April 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

We’re in the home stretch!

This month’s Blackboard News includes information about Upcoming Important Dates, Support for Instructors, IDEAS Webinars, Requesting your Summer Blackboard course, Requesting your Summer 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:

  • Summer 2021 Course request begins- April 5, 2021
  • Wellbeing Wednesday Observed – No Classes – April 14, 2021
  • Patriot’s Day – Classes will be held – April 19, 2021
  • Wednesday class scheduled followed – April 20, 2021
  • Last day of classes – May, 4, 2021

IDEAS Webinars

Our webinar series will continue throughout the Spring semester and we’re beginning to schedule Summer and Fall offerings as well. 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.

In addition to our existing webinar offerings, the IDEAS team is also hosting a series of four interactive workshops focusing on Engagement in Online Courses. 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 remaining Engagement workshops will focus on:

  • 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.

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.

Request your Summer Blackboard Courses

Summer 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 Summer 2021 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: Student Preview in Blackboard

Did you know that Blackboard has a built-in Student Preview feature, which allows you to see the course through the eyes of a temporary student account? Once Student Preview Mode is enabled, you can navigate through your course just as a student would rather than the instructor to see how it looks and feels.

Planned Downtimes

There are no planned downtimes for Blackboard for April 2021.

Blackboard Help and Resources for Instructors

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