Planning for a Rapid Transition to Online Instruction

The Academy for Teaching Excellence is here to support all full-time and adjunct faculty who are making the transition to online instruction. To help best manage the large number of requests while our team works remotely, we ask that all requests for Blackboard assistance and instructional support be submitted using the Online Instruction Support form.

Transitioning to Fully Online Instruction Webinar Series (April 2 – April 16)
To support the transition to fully online instruction for Spring and Summer 2020 classes, the Academy is offering a five-part webinar series. Detailed information on each webinar including how to participate, watch a recording, and apply for CEUs is found on the Transitioning to Fully Online Instruction Webinar Series page.

  • Thursday, April 2: Laying Out Your Online Course and Providing Quality Content
  • Tuesday, April 7: Bringing Your Course Activities and Assessments Online
  • Thursday, April 9: Providing Feedback and an Organized Gradebook in Your Online Course
  • Tuesday, April 14: Building Community and Enhancing Communications in the Online Environment
  • Thursday, April 16: Supporting Every Student in Your Online Course through Universal Design

Each webinar will be from 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. and Google Chrome is the preferred browser. Live captioning is available for participants during the webinars. A fully captioned recording of the webinar will be made available afterwards as well. Participants should have a basic familiarity with Blackboard or watch a recording of the Essential Online Skills session before participating.

Essential Online Skills Recorded Sessions
Get up to speed fast! Watch a recording of an Essential Online Skills session hosted by the Academy. The session focuses on essential Blackboard and Collaborate (live, virtual lecture) skills.

Blackboard Spring Folder Template & Summer Course Shell (Created by the Academy for You!)

  • Spring 2020 Folder Template: A basic Blackboard Folder Template has been created to help you get through the rest of the Spring 2020 semester. We can quickly copy this template into any of your Blackboard course shells as a framework for building out content for the remainder of the spring semester. This folder will appear in your course menu and will not affect any existing content in your existing course shell. Learn more.
  • Summer 2020 Course Shell: The Summer 2020 Blackboard Course Shell is now available and can be used to transition to online courses or to redesign an existing online course. This is a complete course shell with folders and other built-in template fields and can only be copied into an empty course shell. Learn more.

Support for Online Instruction and Blackboard
Submit all Blackboard and online instruction support requests through the Online Instruction Support form. Please specify what type of assistance is needed: Basic Blackboard and Collaborate Technical Support Assistance (e.g. cannot access my course, tools not working as expected, student information not appearing, integration of publisher/third-party content and tools) or requests that may involve more time-intensive design, technology, or multimedia assistance (e.g. getting started with online instruction, implementing new Blackboard tools for the first time, creating exams in Blackboard, recording video, setting up a gradebook, etc.).

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 during the rapid transition to online learning.

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.

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. ProctorU: This option should only be used if an online test must be given with a live proctor while the college is closed. Complete the ProctorU Section of the Testing Center’s Test Proctor Request form in order to assure a smooth test administration. View the ProctorU Manual for details and assistance. Please share the ProctorU FAQ page with your students when using this option.

Providing Students with Grades

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. 

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 using library services online during the flexible learning period.

  • Guide to using the library online.
  • Library Instruction continues in flexible and online modalities. Request instructional materials for your online students by filling out the library’s Instructional Request Form.
  • 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.
  • Course Reserves: Please contact or your library liaison for assistance in making your course reserves available.
  • 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: Staffed 24/7 by librarians in the U.S., Harper faculty and students can chat online and receive research help with a Harper College librarian during normal business hours. Visit the library website and click “Live Chat”.
  • 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

Please share the following information with your students:

Remote Learning Resources for Students

Academic Support

  • Academic Support for Students
  • Academic advisors, access advocates, and counselors are available to provide support for students. These areas can provide expert advice and point students to resources to support their success.

Blackboard Resources for Students

Online Testing

Student Tech Support

  • Faculty are asked to help students as much as possible with the course; however, should a student require technical assistance, please refer them to the Student Service Desk.
  • Student Service Desk / Tech Support: Student Service Desk helps students with Blackboard, Harper student email, and MyHarper Student Portal.

Library Services for Students

Office 365 for Students

  • Harper students can sign in to using their Harper email (i.e. and with their password as their six-digit birthdate (MMDDYY). Once in they can use Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point.

Microsoft Word, Excel, Power Point – Free for Students

  • All students can download Microsoft Word, Excel, and Power Point for free on up to five desktop computers, five mobile devices, and five tablets. They can download the software here using their Harper email (i.e. and with their password as their six-digit birthdate (MMDDYY).


Questions? Need help?
The Academy for Teaching Excellence is here to support all full-time and adjunct faculty who are making the transition to online instruction. To help best manage the large number of requests while our team works remotely, we ask that all requests for Blackboard assistance and instructional support be submitted using the Online Instruction Support form. Please also review the resources above for assistance with Blackboard and other tools that support online instruction.

Harper College Updates
Harper College is currently taking proactive measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Do not come to campus. We are providing services remotely and will respond to your requests – please be patient. Visit for updated information about the Harper College COVID-19 response and services plan.