Spring 2012

Image of two heads

Helping Your Students to be Good Communicators

How you teach and how you act in your classroom can have a profound impact on your students, especially in the way they communicate. By observing, practicing and adapting specific strategies, students can more efficiently communicate with you and their peers, both in and out of the classroom.


The words Digital Handwriting written with an iPad and stylus

Digital Handwriting

Red ink in the margin used to be the standard for providing feedback on assignments. Hand-drawn diagrams helped explain complex information and detailed processes. Scientific and mathematical equations could be easily written by hand. As education became more digital, it became harder to manage these simple tasks with the tools that were available. Digital pens, previously in the realm of graphic designers and digital artists, have now become more accessible for daily use. These tools can be used like a pen to sketch or write, but the products are digital, so they can be easily duplicated, shared, or posted for students to access.


Accessibility Icons

New Resource for Enhancing Accessible Online Instruction

While faculty may be spending more time contemplating the design of their online course offerings, an equally important consideration is ensuring accessibility of their content to students. Just as faculty differ in their level of experience, competence, and comfort in the area of online instruction, they may also differ in recognizing the need to ensure their course content is accessible to students with a wide range of abilities and disabilities. Proactively addressing accessibility issues can support student engagement, encourage quality collaboration, and promote a greater sense of inclusivity and community among students in online courses.


Cloud Storage

Cloud Storage: Making File Access and Management Easy

As we rely more on computers and mobile devices in our day-to-day lives both at home and work, easy access to information and files that we have been working on has never been more important. Carrying files on a USB drive and moving them from a laptop to a computer or vice versa to make sure we are working with the latest version of the file can be cumbersome. USB drives get lost; sometimes they fail, and sometimes we simply forget them at home. Additionally, constantly deleting files and replacing them with the newer versions or emailing files to ourselves just so that we could have access to them from home, work or classroom can be a chore. Now it is easy to access the same file from your home computer, a laptop or a mobile device, such as an Apple iPad or a Samsung Galaxy Tab, using one of the cloud computing file storage and sharing services available on the market today.



Text Messaging with Students While Maintaining Privacy

Short Message Service (SMS), commonly referred to as text messaging, is among one of the most widely available forms of electronic communication today, available for use by any mobile phone user. Faculty and those who work with students likely will want to take advantage of this common communication platform, but valid concerns exist concerning how to do so in a manner that protects the privacy of both the students and the faculty or staff member. Generally, when texting someone else, you must have that individual’s mobile phone number. Yet, there are available free solutions that can be used to send and receive text messages without giving out one’s personal mobile number.


Blackboard 9.1 Service Pack 8

Coming Soon: A Look at What’s Next for Blackboard

The dust has settled on May 2011 Blackboard upgrade, a major event which took us from Blackboard Version 8.0 to Blackboard Learn, Version 9.1 (Next Generation), and feedback surrounding this current version of Blackboard has been overwhelmingly positive. Both students and faculty report an overall improved user experience. Having acclimated ourselves well to Blackboard Learn, there are new changes on the horizon to Blackboard’s interface, features, and overall functionality. These changes will be ushered in when NIU upgrades to Blackboard Learn, Version 9.1, Service Pack 8 (SP8) later this year.



"Copy and Paste from Word" Feature is Now Available to All Blackboard Users

The "Paste from Word" feature has recently been added to Blackboard and allows users to seamlessly copy and paste written content from Word into Blackboard. This feature will maintain all of Word’s formatting and transfer the formatting into Blackboard.


Graduate Teaching Certificate

Graduate Teaching Certificate

The Graduate Teaching Certificate recognizes the participation of graduate teaching assistants (GA/RA/TAs) in the development programs offered by the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center. The certificate acknowledges these individuals’ commitment to effective teaching and can enhance their academic credentials.



TA Connections is a newsletter for teaching assistants published every fall and spring semester by Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center, Adams Hall 319, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois 60115. Phone: (815) 753-0595, Email: facdev@niu.edu, Fax: (815) 753-2595, Web site: www.niu.edu/facdev. For more information about featured articles or upcoming faculty development programs, please contact the Center at (815) 753-0595 or facdev@niu.edu

Last Updated: 10/01/2015

Contact Us

Faculty Development and
Instructional Design Center

Adams Hall, Room 319

Connect with us on