June 2021 Blackboard News

Cow bust with eyeglasses and a computer on top of desktop on the background.

The Sunshine and Summer Session are here!

This month’s Blackboard News includes information about Upcoming Important Dates, Teach Week, Self-Paced Essentials of Online Teaching, IDEAS Webinars, Blackboard in the Cloud, Support for Instructors, 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:

  • UWW(CPE) – Wednesday, June 9, 2021 – Last day to drop with “W” or “DR” and select ‘P/F’ any Session One class
  • UWW(CPE) – Friday, June 25, 2021 – Last day of classes – Session One

Teach Week: Where do we go from here?

CTL/IDEAS/IT/Libraries announces a week of teaching workshop sessions to launch the summer. Throughout the week of June 7th we will offer a series of workshops sessions that we hope will spark some new ideas, provide you with a chance to reflect on the successes and challenges you experienced in teaching your classes this year, and provide a venue for sharing offer a chance to share the many innovative instructional approaches with you adopted with your colleagues. 
Please join us!  Registrations are open for all of the sessions listed below. We look forward to seeing you at one or more sessions. 

IDEAS Webinars

We’re gearing up for a summer full of learning, engaging, and connecting. We’ll be offering a number of webinars around teaching technologies, lecture capture, building courses in an LMS, using technology to facilitate communication and engagement, and more.

Check out our IDEAS Webinars list often for the latest offerings.

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.

Register for the Self-Paced Essentials for Online Teaching course

This Fall, the IDEAS team will be offering a self-paced online course version of our popular Essentials for Online Teaching course. The course will support instructors interested in: learning how to develop and teach effective online courses, using teaching technologies meaningfully, and receiving a structured framework around 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 and engaging in learning activities participants will develop strategies for using resources and technologies to enhance their online courses. Each module will help instructors put these strategies into practice and build out a different aspect of their course. Participants who fulfill all course requirements will receive a Certificate of Participation 

Participants can expect to spend about 4-6 hours per learning module (approximately 24-30 hours across all learning modules). Additionally, there will be several optional synchronous Zoom sessions to collaborate with colleagues and facilitators as you progress through the course.  

Registration for the course begins now, and the course will open Monday, August 2, 2021.  

Register now to guarantee your spot in the course! 

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 has a new home for Fall 2021

In support of flexible learning at UMass Amherst, an upgraded, cloud-based version of Blackboard, one of the campus learning management systems is transitioning to software as a service cloud architecture (SaaS) and will be available for Fall UWW & University courses.

UMass Amherst Instructional Design, Engagement and Support (IDEAS) group is making this change with the goal of improving our teaching and learning experience and expanding the reach of UMass Amherst education.

While we’ll be hosted in the cloud, Blackboard Learn will appear the same. Most changes are largely transparent to current users. Notable improvements include faster performance, just-in-time bug fixes along with a few subtle tool enhancements (like a streamlined content editor).

Blackboard Learn courses for Summer 2021 will remain in the current managed hosting environment.

What does this mean for students and instructors?

  • For students there will be no change. They will login using the same URL they use now. Blackboard Learn will look as it always has.
  • Faculty teaching online in Blackboard Learn for the Fall 2021 term may start developing their courses April 20th in anticipation of the switchover. Instructions for accessing the new environment will be sent after Fall course requests are made.
  • All courses offered for Fall 2021 and after will be hosted in the new cloud environment.
  • Faculty should expect to see courses taught up to two years previously restored to the new environment.
  • The shift to the new cloud environment will occur just prior to Preview Week, Fall 2021. Our login page and url will remain the same but point to the new cloud environment then.

More information will follow.  For questions, please contact the Instructional Media Lab 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.

Blackboard Tip of the Month: Automatically create a course calendar in Blackboard

Did you know that Blackboard can automatically generate a Calendar for your course? The calendar is created using the due dates on your assignments, and can be great tool for helping students keep track of upcoming due dates, milestones, and other important course-related dates.

Planned Downtimes

There are no planned downtimes for Blackboard for April 2021.

You can check the status of Blackboard, Zoom, and other supported teaching technologies on the IT Services Status for Remote Teaching and Learning page.

Blackboard Help and Resources for Instructors

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