Ultra: What's new in the Ultra Experience?

UMBC's Blackboard receives monthly updates as part of Blackboard's continuous delivery model. As a software industry standard practice, continuous delivery updates are small, may include maintenance, enhancements and/or new features, and are delivered on a more frequent and consistent basis. Read the latest news about Ultra updates at myUMBC.

This page lists the monthly updates. If you are looking for specific features, please see: What tools are available in an Ultra course? or Is Ultra right for me?

UMBC is committed to providing a consistent learning experience for everyone. The last day we will support Blackboard Original is December 31, 2024. Please check out our training and support: umbc.edu/go/ultra

June 6, 2024 (v3900.93

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Output Language Selector

To support multi-language use cases, the AI Design Assistant now includes a language selector. Instructors may use the language selector to set the desired language for generated content. This feature is especially beneficial for courses with multi-language requirements.

Assessment

Printer-friendly assessmnts

Instructors can now print assessments. Printing provides a convenient solution for a variety of use cases:

  • Accommodating students with specific needs or limited technology access

  • Providing a printed assessment for testing in designated centers

  • Backup and record keeping

  • Conducting offline assessment

  • Documentation and compliance

  • Maintaining security and integrity

The print option is available in Forms, Tests, and Assignments with questions. Printing also provides the option to save as PDF. Support for question pools and answer keys is in development.

Grading

Show or Hide Graded Responses

The Needs Grading filter now filters out graded student responses by default. Filtering this way helps instructors to focus on any remaining ungraded responses for a given question. If instructors want to include graded responses, they can select Show graded responses. This selection preference is now stored per course and it persists across assessments in each course.

Grading

Private grading notes

Instructors can now add private grading notes to student grades. After a score is assigned, the new Feedback & Notes menu option is available. Grader notes form an important part of the academic record. These notes may serve as documentation for a grading decision or grade adjustment.  Grader notes are private to graders and not visible to students.

Grading

Improved visibility of new grades & feedback to students

To ensure that students are aware of any new grades in the course, Ultra added an indicator to the Gradebook tab. When there are new grades, the number of new grades appears on the tab. After selecting the tab, items with new or updated grades appear at the top of the student gradebook and display a purple indicator. The purple indicator disappears and the count on the tab reduces when the student selects the item or reviews their submission.  

Additionally late assessments are marked with a "(Late)" label to reduce stress rather than a red label.

Course Management

Redesigned Courses landing page

The carousel for navigating between terms is removed. There is now a term selector and filter you can use on its own or with other filters. Users can set filters, make term choices, and add text searches. All of these are clearly displayed below the search box. Remove these search settings or filters to see more courses or organizations. Remove them by selecting the close icon “x” on each.

Selections and filters are remembered automatically even if you log out or switch devices. Set up the pages the way you like, and we’ll keep it that way until you change it.

Additional updates for June include:

  • When editing a question, instructors can now access and edit the point value field with just two clicks. Reducing the number of clicks needed to edit the point value of a question saves instructors time and effort. 

  • Students can now return a true/false question to an unanswered state after choosing an answer. Students clear their choice by selecting the same option again. Students may need to clear their answer selection for a test question. For questions that use negative scoring, if a student is uncertain about their answer, their score may be better if they leave it unanswered.

  • Instructors can now post announcements as part of the drafting and editing processes. This makes the process of creating and posting announcements simpler. 

  • Currently, at the end of the enrollment period, unassigned students are always distributed into groups. To improve the use of self-enrollment groups for optional activities, instructors can now opt out of this behavior. Instructors can deselect the option, which does not enroll students who do not self-enroll by the end of the enrollment to any group.

  • The member list is relocated to the selected group page rather than a separate panel. Here, users can search for members and sort them alphabetically. 

May 2, 2024 (v3900.91)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Content Management

Release Conditions: Multiple Performance Criteria

With this update, instructors can set more than one performance criteria per content item as a condition for releasing content (e.g., at least 80% on two specific tests).

Assessment & Grading

Add question feedback when grading

When grading an assessment by question, instructors can provide contextual feedback according to the individual question regardless of the question type.

Assessment & Grading

Improved Gradebook Navigation

Anthology replaced the grid and list view buttons with text links. The options are now:  

  • Gradable Items

  • Grades (grid view)

  • Students

The Gradebook will remember the last view you used in each course.

Assessment & Grading

Weighted Grade Calculation Improvements

Instructors can assign equal weights to items in the same categories. The chosen calculation method, whether proportional or equal, applies to all categories. In the past, weighted items in the same category had proportional weights. These weighted items were based on the possible points of each item. 

Additionally, Ultra will now display the instructor's chosen weighting option in the calculation rules panel.

Accessibility

Reduced motion setting

Ultra courses have animated elements such as panels opening and closing. Some users may prefer or need to reduce animations and motion. Many devices and operating systems have settings to reduce non-essential motion. Ultra now has added support for the “prefers-reduced-motion” feature to select animated panels. Panels will snap into place when users have configured reduce motion instead of a swiping motion.

  • iOS: Accessibility > Motion > Reduce motion (on)

  • Android: Settings > Accessibility > Remove Animations (on)

  • Windows: Settings > Accessibility > Visual effects > Animation effects (off)

  • Mac OS: System Settings > Accessibility > Display > Reduce motion (on)

Content Management

Converting to Ultra

When converting an Original course to Ultra, the course menu’s Content Areas will convert to Ultra Learning Modules instead of folders. This applies to Original courses as well as courses migrating from Canvas, Brightspace, and Moodle.

Content Management

Course Copy Workflow

Users can no longer push a copy from an Original course to an Ultra course to reduce the likelihood of an Ultra course becoming corrupted.

For Ultra courses, instructors should always start a copy process from the Ultra course and PULL content from Original.

Additional updates for May include:

  • Instructors can assign a Form to a Group and permit multiple attempts.

  • Instructors can reuse questions on Forms when editing or creating a Form. Once a question is reused, it can be edited as needed.

  • Instructors can align goals to questions within a question pool to ensure that assessment items measure the desired learning outcomes. Goals are set up by Bb admins.

April 4, 2024 (v3900.89)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Context picker for learning modules, assignments, discussions, journals

Instructors can now select specific course items to help define how the AI tools assist with generating content in an appropriate context. This includes learning modules for course organization and authentic prompts for assignments, journals, and discussions.

When Ultra documents are selected as context, file attachments on the Ultra document will also be included as context for all context pickers.

Assessment & Grading

Default point value changed to 1 for test questions

Based on client feedback, Blackboard is changing the default point value from 10 to 1 for test questions. Any newly created questions will have a default point value of 1 instead of 10, which reduces the need for manual adjustments.

Assessment & Grading

Individual question feedback

Instructors can now provide contextual feedback by student on all question types. Question level feedback promotes deeper understanding and personal growth among students. Question level feedback complements the existing capabilities of overall submission feedback and automated feedback for auto-graded questions.

Once students have submitted their tests and scores are posted, students can access both overall feedback and question-specific feedback.

Assessment & Grading

Visible feedback for Students

In the past, when an instructor selected the option to hide content, students could view associated grades but not the feedback. With this update, students will always see feedback regardless of the instructor’s release conditions settings.

Assessment & Grading

Creating duplicate questions in assessments, forms and question banks

If an instructor wants to have a question repeated with the same answer options but a different question, the new "Duplicate" option will quickly copy an existing question within the same assessment (test, assignment, form) or in a question bank. This feature eliminates the need for manual duplication and simplifies the process of creating multiple questions with the same answer options.

Communiction & Engagement

Anonymous posts in Discussions

A new setting enables instructors to allow anonymous posts in ungraded discussions. Instructors can toggle anonymity on or off as the discussion progresses. Any existing anonymous posts keep their anonymity if the setting is turned off.

Content Management

Batch Edit individual due dates & availability

Updating availability and due dates after a course copy, import, or a conversion can take time. Now instructors have the option to change the due date and availability (Show On and Hide After) for any item using the Batch Edit tools.

Content Management

Sticky Navigation for Learning Modules

To improve students' navigation in a learning module, Blackboard updated the navigation bar. Now the navigation bar remains visible as students vertically scroll through content. Students no longer need to scroll back up to the top of content to access the navigation tools.

Additional updates for April include:

  • The attempt selector was relocated in the flexible grading interface to improve visibility and efficiency. Placed in the upper right corner of the grading page, a single grade pill provides a more intuitive grading workflow and prevents accidental grade overrides. This also allows instructors to switch between a student's attempts during grading. Moreover, overriding the final grade is now an explicit grading option. The overflow menu (…) is also used to clear a grade.

  • Instructors can create Likert scale questions with 4 or 6 answer options to allow for greater granularity in student responses. An even number of answer options also supports the creation of questions where students cannot select a neutral option.

  • The Attempt Log will indicate whether a student’s submission is manual or automatic. This indicator provides instructors with deeper insights into student behaviors and allows instructors to better track student progress. 

  • The software library used to perform calculations in calculated columns and the overall course grade changed to BigFraction. When calculating an average of three assessments, BigFraction will properly calculate whereas the former software library, BigDecimal, would round down. Learn more.

  • Instructors can choose to include the Overall Grade for students when downloading the Ultra course gradebook.

  • Gradebook categories for Partner Cloud content & tools (e.g., Cengage) can be edited from the Gradebook.

March 7, 2024 (v3900.86)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Context picker for test question generation

Instructors can now select specific course items to help define test questions when using the AI Course Design Assistant to generate test questions. This option improves the alignment of generated questions to course content.

Assessment & Grading

Gradebook item statistics

Instructors can select a column in the gradebook to access summary statistics for any graded item. The statistics page displays key metrics such as:

  • Minimum and maximum value

  • Range

  • Average

  • Median

  • Standard deviation

  • Variance

The number of submissions requiring grading and the distribution of grades also displays.

Assessment & Grading

No Due Date option for assessments

There is no a “No due date” option for Tests and Assignments to support self-paced learning.

In the event a “No due date” selection conflicts with the Assessment Results settings, the instructor is prompted to review the settings.

 

 

Communication & Engagement

Announcement indicator

Users will now see a number indicator next to the announcement tab in the course to signal the number of unread announcements available.

Communication & Engagement

Mark Announcements Read / Unread

Users can now mark announcements as read or unread. On the New Course Announcement pop-up, users have the option to mark the read state. Users can also mark announcements as read or unread from the Announcement page.

Additional updates for March:

  • In flexible grading, instructors can collapse or expand the left panel (student cards) and right panel (feedback and rubrics). To provide a better user experience, the last used state is now preserved in the browser. Now, navigating between student attempts and across sessions provides a more efficient experience.

February 1, 2024 (v3900.84)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Assessment & Grading

Forms

Instructors can now create surveys in their courses – these are called Forms in Ultra. Question types include essay, multiple choice, true/false, and Likert. You can also add text, upload a file, and create page breaks. By default, a Form is not graded since questions do not have a right or wrong answer. Form data may be downloaded from the gradebook or submission page as an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file.

Surveys from Original courses will be converted to Forms in Ultra. Only questions and options that are supported in Ultra will be converted.

The next phase of Forms will support anonymous submissions - at this time, Forms are associated to the learner who submits the survey in the course where the Form is created.

Assessment & Grading

Send Reminder from Gradebook

The Send Reminder scenarios are refined to ensure the recipient list more accurate. A student user will be counted and receive the reminder if they didn't submit and:

  • they are available in the course.

  • they have not received an automatic zero.

  • they don’t have a manual override score that was posted.

Assessment & Grading

Send Reminder for LTI Third Party Tools

The Send Reminder option is now also available for LTI and 3rd party tools with assessments in the gradebook. This functionality is only available for tools that are LTI Advantage as the tool can inform Blackboard when a student has submitted, even if they haven’t yet received a grade.

NOTE: If the third party tool doesn’t support this, it is possible that students will receive a reminder even if they’ve submitted their work. The tool provider can enhance their integration to improve this experience.

Assessment & Grading

Feedback to learners for override and automatic zero grades

Instructors can give feedback for overridden tests, assignment grades, and automatic zeros. This option appears in the Gradebook grid view, and the Submissions list after the override or automatic zero is entered.

Assessment & Grading

Upload feedback for imported grades

Instructors can now upload feedback for students as part of the offline grading process. This means when you download your gradebook for manually created columns or offline assignments, you can enter grades and add feedback in the Feedback to Learner column, which will now show to students.

Content Management

Import Moodle packages

Instructors can now import Moodle packages into Ultra and Original view courses. Learn more about importing courses from Moodle for more directions. Blackboard also has a guide to help you understand the differences in terminology.

Additional updates for February:

  • The Rubrics grading interface stores the most recently used display option. This means that instructors who rely on performance-level descriptions when grading don’t have to turn them on each time they navigate to grade another submission. The performance level display option preference is stored on a per-user per-assessment basis.

  • To ensure easy and clear access to the Audio/Video Recording Feedback tool, the recording window appears on the right side of the screen so that the instructor can view the student submission. The instructor can scroll through a student's response while recording their feedback. The instructor can maximize the recording window for better visibility.

  • Feedback for all attempts on a test or assignment is visible to learners in a peek panel. Students can view override feedback after grades are posted.

  • Instructors can view the number of missed due dates for students in the Course Activity Report. Students who trigger the missed due dates alert appear in the Course Activity report table and chart and in the downloaded report. Instructors can customize the missed due date alert in the Alert Settings. The default is set to 4 due dates. New courses need at least 2 weeks of activity to start triggering these notifications. Alerts are triggered every day in case there are new students with alerts in a course.

January 4, 2024 (v3900.82)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Authentic Assignment Prompt Generation

The latest update to the AI tools in Ultra allows instructors to generate assignment prompts that encourage students to engage in higher-order thinking, apply learned knowledge, justify or challenge their beliefs and ideas and emulate real-world situations.

The generation process allows instructors to enter an assignment description, select a desired cognitive process based on Bloom's Taxonomy, set the complexity, and generate an assignment title.

The instructor can review the generated prompts and select one to add to the assignment. After adding the prompt, the instructor can edit or further refine the prompt as appropriate.

Assessment & Grading

Enhancements to gradebook grid view

The Ultra gradebook's grid view features several enhancements to improve usability and maximize the screen real estate including improved row visibility, reduced icon size and spacing, and improved student identification such as student IDs.

Assessment & Grading

Total and weighted calculations

Expanding gradebook functionality will now support total and weighted calculated columns that can be point-based or weighted calculations. Instructors may link/unlink items in a category in the calculation or exclude categories and drop scores from the calculation. 

If instructors wish to define a total calculated column for their own use, they can choose to hide from students. Total calculated columns can also be used in the overall grade calculation.

Assessment & Grading

Release conditions for grade visibility

When instructors set release conditions, such as hiding an assessment, the grades are unavailable to students. With this update, instructors can set release conditions without concern of hiding grades. Regardless of the settings, students will be able to see their grades. All other functionality of release conditions is unchanged.

Assessment & Grading

Assessment attempt logs for tests and assignments 

Test attempt logs provide detailed information, including the date and time of the start and answers to each question and question specific details such as a preview of the question and estimated time spent on each question. The instructor will also see the submission receipt number, final grade, and attempt grade. For assignments, the attempt logs will provide the start and submission date and time, submission receipt number. Instructors can access the Attempt Logs from the submission page or the Grades Tab under the Student Overview Page for both group and individual assessments

Assessment & Grading

Improved attempt display in Flexible Grading

If multiple attempts are permitted for an assessment, the grading interface will display the attempt that reflects the grading status and attempt aggregation. For example, if the attempt aggregation is set to Attempt with Highest Grade, when all attempts are graded, the attempt with the highest grade will display. If any ungraded attempts exist, then the most recent ungraded attempt will display for the instructor.

Content Management

Unused files tool

To help instructors understand the usage of files in their course, the Unused Files tool can find and delete course files that are not in use. Instructors can locate the Unused Files tool in the three-dot menu on the Course Content page. Instructors can download a copy of the file before deleting.

Content Management

Batch edit date and time

Using Batch Edit, instructors can override the existing date and/or time for selected items. Instructors can adjust the due date time for all assessments using this option. The same feature also works on show on and hide after dates and times.

Note: Batch edit of dates/time only works with items that have pre-existing date and time values. Items without a date or time value will not have one applied.

Additional updates for January:

  • A category column is added to the Gradebook list view to provide clarity for those items to be graded. The category column can be sorted in ascending or descending order alphabetically.

  • Instructors can use delegated grading for anonymous assessments. Sorting controls are available for submission date (old to new or new to old).

 

View previous updates to the Ultra Experience.