Blackboard Communities and Organizations

Blackboard Communities/Organizations are online environments for formal and informal organizations and clubs at the university. Organizations have the same features for presenting information and communicating with other users that are found in courses, and are also managed in a similar way.

Requesting a Blackboard Organization

Any NIU faculty or staff member can request a Blackboard Organization on the Divison of IT Computing Access Request (CAR) form

  1. On the CAR form, select Faculty/Staff Account from the drop down menu
  2. Select Blackboard and click the Continue button
  3. Select Community Request and click the Continue button
  4. Select New Community and click the Continue button
  5. Complete the form and click the Next button
  6.  

Accessing Organizations

To access your organizations, log into Blackboard by going to webcourses.niu.edu, using your NIU AccountID as the username, and the corresponding password as the Blackboard password. Students use their Z-ID and password to log into Blackboard.

  1. Click the Community tab located near the top of the page.  The Organizations you are enrolled in appear under My Organizations
  2. To enter an Organization, click the name of the Organization in the list.

Image of Community tab

Enrolling Users

There are several ways for users to be added to an Organization.

Auto Enrollment Based on Major or Course Enrollment

Enrollment in an Organization can be tied to some records in MyNIU, such as a student's major, minor, or enrollment in a particular course. For example, this can be used to populate Organizations for disseminating information about degree requirements to everyone in a particular major, or to share information about college events to everyone majoring in any department in that college. It can also be used to facilitate collaboration between students in multiple courses or to provide an ongoing enrichment space outside of the Blackboard Course. Automated enrollments will both add and remove users, based on the criteria specified, so a student who changes major or drops the course will be removed from the Organization.

To request automated enrollments, describe who should be enrolled in the Other Information field on the CAR form when requesting the Organization. When possible, specify the MyNIU major codes or the specific course number and section.

Bulk Enrollment

If you have an existing list of individuals who should be added to the Organization, DoIT can enroll them for you, as a bulk operation. This saves you time from individually enrolling users.

You can list the AccountIDs in the Other Information field on the CAR form when requesting the Organization. For large lists, you can also submit the request to the DoIT Service Desk via the IT Service Portal with an attached spreadsheet of participants with their AccountIDs.

Enrolling Users Manually

For small Organizations, or to add only a few people at a time, the easiest and quickest method is for you to enroll them manually. 

Note:  If you know the Z- or A-ID of the person to be enrolled, Steps 5 and 6 can be omitted.

  1. After accessing your Organization, from the Control Panel, click Users and Groups
  2. Select Users
  3. On the adjacent page, click the Find Users to Enroll button 
    Enrolling Users Steps 1 - 3
  4. On the following page, if the Username of the user is known, enter it in the textbox and proceed to Step 7; otherwise, click Browse
    Enrolling Users Step 4
  5. If you clicked Browse, search for users by Username, First Name, Last Name, or NIU Email and click Go
  6. Click Submit after user is located
    Enroll User Steps - 5 and 6
  7. On the Add Enrollments page, select the appropriate Role
  8. Click the Submit button when finished
    Enrolling a user, steps 7 and 8

Modifying Status of Participants to be Leaders

  1. After accessing your Organization, from the Control Panel, click Users and Groups
  2. Select Users

Modify user role, Steps 1 and 2

  1. Click the action link next to the user's name whose Role will be modified
  2. Select Change User's Role in Organization

Modify a user, Steps 3 and 4

 

  1. On the Change User's Role page, select the radio button for Leader
  2. Click Submit

Modify a user, Steps 5 and 6

Adding Folders or Documents

Folders and documents can be created and added to an Organization through any Content Area within Blackboard. Learn more about adding content.  

Collaboration Tools Available to Organization Members

There are several collaborative tools available for use within an Organization that can be created and deployed by an Organization Leader:

  • The Discussion Board is a tool for that can be used for sharing thoughts and ideas within an Organization asynchronously (not at the same time). The Discussion Board is administered by the Organization's Leader(s) and is made up of forums that may appear anywhere within the Organization but is also centrally located in the Course Menu under the designation of Discussions.

    Discussions in Blackboard resemble an electronic bulletin board, where users post their messages when they have time.  In the Discussion Board, a forum is a general topic for discussion. A thread is a subordinate discussion within the forum.

    Learn more about Discussion Boards.

  • A Blog is a personal online journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. In Blackboard, only enrolled users of an Organization can view and author Blogs. Blogs encourage participants to clearly express their ideas, and addresses the need to expand various aspects of social learning. Blogs are an effective way to gain insight into participants' activities and provide a way to share the knowledge and materials collected.

    Learn more about Blogs

  • Wikis are used to create a collaborative space within an Organization where all participants can view, contribute, and edit content.  In Blackboard, the Wiki tool allows participants to contribute and modify one or more pages of Organization-related materials, providing a means of sharing and collaboration. Pages can be created and edited quickly, while tracking changes and additions, allowing for effective collaboration between multiple contributors. The Organization Leader can create one or more Wikis for all participants to contribute to and Wikis for specific groups to use to collaborate. Wikis can also be used to record information and serve as a repository for Organization information and knowledge.

    Learn more about Wikis

Changing Availability Settings

Organizations, by default, are not available to participants until the Organization Leader decides to make it available. This is indicated in the My Organizations module where you will see (Unavailable) displayed next to the Organization's name.

See here for instructions on how to make an Organization available.

Organization Groups

The Groups tool allows Organization Leaders to organize participants into groups of any size. Organization Leaders can provide communication and collaboration tools that only Group members can access. Groups can be created one at a time or in sets. Groups can be designated as Self-Enroll, allowing participants to add themselves to a Group, or Manual Enroll, having the Organization Leader assign students to a Group.

Once created, each Group has its own space in the Organization to work together. The Organization Leader can allow individual Group members to personalize their Group space with personal modules, such as My Calendar and What's New. Also, the Organization Leader can enable an assortment of tools to help participants collaborate.

See here for instructions on how to create and manage groups within an Organization.

Organization Roles

  • Organization Builder— Has access to most areas within an Organization, including the Control Panel, however no access to participant grades or the Grade Center.
  • Grader— Has limited access to the Control Panel, but can assist with the creation, management, delivery, and grading of assessments and surveys within an Organization.
  • Leader— Has access to all areas within the Organization. This role is generally given to those developing, teaching, or facilitating the Organization and is comparable to the role of Instructor.
  • Participant— Has no access to the Control Panel, and is the default role within an Organization. This role can be compared to the role of Student in a Blackboard Course.
  • Assistant— Has full access to the Control Panel, but is not listed in the Organization Catalog as a Leader. Can also manage (add, change, delete) membership of the organization.
  • Guest— Has no access to the Control Panel. Areas within the Organization can be made available to Guests by a Leader. Visitors, such as prospective students, alumni or parents, may be given the role of Guest.

Last Updated: 8/1/2018