Finishing Up the Semester and Preparing for Summer

The semester is winding down and soon, final grades will need to be submitted through CUNYFirst. If you’re new to this process, or just need a reminder, see our video tutorial on entering grades in CUNYFirst:

While we’re on the subject, maybe you’d like a some help calculating final grades? You don’t even have to ask your friend who’s good at Excel. The Grade Center in Blackboard makes this easy and accurate. If you use “weighted total” (ie. if your grading scheme is set up so exams are 20% of the overall grade, discussions are worth 30%, etc.) then check out our quick guide on using weighted total to calculate final grades. If your course is set up to simply add points for an overall final grade, check out our quick guide for using total points. Whichever your preference, we’ve got you covered!

If you’ll be teaching this summer, or would like an early start with your fall course site, consider attending one of our remaining “Preparing Your Dev Site for Course Copy” trainings. See our website for dates and times and sing up here using our registration form.

In these trainings we’ll also introduce Date Management, a useful Blackboard tool which allows you to easily adjust due dates and availability dates in your course site when moving from one semester to the next. Find out more about this tool on our Date Management resource site.

Don’t forget that we’re here for you on the weekend as well! Faculty support is available from 2pm-4pm every Sunday for any questions you have. You can meet us online through GoToMeeting during that time, or email us at facultysupport@sps.cuny.edu.

Write us at facultysupport@sps.cuny.edu with any questions you have and to get in touch about one-on-one training sessions. We always look forward to working with you!

Antonia, Krystyna, and Anick

Join Us for Faculty Trainings in April & May

Happy Spring! Warmer weather is on its way and so is our spring training series.

For April and May, we will continue to offer sessions on Turnitin and making engaging videos for your course. But wait, there’s more…

As the semester’s end begins to sneak up on you, we’re here to help! Before you know it, it will be time to enter grades into CUNYFirst for your spring courses. Get your Grade Center ready to go; calculating final grades will be easier and faster, without compromising accuracy, when you format the Grade Center to do the calculating for you. Attend a session of our upcoming trainings on “Optimizing Your Grade Center to Calculate Final Grades” to learn how to make Grade Center work for you, whether you use weighted totals or total points. 

We’ve also got summer faculty covered. Dev sites will soon need to be updated for course copy and we’ll have sessions devoted to how it’s done. Fall faculty who’d like to get started on this can also attend one of our sessions to get a sense of what this will entail. “Preparing Your Dev Site for Course Copy” training sessions will begin in May and you can sign up here to secure your spot.

See the whole schedule of trainings for April/May here and sign up using this form!

We are looking forward to working with you,
Anick & Antonia

Navigating Discussion Threads on Blackboard

After the latest Blackboard upgrade in December 2016, a new (old) feature has been re-introduced to your course sites: arrow buttons for navigating threads on the Discussion Board.

You’ll find these buttons in the top right corner of each thread page. If you use individual threads for each student in your weekly discussions, you might find these buttons particularly helpful for navigating from thread to thread, or to jump to the first / last thread with one easy click.

Happy navigating!

A few spots left: SafeAssign & Turnitin Workshop

Don’t miss out on our brand-new workshop “SafeAssign and TurnItIn: Which Is Best For My Course?” from March 27-30, 2017.

We only have a few spots remaining, so if you are interested sign up today! Registration closes tomorrow, March 21 at 5pm.

This asynchronous workshop is designed to inform faculty on which plagiarism tool offered in CUNY Blackboard may be best suited for their course and the subject area they teach.  

In the workshop, participants will:

  • Gain first-hand experience in designing and grading assignments using both SafeAssign and TurnItIn.
  • Become familiar with the databases queried and the plagiarism reports for both SafeAssign and TurnItIn.
  • Reflect on past teaching approaches and begin to devise likely strategies for effective assignments and assessments using both SafeAssign and TurnItIn.
  • Share ideas concerning how best to use the capacities of both SafeAssign and TurnItIn to enhance student learning.

Please use this form to sign up for the workshop. We will send out confirmation of your registration and a more detailed schedule by Thursday this week.

Looking forward to working with you!
Antonia & Sylvie

Replacing the Banner in Your Spring 2017 Course Site

As the Spring semester begins, you may be have heard from students that your course banner is not displaying. It’s true – unfortunately, due to a glitch in the Blackboard upgrade that occurred over winter break, most course banners are not displaying to students and need to be re-uploaded. It’s important that you re-upload your banner even if it displays normally to you, because it may still not be appearing to your students.

There are instructions on how to replace your banner below, but you can also watch this short video tutorial covering the same information.

The first thing you need to do is get the image file for your banner. If it is saved to your computer, you’re all set and can jump to the instructions below. If not, you can download your banner file either from your Spring 2017 site (if it is visible to you there), your Dev site, or a previous live (semester) site.

To download the banner file, go to the Announcements page. Right click on the banner image, select “Save Image As” and save the image file to your computer.

To re-upload the banner to your Spring 2017 site, scroll down to the “Control Panel” on the course menu. Click on “Customization,” and then on “Teaching Style.” Scroll down to the “Select Banner” section. Tick the box that appears next to “Delete this banner” and click on “Browse My Computer.” Select the file for your banner and click “open” in the pop-up window. Then click on “Submit” to save the banner file in your course site.

Please get in touch if you have any questions about this issue, or the steps described above.

Have a great start of the semester!
Antonia & Krystyna

Making New Semester Prep Easy With Date Management

One of the most important bits of bookkeeping we all have to do before the beginning of a new semester is to update all of the due dates, availability dates, and adaptive release dates in our Blackboard courses. Fortunately, Blackboard has a tool expressly for this purpose — Date Management.

date managementTo access the Date Management tool in your course site, scroll down to the Control Panel underneath your course menu, click on Course Tools, and then Date Management. Here, you will have the option to change all the due dates and availability dates in your course based on either the semester start date, or by a fixed number of days.

First, you might want to see a list all the dates in your course for review on one screen, which you can also do from this page. This is a great option particularly if you are inheriting an existing course because you can see which announcements, assignments, tests, or folders have dates associated with them and whether these are due dates, availability dates, or adaptive release dates.

To return to the options on the initial screen, click “Run Date Management Again” in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Here,  you can now shift all the dates in your course based on the semester start date or by a fixed number of days. This might require a little arithmetic. For example, Fall 2016 began on a Thursday but Spring 2017 classes begin on a Monday. You can adjust all of the dates in your Spring 2017 live site at once using the course start date, but might have to adjust some dates back or ahead to have due dates for assignments follow the day/week system most instructors use at SPS (ex., Test 1 due Sunday of Week 1, Test 2 due Sunday of Week 2, and so on.)

Luckily the Date Management Tool has the flexibility to let you adjust each date individually, to select a group of items to adjust by the same amount, or to adjust all dates in the course at once.

To learn more about this tool, see Blackboard’s Help page on using Date Management and there are a number of videos on YouTube that explain it quite well, including this very short video from the Center for Innovation & Technology at Northern Kentucky University and this recording of a webinar on Date Management from the University of Miami.

We hope this tool will lighten some of the pre-semester work in your course sites. Please email us if you have any questions about Date Management, or any other Blackboard tool while preparing your course sites for the upcoming semester.

Looking forward to working with you,
Antonia & Krystyna

Happy New Year with SPS Faculty Trainings


cup-coffe-laptop-
Happy New Year to SPS faculty from all of us at OFDIT!

We’d like to invite you to spend part of your winter break with us — brushing up your technology skills, preparing your courses for the spring, and learning about new multimedia tools for teaching and learning.

We just announced our trainings for this month, including sessions on how to create engaging course videos or interactive VoiceThread discussions for your students.

date managementIn “Getting Ready for Spring: Preparing Your Dev Site for Course Copy,” we will walk you through the steps of how to get your course ready for a seamless course copy. As part of this training, we will also introduce Blackboard’s Date Management tool which can greatly speed up one of the most time consuming steps in preparing a course for the next semester. The tool allows to change all due or availability dates for items like assignments, tests, and discussion boards in your course at once either by setting the start date of the semester or by changing all the dates at once by a certain number of days. Join us for one of the trainings by registering here.

collaborate ultraCUNY Blackboard’s upgrade in December also included a new version of Blackboard Collaborate, a tool to set up real-time online sessions with your students. Now called Collaborate Ultra, the upgraded version offers all the same functionality but in a sleeker, more intuitive interface. For example, users can now focus on the action in the session by tucking unnecessary features away into hidden menus. Also, it now uses less bandwidth, which will mean fewer disruptions and technical problems for you and your students. Register for one of our Collaborate Ultra trainings this month where we will introduce the streamlined tool, go over the basic features of Collaborate Ultra as well as the steps to create your own session.

 

See all the trainings scheduled for this month and links to register on our Training Site.

We are looking forward to working with you!
Antonia & Krystyna

Retiring Learning Object Tools in CUNY Blackboard

Icons of Campus Pack tools in BlackboardAs you may have heard, CUNY will retire Learning Objects tools — i.e. Campus Pack blogs, wikis, journals, and podcasts — in Blackboard at the end of the Fall 2016 semester. If you have been using these tools, which have characteristic orange icons, you’ll want to save copies of student-created content for your records and recreate course activities using Blackboard-native tools.

We have created a short video tutorial that shows how to do this plus how to create Blackboard blogs and wikis in your course site to replace the ones that will be retired.

Here are the basic steps for saving your Campus Pack (CP) content:

  1. Go to your Blackboard course site.
  2. Navigate to the Campus Pack blog, wiki, or journal assignment.
  3. Click View.
  4. Click “Export”, or “Export Site” (in CP blogs and wikis, on the bottom-right of the menu; in CP journals at the top of the screen with the other menu options).
  5. Save the .zip file to your computer.

This process creates a compressed folder with an .html file for each page of the site (whether journal, blog, or wiki), which can be opened in any web browser. Please note, comments in blogs or wikis will not be retained. When saving journals, you can select an option to include comments.

To save blogs or wikis with comments, unfortunately the only way is to print each page with comments to a .pdf file:

  1. On the blog/wiki page, click on Print with Comments near the top of the menu to the right of the screen.
  2. For printer, select “.pdf” and then save the resulting PDF file to your computer.
  3. Repeat these steps for every page with comments that you wish to have a record of.

To save media from a CP podcast, open the podcast, right-click on the media in the player and select “Save Video/Audio As.”

Please email us with any questions you might have, or if you’d like any support with this transition.

Teaching Tip: Facilitating Group Work in Online Courses

Group work promotes engagement with course material and prepares students for workplace collaboration; still, some students dread it. Careful planning can help you design online group activities that give your students the benefits of working collaboratively while avoiding the pitfalls of online group assignments.

group-work-imageIn online environments, it can take more time to coordinate group tasks and divide responsibilities among the group. It is a good idea to build in at least three weeks for groups to work on a small-scale assignment. Since online students do not have class meetings where they can exchange ideas and arrange their responsibilities, it is also important to ensure that each group has its own workspace, such as a group discussion board. Encourage members to connect early on, perhaps through an ice-breaker you design, before the assignment begins. The ideal group size online is three or four, since it is not uncommon in larger groups for some members to contribute less than others. For more information about best practices for online group work, check out Blackboard’s blog post or this article from Online Learning Insights.

Provide a platform for accountability and peer evaluation.
It’s important that group members be held accountable for the quality of their contributions, their levels of responsibility, and their professionalism in the group setting. Peer evaluations provide you with a way to factor those behind-closed-doors variables into each student’s grade. It’s a good idea to schedule peer evaluations several times over the course of a term in order to provide opportunities for adjustment and improvement. It’s also a good idea for you to check on groups to evaluate their progress and gauge whether all members are contributing. If you see that a group member is not participating, you can send them gentle reminders to get them back on track. You should also decide what kinds of consequences will be in place for group members who don’t participate, and communicate this clearly to students.

Build in opportunities for groups to interact with each other.
There are several ways to implement inter-group interaction. For example, the whole class could work on a single large project, with each group producing one part of the whole. At the end of the course, students can see and experience the final product they all contributed to. Alternatively, each group can work on its own version of a smaller project, and in turn provide feedback and critiques to other groups while seeing different approaches and perspectives. Wikis are a great tool for implementing both methods. As this article on effective online group work states, group activities often fall into one of three categories:

  • There’s no right answer, such as debates, or research on controversial issues.
  • There are multiple perspectives, such as analyzing current events, cultural comparisons, or case studies.
  • There are too many resources for one person to evaluate, so a jigsaw puzzle approach is needed with each student responsible for one part.

Also, see this blog post on four strategies for effective collaborative group work. Ultimately, the goal is to design group work that is truly collaborative, i.e. the students will benefit more from doing the activity as a group than doing it alone.

Want to learn more about facilitating group work in your Blackboard course site? Sign up for our training on October 21 at noon.

Krystyna, Sarah & Antonia

 

Join us for a Fall Bootcamp Adventure!

We are offering another Video & VoiceThread Bootcamp in which you can either gain new skills or sharpen old ones when creating engaging media for your teaching. If you’ve previously created course videos, maybe you’d like to integrate VoiceThread into your teaching as well? Or you let us help you sharpen your video editing skills in Screencastomatic Pro?

voicethread-logoThis bootcamp is learner-focused and we will tailor instruction to your skill level, so novices and masters alike are welcome. Whether you are a perennial or budding video-creator and VoiceThread user, this week-long workshop will plant the essentials of creating dynamic videos and cultivating vibrant content.

The bootcamp will run from Monday, November 7 – Sunday, November 13. There will be some activity required every day during that week, and by the end you will have:

  • The technical skills to create multimedia artifacts for your courses.
  • Knowledge of what makes a pedagogically effective multimedia artifact.
  • A multimedia creation ready to include in your current or future courses.
  • A plan for a second multimedia artifact to create for your courses.

Here is what previous bootcamp participants have said about their experience:

Course Video Bootcamp is well worth the time I spent doing it. I learned so much and I know that it will help me assist my students by giving them visual aids that work much better than reading a book or powerpoint. I also learned where to go should I have questions about what I learned. Great class.

This experience provided me with the tools that I needed to work with VoiceThread without being intimidated by it. It was a challenging experience but there was a great amount of support and guidance.

Video Bootcamp was a great experience! Within a week, they took me from technically-inexperienced to being able to produce my own video for use in my course! The support from the staff was great and really enabled me to learn a lot in a short period of time!

If you’d like to join us for this summer adventure, please use this form to sign up for the bootcamp.

We are looking forward to working with you in November,
Sarah & Krystyna