Using Films on Demand in Blackboard

Wentworth Institute of Technology subscribes to Films on Demand – a database of video resources on a wide variety of topics in multiple disciplines. The subscription includes copyright clearance and allows unlimited access in and outside of classroom. Films on Demand can be embedded in Blackboard or shared as a link.

The following video (5 minutes) provides an overview of the resource.

Instructions on how to embed Films on Demand in Blackboard are now available as a LibGuide from Alumni Library under Resources for Faculty –> Embed Films on Demand content in Blackboard

If you have questions or need help please contact Rhonda Postrel (617-989-4809) or Ella Epshteyn (617-989-4378).

Making the transition to online teaching…

If you are among the many face-to-face instructors who believe that online can’t be as effective as face-to-face, you may want to read this article (see reference at end of post). Beth Hurst from Missouri State University shared your skepticism about online learning. Forced to begin teaching online due to market forces ( graduate programs in her department were losing students to fully online programs) she entered the online classroom in her words “kicking and screaming.” One of the author’s biggest objections to online instruction was the her perception that the same goals could not be achieved online as in face-to-face. In Hurst’s classes social interaction was a critical component to the learning process. Could this be achieved online?  Hurst compared student work to see how well the students in her face-to-face courses met course objectives as compared to students in her online section of the same course. She also compared student comments in end term course evaluations. The result, there were no detectable differences between student work or comments between the online and face-to-face classes. It did matter that she was present but not whether she was physically present.

Hurst did find that there were personal pros and cons to teaching online. She missed the personal, face-to-face interactions with her students. Also, teaching online meant being tied to technology, namely sitting in front of a computer. But she also found some advantages. Teaching online meant that instead of meeting and interacting with students only during the assigned class time, she was interacting with them many times per week through online discussions and e-mail. Also, teaching online meant not being on campus at night and having to drive home after class.

So when considering teaching online, remember that online and face-to-face can be equally effective as far as students reaching the course objectives. There will be qualitative differences in the experience for both students and instructors and often these differences may actually enhance the experience for both.

Hurst, B. 2015. Making the move to online teaching: One reluctant professor’s informal self-study. TechTrends, 59(6), 35-40.

5 Ways to Use Blackboard to Capture Attendance

Even if you teach face-to-face you can use Blackboard to capture class “attendance.” By posting content and required activities students’ activity can logged to serve as a indicator of intent to attend class.

1. Post content in Blackboard – Posting handouts or other required materials that students need for class forces them to engage in logged behavior in Blackboard. By setting the content to track access, you can see who accessed the item and when.

2. Use quizzes in Blackboard to encourage preparation for class – Blackboard has a test feature that can be used to deliver low-stakes quizzes on reading or other required pre-work. Not only can you capture a student’s intent to attend class but you can also gather information on where your students are having difficulty. Tests logs record when the student accessed any given test/quiz.

3. Collect assignments in Blackboard – No more lugging stacks of paper home to grade. No need to search through email to find electronic assignment submissions. Blackboard provides an electronic workflow for grading.

4. Discuss course topics online – Use the Discussion Board in Blackboard to start, continue, or finish classroom discussion. Shy students often “speak” up in online discussions more than in face-to-face class discussions.

5. Use the Grade Center – Students will use the Grade Center to keep track of how they are doing in class. The Grade Center can be accessed 24/7 and doesn’t require office hours.

Blackboard Course Templates – Updates

We heard your feedback and suggestions and applied them to the Spring course templates in Bb. Features were added to the fall template along with support scaffolding for faculty and students.

A number of faculty find the announcements tool critical for communicating with students. You’ll now see an Announcements link in the course menu. If you want to post content or even dabble with hybrid instruction check out the Course Materials link. We’ve added sample content folders structured to support online, hybrid, and flipped content models. In the content area we have support materials to help instructors structure content and activities in alignment with Online Learning Consortium and Quality Matters standards and mirrors the structure used for all online courses offered through the College of Professional and Continuing Education.

We’ve also designed a template for Architecture, based on the department’s needs for specific tools and supports. The new template has a menu item for NuVu Studio – a tool supporting high resolution media and studio instruction along with instructions to the faculty on how to set up NuVu for their courses. Supports for students, such as links to department specific LibGuides are now included in this template.

Screenshot of New Architecture template for Blackboard course sites

New Architecture course template for Blackboard

If your department needs more structure, links to specific tools used universally in your discipline or discipline specific supports, please invite us ( to a department meeting to discuss the possibility of a custom template for your department.

Keep the feedback and suggestions coming, we envision fine tuning Bb course templates each semester!

Time saving tips to jump start your spring course preparations

Finals are on us…and Spring term won’t be far behind. It seems few of us have the time to leisurely pull together courses in the midst of finishing one term and (hopefully) enjoying some well earned down-time over the holidays. LIT wants to suggest a few tips to save you time in your spring course preparations.

Course Merging – If you teach multiple sections of the same course using the same syllabus, assignments and course materials then you should consider merging the sections in Blackboard. Using a merged course site, you only have to post announcements, documents, assignments, etc once. SmartViews in the Grade Center allow you to have separate views for each section. Using the group tool combined with adaptive release you can give assignments, tests, or individual documents to specific sections (groups). If your multiple sections are consistent merging the sections in Blackboard can be a time saver.

Request a course merge by filling out this Google form and we’ll process the request (generally within a couple of business days).

Course Copying – If you teach the same course each term or each year and most of the structure and documents you use don’t change much, then consider copying your course. Using the Course Copy feature in Blackboard you can copy either the entire course or elements of it. So, for example, if you regularly reference the same support site for a specific software tool your students use – maybe with links to tutorials on YouTube, copying the content in bulk will be faster than recreating it. Are you taking over teaching a course from a colleague? With their permission the content they use can be copied into your upcoming section in Blackboard.

All instructors can copy their own courses (here are the DIY instructions for copying a course) or if you prefer LIT will also copy courses for you.

If you are using another instructor’s matierials (with their permission) you need to request that we copy that content for you. Request a course copy by filling out this Google form and we’ll process the request (usually within a couple of business days).

Remember: When copying a course, whether your own or someone else’s, there are some maintenance tasks you should complete. We’ve created a handy checklist of post course copy checks for you to download and use to ensure your content is up-to-date and accessible to your students.

Qwickly+ – If merging or copying just won’t work for you we still have a tool that can help, Qwickly+.  Qwickly is a new building block (added Fall 2015) designed to increase instructor efficiency. Qwickly aggregates functions that instructors commonly have to perform in multiple courses and streamlines the workflow.


Introduced in Fall 2015, the Qwickly module will appear on your My Wentworth Blackboard page.

Qwickly is divided into several sections, Availability, Announcements, Email, and Needs Grading. Click on the title for one of these sections and it expands to show options. For example, click on the Availability section and a series of sliders is displayed showing which of your current term courses is available. A single click now changes the availability of your courses instead of the many clicks needed to navigate through the menus required in Blackboard. So if you want to have students access your Blackboard course site early, you can easily make your course available. Need to make an announcement to all students? Using Qwickly, type your announcement once (without having to navigate to each course) and select the courses to receive the announcement.

Screenshot of Posting Announcement with Qwickly

Screenshot of Posting Announcement with Qwickly

These are just a few of the tools that can streamline your workflows and save your time. Don’t hesitate to consult with LIT ( for additional ways to work more efficiently with Blackboard.