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Tips for Starting the Semester with Blackboard

The following list of reminders and links can help answer frequently asked questions new faculty, teaching staff, and TAs may have, as they request course space and get ready to develop their courses in Blackboard:

Requesting a new course on Blackboard 

Your courses are not automatically listed in Blackboard; you must request your courses to be able to build them. NEW this semester - when requesting a course, you must specify whether you want the course to be created in Original or Ultra Course View.

After logging into, click the Tools tab at the left of the page, followed by Blackboard Faculty Tools. Click My Courses and then follow the prompts to request your upcoming courses. (Instructions and step-by-step tutorials for requesting your course are also available.) In order to request a Blackboard course, you must be the "instructor of record" for the course in the MyNIU system.

Those teaching dual-level courses (e.g. 400 and 500 or cross-listed courses) or multiple sections may want to combine their sections into a single course. You must be instructor of record for both sections to be able to combine the courses. The resulting combined course will include all of the students from both sections and will be identified with "PRIM" in the course name.

Course requests are processed immediately. It takes an additional day for someone newly assigned as instructor of record in MyNIU to have permission to request the course in Blackboard. Learn more about requesting Blackboard courses.

Accessing your courses

You can access all of your courses from the current and previous semesters by clicking Courses at the left of the page. Use the Current Courses drop down menu to select the appropriate term. Fall courses will be listed under Upcoming Courses until the start date. For quick and convenient access, you can use the search tool to find a specific course and you can favorite the courses you use most frequently by clicking the star icon. Learn more about the Courses page.

Ultra Course View

For the Fall 2023 semester, faculty may choose whether to teach in the Ultra Course View or the Original Course View. NIU is planning for a full migration to the Ultra Course View by December 31, 2023; we highly recommend teaching Fall 2023 courses in the Ultra Course View or participating in the Ultra Transition Academy this fall to prepare for spring. 

The Ultra Course View is cleaner and more modern than the Original Course View. You are able to preview and convert your course to the Ultra Course View if you are interested in using it. 

NEW this semester, you must choose whether you want your courses to be created in Original or Ultra Course View at the time that you request your courses. If you choose Original Course View, you can use the Ultra conversion tool to change your course to Ultra after you request it (but before you open it to students). 

Many new features have been added to Ultra Course View this summer (like an updated flexible grading workflow, the ability to upload test questions from a .txt file, thumbnail images for learning modules, anonymous grading for tests, and much more!). 

In addition, faculty can attend an upcoming workshop, complete the self-paced Transitioning to Blackboard Ultra Course View workshop, watch tutorials on Ultra Course View, or schedule an individual consultation to discuss their course.

Open your course with confidence and welcome students 

We recommend making your course available to students a few days early with a welcome message, to help them anticipate the structure and expectations of the course. Your course may open automatically at the date you specified when you requested your course in Blackboard, or you can open it manually if you did not set a date. This has led to some confusion in the past about whether a course is really "open" or not, but the Course Availability Settings tool, custom-built by the Division of IT, will tell you definitively whether your course is open and let you modify any of the availability settings, including the start date of the course.

Adding an image and name pronunciation to your profile

Did you know you can customize your profile in Blackboard to include a profile image and your name pronunciation? It's an easy step that can help students to feel more connected to you. In the Ultra Course View, your profile image appears on the Course Content page and in Messages; both your image and name pronunciation appear on the Roster and in Discussions. In the Original Course View, your profile appears in Discussions. Your students can also customize their profile with an image and name pronunciation, which are visible to their classmates. 

Customizing email notifications

The most important information from across your courses, like new materials, discussion posts or replies, assignment and test submissions, or grades will be automatically emailed to you daily as a digest each night. You will only receive the daily digest email if there was activity in at least one of your courses. You can modify your notification settings to determine what you see in the daily digest emails from your profile or by clicking the gear icon in the upper right of the Activity Stream. Uncheck any notification you do not wish to receive; uncheck all of the items on the email tab to stop receiving the Daily Digest emails. Learn more about the Activity Stream and Notifications.

Learn more about Blackboard

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning regularly schedules workshops on using Blackboard for teaching purposes. Faculty, Instructors, and Teaching Assistants receive the program schedule via email each month, or you can view the list of upcoming programs on our website. 

For those who cannot attend any of the scheduled sessions, CITL has created self-paced workshops on Transitioning to the Ultra Course View and an Introduction to Blackboard Original Course View.  

The Teaching and Learning with Blackboard site contains instructions, tutorials, and other helpful information related to using Blackboard for your courses, including answers to Frequently Asked Questions.

For login and password-related questions, please contact the IT Service Desk at 815-753-8100 or, or use the Division of IT Self-Service system to submit a ticket. For other teaching-related Blackboard questions, faculty can submit questions at

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