Transition to Online Instruction

The Academy for Teaching Excellence is here to support all full-time and adjunct faculty. Here are the ways to get instructional and Blackboard support through the Academy: Academy & Blackboard Support – How to Get Help.

Please also review the on-demand resources & tutorials, webinar recordings, and more that are provided on this page.

Transition to Online Instruction

Essential Online Course Features Checklist

As you develop your courses, consider using the Essential Online Course Features Checklist with the “essentials” of a well-designed and facilitated online or blended course. The checklist contains 15 items divided into four categories: Orientation Activities, Learning Activities, Feedback & Instructor Presence, and Accessibility. It also contains links to tutorials, resources, and ideas to help you in your course building. An enhanced version of the checklist with multiple strategies for more equitable support and engagement is also available. Learn more.

Webinar Recordings

  • Essential Online Skills: Get up to speed fast! These recordings focus on essential Blackboard and Collaborate (live, virtual lecture) skills.
  • From Checklist to Course: Essential Online Course Features Showcase: This webinar showcased Harper faculty courses that demonstrate the essential course features in action, and provided ideas and suggestions to help “check the boxes” when creating quality online course experiences for students. Considerations for equity pedagogies for each section of the checklist were shared along with a few examples of applications.
  • Transitioning to Fully Online Instruction: To support the transition to fully online instruction, the Academy hosted a five-part webinar series (April 2-April 16, 2020).

Please review the resources below for assistance with Blackboard and other tools that support online instruction:

Accessing Blackboard LMS

Online instruction at Harper College is facilitated through Blackboard Learn. If you are reviewing documentation for Blackboard on the web, be sure to look only at Learn tutorials (not Ultra). Blackboard works best with Firefox, Chrome, and Safari browsers. Collaborate Ultra is Blackboard’s tool for live lecture/synchronous communication and works best with Google Chrome. As you prepare to transition to online instruction, please test your browsers to ensure they are up to date. If they are not, you can update from within the browser.

To access Blackboard:

Communication with Students

You will want to communicate with your students early and provide them with as much content as possible in the online environment.

Remind is a great tool for communicating with students. It allows you to text directly with students in your class without having to share your personal cell phone number. You can push messages to the entire class and send/receive messages from individual students. This tool also has a mobile app and syncs with Blackboard announcements.

Student resources for Blackboard, Collaborate, Tech Support, Library Services, and more are listed in the “Student Resources & Support” toggle below. Please share the appropriate tutorials, guides, and links with your students.

Live Lecture (synchronous)

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is the recommended tool to use for facilitating live lectures.

Faculty can also use Harper’s Webex conferencing tool.

Equipment Needed

  • Video: A webcam is needed only if you would like to appear on camera. Check if your computer has one built-in.
  • Audio: A mic on your computer, webcam will work. For best sound quality use a headset with a mic.
  • Internet Connection: A live session is only as good as your internet connection speed. Contact your internet service provider if you experience issues. Collaborate can also be run from within the Blackboard instructor app.

Mobile devices: Blackboard Collaborate can be used from within the Blackboard Instructor app or use the call-in number from your course room to join your course session.

Pre-recorded Lecture (asynchronous)

Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is a way to record lectures and easily share the recording with students in Blackboard. While recording, instructors can share PowerPoints, PDFs, images, applications, the desktop, or a whiteboard during their lecture.

Mobile devices such as phones and tablets are a quick way to record a lecture or lesson for your class. Recordings can then be uploaded to YouTube directly from your device. The Mashups tool in Blackboard allows instructors to embed a YouTube video directly to their Blackboard class. YouTube also provides an auto-caption feature that generates captions with 70-80% accuracy.

Web Conferencing Tools

Web conferencing (aka video conferencing) is a powerful learning tool that can bring real-time interaction online and connect with students in a remote learning environment. There are several ways web conferencing can be used in your online course, such as synchronous or asynchronous instruction, office hours, guest speakers, chat, collaboration, and student presentations.

With so many options available, how do you decide which web conferencing tool to use for your online course? At Harper College we support Blackboard Collaborate, Webex, and Microsoft Teams. Choosing a tool supported by the College offers advantages, such as access to the full features of the tool and support for you and your students. To help you decide what to use, the Academy has created a one-page quick guide that compares the top features of Collaborate, Webex, and Teams.


Course Content in Blackboard

Content for your course, such as documents and slides, can be created using Microsoft Office 365. Content created in the web version of Office 365 should be saved to your computer and then uploaded to Blackboard.

Collect Student Work in Blackboard

The Blackboard Assignment tool is a secure place to provide assignment information and collect student work for feedback and grading. Assignments can also be collected from students via email.

Group Work

The following tools can be used to help facilitate small group collaboration:

Breakout Groups within a Collaborate Ultra Session or Room – During a synchronous session you can separate out the attendees into breakout groups to allow for small group collaboration.

A Collaborate Ultra Session for Each Group – As an instructor you can create an individual session for each group, giving them a collaborative space “on standby”.

Blackboard Groups – When you create groups inside your Blackboard course, you can decide which tools to give students for their group collaboration process, including discussion boards, file exchange, and wikis.

Google – Google works great for collaborative work and all Harper students have access to it with their college email. Faculty can create Google accounts with their Harper accounts (without Gmail (instructions for how to do this; this video mentions YouTube – you can still follow the directions through 2:58 for Google account creation). Once you create an account, you can then use one of the Collaborative tools within Google: Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Hangouts, etc.

Please note: Faculty should consider being flexible on how the students are best able to communicate. Keeping groups somewhat small can help students from getting too overwhelmed with trying to establish regular meeting times/virtual spaces.

Community Building with Discussions

The Blackboard Discussion tool can be used to create community and foster collaboration in an online course. Students can share documents, links, videos, and interact with each other’s ideas.

Online Testing

The Blackboard Tests, Pools, and Surveys tool can be used to create and administer tests to students from within Blackboard.

Proctored Testing – Verification of student identity and academic integrity can be challenges in the online environment. If your exam needs to be proctored, consider the following options:

  1. Redesign the exam into an alternative assessment format that does not need testing. An Academy instructional designer can explore possibilities with you.
  2. Respondus Lockdown Browser and Monitor: The test is created and administered in Blackboard. Students are unable to open additional browsers on their machine and students with webcams/mics are recorded during the exam. Please share the Student Guide to Respondus Lockdown Browser with your students when using this option.
  3. Honorlock: This is a tool that can be enabled when creating Blackboard exams that provides a virtual test proctoring experience while maintaining a high-level of exam security. For students, Honorlock provides a flexible, 24/7 (if you allow it) testing experience that doesn’t require appointments and is compatible with all computers, including Chromebooks. Honorlock is not compatible with tablets or mobile phones.

Administering exams in a fully online class can present challenges around academic integrity, student accommodations, and limits how students show their work. This can lead to test anxiety for both the student and instructor. Learn more about Assessment and Proctoring options.

Tracking Participation and Attendance

There are four tools available in every Blackboard course that you can use to track student participation and attendance: Statistics Tracking, Collaborate Attendance Reports, the Attendance Tool, and Course Reports.

Grading Student Work

The Blackboard Grade Center is the recommended tool for providing scores on graded assessments and also for informing students of their current grade in the class. When you create an assignment scores can be set up to populate the Grade Center automatically. The Grade Center also allows you to use points or a weighted average to give students their current total grade in the class. Please note: Final semester grades still need to be entered manually in SIS. 

Build a rubric to communicate assignment requirements and acceptable performance standards for your coursework. Rubrics help ensure consistent and impartial grading.


Virtual Office Hours

Virtual office hours are a way to keep open communication with your students. Blackboard Collaborate Ultra is the preferred tool to move your office hours online and allows you to video conference, audio conference, chat, and share content.

Faculty can also use Harper’s Webex conferencing tool for virtual office hours.

An asynchronous option for office hours is the Blackboard Discussion tool.


These tools will help you to make your video content accessible to all learners in the online environment.

Library Services

Here is some information about Library services and resources:

  • Library and Information Literacy Instruction: Many students are still new to online learning, and extra support from the Library can make a real difference in their ability to complete assignments, develop key information literacy skills, and stick with courses until completion. Online library instruction gives students targeted, personal help where and when they need it.
  • Library Curbside Services: The Library will begin offering limited curbside circulation services to students, faculty, and staff. To request an item for check out, a hold must be placed through the Library’s catalog. Library staff will notify the requester when the item(s) are available to be picked up in parking lot 2A. Requested items will be held for 14 days.
  • Librarians are available to assist faculty with linking library resources to Blackboard, including videos from our academic streaming video collections, and articles from our databases.
  • Your Library Liaison: A library liaison is assigned to your Area if Interest (AoI) and department. Please contact your librarian for assistance.
  • Research Tutorials: These tutorials show how to use the library’s most popular electronic resources. Additional tutorials can be created, please contact your library liaison with your needs.
  • Library Website: eBooks and article databases are available 24/7 via the library website. Use your Harper College Student Portal username and password to access online library resources.
  • Search Library Collections: Limit to full-text for online collections.
  • Live Chat: Synchronous chat is available 24/7, provided by Harper librarians during our regular hours and librarians at partner schools after hours. We help students, faculty, and staff with questions big or small. We have switched to a new software, LibAnswers, to manage many of our reference services. LibAnswers offers additional functionality and should make our chat easier for everyone to find and use. You will notice our live chat service is now available via a blue “Chat with a Librarian” button on the right side of all Library webpages. We also have a link to our chat service as well as a growing FAQ and other contact options on the following webpage.
  • Questions? Email:

Harper Tech Support

Guides from Harper Employee Technical Skills Training

Office 365 (Outlook, OneDrive, Word, Excel, etc)

Service Desk

  • To reach the Service Desk from off campus, call 847.925.6199.
  • Service Desk hours are Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Service Desk staff are working diligently to support everyone – please be understanding and patient.


  • Your Harper voicemail is set up to go to your email. You can listen to it from your computer. You can also reach voicemail by going to and logging in with your network username and password.

Online Meetings

  • Conduct an online meeting through Webex, virtual meeting software available to every Harper faculty and staff member.
  • You can use Webex to run meetings with Harper colleagues and people outside of Harper.
  • You can attend meetings from your computer or by phone, run meetings with or without a web cam, and share screens or presentations.
  • Employee Technical Skills Training has instructions as well as quick guides to get you started. Learn more. (use your Harper credentials to log-in)

Student Resources & Support

The Remote Learning Resources for Students page lists information about student resources and support (services, programs, initiatives) and how students can obtain the help they need to succeed while learning at a distance. 

Questions? Need help?
The Academy for Teaching Excellence is here to support all full-time and adjunct faculty. Here are the ways to get instructional and Blackboard support through the Academy: Academy & Blackboard Support – How to Get Help. Please also review the on-demand resources & tutorials, webinar recordings, and more that are provided on this page.

Harper College Updates
Please visit for updated information about the Harper College COVID-19 response.