OFDIT Newsletter August 2021

The below newsletter was originally sent out in August 2021 and was not posted to the blog at that time.

August 2021

Dear CUNY SPS Faculty,

We hope you are all enjoying these dog days of summer! The back-to-school sales have been on for a couple weeks now, and with the new semester quickly approaching, we wanted to welcome you back with another edition of our newsletter.

In this edition, we share two quick tips about our course site checklist and column organization view. We also share updates on VoiceThread Universal, our new multimedia site, and OER@SPS.

Lastly, we would love to hear any pedagogical ideas you have used in past semesters or plan to use in your classes in the upcoming semester. Please submit your ideas via the Faculty Corner Submission Form below.

Again, welcome back and thank you for reading! We look forward to working with you throughout the Fall semester.

Quick Tip: Course Site Checklist for Faculty

Our Course Site Checklist for Faculty can be helpful when preparing your online course for the new semester. In this checklist, you will find a list of all the elements that need to be updated in a live course site for an upcoming semester, such as:

  • Your welcome announcement
  • Instructor card
  • Syllabus/Course Schedule
  • Due Dates
  • Etc.

You will also find useful SPS quick guides from our OFDIT team as well as links to Blackboard Help pages.

Quick Tip: Column Organization View

When preparing your Fall semester site, we highly recommend that you perform a Grade Center check for accuracy. One way to do this is to compare the grading breakdown in your syllabus and Grade Center. Your students will consult your syllabus for information on how they will be graded in your course so you’ll want to be sure that these two match!

An easy way to perform this check is to use the Column Organization View. This can be found at the top of your Full Grade Center.

Using the Column Organization View, the grade center will appear in list form, making it easy to see all your assessments without need to endlessly scroll to the side. Here, you can check categories (this is important if using Weighted Grading), due dates, and points possible (if using Total Points). You can also make changes to your grade center, such as changing assessment categories, re-ordering columns, and hiding assessments from yourself as the instructor. Please note that to hide assessments from students in My Grades, you have to hide it from the regular Grade Center view (not the Column Organization View) by clicking on the drop-down chevron at the top of the grade center column title and selecting “Hide from students (on/off)”.

VoiceThread Update – New Accessibility Features

Many CUNY SPS faculty use VoiceThread, an asynchronous, online voice and video discussion board that simulates a live conversation. Using such a visual medium for learning may limit the accessibility for some students. VoiceThread allows users to switch to VoiceThread Universal, an accessible version of the tool. It’s designed to allow those that use screen readers full access.  A screen reading app will detect VoiceThread Universal and students can set it as their default view.  Voicethread has recently updated the Universal site to include these features:

  • Sharing a VoiceThread
  • Threaded commenting
  • Private replies
  • Changing playback speed
  • Comment moderation
  • Editing text comments
  • New comment notifications

Accessing live links on slides


All users may access VT Universal here: https://cunysps.voicethread.com/universal/

Here are the full details on VoiceThread Universal and its accessibility features.

New Multimedia Section on SPS Faculty Commons

OFDIT maintains the SPS Faculty Commons site to serve as a resource for CUNY SPS faculty by announcing trainings and workshops, offering accessibility resources, as well as publishing technology guides and tutorials. We are pleased to announce the addition of a new section on Multimedia!

The Multimedia section contains help and support for faculty looking to create video, use various multimedia tools, and integrate media into Blackboard.  Pages have been created to outline a process for planning, producing, and publishing video as well as support for captioning video and adding it to Blackboard. If you have a question about your next media project, please visit the SPS Faculty Commons site.



Open Educational Resources and Open Pedagogy

CUNY SPS continues to embrace the open educational resources and open pedagogy movements. To date, conversions of courses from traditional materials to Zero-Textbook-Cost have saved our students 1.4 million dollars! We will continue to support faculty interested in converting their courses to ZTC with the OER Workshop. If you are interested in OER and open educational practices, we will also be offering a variety of discussions and training workshops on open pedagogy and active learning through open practices and use of open platforms throughout this coming year. Keep your eyes on this spot, or the OER@SPS page of the SPS Faculty Community Site for updates!

Call out for Faculty Corner

If you have a useful or interesting pedagogical tip (in 200 words or less!) that you are excited about, we would love to hear from you and add your submission to our next Faculty Newsletter! Please use our Faculty Corner Submission Form to submit your pitch.



Thank you for reading! As always, please contact us at facultysupport@sps.cuny.edu with any questions or support requests. See you at one of our upcoming events, or for our next newsletter in September!

Your OFDIT Team