OFDIT Newsletter March 2022

March 2022

Dear CUNY SPS Faculty,

Warmer weather is fast approaching and we hope you are enjoying the rising temperatures and longer days. In this newsletter edition, we bring to your attention the new Blackboard Archive Course Retention Policy. We share information about the CUNY-wide events our OFDIT team will participate in and other exciting events such as the Pedagogy of Kindness series (Queens College CTL), Creating LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Courses sessions (City College CTL), and the next CUNY SPS Reflective Pedagogy Reading Group.

We also announce our next Open Spring event and share the date for our annual Faculty Development Day so you can mark your calendars!

Please also read on to find a Faculty Corner submission by Curtis Izen on grading low stakes assignments, followed by our Spring semester training sessions.

Blackboard Archive Retention Policy

Creating and saving export/archive files of your Blackboard courses for your personal records is always recommended. After creating an export/archive file, most of you know to save it to your computer or other location, though the file also remains in Blackboard. However, starting March 2022, any new faculty-created export and archive files will only remain in the Blackboard course site for 30 days after they are created. In addition, existing faculty-created course export/archive files will be automatically deleted in 90 days.

We recommend downloading the export/archive file to personal storage at the time it is created. Faculty will be alerted to the expiration date of their export/archive files when creating the file, and in the email notification that the file is ready for download. Additionally, the deletion date for export/archive files is displayed within the Blackboard course.

Please note there is no change to the storage or retention of long-term system-wide archives of CUNY’s Blackboard courses.

For more information on creating export/archive files of your courses, visit Blackboard’s Export and Archive Courses Help Page.

OFDIT Team at CUNY-wide Faculty Development Events

Our team will offer two CUNY-wide training sessions this semester, in collaboration with the CUNY Innovative Teaching Academy. Please save the date – registration will be announced soon!

  • Teaching Matters: “Accessible and Engaging Zoom Meetings”, facilitated by Antonia Levy and Matthew Lewis – Thursday, April 14 from 11am-12pm ET
  • CITA Summer Series: Creating Inclusive Classrooms: “Adult Learners, Andragogy, and Active Learning”, facilitated by Vicki Caruana and Matthew Lewis – Thursday, June 16, 1:30-3pm ET

(alt="")Pedagogy of Kindness (Queens College CTL)

Antonia Levy and Michelle Gastulo will lead a session of the Queens College Center for Teaching and Learning Pedagogy of Kindness Series, “A Universal Design Learning (UDL) Approach to Inclusive Teaching,” on March 16th, from 12-1:30pm ET. For more information on this session and the series, see Pedagogy of Kindness: Faculty Excellence through a UDL Approach Across CUNY. (Register here)


Creating LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Courses (City College CETL)

City College invites CUNY faculty to two sessions on Creating LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Courses. The first will be a teaching panel, with faculty panelists describing the queer content in their courses and how they use that content to create queer inclusive courses for LGBTQIA students. In the second session, the CCNY LGBTQ+ Student Center provides guidance on best practices for LGBTQ+ inclusivity, from the syllabus to the classroom, and where to direct students for resources.

  1. Session 1 (3/9, 12:30-2 pm): Teaching Panel: Creating LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Courses Register here.
  2. Session 2 (3/16, 12:30-2 pm): Supporting LGBTQIA+ and Questioning Students Register here.

Reflective Pedagogy Reading Group(alt="")
(March 22, 2pm)

The Reflective Pedagogy Reading Group meeting will be Tuesday, March 22, at 2pm. The focus will be on a chapter in the Blum Ungrading book authored by a fully online instructor, Laura Gibbs, “Let’s Talk about Grading.” All are welcome! For more information, please contact Elizabeth Alsop (elizabeth.alsop@cuny.edu).

Open Spring at CUNY SPS

Open & Active Video Workshop (Mar 28 – Apr 11, 2022)

The OER Initiative at CUNY SPS invites faculty to participate in the Open & Active Video Workshop, March 28 to April 11, as part of Open Spring at CUNY SPS. The Open & Active Video Workshop will be hands-on! Each participant will create an accessible OER video, enhanced with an interactive element, to address a pedagogical need in their course. Successful completion is compensated. For more information and to register, see Open Spring at CUNY SPS.

Faculty Development Day – May 5, 2022 – Save the Date

CUNY SPS OFDIT is hosting Faculty Development Day 2022 on Thursday, May 5th, 2022, 2-5pm.

The theme this year is “Inclusive Teaching: Reaching All Students,” and we would like to hear about any tools, approaches, and strategies you have employed in your courses to increase equity by actively identifying and removing barriers to learning.

Call for proposals will be sent out shortly!

Faculty Corner: Grading a Low Stakes Assignment by Curtis Izen

A low-stakes assignment may require the student to complete a task (e.g., adding a BlackBoard profile avatar), which is not included as a calculated grade. In my BUS 325 class, I accomplish this by choosing the “Complete/Incomplete” for my Primary Display (1) and typing a zero for Points Possible (2).








When a student submits the assignment and a numeric 0 is entered for the grade, it will convert to a green check symbol (√) in the Grade Center and My Grades. If the student doesn’t submit anything, that student’s grade will not change (3).






If you wish to put a notation for a missed or incomplete assignment, there is a way to achieve this. In the Primary Display, choose “Text.” If a student earns a completion, you will need to put in the ASCII equivalent of the check symbol. In the Grade Center for that student, turn on NUM Lock on your keyboard. Hold down the ALT key and type the number 251 from the numeric keypad. This will convert to a check symbol (√). If you wish to add a negative (minus) sign, it will appear as (√-). If you find yourself using this method, copying the symbol from a prior student and pasting it in the grade for the next student, etc., works well. Since this particular method is a workaround, the check symbol(√) or check minus (√-) will not appear in a green font (4).







If you have a useful or interesting pedagogical or technical tip (in 200 words or less!) that you are excited about, we would love to hear from you and add your submission to our next Faculty Newsletter! Please use our Faculty Corner Submission Form to submit your pitch.

SPS Faculty Trainings

SPS Faculty Trainings

Making your Blackboard Course Content Accessible

Want to make your documents and Blackboard course content accessible but don’t know where to start? Join us for a training session to learn how! We will cover accessibility principles and provide practical tips on how to make your documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) and Blackboard course content (such as font, headers, images, charts, graphs, hyperlinks) accessible to all your students.

Getting Started with Blackboard Mobile 

In this session, we will explore the Blackboard Mobile application and gain an understanding of how students experience learning on the go. We will also discuss the major interface differences between Blackboard Mobile and Blackboard for Desktop and best practices for online course design for mobile devices.

Student Engagement in Online Learning

Review approaches to enhance student engagement, including different ways to present content, the role of feedback in sustaining engagement, activities to promote student interaction, active learning approaches, and connecting your course content to the real world. Discuss your engagement successes and challenges with colleagues.

VoiceThread for SPS Faculty

This training will introduce VoiceThread, a collaborative, multimedia program that allows faculty (or students) to upload various media like slides, images, or video and engage the class in an enhanced discussion. You and your students can add commentary by means of microphone, webcam, keyboard, or phone. In this session, SPS faculty will learn how to create a VoiceThread and how to integrate it into their Blackboard course.

The VoiceThread Grader

VoiceThread, an asynchronous audio/video discussion board integrated into Blackboard, can be set up for efficient grading. Join this session to learn about the three different assignment types, their advantages/disadvantages, and common obstacles students encounter. By using the assignment builder your VoiceThread will be contained inside a grading tool that aggregates student comments, provides a gallery of student work, and pushes grades to a column in the Blackboard Grade Center.

More VoiceThread Workshops Available

If you’re interested in VoiceThread, you can find several workshops offered by VoiceThread. Please visit https://voicethread.com/workshops and review their sessions to find one fits your schedule.

Accessible Multimedia

In this session, we will discuss tools for multimedia such as Collaborate and Zoom. We will cover tips such as how to add captioning and transcription for audio and video as well as how to write alt-text for images.

Making Efficient Use of Blackboard 

During this session, we will cover tools which can make your grading and communication more efficient. Some of the tools we will cover include discussion boards, Needs Grading, Color Coding, Smart Views, Single Student View, Grade Reports, and the Email tool.

Faculty Support Drop-In Hour

Need live faculty support? Stop by during our Faculty Support Drop-In Hour every Tuesday 3-4pm to speak to an OFDIT team member who can help.

You can access the drop-in hour session via the Zoom link.










Leave a Reply