student working with counselor

New Blackboard Observer Role Supports Student Success

student working with counselorThis Spring, the Division of IT introduced the Observer role in Blackboard. This role is designed to allow academic counselors and other support staff to monitor the progress and performance of the students they work with. Observers have the potential to view the grades of the students they are observing as well as content in the courses in which their students are enrolled.

Of course, Observer access to student grades and course materials is entirely controlled by individual faculty. By default, Observers are not allowed access to any aspect of a given course until that is enabled by the faculty teaching the course. An Observer is never able to interact within the course, like posting to a Discussion Board or submitting assignments. If a student is assigned an Observer, that relationship will be visible to faculty and teaching assistants by viewing the Users list in Blackboard. Learn how to enable Observer access or what Observers can access in a course.

There are many benefits to allowing Observer access to a course:

  • An Observer is easily able to monitor their assigned students’ current standing in any courses that use the Grade Center. Depending on how access is enabled, the Observer may be able to view an overall grade or individual assignment grades. With this ability, Observers can identify students who may be struggling and connect them with valuable resources on campus.
  • If enabled, Observers can view course content, like the syllabus or schedule, and assignment instructions. This helps the Observer work with students on understanding course requirements and prioritizing study schedules.
  • Faculty can update all Observers about upcoming projects or assignments through the Send Email tool. In addition, faculty can contact the Observer assigned to a single student via Blackboard if an issue arises that puts the student at risk in the course, like poor performance on an exam or too many absences, through the Grade Center or the Retention Center.

This semester, a pilot is underway with the counselors of the Deacon Davis CHANCE Program, so they can work more closely with their students to help them be successful during their first year at NIU. Other programs interested in similar access should contact the Faculty Development & Instructional Design Center to learn more.

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