagiarism and promote academic integrity. Blackboard Interactive Rubrics take a little time to set up, but can make grading faster. If students are completing work better suited to hand writing on paper as opposed to typing, ask them to scan or take a photograph of their work and submit the file.

Content

I need to create recorded lectures or video instead of meeting live. How do I do that? What type of equipment will I need?

You can create recorded lectures or videos quickly using a variety of tools. Just as you would break a lecture into multiple sections with interaction and activities when meeting face-to-face, we recommend breaking recorded content into short segments of 5-10 minutes in length as opposed to recording long lectures.

The easiest way to do this quickly is to use VoiceThread. You can upload PowerPoint slides or other documents and media then add audio narration. Students can respond and discuss the content via text or audio. VoiceThread is integrated into Blackboard for quick access to create and post materials. Equipment: You will need a computer and either a microphone or telephone to record audio.

I may need to find alternative content instead of creating new instructional materials. Where can I find articles, websites, videos or other resources I may need to provide my students?

The University Libraries can assist you in finding and providing access to ebooks, articles, steaming videos, and other content for your course. View the library’s guide for continuity of library services and resources for more information.

My students need to do research for course assignments. How can they get library instruction and/or research assistance?

University Libraries can provide research instruction and support through remote formats.

  • Library tutorials – Short, YouTube videos about how to navigate library resources.
  • Online Library Orientation Blackboard Module – Includes four, self-paces modules of tutorials and/or readings on basic library skills and a short quiz. For additional information, contact Larissa Garcia (larissagarica@niu.edu).
  • Ask a Librarian Reference Services - Chat, Text (815-782-0396), or use the Ask A Librarian Submission Form
  • Contact the Subject Specialist – Post contact information for your subject specialist librarian so students can contact them directly for assistance.

Discussions

I use in-class discussions in my courses. How can I continue to hold student discussions when I can’t meet face-to-face with them?

If your face-to-face course includes student discussions, you can still hold those discussions online. While you may be most familiar with the traditional Discussion Board in Blackboard, there are a few alternatives that you can use for more dynamic and interactive discussions.

You can use Blackboard Collaborate for live discussions or debates. Because Blackboard Collaborate has integrated telephony and mobile access, it is really easy for students to participate in a session via audio and engage in a lively discussion. Equipment: There are a lot of options. You can use a computer with a microphone (preferably a headset with microphone for best results), a computer and a telephone to dial in, or a smartphone or tablet. Wi-Fi is usually recommended over cellular data for anyone using a smartphone or tablet, due to the high bandwidth required.

You can hold asynchronous discussions using VoiceThread. You can post slides with narration, video, or other documents and media, and ask students to answer specific questions or submit comments. Students can use a computer and microphone or a telephone to record their responses, or they can reply via written text. VoiceThread is integrated with Blackboard for convenient grading of student participation.

Online Courses

My course is fully online. Does it meet during the week of March 16 - 20?
For students currently enrolled in online courses, including 16-week and 8-week online courses that start in the second half of the semester, we are asking our faculty and instructors to communicate to their students about what is expected in terms of student participation and coursework for the week of March 16-22.

Synchronous Class Sessions

My course is scheduled at specific days and times each week. If I can’t meet with my students face-to-face, is there a way I can meet with them virtually?
Yes! You can hold class sessions virtually using a web conferencing tool. Blackboard Collaborate allows you and your students to communicate with two-way audio, multiple webcam video feeds, PowerPoint slides, and application sharing. Students can participate in Blackboard Collaborate sessions on their mobile device in the recommended browsers or the Blackboard app.
How do I conduct my office hours if I can’t meet face-to-face with my students? What type of technology would be needed?

Yes, you and your students could meet at a distance. The simplest solution may be to arrange a phone call. You could also use at web-conferencing tool like Blackboard Collaborate or Microsoft Teams. For equipment. you can use a computer with a microphone (preferably a headset with microphone for best results), a computer and a telephone to dial in, or a smartphone or tablet. Wi-Fi is usually recommended over cellular data for anyone using a smartphone or tablet, due to the high bandwidth required. 

Supporting Quarantined Students

I have a student who is quarantined, can they submit their upcoming assignments in Blackboard?
You can allow one, two or all of students to submit their assignments in Blackboard. Create assignments in Blackboard so students can turn work in electronically. The assignments can be graded from anywhere you can access Blackboard, and you can provide feedback by commenting directly within any Word or PowerPoint file using Inline Grading. Consider using SafeAssign to avoid plagiarism and promote academic integrity. Blackboard Interactive Rubrics take a little time to set up but can make grading faster. If students are completing work better suited to handwriting on paper as opposed to typing, ask them to scan or take a photograph of their work and submit the file. Students who are unable to come to campus can access and submit their work using Blackboard. The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center can show you how to set up setting to fit your situation.
I have an attendance policy that my students must adhere to. If one or more of my students are required to self-quarantine, how do I mark their absences?
It might be a good time to temporarily forego your attendance policy. You may want to create activities for your students to complete in Blackboard to keep them engaged. The Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center is available to help you create online engagement activities for your students, such as course discussions or VoiceThreads.
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