Faculty Experiences with Blackboard Ultra

Blackboard Ultra represents the latest iteration of the Blackboard learning management system. It has undergone a complete redesign with a focus on improved navigation, enhanced accessibility, and responsiveness across various devices. This revamped version offers several advantages over its predecessor, but it’s important to note that transitioning a course to Ultra requires more than a simple cut-and-paste process.

During the recent Spring semester, five faculty members at Lesley University taught their courses using the Blackboard Ultra Course View. These instructors covered diverse subjects at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, with one course even being self-paced to cater to K12 teachers seeking continuing education credits. The faculty members who embraced Ultra included Donna Owens, teaching Psychopathology and Clinical Practice in the Expressive Therapies department; Diana Direiter, teaching Trauma and Crisis in Psychology; Liv Cummins, teaching Comedy in Humanities; Jennine Tambio, teaching Enhancing Quality Early Childhood Programs and Transition Seminar: Lives in Context in Education and LCAL (Lives in Context and Learning) respectively; and Cindy Downend, teaching Comprehensive Phonics in Reading Recovery.

The Ultra instructors found the new format to be intuitive and user-friendly, requiring very little support during the transition. For instance, Donna Owens, who taught Psychopathology and Clinical Practice, appreciated the redesigned learning modules, which made it easier for her to share content and for students to understand course requirements. The progress tracking feature helped students stay on track throughout the course.

“From an instructor viewpoint it made everything smoother.”

Cindy Downend, who taught Comprehensive Phonics, only needed a brief orientation on uploading content. She also received assistance in setting up release conditions on modules, allowing students to unlock content based on their assessment performance. Jennine Tambio, who taught two Ultra courses, expressed her enthusiasm for the Ultra rubrics, finding them easy to create and grade with. This was a significant improvement compared to her experience with the Original version of Blackboard.

Overall, students responded positively to the Ultra experience. They found the course navigation, participation in discussions, and assignment submission to be easy and straightforward. While some students initially resisted the change, providing tutorials or course tours helped alleviate their concerns. Donna Owens noticed that her students were actively using the Ultra Course View during in-class activities, which eliminated the need for printing or online searching.

“It is very organized and easy to use.”

“It was a pretty easy switch”

“looks better, and is more clear and easy to access.”

Based on their experiences, the faculty members offered some advice to colleagues considering the switch to Ultra. They recommended spending time familiarizing oneself with the platform, utilizing the student preview feature, and providing tutorials for students who are new to Ultra. Diana suggested thinking creatively to achieve teaching goals, while Cindy emphasized reaching out to eLIS for any questions or support needed.

For those interested in adopting Blackboard Ultra, contact eLIS at eLIS@lesley.edu to schedule an appointment. eLIS offers course reviews, training, and guidance to assist in the transition to Ultra.

Apply to the 2023 Summer Academic Technology Institute

This year’s Summer Academic Technology Institute will focus on transitioning your course to Blackboard Ultra Course View.

Blackboard Ultra is the latest version of Blackboard. It has been completely redesigned with a more modern and easier to navigate interface, improved accessibility, mobile responsiveness, progress tracking, and streamlined grading. The Summer Institute is a great opportunity to learn more and transition your course to Ultra Course View with the support of the eLearning & Instructional Support team.

Overview

There are two opportunities to participate in this year’s Summer Institute with one small cohort in each.

  • July 17-21 and 24-28
  • August 14-18 and 21-25

Each cohort will participate in a 2-week hybrid seminar. You will learn how to use Ultra Course View to create an engaging and user-friendly experience for your students. By the end of the 2 weeks, you should have your course well on its way to being converted to run in Ultra.

Please note there will be 1-2 synchronous seminar meetings each week, plus individual consultations with the eLIS staff.

Space is limited so sign up soon. All faculty – core and adjunct – may apply. Your course may be in any format/modality (online, on-campus, hybrid, hyflex, synchronous, asynchronous, etc.) Priority will be given to faculty using myLesley significantly to teach their courses.

Faculty Expectations

Faculty are expected to:

  • Attend and complete the Summer Institute course.
  • Develop or make significant progress toward developing their course in the Ultra Course View.
  • Teach a course in Ultra Course View during the 2023-2024 academic year.
  • Share and explain their experiences in Ultra with colleagues, focusing on the advantages of Ultra Course View.

Faculty who successfully convert and teach their course in Ultra will be awarded a $300 stipend and a printable certificate of completion.

Application

Applications are due by Sunday, May 7, 2023.

Apply Now – Login using your Lesley credentials to access the application form.

Email elis@lesley.edu with any questions.

What’s ChatGPT? Why Should I Care?

“Change has a bad reputation in our society. But it isn’t all bad —
not by any means. In fact, change is necessary in life —
to keep us moving, to keep us growing, to keep us interested.
Imagine life without change.
It would be static, boring, dull.”
Dr. Dennis O’Grady

As time moves forward, innovative products are created and introduced to the world. When this happens, it can become a minor bump in the road or a major disruption that can alter the direction of our lives. How we respond to the “new” will inevitably affect those around us and inform others in their response.

In recent months, one such technology was introduced. ChatGPT is a language model developed by OpenAI that will require us to reevaluate how we engage with our students and colleagues. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits that ChatGPT can bring to education, including streamlining administrative tasks, facilitating personalized learning, and improving access to information.

One of the best use cases for AI and technology, in general, is to take care of repetitive and mundane tasks, to free up valuable time for engagement and building rapport with your students. You can use ChatGPT to draft summaries of your course content, announcements, and other resources. Think about the time-consuming tasks that you do on a daily basis that can now be handed off to your virtual personal assistant to do the first drafts.

In conjunction with your current teaching content, you can take advantage of ChatGPT, to customize materials and resources for students. As an example of this workflow, you can utilize ChatGPT to provide initial feedback for student writing. Before meeting your students for a follow-up on a learning activity, students can use ChatGPT to help with grammar, spelling, vocabulary, style, and coherence. Using ChatGPT to provide real-time feedback and improve the student learning experience, enhances engagement and the effectiveness of personal interactions. It is important to remind students to always use their own judgment and critical thinking when evaluating suggestions provided by ChatGPT.

Acting as a virtual assistant, ChatGPT, can provide students from various backgrounds with help to “level the playing field”. Students can work through course materials and learning activities, rather than focusing on easily identifiable errors due to privileged, Western conventions of education, they can focus on stated learning outcomes and goals. ChatGPT may provide insights into students’ learning patterns and preferences by giving a third-party analysis of their work. Faculty can build upon this interaction without being bogged down with basic mistakes and work towards higher learning outcomes.

To conclude, I asked ChatGPT to finish the rest of this paragraph: “ChatGPT (and other AI innovations that are bound to follow) is a tool. How you wield the tool is…”

This is the response: “…up to you, but it’s important to keep in mind the ethical and responsible use of such technology. The potential for AI to transform society and improve our lives is tremendous, but it’s crucial to consider the consequences and make sure it’s used in a way that benefits humanity as a whole. The development of AI should align with principles such as fairness, transparency, accountability, and non-discrimination. With proper governance and regulations in place, AI can be a powerful tool for positive change and growth.”

Want to try ChatGPT? The actual bot: https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/
Note: when you sign up for access, you will need to provide a valid phone number that can receive SMS for verification.

From Northern Illinois University’s Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning – ChatGPT and Education

Here is a list of curated resources from BryanAlexander.org. The following are discussions Bryan Alexander held around ChatGPT in his Future Trends Forum:

Accompanying Blog article – https://bryanalexander.org/future-trends-forum/chatgpt-and-higher-education-last-week-and-this-week/ 

Organizing a Week of Teaching

Link to a Word Document with a Module Template Creation Guide.

When you design your course, we recommend that your content be “chunked” into discrete, manageable units of learning. Whatever you decide to call it – a module, session, unit, or section, the most important thing to remember is to present materials to your students in a meaningful and helpful way. Treat it as a “learning guide” to help students make connections with what they are studying to their future endeavors by writing narrative pieces that include important and worthwhile instructions/ references.

One way to do this is to follow a weekly format that aims for each weeks’ layout to be similar, and predictable. A recommended format for a week is to provide the following:

Teaching Notes

This is a private section to leave notes for yourself (or other instructors) to guide you through facilitating the specific week. It can range from reminders to make a special announcement for an assignment that is outside a regularly scheduled deadline to a script with PPT slides to make a needed video or lecture presentation. While this section will not be seen by the students, we consider it important to include this section to help you keep track of facilitating notes and potential pitfalls to avoid.

Overview

The Overview section begins with a 1-2 short paragraph narrative, which provides the context or “glue” for the module’s content and learning activities. Speak directly to the students and include information that frames the content in your voice and with your perspective on the content. Include any critical information that may have been traditionally delivered orally in the face-to-face classroom. This might include illustrative stories or examples, challenges students may encounter with key concepts, typical misconceptions, an overview of the module’s activities, and so on.  If this section becomes too lengthy, you might also elect to include specific portions within the context of the rest of the module sections.

Weekly Learning Outcomes/Objectives

Unit-level objectives that describe what students should be able to do by the end of this specific week.

After completion of this week’s activities, you should be able to:

  • Identify….
  • Analyze…
  • Please refer to the Bloom’s taxonomy list for other learning verbs.

These weekly objectives should draw a clear connecting line to the overall course learning outcomes.

Required (& Recommended) Readings and Resources

Elaborate on the information provided in the Syllabus by explaining why, how, and in what order students should work through the resource materials. For example, if you include a YouTube video as a course resource, briefly explain your rationale for selecting that particular video, information students should pay close attention, etc.

Instructional Materials

This section can be excluded if all your instructional materials for the week is in the Readings and Resources section. If you want to call special attention to something specific, you can have it here as a separate section. In a typical synchronous delivery modality, your content may be given as an interactive lecture, balancing passive and active learning. HyFlex and Hybrid courses include both online and in-class delivery simultaneously, strategies for content delivery will necessarily incorporate various educational frameworks and technologies. One strategy is taking the Flipped Classroom approach. Do not simply repeat the information students already encountered in the readings and resources. Focus on:

  • Expanding their understanding by providing important background information
  • Clarifying important concepts by explaining them in a new way
  • Connecting new information to previously learned concepts
  • Providing real-life examples
  • Prompting students to connect content with their lived experiences

Learning Activities/Assignments

This section provides students with opportunities to interact with content, peers, and the instructor. Now that students have worked through the reference and instructional materials, what will they DO? Activities should be relevant, preparing students for success in their evaluated coursework and in their future professions. Activities may be completed by individuals, small groups, or the entire class. They may include personal reflection, class discussion, concept mapping, case study, simulation, educational games, interviews, as well as evaluated course components such as assignments and quizzes.

This section should be used for anything that is graded. The format for assignment activities you choose to implement in your course should be consistent so that students do not get confused. This consistency will allow students to focus on the content and activities rather than the format or the need to search for extra details.  For each learning activity/assignment, you will need to provide clear instruction for interactivity, submission, and criteria for assessment. This may be stated in your syllabus, but it is good practice to repeat details here.

See the following example for a discussion activity.

Activity Type (Discussion): (Include a descriptive name for activity)

Use the space to describe activity/assignment. This includes:

  • Context for assignment and how assignment relates to reading, other course activities, and/or objective(s).
  • Details about how to perform the assignment
  • Link or reference to assessment criteria or rubric
  • Information about where to submit and if and how to respond to classmates
  • When the assignment is due.

Include due dates. for example, for a discussion activity, you will want to provide:

  • Post your initial thoughts to the discussion board by day of week at Noon.
  • Respond to at least two of your peers by some other day later in the week at Noon.

Provide a rubric or assessment details:

  • This activity will be graded out X points, following this breakdown….

Repeat instruction set for as many activities/assignments you plan for the week.

Checklist for the Week

Provide a list summarizing the important due dates for the week. For example,

  • Post-initial thoughts to the discussion by Thursday
  • Post your field observation to the blog by Thursday
  • Post responses to at least two of your colleagues’ discussion posts by Sunday
  • Post comments on at least two of your classmates’ blog post by Sunday.

Link to a Word Document with a Module Template Creation Guide.

HyFlex Teaching Tips – Quick Technology Checklist

A few things to keep in mind when teaching using the HyFlex Media cart

Lesley Account and Login Credentials

Before everything else, you need to remember your Lesley username/password and have your multi-factor authentication device accessible.

HyFlex Cart

  • Whenever possible, reboot the HyFlex Media Cart in the classroom.
    • If the HyFlex Media Cart is already off when you enter your classroom, just turn it on and you should be good to go.
    • If the HyFlex Media Cart is on and logged in when you enter your classroom, please restart it following the directions (pdf).
  • When your class is over, please remember to shut down the HyFlex Media Cart before leaving.
  • You can move the cart, but it is limited to the tether attached to the cart.
    • Be careful to avoid rolling over any wires and cables.
    • The cart is heavy, please take care not to harm yourself or others.

Personal Computer/Laptop

  • If possible, reboot your personal computer/laptop before starting your teaching session.
    • There are many benefits of restarting your computer and sometimes, that is all it needs to take to fix many issues, for example, connectivity, memory, and other performance issues.
  • Connect to Lesley’s primary wireless network, Eduroam.
  • If you join the Zoom meeting from your personal computer, in addition to the HyFlex Cart, please remember to mute your microphone and silence your computer’s audio.

Online Meeting Space

  • Encourage everyone to test their microphone, web camera and speakers prior to or at the start of every virtual session.
    • If you’re able to, try to set up your classroom a few minutes early.
    • Remember to think about your background in the video. If you or your students are not in an environment that can be shared, try using a virtual background.
    • Remind your students to not sit directly in front, behind, or below a bright light source. Experiment with moving lamps and the camera until you can see your face brightly lit on screen. Covering a bright window or moving to another location may help.
  • Try to have your students attend your class meetings in a quiet, indoor location to control ambient noise.
    • If they’re unable to attend from a quiet location, ask them to mute microphone before joining the class meeting. You will be able to ask them to unmute when they need to speak.
    • If possible, have your students use a headset with headphones and a microphone for best quality audio.