March 2021 Blackboard News

Cow bust in a room with a fireplace on in the background, and in the front layer a red mug and red bowl with popcorn

Spring is in full swing!

We’re moving along through this semester, and we’re here to support you with your current course as well as helping you with future courses too! We have webinars on teaching technologies, as well as new offerings around online teaching techniques and tools, and you can register for our new Essentials for Online Teaching course.

This month’s Blackboard News includes information about Upcoming Important Dates, Essentials of Online Teaching Course, IDEAS Webinars, Support for Instructors, Requesting your Spring Blackboard course, Requesting your Spring Echo360 courses, Blackboard tip of the month, Planned Downtimes, and Blackboard help and resources.

Upcoming Important Dates

There are a number of important dates for this semester that are a bit different than in a normal semester. Some of the highlights related to instruction are:

  • Wednesday class schedule followed – March 1, 2021
  • Last day to drop with DR – Graduate – March 29, 2021
  • Last day to drop with W – Undergraduate – March 29, 2021

Essentials of Online Teaching Course

Register today! The IDEAS team will be facilitating a 6-week online course for instructors interested in: learning how to develop and teach effective online courses, using teaching technologies meaningfully, and receiving  personalized support in the process of designing their online courses. It will focus on five essential components: 

  • Foundations of online teaching 
  • Structure and Design 
  • Assessment
  • Engagement
  • Communication

Through reading and exploring resources, engaging in learning activities, and collaborating with their colleagues, participants will develop strategies for using resources and technologies to enhance their online courses. Each week, instructors will put these strategies into practice and build out a different aspect of their course, receiving feedback from their colleagues and course facilitators. Participants who fulfill all course requirements will receive a Certificate of Completion

Participants can expect to spend about 3-5 hours per learning module (approximately 20-25 hours over 6 weeks). Additionally, there are 6 required synchronous Zoom sessions: Tuesdays, 11:00am-12:00pm ET, March 30, 2021—May 04, 2021. 

Register for the Essentials of Online Teaching course today to reserve your spot. Reach out the IDEAS Team with any questions.

IDEAS Webinars

We’re moving ahead with our webinars right at the start. Our webinar series will continue throughout the Spring semester. We’ll be covering specific teaching technologies, as well as topics like building instructor presence, designing effective online assessments, and best practices for lecture capture.

This Spring, the IDEAS team will also be hosting a series of four interactive workshops focusing on Engagement in courses taught online. Participants will develop strategies for using resources and technologies to increase the levels of student engagement and participation in their courses. They can expect to collaborate with their colleagues across campus to share ideas and best practices. The workshops will focus on:

  • Beyond Lecture: Presenting Content Creatively
  • Facilitating Engaging Synchronous Learning Activities
  • Facilitating Engaging Asynchronous Activities
  • Building Student-Instructor Relationships

To see our full list of webinars, and register, check out the IDEAS Spring 2021 Webinars page.

Can’t decide which workshops to take? Have questions? Don’t hesitate to contact the IDEAS Team for help in deciding which workshops are right for you. Contact us at instruct@umass.edu.

FlexForward to Online Teaching

The IDEAS Team has built out the Spring 2021 Quality Standards Blackboard course. This training course is self-paced and meant to help you every step of the way as you transition and build out your course. Each of the 8 modules includes information, resources, and actionable steps you can take to incorporate what has been presented. We encourage you to explore these modules and content to help you as you design your courses.

Support for Instructors

Even though we’re not on campus, we’re still here to help you with your courses and teaching technology. We have 3 avenues for support, in addition to the webinars we are currently running. Please read carefully since there will be some changes on our available hours of support.

  • Support through email. Send an email to instruct@umass.edu with your course information and a description of how we can help.
  • Schedule an appointment with us. Please send an email to instruct@umass.edu with a brief description of your goals/needs, and suggest a few times you are available between 9am and 4pm, Monday – Friday.
  • Join our Instructor Support Zoom meeting between 10am and 3pm, Monday – Friday to meet with a staff member. Please note that wait times depend on the volume of requests.
    • Wednesdays from 10am to 12pm, the Instructor Support Zoom will be joined by our campus partners in CTL to provide collaborative support to our instructor community.

Request your Spring Blackboard Courses

Spring Blackboard courses are available for request through SPIRE. Don’t forget that each semester you will need to request Blackboard for the courses you are teaching.

For detailed instructions, see:

Request your Spring Echo360 Courses

Echo360 allows you to create recordings of your lectures to deliver to students. Students can access recordings to learn new content or review content to reinforce the information. The system also allows you to add interactive content and measure student engagement.

Echo360 Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) uses speech to text algorithms to create an interactive transcript for your recordings. After you do a little editing for accuracy, your students will be able to study for exams, find relevant information in recordings, and even turn on Closed Captioning for your media.

Echo360 course requests for Spring are available in SPIRE. Just like Blackboard, each semester you will need to request Echo360 for the courses you want to use it in.

For step by step instructions, see Request Lecture Capture. Once your Echo360 courses are ready, it’s easy to give students access to Echo360 recordings through Blackboard.

Automatically copy your Zoom cloud recordings to Echo360

You can connect your Zoom and Echo360 accounts, and have all cloud recordings copied into Echo360. If you enable this, you can even have a recurring Zoom meeting publish directly to an Echo360 course. Unlike Zoom recordings, which are kept for 120 days, Echo360 does not have a storage limit on your recordings.

Blackboard Tip of the Month:

Did you know that Blackboard has a built-in tool that will automatically evaluate accessibility for files attachements called Blackboard Ally? Blackboard Ally will identify areas where accessibility could be improved (such as adding alt text to images) and also allows you to quickly convert files to different mediums to assist with accessibility (such as creating an audio version of a PDF file). Learn more about Blackboard Ally here, and find more information about creating accessible documents here.

Planned Downtimes

There are no planned downtimes of Blackboard services in March 2021.

Blackboard Help and Resources for Instructors

To learn more about Blackboard or to get help, you can: