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OFDIT Newsletter February 2021

February 2021

Dear CUNY SPS Faculty,

We hope that the Spring semester is off to a great start for you and your students!

In this month’s newsletter, we invite you to join our Accessibility & UDL Workshop in April, share information about the new CUNY IT Help Customer Service Portal, and list the dates and times for our upcoming training sessions.


Live Virtual Training Sessions

This semester we will offer the following live virtual training sessions:

  • Student Engagement in Online Learning
  • VoiceThread for SPS Faculty
  • VoiceThread: The New Assignment
  • Screencast-o-matic Pro: Level 1
  • Introducing SnagIt – Screen Capture from Simple to Advanced
  • Ensemble Video: an Information Session
  • A Cut Above: Making Your Videos More Professional
  • Zoom Meetings for Student Hours
  • Blackboard on a Mobile Device
  • Setting up the Grade Center in Blackboard
  • Grade Center in Blackboard: Beyond the Basics

See below for details. All times are Eastern Standard.


Accessibility & UDL Workshop (April 5th – April 18th, 2021)

This two-week, online workshop provides an in-depth introduction to accessibility and Universal Design in Learning (UDL) for online and hybrid education. Participants will review the principles of UDL, learn about best accessibility practices in Blackboard, and get hands-on practice creating accessible documents and multimedia. In applying the skills acquired in this workshop to course design and your teaching, you will create an online experience that is welcoming to all learners, including those with disabilities. Please join us!

This online, facilitated workshop will be offered from April 5th-18th, 2021. Please register here.


CUNY IT Help Customer Service Portal

CUNY IT Help is now live and contains over 1500 articles in an easily searchable repository of essential how-to instructions, FAQs, policies, forms, and reference material for CUNY-wide applications and services. Some topics of interest to CUNY SPS faculty may include:

  • Accessibility
  • Dropbox
  • CUNYfirst
  • Zoom

CUNY IT Help is managed by the Central Office. To provide feedback, please email: ITHelpFeedback@cuny.edu.


Spring 2021 Trainings

Student Engagement in Online Learning

Join us for a discussion of best practices for generating and sustaining student engagement in the virtual classroom. This training will review approaches to enhance student engagement and instructor feedback in online courses, including different ways to present content and provide feedback, activities to promote student interaction, active learning approaches, and connecting your course content to the real world. You’ll have an opportunity to discuss challenges and successes you’ve experienced and share strategies with colleagues.

VoiceThread for SPS Faculty

This training will introduce VoiceThread, a collaborative, multimedia program that allows faculty (or students) to upload various media like slides, images, or video and engage the class in an enhanced discussion. You and your students can add commentary by means of microphone, webcam, keyboard, or phone. In this session, SPS faculty will learn how to create a VoiceThread and how to integrate it into their Blackboard course.

VoiceThread: The New Assignment

In this workshop, you will learn how to turn new assignments on for your courses and begin using them with your students. We will review all of the workflows, new features, and options for your VoiceThread assessments. This session is facilitated by VoiceThread. For more free workshops see the VoiceThread tutorial site.

Screencast-o-matic Pro: Level 1

This session will cover the basics of how to create and edit audio/video screencasts for your course using Screencast-o-matic Pro, an online tool offered by SPS. The session will demonstrate a production workflow including set up, recording, and post-production (editing). Finally, we will discuss options for captioning and sharing your newly created video.

Introducing SnagIt – Screen Capture from Simple to Advanced

Join us for an overview of the latest tool available to all current CUNY faculty. TechSmith’s Snagit is a powerful screen capture program with a wide array of options to create, edit and annotate screen captures. It has robust features that include panoramic and vertical scrolling and the ability to blur personal or unneeded information. Several publishing methods make it easy to send professional looking screen captures in a few clicks. If you are currently teaching at SPS you can contact the SPS Help Desk to claim your SnagIt license.

Ensemble Video: an Information Session

SPS instructors have access to a robust video hosting platform called Ensemble Video. Think of Ensemble as an SPS-owned platform like YouTube, but designed with education rather than social media in mind. When compared to YouTube, Ensemble Video has several advantages for faculty in terms of streamlining, securing, and engaging students with video. In this session, we will introduce the tool’s most salient features, including student viewing data, the Blackboard integration, and streamlined professional captioning. Auto-publishing, in-video quizzes, and student video submissions will also be discussed. You can learn more here: Ensemble Video for SPS Faculty

A Cut Above: Making Your Videos More Professional

Learn simple steps to create engaging media for your class. Many of us are finding ourselves in front of a camera for synchronous virtual meetings or recording content for our online courses. Having your students see and hear you can create a sense of connection, build rapport and spark excitement for learning through seeing your passion for the discipline. No matter if you’re trying this for the first time or have been creating media for a while, this session we’ll give you tools to make your videos look more professional.

Zoom Meetings for Student Hours

All CUNY faculty are now able to claim a Zoom account. Similar to Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom is a synchronous virtual meeting space that offers features unavailable in Collaborate. You may choose to conduct your Student Hours in Zoom not just for the audio and video communication, interactive whiteboard and desktop sharing, but for additional features found in Zoom, like a waiting room, enhanced video and annotation tools. This training will present a Zoom workflow for Student Hours/Office Hours and discuss general best practices for conducting student hours virtually.

Blackboard on a Mobile Device

Over half of participants in SPS’ New Student Orientation plan to use mobile devices as a part of their online learning experience – will your online courses transfer well into this interface? In this session, we will explore the Blackboard Mobile application and gain an understanding of how students experience learning on the go. We will also discuss the major interface differences between Blackboard Mobile and Blackboard for Desktops and best practices for online course design for mobile devices.

Setting up the Grade Center in Blackboard

In this session, you will learn the basics of how to set up your Grade Center. We will cover the different parts of the grade center, the grade center icons, and how to ensure that your assignments are listed and properly categorized for computing students’ final scores, whether you choose to use Total Points or a Weighted Total.

Grade Center in Blackboard: Beyond the Basics

We will cover how to manage your Grade Center including helpful tools such as color coding, the column organization view, and Smart Views. We will also cover useful tips and tricks which can increase the efficiency and ease of use of your Grade Center.


We would love to see you at one or many of our trainings and workshops! We are also available for one-on-one support and would be happy to schedule a Zoom call to discuss any questions you may have. You can contact us at facultysupport@sps.cuny.edu.

All the best for a successful spring semester,

Your OFDIT Team