Blackboard Restored

The University of Alaska Office of Information Technology reports all Blackboard services have been restored. 10:36 a.m. 10/27

Keep Teaching | Maintaining Instructional Continuity

 

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Activate your Blackboard shell to use for communicating with your students. To provide consistency for students across their courses, Blackboard will be used by faculty for the purpose of communicating with students during any campus closure. If you have not been a heavy user of Blackboard in the past, a range of support resources are available to assist you. Go to Make a Course Available to Students on Blackboard Help to learn how to make your Blackboard course shell available for students. For additional guidance, see AI&e’s Instructional Strategies & Resources site.

Reach out to your students and maintain open channels of communication.  Communicating with your students is important for maintaining instructional continuity, for reducing anxiety associated with the COVID disruption, and for building the kind of connections that result in student success.

  • Use the Announcement function on Blackboard. In the event of a disruption in the planned process for your course, use Blackboard's announcement function to let students know what is happening, and how you plan to move forward with the class. Let them know how you will communicate with them (i.e. expectations for where and when to check for communications, etc.) and share any immediately relevant information.
  • Ask the students to respond, so you know they have access and have read your message.  If you ask them to respond by email, their responses will come to your regular UAA email account. Because this may be unweildy for large classes, a better option may be to create a discussion board in Blackboard where they can check in. Learn more about Blackboard Discussion Boards. AI&e offers further guidance on discussion boards:
    • Create two discussion boards in Blackboard. Title them “Ask!” (a place for questions)  and “Connect” (a place to connect in a more social way).
    • Tell students to post any course-related questions in the Ask! Forum. Allow other students to post responses, and also set the expectation for how frequently you will check and respond. 
    • In the “Connect” Forum create a “check-in” post. Ask your students to respond to it so you know that all of them are checked into the temporary, alternate delivery form of the course.
    • Here are templates that you use to access and place the boards into your course [coming soon!]
  • Establish and clearly communicate how you will be accepting electronic assignments, e.g., Blackboard, email, Dropbox. We recommend that you use Blackboard as your submission portal, as all submissions are time-and-date stamped, and it is possible to help students in that environment if there are technical difficulties. Students should not be expected to either submit or pickup graded assignments in person.
  • Should a disruption change your planned timeline, be sure you communicate any changes to the course outline, assignments, etc., and what those changes mean in terms of grading and other expectations. It may be wise to have students acknowledge this change in circumstances.
  • Consider planning for redundancies in systems. For instance, if you have planned to use Zoom for web conferencing and holding synchronous class sessions, you might indicate tht Google Meet will serve as your backup system.
  • Practice kindness and flexibility. This does not mean that your standards are compromised; it is possible to maintain academic rigor while recognizing that you and/or your students are facing a challenging situation.

Leverage other systems (Google Docs, closed social media groups, etc.) to their best advantage to support instruction.  While Blackboard should be activated and used for ongoing communication, you are in the best position to decide what type of alternate delivery is suited to your course. Options could include asynchronous materials such as documents and recorded lectures, audio or web conference. Be sensitive to bandwidth requirements: many of our students do not have easy or inexpensive access to unlimited, high speed broadband internet access. If you have questions about the bandwidth usage for different types of media and/or academic technologies, contact the instructional design team (uaa_design@alaska.edu). If you have questions related to academic concerns, please work directly with your chair/director of your academic department and your dean. 

The student learning outcomes (SLOs) should be the foundation of your course. The approved student learning outcomes for your course should be included in your syllabus. All assignments, quizzes, and exams, etc., should connect with those SLOs. If there is a substantial disruption at some point during the term, focus on meeting the student learning outcomes rather than covering all of the remaining content or topics on your syllabus. In the event of a disruption, you should feel empowered to change your readings, lectures, and assessments in order to meet any remaining SLOs.

Courses involving community-based learning, service learning, internships, or clinical placements should be given special consideration. Before proceeding with any sort of placement, faculty should interface with their chair/director and/or dean to ensure that approval has been granted for this type of situation. In the event that your class has been identified as one that may include thi type of placement, you will need to work with students to ensure that they abide by the rules established by the organization with which they have been assigned. Be prepared with alternatives in the event that an organization closes. As always, review the student learning outcomes to identify key areas where you will focus student activity and reflection. You may need to address situations where a student cannot meet a particular number of hours of in-person service. If any student on clinical or internship is not allowed to continue that learning opportunity for reasons of safety, you will need to find alternatives to meeting the student learning outcomes on a case-by-case-basis. If you are offering community-based learning or service learning, review the recommendations offered in the SL/CE teaching resources recording on the Center for Community Engagement and Learning (CCEL) website. Contact CCEL with any additional questions.

If you teach lab or studio-based courses, connect with your chair/director and/or dean for additional guidance. As with any other course, these courses will need to maintain a focus on meeting the approved student learning outcomes, albeit in ways that may not have been what they were prior to the disruption. A number of resources have sprung up that may prove useful for supporting instruction, and the staff in CAFE and AI&e are happy to help you think through approaches. In addition, if you are approved to teach face-to-face in a socially distanced manner, we recommend that you bookmark and monitor the College During COVID sit to ensure that you and your students are fully aware of the most current status and expected practices to ensure safety.

Familiarize yourself with trauma-informed pedagogy. Teaching during a time of crisis is challenging. Faculty and students alike are coping with sustained levels of stress and disruption. Because a disruption can adversely influence the effectiveness of the teaching and learning process, we encourage you to become familiar with the concept of trauma-informed pedagogy and to adopt practices that improve the likelihood that learning will take place. Toward that end, we recommend the work of Dr. Mays Imad, a neurobiologist and director of the faculty development center at Pima Community College. Dr. Imad has authored an article on trauma-informed pedagogy for Inside Higher Ed. In addition, she's presented two free webinars that may be of interest: there's one for faculty that was recorded in March of 2020, as well as one for students.

Make use of resources for student and employee support. The usual student support resources are available. Examples include the Care Team, Dean of Students Office, Student Health and Counseling, Disability Support Center, the Multicultural Center, Native Student Services, the Consortium Library, Learning Commons, Seawolf Tracks and more. Review the student success website and encourage your students to bookmark it. Support is available related to academic performance, mental/physical health, financial challenges, and a range of other issues. Because you interface with students frequently, you may be in the best position to triage a student's needs. If you're ever unsure of the best source of support in cases where a student has complex issues or a combination of challenges, the Care Team is a good starting point. 

Employees, too, may be feeling the strain associated with the ongoing state of disruption. We encourage you to activate your personal and professional support networks. Work with colleagues to ease the burden of moving face-to-face courses to online delivery. Cooperate on assignments and share best practices. Should you find yourself needing support related to your emotional health and well-being, full-time employees may access the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Part-time employees have access to the Psychological Services Center in the Department of Psychology, an entity that serves the entire community.