Previous updates to the Ultra Experience

Beginning with SU2018, UMBC's Blackboard will receive 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.

Most enhancements are for Ultra courses, but any applicable updates for original Blackboard courses are noted in the table.

More recent updates are available here -> Ultra: What's new in the Ultra Experience?



JUMP TO:

2023

 

December 7, 2023 (v3900.80)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Authentic Discussion & Journal Prompts 

Instructors can generate discussion and journal prompts that encourage students to engage in higher-order thinking, apply their knowledge, justify or challenge their beliefs and ideas, and emulate real-world situations.

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

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

Content Creation & Management

Image Button on Content Editor (new locations)

The image button was added to the content editor in Announcements, Assessment Questions, and Journal entries/comments. Faculty can upload an image using this icon or generate images via AI (limited to specific tools).

Students can access the image button when answering questions on tests and assignments, creating journal entries, and posting journal comments. Students can only upload an image.Images are limited to uploading a file for image.

Assessment & Grading

Unlimited Rubric Rows & Columns

In the past, rubrics were limited to 15 criteria and 15 performance levels. These restrictions are removed to allow for greater criteria to support assessment and accreditation.

Assessment & Grading

Different due dates for groups

Instructors may want to set different due dates for each group working on a group assessment. With this update, instructors can assign a unique due date to each group using the exceptions workflow.

 

Assessment & Grading

Goals alignment to question banks

Instructors can align goals to questions within a question bank. Question-level goal alignment ensures that assessment items measure the desired learning outcomes. 

Instructors can currently align goals to:

  • assessments (Assignments, Tests (including individual questions), Discussions, Rubrics criterion)

  • content (Files, Web links, Teaching tools with LTI connection, Ultra Document).

Assessment & Grading

Additional sorting controls for grid view gradebook

Sorting controls (ascending/descending) are now available for these column types in the Ultra gradebook: Discussion, Journal, Group Assessment, Group Discussion, LTI, Calculations, Attendance, and SCORM.

Assessment & Grading

Sorting controls for Flexible Grading

When using the Flexible Grading interface, instructors can apply various sorting options in flexible grading:

  • Submission date (oldest - newest) or (newest to oldest) of latest attempt

  • Last Name (A - Z) or (Z - A)

  • First Name (A - Z) or (Z-A)

  • Student ID (ascending or descending)

The grading interface stores the most recently used sorting option. If an instructor stops grading an assessment and resumes grading later, the last sorting option is applied. Also, if sorting the submissions by last name or grading status, the chosen sorting option carries over into the grading interface.

Additional updates for December:

  • In the past, Blackboard provided in-context information pop-ups to support users when they used the system for the first time. These pop-ups, called First Time User Experiences (FTUEs), can be helpful to some users. At the same time, FTUEs can be distracting or unnecessary. Based on client feedback, Blackboard is removing the FTUEs across Learn Ultra to improve the users' experience and support a greater focus on the learning content.

  • When an instructor designs a multi-select question and allows partial and negative credit, the negative credit auto-distributes across wrong answer choices. An instructor can remove or edit the negative credit if desired. This prevents students from earning full credit when selecting all answers choices on a multi-select question with partial credit enabled.

  • Automatic zeros are assigned to past due work only if the student has an enabled course enrollment. Automatic zeroes are no longer applied to past due items for withdrawn students.

  • The Grades page in the Learn mobile app now offers more comprehensive information for students and instructors with enhancements for both appearance and functionality.

  • When a Canvas course with multiple grading schema is converted to Ultra, the schema will be retained.

November 12, 2023 (v3900.78)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Content Creation & Management

Image Button on Content Editor

  • Upload an image through selection or drag and drop

  • Search stock images from Unsplash. With this option, instructors can enter keywords to search for and select high-quality, royalty-free images. When enabled, the AI Design Assistant suggests keywords.

The image button is available to faculty in Ultra Documents, Discussions, Course Messages, and journal prompts.

Students can access the image button for Discussion responses, test question responses, and Course Messages. They will only have access to upload an image.

Assessment & Grading

Gradebook sorting controls

Additional sorting controls are available in the gradebook grid view:

  • Student Name

  • Overall Grade

  • Tests and Assignments

  • Manual columns

Instructors can sort records in ascending or descending and remove any applied sorting. A purple highlight in the column header helps instructors identify where sorting is applied.

Assessment & Grading

Partial credit distribution for matching questions

Partial and negative credit is turned on by default for matching question. Partial credit is auto-distributed as a percentage across the matching pairs. Instructors can edit the partial credit values if needed to grant some pairs more or less credit. Values for partial credit must sum to 100%.

Additional improvements include:

  • The "reuse an answer" and "delete pair" options now appear on the right side of the answer for each pair.

  • "Additional answers" was renamed to "Distractors."

Assessment & Grading

Tabbed attachments for student file submissions

When grading file-based submissions, instructors will find a new tabbed interface. The first tab displays the assessment instructions. After that, there is one tab for each submitted file. The first attached file displays by default.

This new tab-based navigation has several benefits:

  • Navigating file-based submissions is more transparent and easy by removing multiple scroll bars. More of the student submission is visible. 

  • The number of files the student attached to their submission is clear. The option to download the student-submitted file(s) is more apparent.

  • Graders can switch between the assessment instructions and the submitted file(s).

Assessment & Grading

Late submission indicator in submission receipts

Some instructors use penalties or deduct points for late submissions. Based on direct feedback from instructors, a new "late indicator" was added to the submission receipt. This indicator is present only if a student submits the assessment late.

Students can view the late submission indicator in:

  • the confirmation modal displayed upon a successful submission,

  • the downloaded version of the submission receipt, and

  • the emailed submission confirmation.

Assessment & Grading

Anonymous grading supported in Flexible Grading

Anonymous grading is now available in the new Flexible Grading experience. Instructors can now complete the following tasks and actions:

  • Grade test and assignment submissions by student

  • Filter on grading status of choice

  • Navigate between students and multiple submission attempts

  • Keep track of grading progress

  • View both the attempt- and the final grade for each assessment

  • Provide meaningful feedback, with or without a rubric

  • Grade inline using Blackboard Annotate

  • Collapse side panels to view more of the student submission

  • Show an originality score if SafeAssign is used

Assessment & Grading

Edit / regrade in Flexible Grading Question View

Instructors can access the Edit/Regrade workflow when grading by question and by student in Flexible Grading.

October 5, 2023 (v3900.76)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Assessment & Grading

Safe Assign Direct Submit

Direct Submit allows instructors to submit items to SafeAssign outside of the assessment context.

SafeAssign appears as an instructor tool in Books & Tools. Instructors can upload a file (up to 10 MB) or copy/paste text.

Assessment & Grading

Delegated Grading by Groups

Instructors sometimes distribute the grading workload for an assessment to multiple graders. This is a popular practice in larger classes. Instructors can assign graders to groups of students with the new delegated grading option. Each grader will only see the submissions made by students in the group(s) assigned to them.

Delegated Grading can be used with all available group types. Graders assigned to a group of students will only see submissions for those students on the assignment’s submission page. They can only post grades for their assigned group members. 

Assessment & Grading

Send Reminder from Gradebook list and grid views

Instructors may want to send a reminder to students or groups who haven't yet made a submission for an assessment. To make this easy, Ultra courses now have a "Send Reminder" option in the Gradebook.

Reminders are sent as a blind carbon copy to non-submitting students or groups as a course message (forwarded automatically via email).

Assessment & Grading

Copying grading schemas from course to course

Instructors can now copy their custom grading schemas from Ultra and Original courses to other Ultra courses. These schemas are listed in a Grading Schemas folder on the Copy Items panel.

Assessment & Grading

Sorting controls for manually added gradable Items

Instructors can use sorting controls on the grades page for manually created items. The sorting controls enable sorting in both ascending and descending order. Instructors can sort the following information: Student name, Grade, Feedback, and Post status.

Assessment & Grading

Partial Credit Auto-Distribution for Correct Multiple Choice Answers

Ultra tests will auto-distribute partial credit across correct answer choices. This distribution provides efficiency and saves instructors’ time. If desired, instructors can edit the values if some correct answer options warrant more or less credit. Values for correct answers must sum to 100%.

Assessment & Grading

Anonymous Comments in Bb Annotate

To enhance anonymity, graders can now post Bb Annotate comments without disclosing their names. Instructors have the option to mark inline comments as anonymous when creating them or even after comments are added.

Communication & Engagement

Instructor Defined Message Settings

Messages are available by default in all Ultra courses. However, Bb administrators may allow instructors to customize the Messages options at the course or organization level.

The exact customization will be determined at a later date.

Reporting & Analytics

Mobile-Friendly Student Activity Report

In addition to a student’s name and grade on the Student Activity report, instructors can view student information on small screens: Late submission indicator, Date opened, Date started, and Attempts.

Instructors can download the report in CSV format from small devices. 

Third Party Tools

Partner Cloud Settings

Instructors can now edit these settings for a third-party tool on an assessment or tool link. The edit settings include:

  • Name/Title

  • Description

  • Visibility including Release Conditions

  • Option to Launch to the tool

  • Open in a New Window

  • Enable Class Conversation

  • Grade information if Partner Content is gradable

  • Goals & Standards

If the Partner content is gradable, the due date and grade maximum are read-only. These are only configurable within the specific Partner Cloud tool (e.g., Pearson MyLab, VoiceThread, etc.)

Upgrading to Ultra

Canvas conversion improvements

Canvas Modules convert to Folders in the Ultra Course View. The conversion created a Document inside the Folder using the same title as the Folder. The Document didn't contain any content. This also created more work for users as they now needed to delete the unnecessary Document. 

Now the conversion process no longer creates unnecessary Documents.

Additional updates for October:

  • Students can deselect an answer choice on a multiple choice question – for example, if they do not want to guess. Deselecting a choice also allows the student to skip the question and return to it using the unanswered questions filter.

  • The frequency of access to Ultra courses depends on several factors, such as workload or class meetings recurrence. Previously, the default value for the "Number of days a student is inactive" was 5. Now, the default is 15.

September 7, 2023 (v3900.74)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Course structure suggestions

Drawing insights from the course's title, description, and contextual information, the AI Course Design Assistant generates learning modules. The tool allows for the provision of supplementary context, such as descriptive text or keywords. Instructors have the flexibility to add a title prefix (e.g., Topic, Unit) to infuse a personal touch, integrate visual elements, or fine-tune the complexity of their content.

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Learning module image integration

Instructors will find two options for integrating images into learning modules:

  • Search stock images from Unsplash. With this option, instructors can enter keywords to search for and select high-quality, royalty-free images. When enabled, the AI Design Assistant suggests keywords.

  • Generate images with the AI Design Assistant. Image generation leverages insights from the learning module description and other contextual cues in the course. To further empower instructors, they can describe the ideal image and regenerate images.

Images are marked as decorative by default. The instructor can untick ‘Mark the image as decorative’ and add specific alternative text.

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Rubric generation

Crafting rubrics can be a time-intensive task. The AI Design Assistant can take the helm in rubric creation, drawing cues from course context. While retaining human-centered authority, instructors can define the rubric. This includes specifying details like descriptions (learning objectives or topics), rubric type (percentage, points, or range), complexity, and dimensions. The rubric remains open to review and refine, guaranteeing the instructor's input at every step.

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Test question generation

Crafting test questions from the ground up demands a significant amount of time. The AI Design Assistant steps in to offer test question suggestions, helping instructors reclaim valuable time. This resource is beneficial for both formative and summative assessments.

Instructors can refine the suggested questions by adding a description. The description might be learning objectives or topics. Furthermore, instructors can handpick preferred question types. The innovative "Inspire me!" question type suggests a variety of question types that an instructor might not typically consider. The instructor can specify the desired level of complexity and number of questions.

AI Course Design Assistant Tools

Question bank generation from Ultra Documents

The Ultra Document is a valuable way to present content. It seamlessly blends text and media components, enriching content presentation. With the aid of the AI Design Assistant, instructors can build question banks to gauge comprehension of the text-based elements within an Ultra Document. This streamlined process saves significant time. It also stands as a robust aid in shaping both formative and summative assessments.

Instructors can select preferred question types or use the “Inspire me!” option. The instructor can specify the desired level of complexity and number of questions. After reviewing the questions, it’s a single click to publish the questions to the question bank.

Course Management

Search & select course banner from Unsplash stock images

The course banner image provides an important sense of identity for the course. Blackboard expands the image options for the course banner by introducing Stock Images from Unsplash. Instructors can enter keywords to search for high-quality, royalty-free images. Once the ideal image is selected, the instructor can choose the focal point of the image.

The image is marked as decorative by default, but the instructor can untick ‘Mark the image as decorative’ and add specific alternative text.

Course Management

Batch edit support for items inside folders/modules

With this change, all items are now visible on a single page. Blackboard added the ability to expand and collapse Folders and Learning Modules. Instructors can now perform the following tasks much faster:

  • Shift Dates: Select all items and shift the dates forward before you adjust the dates for each item. This is helpful when needing to make sweeping date adjustments.

  • Adjust Visibility: Select all items and set them to visible or hidden. This is helpful after course copies, imports, or conversions. In some copy cases, items are hidden by default. Instructors may want to make them visible.

  • Remove date/time release conditions: Select all items and set them to visible or hidden. This is helpful when having trouble updating due dates. Due dates must be after the Show On date and before the Hide After date.

Users can select up to 100 items when performing a batch edit action.

Course Management

Copying Announcements

To support reuse, instructors can now copy specific announcements or all announcements from another course. Instructors can copy Announcements from both Original and Ultra courses. When copied, each announcement will be set to draft.

Instructors no longer need to reschedule or delete announcements immediately after copying. Instructors can take their time reviewing announcements and adjusting as needed.

Accessibility

Auto-captioning for native video & audio recordings

Video and audio recordings for grading feedback and announcements will be automatically captioned including diverse language preferences.

Assessment & Grading

Flexible Grading Support for Tablets

When grading using the Flexible Grading experience from a table, only one of the side panels will be open at any time. Accessing another panel will collapse the other.

Assessment & Grading

Reminder improvements for anonymous grading

Students may sometimes complete an assessment but fail to submit it. Instructors can send email reminders to non-submitters. A banner now informs instructors of the number of students who received the email reminder. Information for any student who did not receive the email due to an invalid or missing email address is also included.

Reporting & Analytics

Progress Tracking for LTI Third-Party Tools

Accurate course progress tracking is key for both students and instructors. Some instructors include graded LTI content in their course. Now when a student submits their work, their progress status updates to "complete." This change ensures better reporting for instructors and accurate progress tracking for students.

Third-Party Integrations

Google Workspace: Cloud File Collaboration

Collaborative documents foster active engagement and dynamic interaction among participants. Instructors can now create a Google Workspace collaborative document (Google Doc, Google Sheet, Google Slide). All student members of the course can access the file with permission to edit.

Note: Google Workspace will not be immediately available.

Additional updates for September:

  • Activity stream notifications use the same wording as the course activity report (e.g., Student alerts: # with low overall grade, # with last access alert)

August 3, 2023 (v3900.71)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Assessment & Grading

Flexible Grading

A new grading experience with streamlined navigation, allowing instructors to grade by question or by student. Instructors can also navigate between students and multiple attempts, provide feedback with or without a rubric, grade inline with Bb Annotate, and post all grades when complete.

Flexible Grading supports individual test and assignment submissions, single or multiple attempts, grading with rubrics, and SafeAssign reports.

Future updates to Flexible Grading will support group submissions, peer review, multiple graders, and anonymous submissions.

Assessment & Grading

Bulk Download of Anonymous Submissions

Downloading submissions for offline viewing provides flexibility and convenience. The Download Submissions option is now available for anonymously graded assessments from the item's menu in the gradebook grid view.

NOTE: To preserve anonymity, the system renames the downloaded files based on the submission receipt number. To map a submission back to a given student attempt, use the Submission Receipt lookup option in the gradebook.

Assessment & Grading

Blank Cell as Default Status in Grid Gradebook

In the past, the gradebook grid view displayed "Grade Now" in each cell even when no submission had been made. To remove confusion, the default state of a given cell in the gradebook grid view has changed from “Grade now” to a single dash.

This change reduces the cognitive load on users working in the gradebook and makes new submissions more obvious. There is no change in gradebook functionality. Instructors can still select a given cell and enter an override grade.

Assessment & Grading

Increased Visibility of Move Icon in Gradebook

Instructors may need to reorder items in their online gradebooks to align with the sequencing and structure of their course. Instructors can reorder items in their gradebook from the gradebook list view. In the past, this option was not obvious to instructors. Instructors had to hover over the option for it to become visible.

Now, the option to move an item in the gradebook list view is always visible. To move an item in the gradebook, select the Move icon for the item you want to move and drag the item to the new location. The order you choose is also reflected in the gradebook grid view and in students' view of the gradebook.

Assessment & Grading

Assessment Submission Receipt Improvements for Students

Based on direct feedback from students, Blackboard added the new information to the existing submission receipts:

  • Course name and ID

  • Assessment name

  • Submission size - only included for file-based assessments and tests with essay questions

  • Auto submit indicator - this indicator is present only if the assessment is automatically submitted by Learn as part of a timed assessment or the Prevent Late Submission assessment setting

Students can view the additional submission receipt information in the confirmation display, the downloadable text file, or the automatic email confirmation. This information is also available to faculty when they look up submission receipts.

Assessment & Grading

Rubrics - Editing Improvements

Instructors can edit any rubric not yet used for grading. In the past, selecting outside of an editable area would save edits and automatically exit out of edit mode. This made selecting text and editing rubrics difficult.

With this update, if users select text inside the rubric edit box and drag out of the edit box, the edit mode does not close.

Content Creation & Management

Course Banner Image Improvements

The image setting workflow is improved to clearly mark the settings and steps to upload a banner image. The banner image can also be used as the course preview image for the Courses page.

A space is provided to indicate alternative text for accessibility or mark the image as decorative. 

Content Creation & Management

Learning Module Thumbnail Image

To enhance the visual aesthetics of a course and to aid in content identification, Blackboard now supports the option to add images to Learning Modules. Edit the learning module to upload and crop an image. 

Content Creation & Management

Google Workspace Link to Files

A new partnership with Google provides a new integration to link to your Google Drive files. Instructors can add Google files to the course content area, Learning Modules, and folders.

Linking to Google Files will allow the owner to edit the file within the Ultra course. Students will have view-only access.

The instructor may need to sign into their Google Workspace account to view and select their files. After adding the Google file, the instructor can allow Class conversations to the file and align Goals and Standards. The instructor can also add a description before saving. Instructors can view and edit the Google file inline. The instructor can rename the file and control the student visibility.

Content Creation & Management

Replacing Files in Course Content

Before, when an instructor replaced a file in the course, the system created a new file version. Now, the system replaces the file. The system no longer creates new versions, freeing up storage space.

Communication & Engagement

Groups Navigation

The Groups tool is relocated to the top navigation bar to improve visibility.

Communication & Engagement

Groups Space

A new dedicated Group Space is available to users in Ultra courses. The first version of this space provides a list of all assessments by group. The Groups Management page will continue to be the central location for group lists, membership, and other group management tools.

To access a Group Space, select (...) and Enter Group Space.

Future milestones will include synchronous communication and project management tools for students.

Communication & Engagement

Groups Messaging

An instructor can now send a message to any group or group set. Instructors can also select more than one group as recipients of a message. Students can select their groups as message recipients.

Those in the message can view the groups or group sets that received the message. Recipients can view who sent the message.

The Groups page now includes a message icon that provides an easy means for messaging a group. The message auto-populates the recipient with the selected group. Users can change the recipients as appropriate.

Communication & Engagement

Unread Message Indicator

The Message tab on the Base Navigation now displays courses with unread messages first. Blackboard removed the terms feature from the Message tab because users often missed messages from other terms. This experience is more aligned with how other messaging applications work. Users can now clearly identify courses with unread messages.

Blackboard also increased the visibility of unread messages within Ultra Courses. The Messages tab now includes an unread message indicator. On the Messages tab, messages are displayed with the newest messages at the top. Unread messages are clearly marked.

Communication & Engagement

Deep-linking LTI Tools from Calendar

Third-party applications can add LTI deep-linking requests to calendar entries. LTI deep linking is important for third-party applications that require user authentication. The Calendar will display links in the course. Links will also be displayed in the Calendar accessed from the Ultra base navigation. 

Reporting & Analytics

Student Alert Flags in Course Activity Report

A flag will appear for students in the Course Activity Report based on the number of days a student is inactive in a course or when the overall grade falls below a specific percentage. These settings are determined by the instructor in the Alert Settings on the Course Activity Report. Alerts can be added, edited, or deleted at any time.

The Course Activity Report can be sorted by flag status or filtered by students with or without alerts. A downloadable CSV file provides a column to mark these alerts. Moreover, faculty can send messages to students based on these flags directly from the report. 

This report replaces the Retention Center in an Original course.

Additional updates for August:

  • Blackboard is removing the Welcome guidance for first-time logins. This is a series of three scrolled screens that appeared before a user reaches the base navigation dashboard. This guidance is no longer applicable. Its removal provides immediate access to the base navigation after users log in.

  • To streamline marking attendance, Blackboard is also removing first-time user experience messages from the attendance tool.

  • In the mobile app, Blackboard enhanced the course list with status indicators for each course to help users to identify the status (open, private, complete) of each course.

July 6, 2023 (v3900.69)

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Functional Category

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Assessment & Grading

Formative Assessments

Instructors can apply a formative label to assessments and display this label to students. This label is visible on the course outline, within the assessment itself, and in the gradebook. A gradebook filter can sort formative or summative assessments if this label is used.

Assessment & Grading

Complete/Incomplete Grading Schema

Instructors can select a new complete/incomplete schema in the settings panel from the Grade using  section. When a grade is assigned, a checkmark is displayed on that item for the student in the gradebook. An incomplete is displayed as a dash in a grey-colored pill.

Assessment & Grading

Partial & Negative Credit

Instructors can turn on partial and negative credit:

  • Define a positive percentage value to award credit for a correct answer(s)

  • Enter a negative percentage value to subtract for an incorrect answer(s)

  • Allow a negative overall score for the question

Assessment & Grading

Tabbed navigation for Assessments

A new simplified navigation for Assessments provides convenient access to different sections using tabs:

  • Content and Settings

  • Submissions

  • Student Activity

  • Question Analysis

This improvement is designed to optimize instructor efficiency.

Assessment & Grading

Delete grading schema

Instructors can also delete grade schemas that are not used in the course. The option to delete helps instructors maintain the grade schema list.

A Delete button now appears on schemas that are not in use. Schemas that are in use will only display the option to copy.

Assessment & Grading

Exception panel update

The exceptions panel will now features course, assessment, and student names to help instructors to ensure the accuracy of the exception.

Assessment & Grading

Add exemptions for anonymously graded assessments

Instructors can grant student exemptions for anonymously graded assessments from the Student Overview  page in the gradebook.

Assessment & Grading

Send reminder to non-submitters for anonymously graded assessments

The new Send Reminder option is available for anonymously graded assessments, allowing a simplified nudge to be sent to students.

Since instructors do not know which students will receive the message, this nudge cannot be customized like other messaging for known non-submitters.

Assessment & Grading

Updated assessment instructions for students

To increase clarity for students before they begin an assessment, the assessment start button displays different states based on the student's progress:

  • If the student is eligible to make a new attempt, the button displays Start attempt alongside the next attempt number.

  • If the student has saved a draft, the button displays Continue attempt along with the current attempt number.

  • Once the student has exhausted all possible attempts, the button displays View submissions. This indicates that students can review their completed submissions.

To clarify how a student can attach files or add content to their submissions, the instructions now read as follows: Drag and drop files here or select (click) to add text.

Content Creation & Management

Visible Progress Tracking Meter for Learning Modules

To provide greater clarity for students, a progress summary for Learning Modules is now displayed at the top level. The summary shows the total number of items in the Learning Module. 

Hovering over the progress bar informs the student of how much content they have completed, started or yet to start. A clear button shows students whether they need to start, continue, or if they have completed the module.

Content Creation & Management

Resizing image, videos and other media

Users can resize the media by dragging a corner handle or via keyboard navigation. Media types available for resizing include images, videos, and media inserted via URL.

Content Creation & Management

File deletion in course will remove files from the Content Collection

When a file is deleted from the course, it will now be deleted from the Content Collection when it is not used in other courses or another place in the same course. This will resolve many course quota issues experienced by faculty.

Course Management

Self-enroll

Ultra courses can now support self-enrollment. NOTE: Only a system admin can edit these settings.

Upgrading to Ultra

Import Instructure Canvas course package

If instructor use Canvas at another institution and wish to reuse content, they can import Canvas packages directly in Learn courses.

Note: Course structure and tools differ between Canvas and Blackboard. Canvas content is imported as individual HTML pages. Each HTML page must be edited externally. Assignments and tests appear to import well, but should be reviewed. Discussions vary and may be truncated.

After import, instructors or should review all contents and settings. This is to adjust the content so is suited for use in Blackboard. Not all course elements are converted.

Additional updates for July:

  • The favorite icon that appears in the browser when accessing Blackboard will change from the orange pencil icon to the Anthology logo, a colorful bar graph on a black background. Anthology is the parent company that acquired Blackboard in 2021. 

June 1, 2023 (v3900.67) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Import questions to tests via CSV

Instructors can author questions offline in a text file. Instructors can upload the file into a test for a more streamlined test building workflow. Each question file must be a tab-delimited TXT file. The file should not exceed 250 records to avoid time-out restrictions.

Yes

Yes

Anonymous grading on tests

Instructors can enable anonymous grading for tests.

Yes

No

Announcements tool relocated

To provide a better user experience, Blackboard moved Announcements from the Details & Actions menu to the top navigation bar. This reduces the number of items within the Details & Actions menu. This change also improves visibility and prominence of Announcements.

Users will be able to access announcements anywhere from within a course. All existing announcements functionality remains the same

Yes

No

Course Link improvements

Users can expand a course link to a folder or learning module as they would a folder or learning module. This allows the user to view the nested contents of the target folder or learning module. The contents displayed are read only. An instructor cannot modify the nested contents displayed for the course link. An instructor cannot move additional content into the folder or learning module course link.

Yes

No

Add exemption via gradebook grid view

Instructors can access the option to exempt students from the gradebook grid view. Exemptions can also be applied from the submissions page and student detail view. 

Yes

Partial

Additional updates for June:

  • Add exemptions for anonymous grading activity

  • Instructors can now opt to use the 'Base calculation on points earned out of total graded points' option for any gradebook calculation, regardless of whether it contains operators with functions and variables. Previously, this option was only available for Average, Total, Minimum, and Maximum calculations.

  • The Original Assignment submission page was redesigned to be less confusing and easier for students to use.

  •  

May 4, 2023 (v3900.65) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Add questions from tests to Question Banks

Instructors can copy questions between question banks and copy questions from existing assessments into question banks by using the Reuse Questions option.

Yes

No

Send messages from submission page

During an assessment, instructors may need to communicate with students such as sending reminders to non-submitters. To support this need, instructors can message students from the Submissions page.

Since student confidentiality is important, when an instructor selects more than one student as a recipient of a message, the recipients will be on BCC. 

Yes

No

Rubric improvements

Performance level descriptions are now hidden by default to streamline grading when instructors are familiar with these requirements. Instructors can choose to display the performance descriptions if needed for grading.

Additionally, instructors can deselect a performance level if choosing another level of performance isn’t appropriate. Criterion feedback is also collapsible, allowing for a more streamlined view of the grading panel.

Instructors can also navigate between rubric criteria with tab and use up/down arrows to select a performance level.

Yes

No

Drag & drop desktop folder to upload content

Efficiency is key for instructors when creating course content. To assist with this, Blackboard added a drag and drop support for uploading folders with files to the course content page. Instructors may drag and drop a folder from their computer to the course content page.

If an instructor drags and drops more than 25 files at the same time, a warning message appears. This message does not restrict the upload, but it informs the user that it may take a few minutes to complete. During the upload process, the instructor can cancel at any time. If the upload is canceled, the files are deleted.

Yes

No

Instructor notes on Student Overview

A dedicated space for instructors is available to take private notes about students in each course. Only instructors, administrators, and higher roles can access them.

These notes have many possible uses:

  • Tracking the evolution of a student's progress over time.

  • Noting agreements with a student, such as extensions on assignments or meeting times.

  • Noting students with behavioral issues or a history of academic dishonesty.

  • Recording considerations for grading, such as student athletes.

Yes

No

Specify how Web Links open

Opening links in a new window is generally considered best practice, especially for external websites to avoid browser security features blocking content from loading. However, there may be situations when an instructor or course author prefers linked content to open in a panel in the Ultra course.

Yes

Yes

Prevent backtracking on paginated tests

Instructors may prevent backtracking in paged tests to ensure that students progress through the pages of an assessment in a predetermined sequence. This option will be helpful when upcoming questions provide hints or reveal answers to questions on previous pages.

Yes

No

Improvements to manage multiple attempts

Managing multiple submissions introduces some complexity for instructors. To help, Blackboard added an attempt selector on the grading page. By default, the grading page displays the most appropriate attempt based on the “grade attempts” setting, which allows instructors to quickly evaluate and grade student work.

Yes

No

Additional updates for May:

  • Improved conversion for Discussion forums & threads: When the "allow members to create new threads" setting is selected, the Discussion Forum converts to a Discussion in the Ultra Course View. If this setting is not selected, the Discussion Forum will become a folder in the Ultra Course View. All threads within the forum convert to Discussions inside the folder.

  • Improved conversion for Flickr mashups: Description and links correctly preserved.

  • Instructors may need to adjust the due dates for third-party activities in their courses. In the past, when making such changes, instructors also had to assign these activities to a specific category within the gradebook. Now instructors can edit gradebook columns for LTI-based activities without assigning them to a category. This change streamlines the process without forcing category selection.

  • To further enhance the hotspot question type, Blackboard added two new features: Zoom In/Out  and Full-Screen view. These controls enable instructors to define hotspots more precisely. These new controls are also accessible using convenient keyboard shortcuts.

April 6, 2023 (v3900.62) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Multiple grading schema

Ultra courses allowed only one grading schema per course. Now instructors can add, copy, and edit up to 100 grading schemas per course. Items copied from other courses will keep their grading schemas. When copying, any configured schemas copy even if not aligned to gradable items.

Yes

Yes

Search content in course

Search course content titles and descriptions in your Ultra course and quickly find these items on the course content page.

When a user types a few letters, the course search function displays a list of matching items by title. A user may expand the search results to view more information related to the course item(s).

Yes

No

Hotspot question enhancements

Hotspot questions present an image without any answer options for students to choose. Students must mark a certain area of the image that is within the area the instructor defined as correct.

In this month's update, instructors may now use a circle-shape selector to draw a circle to mark the hotspot.

Additionally, when students select the image, a pin is automatically placed on the selection. The polygon shape selector and selected pins have improved color contrast.

Yes

No

Submission page sorting controls

Instructors can sort student submissions by first name, last name, or grade. The existing sorting options include submission and grading statuses.

Yes

No

Gradable items view usability improvements

Several improvements are available to the list of gradable items including:

  • Sort the records of any column on this page to easily find the desired information (e.g., items that need grading).

  • Select the assessment name to navigate to the selected assessment.

  • Select # to grade to a Needs Grading filtered Submissions page with quick entry into the grading process.

  • The new Post column provides instructors with status information for an assessment. This also simplifies the action to post all grades for the assessment.

Yes

No

Multiple access points to Student Overview

Instructors can access the Student Overview page from the Gradebook, Roster, Messages, and Discussions by clicking on a student's name.

Yes

No

Discussion Navigation Improvements

To improve navigation and increase visibility, instructors will find a new tab navigation for Discussion, Student Activity, and Grading & Participation.

Yes

No

Bb Annotate formatting

Improved formatting and editing options for instructors including font colors, bold, underline, and hyperlinks. Instructors can edit already placed comments.

Yes

Yes

 

Additional updates for April:

  • HTML will be removed from web link text fields upon conversion from Original courses. Conversion to Ultra will preserve the text-based content within the HTML tags.

  • Student progress tracker reports will exclude deactivated students (e.g., when a student drops the course). The numbers in the report are aligned with the actual number of active students in the course. 

  • Ultra developers made several accessibility improvements to the Course Activity Report to better support instructors using assistive technology.

  • When copying entire courses or individual items from courses, instructors may have encountered an "Oops!" error message. The message was misleading as it wasn't an error but rather a notification about exception during copy and conversion. Blackboard updated the message to reduce the association of exceptions with errors. Exceptions are for the most part changes to content during conversion.

March 2, 2023 (v3900.60) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Multiple attempts fast switcher

Multiple-attempt assessments can be more complicated for instructors because there are more submissions. To switch between attempts for a student in the past, an instructor would have to close an attempt then select a different attempt. This wasn’t intuitive and required extra clicks. Now instructors can navigate directly between a student’s attempts. If a student has multiple attempts for an assessment, an instructor will see an option to switch attempts which is more efficient.

Yes

Yes

Deactivate discussion post

In an earlier release, discussions could be disabled by defining a due date. With this release, discussions can be turned off manually. When this setting is toggled, students can no longer edit or delete posted in a discussion.

Yes

Yes

Gradebook assessment list view sorting controls

The gradebook list view, which displays all graded items and columns, can be sorted by these contexts:

  • identifying students with grades at a grade boundary

  • ordering students from highest to lowest grade, or vice versa

Yes

No

Gradebook student list view sorting controls

Instructors can sort the Gradebook Students list view on the Overall Grade column by these contexts:

  • identifying students with grades at a grade boundary

  • ordering students from highest to lowest grade, or vice versa

 

Yes

No

PDF version of SafeAssign Originality Report

The SafeAssign Originality Report is a valuable teaching and learning tool. Instructors use the report to ensure students express original thoughts and cite sources. Some instructors allow students to view the report. This is helpful for teaching students how to cite their work.

In the past, users could download the report as PDF. However, users could not open the sources from the PDF. Now, users can open matched sources from the PDF. 

Yes

Yes

Anonymous submissions sorting controls

Record sorting provides a more efficient grade review experience. Instructors need to sort students by grade to identify submissions at a grade boundary. This helps instructors make any changes necessary before posting grades.

Yes

No

Rescheduling announcements

Instructors have not had the ability to reschedule announcements. If the show on and hide after date fields were set for the future, a pop-up window would not generate. Instructors prefer a pop-up window because it helps students see the announcement. If there is no pop-up, a student may not know there is an announcement for them to view.

Some instructors were recreating announcements from scratch to generate these pop-ups. With this update, instructors can now reschedule announcements without having to recreate them. They can do this by changing the show on and hide after fields to a future date.

When users first enter a course, the rescheduled announcement will trigger a pop-up.

Yes

Yes

Course Activity Report enhancements

The course activity page helps instructors understand students' performance. With this information, instructors can:

  • Identify struggling or high performing students based on their grade, hours in course, or days of inactivity.

  • Message students who have a low grade and/or have not accessed the course recently.

  • Receive alerts when a student has not accessed their course in a while or if a student's grade has dropped.

With this update, Blackboard have made the following improvements:

  • New Table - Updated to be more consistent with other features. Those who use progress tracking will find the feel of the new table should be familiar. The new table makes it easier to select and message students.

  • New Days of Inactivity Column - the number of days since a student last accessed your course. Instructors can use this information to identify students that might be falling behind.

  • Access Student Overview - click or tap a student's name to see their grades, progress, and activity over the weeks. Instructors can use the Student Overview to get a full picture of a student's performance and engagement in a course.

  • More Student Information. Accommodations, name pronunciation, and pronouns are now visible. Instructors can use this information when drafting messages to students.

Yes

No

Additional updates for March:

  • Course conversion structure updates:

    • If your Original course has empty folders for structure, these will be preserved when the course is converted to Ultra.

    • If your Original course has a customized menu, this will NOT pass over to the Ultra course when converted.

  • Course conversion font updates:

    • Font families are preserved when converting text associated with Announcements, Discussions, Assignments, Documents, Journals, Groups and Group Sets, and Tests and Question Types. 

      • If font family is Arial in Original Course View, set to Arial in the Ultra Course View.

      • If font family is Comic Sans MS in Original Course View, set to Comic Sans MS in the Ultra Course View.

      • If font family is Courier New in Original Course View, set to Courier New in the Ultra Course View.

      • If font family is Times New Roman in Original Course View, set to Times New Roman in the Ultra Course View.

      • If font family is Verdana in Original Course View, set to Verdana in the Ultra Course View.

      • If font family is anything else or not defined in the Original Course View, set to Open Sans in the Ultra Course View.

February 3, 2023 (v3900.58) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Assessment exemptions

In this update, instructors can provide exemptions for an assessment. When exempted, a student is not expected to complete an exempted task.

Instructors may exempt any gradebook item from an assessment's submission view by selecting the student's name or from a student detail view. When exempting an item, the item will not be included in the overall grade calculation, marked late for students who do not make a submission, or assigned an automatic zero.

Yes

Yes

Extra credit questions on assessments

Instructors can assign one or more questions as extra credit in an assessment. A correct answer results in adding the extra credit question points to the points earned for the assessment. Students are not penalized for incorrect answers to an extra credit question. If a student answers extra credit questions correctly, it may be possible for the student to earn a score greater than 100% on the assessment.

Students can discern how many extra credit points are available on the assessment. While students are taking an assessment, they can identify questions designated as extra credit. Students can also filter the test to find extra credit questions if present.

Yes

No

Polygon shapes on hotspot questions

Ultra courses have two enhancements to the hotspot question type:

  • A new polygon shape selector can be used to draw more complex shapes.

  • Improved keyboard controls. Instructors can now create and place new hotspot shapes on the image canvas directly via the keyboard.

Yes

No

Sorting grading status in gradebook

Instructors can sort items that need to be graded in the Gradebook from the list view. The sorting controls provide temporary changes to the sort order for all columns in the Gradable Items view. The grade post status is also located in a dedicated column.

Yes

No

Sorting grades in student view

Students can sort items in their Gradebook by due date or grades to temporarily change the order for all columns in the Gradebook.

Yes

Yes

View members of a group

Instructors and students need to see group memberships when there are group sets. In the past, there was not an obvious way for instructors and students to see the members in a group.

From the Course Groups page, users may expand a group set to see an alphabetized list of group members in each group. Users may also search for a specific group member. A future release will provide profile cards and options for messaging group members from the search results.

Note: Students see only the groups and members for groups where they have membership.

Yes

Partial

Progress tracking improvements

Two updates to how and what Progress Tracking includes:

  • Instructors can change the Student Progress tracking view to see a student’s progress against everything on the Course Content page. This view includes the items not visible to the student. This helps instructors better understand students’ progress considering all course content.

  • Any Ally alternative format accessed by a student will reflect in their presented course progress. Instructors will see the progress made by each one of their students based on access to the original file or an alternative format. Students will be able to mark an item as complete after accessing any alternative format.

Yes

No

Additional updates for February:

  • In the Blackboard Learn mobile app, users will be able to see the profile card and play name pronunciation.

January 5, 2023 (v3900.56) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Model essay response for grading

Instructors can include a model answer for essay question, visible to instructors and graders, to ensure that they grade students’ work fairly and consistently. 

Yes

No

Randomize test pages

Instructors can randomize questions in a test that contains page breaks. Questions randomize within their assigned page. If a page contains non-question elements, the questions randomize between those elements.

When there are pages for the test, instructors can also randomize page order. If instructors randomize the page order, they can also lock the first page into position. This is useful when the first page is a cover page or contains test instructions.

Yes

No

Improvements for test question randomization

Instructors randomize test question to improve academic integrity. In the past, instructors couldn’t randomize questions if the test contained text blocks, files, or images. Now instructors can enable randomization when the test has text blocks, files, or images. The non-question elements are locked in place. The test randomizes questions between those non-question elements.

Yes

No

Lock discussions after due date

Instructors may lock the discussion after the due date has passed. When selected, students can’t create, reply to, or edit posts after the due date. Students with a due date accommodation can continue to create, reply to, and edit posts after the due date.

Yes

Some

Send messages to specific course roles

Students can send messages only to all instructors OR selected course members – they can no longer send messages to the entire class.

Instructors can send messages to all course members, all instructors, all students, or selected course members.

Yes

Yes

Grading workflow improvements

A variety of improvements to grading workflows and displays include:

  • Instructors can view grades on the Submission page before they post grades. Student anonymity is still preserved until the grades are posted. To edit a grade, an instructor can open the attempt.

  • Instructors can more efficiently navigate directly between a student’s attempts. If a student has multiple attempts for an assessment, an instructor will see an option to switch attempts. 

  • Display submission status and grading status on group assignment page

Yes

Some

Display third-party tool icons in gradebook

Third-party tool icons will display in the gradebook view (grid and list), gradebook items, student grades overview, and grades tab on the Ultra dashboard.

Yes

Some

Include non-posted grades in grade history

Grade history provides a log of changes to grades in a course. This is important in situations such as grade challenges and ensuring grading errors were not made. The grade history now includes non-posted grades. Including non-posted grades supplies greater insight into grade changes in the course.

Yes

Yes

Additional updates for January:

  • For instructors, the Activity Stream includes notifications for new submissions from students. These links now direct the instructor to the Submissions List View with the "Needs Grading" filter already applied. This improves grading efficiency. The instructor can add a browser bookmark for the Submission List filter views. This provides faster access to the instructor's preferred filtered view.

  • The Original Course View allows instructors to choose any color for text, which may be difficult to read or not accessible. Ultra Course View has a curated set of text colors to ensure readability: black, gray, purple, blue, and green. During conversion, unsupported text colors are removed and changed to becomes black. In January, these areas are added to color correction: Journals, groups within group sets, and tests. Unsupported text colors are also removed during conversion from:

    • Announcements

    • Discussions

    • Assignments

    • Documents

    • Journals

    • Groups and Group Sets

    • Tests and Question Types

  • Text sizes are different in the Original and Ultra Content Editors. The conversion logic preserves similar text sizes to reduce cleanup. During the conversion process, text size for announcements, discussions, assignments, tests, documents, journals, and groups is preserved based on the following criteria:

    • If text size is less than or equal to 10, set to 10 pixels.

    • If text size is 11 or 12, set to 12 pixels.

    • If text size is 13 or 14, set to 14 pixels.

    • If text size is less than 17, set to 14 pixels.

    • If text size is greater than or equal to 17, set to 18 pixels.

    • If text size is less than 22, set to 18 pixels.

    • If text size is greater than or equal to 22, set to 24 pixels.

    • If text size is less than 31, set to 24 pixels.

    • If text size is greater than or equal to 31, set to 36 pixels.

    • If text size is less than 43, set to 36 pixels.

    • If text size is greater than or equal to 43, set to 48 pixels.

  • The Original Course View allows instructors to add passwords to Tests. When a course is converted to Ultra or when a test is copied to Ultra, a generated passcode replaces passwords. Instructors can view the new access code in Test settings. They may need to update references to passwords in the course.

2022

 

December 1, 2022 (v3900.54) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Drag & Drop improvements

In this release, drag-and-drop has been greatly improved, increasing efficiency. Instructors can grab items more quickly. When moving an item, it’s clearer to instructors where it will go when dropped. Instructors can also use keyboard commands to reorder the content:

  • tab to navigate to an item

  • enter to select an item

  • up/down arrows to move an item

  • enter to drop the item

NOTE: This feature may not be immediately available our site is updated – please allow up to 2 days for the feature to appear.

Yes

No

Course Links

Instructors may need to reference information contained in other sections of the course. For example, an instructor may want students to revisit an earlier activity to reinforce their learning. Course links provide access to content without excessive scrolling and reduce clicking. This new feature allows instructors to:

  • Insert a link at the desired location on the Course Content page

  • Browse the elements of a course to select an item

  • Rename the link that will appear on the Course Content page

  • Move a link on the Course Content page independent of the target item

Exceptions:

  • You cannot create course links using the Content Editor.

  • You cannot create Course Links for Folders, Learning Modules, Discussions, and Web Links.

  • You cannot create Course Links with Learning Modules where force sequence is enabled. This is because links could allow users access to something they should not yet access. If a Course Link exists in a Learning Module, it will not be possible to enable forced sequence.

  • You cannot copy Course Links for Documents and third-party content (LTI).

  • When copying or converting from an Original course, the copy process will exclude Course Links for Folders, Learning Modules, and Web Links.

Yes

Yes

Single Student Progress Report

Instructors often desire insight into the progress students are making in their course. This information helps instructors to engage early with students or adjust the course content. We have created a new single student progress report. This report focuses on the path each student is taking on the course. In this new report instructors can view:

  • The content they have created for their students

  • The progress the student has made with relevant date/time stamps

  • The current visibility status of each item

Instructors can access this new report:

  • By selecting a single student from the Student Progress report on a content item

  • By selecting a single student from the gradebook list view, Students tab, Student Progress tab

  • By selecting a single student from the gradebook grid view, Student Progress tab

NOTE: This report is only available when progress tracking is turned on in the course.

Yes

No

Course Copy improvements

With this update, instructors will find significant enhancements to the Ultra course copy tool:

  • A larger item selection page shows selected items and items that can be selected at the same time. In the past, instructors would need to switch between two views.

  • Tabs now separate courses and organizations. This makes it easier for instructors to find the correct source location.

  • Breadcrumbs make navigation easier. Using breadcrumb links, instructors can return to a higher level of the course or organization structure. This prevents instructors from having to start again from the top level.

  • The course and organization lists are displayed in alphabetical order. This makes it easier for instructors to find the correct one.

Yes

No

Descriptions for question banks

Instructors can now add descriptions to question banks, which are displayed with the question bank title on the Question Banks page.

Yes

Yes

Search titles & descriptions of question banks

To help instructors search for and locate a specific bank in the course, we added a search bar. The search functionality queries both the bank title and description.

Yes

Some

Needs grading for 1st and last attempts

When the instructor selects “first attempt with a grade” or “last attempt with a grade” sometimes the "needs grading" count was inaccurate or confusing. Blackboard updated the way that the "needs grading" count increments when more than one attempt is allowed. The "grade attempts" selection is honored for the following:

  • last attempt with a grade - when the instructor grades the last attempt, previous attempts do not increase the "needs grading" count

  • last attempt with a grade - if the student makes a new attempt after the instructor grades, that attempt does increase the "needs grading" count

  • first attempt with a grade - when the instructor grades the first attempt, attempts that follow do not increase the "needs grading" count

Yes

No

Additional updates for December

  • In Original Course View users can choose any color for text. Content could be hard to read or not accessible—for example, yellow text on white background. The Ultra Course View has a curated selection of font colors to ensure readability. Users choose from black, gray, purple, blue, and green font colors. We now remove any unsupported font colors during a content copy or course conversion from an Original course.

  • Student Preview helps instructors experience their course contents and settings. Saving the preview user on exit retains the user in the Roster and Gradebook. Discarding the preview user on exit removes this user from the course. Previously, the two options were displayed with a default selection and a confirmation action. This was confusing. Now when exiting Student Preview, only the two choices are displayed as actions.

November 3, 2022 (v3900.52) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Enhanced Student Grades Overview

Instructors often want to view the assessments and performance of an individual student. This is a common task, so it should be easy and accessible from the gradebook. Blackboard enhanced the Student Grades Overview by:

  • surfacing the last access, username, and accommodations;

  • adding the Student Activity report; and 

  • surfacing accommodations.

Yes

No

Hot Spot Question Type

Instructors may want to assess a student’s knowledge of visual content. With the hot spot question type, students must mark a certain area of the image that is within the area the instructor defined as correct.

Yes

Yes

Assessment Page Breaks & Pagination

Page breaks are helpful in assessments for a few reasons. Page breaks allow for easy creation of sections within an assessment. Page breaks also make it easy to group related questions. Students can easily navigate from page to page. If the instructor activates ‘Display one question at a time’ or ‘Question randomization’ all pages will be merged.

Yes

No

Improvements to Gradebook History

New user interface allowing instructors to 

  • Select which gradebook items to include in the download,

  • Include deleted items, and

  • Select timeframes to optimize the amount of information downloaded.

The download file report will include additional information:

  • Student username

  • Grade category

  • Submission receipt: The submission receipt number

  • Submission attempt: The number of the submitted attempt

These changes make it easier to access and search the log of changes to student grades.

Yes

Partially

Enhanced auto-save for students

Blackboard further improved how students are informed about connectivity issues. Assessments will detect if a connection is lost. If this happens, students are warned. If the connection is not restored, another warning informs the student that their most recent progress is not saved. When the connection is restored, the system alerts the student and confirms that progress is saved.

Yes

No

Rich feedback editor for manually created columns

Student feedback is a crucially important part of instruction. To better support instructors, Blackboard expanded the content editor options for manually added columns. Now instructors can give robust feedback that includes formatted text, lists, links, attachments, and media.

Yes

Yes

Add files from course Content Collection

Many faculty enjoy using the Content Collection so that they can easily reuse content across courses. In the past, instructors could only add content from the Content Collection on the Course Content page. Now instructors may include content from the Content Collection in Ultra Documents.

Yes

No

Course Activity Report

Instructors identify struggling students based on their performance and engagement within a course. The course activity page allows instructors to:

  • Identify struggling students based on their grade and hours spent in the course. This data is a snapshot taken weekly that allows instructors to compare.

  • Act by messaging students who have a low grade and/or have not logged in recently.

  • Focus on a student to see how their engagement and performance has changed each week.

  • Receive alerts when a student has not accessed their course in a while or if their grade has dropped.

  • Notify students when their course activity or grade in the course is below average.

The Course Activity page is located under the Analytics tab in courses. 

Yes

Yes

Unread Messages indicator for courses & orgs

In the past it was difficult for users to know which courses and organizations contained unread messages. Now there is an unread messages indicator for courses and organizations on the Messages tab in the Ultra Base Navigation. This indicator helps users know where to direct their attention.

Yes

Yes

Additional updates for November

  • Instructors can save which version of the gradebook (list or grid) they prefer to use as a default.

  • The gradebook now features added tool tips for its icons.

  • Instructors can navigate student journals student by student as expected.

October 6, 2022 (v3900.50) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Course Content progress tracking

Instructors need to know how their students engage with course content, which may help them take important actions, such as improving course content or reaching out to idle students. A new report allows instructors to select a piece of content and view:

  • Students who have not yet opened content;

  • Students who have opened or started viewing content; and

  • Students who have marked the content as complete.

The report includes the date and time an action occurred (e.g., when a student started viewing content). Instructors may sort by student name or progress status. Instructors can then send an individual or bulk message with a blind copy to each student.

The following content types are tracked:

  • Learning Modules & Folders

  • Ultra Documents

  • Uploaded files

  • Links

  • LTI content with no associated grade

The list of students will also include pronunciation and, when enabled by UMBC, pronoun information.

Yes

No

Overview of student grades

An overview of a student's performance is helpful to instructors when working in the gradebook. In the List View of the Gradebook, when an instructor selects a student card an overview of the student’s assessment performance displays.

This experience is now replicated when an instructor selects a student from the Grid View of the Gradebook. 

Yes

No

Auto-save for student assessments

Student responses entered in the content editor will be auto saved two seconds after the student stops typing. The "last saved" time is displayed at the bottom of the assessment and auto updates. If there is a disruption in connectivity, students will receive a "Connection lost" warning. This warning informs students that action is needed to re-establish the connection so that their work is saved.

Auto saving is independent of any browser undo function. When the undo action is used, contents will change according to browser behavior. That content will then be saved automatically.

Yes

No

Screen reader accessibility for math formulas

Instructors and students can use screen readers to access math formulas when creating, editing and viewing content. This update helps people who use a screen reader independently access math formulas. This new functionality also supports easier content creation since no added effort is needed to make the math formulas accessible.

Key considerations:

  • Users should confirm that their device and Learn Ultra course have the same language configuration.

  • Languages supported depends on WIRIS library. As of October 2022, WIRIS supports Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, English, French, German, Norwegian, Portuguese and Spanish.

  • If the Learn Ultra course is configured to use a language not supported by WIRIS, math formulas are read in English.

  • Math formulas can be added in content editors using the math editor or by typing LaTeX equations. Both formats are accessible with screen readers.

  • LaTeX equations display as text in the content editor. When users save the text, the LaTeX equations render as images. The screen reader reads the equations as text in the content editor and reads the math formulas when rendered as images.

  • Content editors that have the math editor option also render LaTeX equations.

  • LaTeX equations are not rendered inside code snippets because LaTeX equations are treated as part of the code format.

Yes

No

Course name in browser tab

The course name is added to the browser tab. When a user is in the following areas of a course, they will see the name of the area and the name of the course: Analytics, Calendar, Content, Discussion, Gradebook, or Messages.

Yes

N/A

Additional updates for October

  • When upgrading from Original to Ultra, the forced sequence for Learning Modules is preserved.

  • The line spacing for course titles on the global grades page has been reduced.

  • To support effortless movement between mobile and desktop experience, Blackboard added settings categories and mobile-specific categories. A new design of this section provides simplified toggles for configuring user preferences.

September 2, 2022 (v3900.48) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Copy Rubrics between courses

Save time and easily copy rubrics between your Ultra courses. Use the Copy Content tool and select only the Rubrics folder to copy all rubrics, or click the Rubrics folder to select one or more specific rubrics to copy into your course.

Yes

Yes

Sort question banks

With this update, you can sort question banks by name, number of questions, or last edited date.

Yes

Yes

Respond to discussions from grading

Instructors can now post a reply to student discussions within the context of the grading interface.

Yes

Yes

Set points for manually added grade items

When creating a manual grade column, instructors can edit the maximum point value regardless of how the grade is displayed to students.

Yes

Yes

Test Timer Notifications for students

It's important for students to be aware of how much time they have when taking a test, but sometimes this can be stressful. Ultra now provides multiple options, which can be reviewed in this FAQ.

Yes

No

Student Access to Instructor Feedback

Students will have access to grade feedback, regardless of how an instructor grades, including grade overrides

Yes

No

Summary of Grading Annotations

A new side panel is available when providing inline feedback for student assignments. This panel summarizes all comments in one list, making it easier to view feedback in a student's submission.

Note: This functionality will be rolled out over time, separately from the main updates in September.

Yes

Yes

Microsoft Immersive Reader for Ally 

Ally now features a new alternative format to download. Microsoft Immersive Reader helps students improve their reading, comprehension, and grammar skills.

Yes

Yes

Send messages in private / unavailable courses

Instructors can send messages to students enrolled in private and unavailable courses. When a course is private, instructors will see a banner in the course inbox or when drafting a message. The banner states that students cannot access the messages in the course when the course is private but will receive an email copy instead.

Students will receive an email copy of any message sent. They will be able to access the message from within their course once the instructor opens the course.

Yes

No

Prevent duplicative content of an entire course 

Copying content within a course is an important feature to quickly deploy reusable structures. Ultra now includes functionality to help prevent accidental copying of an entire course within a course.

Yes

No



August 4, 2022 (v3900.46) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Manage question banks

With this enhancement, instructors will be able to:

  • Create new, empty question banks in their Ultra courses,

  • View and search for questions within a question bank, and

  • Add, edit, and delete all aspects of a question within new and existing question banks

Yes

Yes

Due date exceptions

Currently, instructors can add additional attempts or change an item's visibility. With this update, you can allow due date exceptions for a student per assignment. 

Key considerations:

  • Due date exceptions support is for individual tests and assignments only.

  • If an assignment or test does not have a due date, an exception cannot be set.

  • If an instructor wishes to remove the due date on an assignment or test, the instructor must first remove all due date exceptions.

  • To find students with the due date exception, instructors may access the submission list view page. Students with the clock icon next to their name have the due date exception.

  • Instructors may grant due date exceptions in combination with other exception types.

  • Automatic zeros respect due date exceptions. Automatic zeros are only applied if students with the due date exception do not submit on time.

  • The “prohibit late submission” and “prohibit new attempts” options respect due date exceptions. These settings only apply if students with the due date exception do not submit on time.

Yes

Yes

Create, import, export groups and memberships

Instructors can create group sets and add group members by importing a CSV (Comma Separated Value) file. This feature also supplies the ability to export group sets and members to a CSV file.

Instructors can create a group set by importing a CSV file from the course group set page or the groups view page. When assigning an assessment to a group set, instructors can import a CSV file. This allows the instructor to assign an existing group set or create a new one while creating an assessment.

A template is provided. Instructors receive an email after the import is processed.

Yes

Yes

Improvements to submission filter

Instructors need clear information about the status of student progress in a course. The submission page for an assignment presents information in two columns now: Submission status and grade status. This change provides instructors with greater clarity while grading and supporting students. A new filter also provides additional ways to sort and view what needs to be graded or what has already been graded on the page.

This update applies to tests, assignments, and discussions. It does not apply to anonymous grading, journals, or group assessments/tests.

Yes

No

Advanced calculation for Overall Grade

In addition to points and weighted options for calculating the Overall Grade in your Ultra gradebook, you can also use a bespoke formula to create a customized column for greater flexibility and evaluation needs.

Yes

No

Collaborative document creation

Collaborative documents provide students opportunities to engage with one another and course content. Instructors can now create a Microsoft OneDrive collaborative document in the Ultra and Original Course Views. Supported file types including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. 

Instructors can select an existing document or create a new file for collaboration. All student members of the course will be able to access the file. The students may select Edit Document to begin collaborating on the file.

NOTE: Users may need to sign into Microsoft OneDrive / Office 365 to use this feature.

Yes

Yes

Delete preview student user and/or data

Instructors have a choice when exiting student preview:

  • save the preview student and data

  • delete the preview student and data

The delete option removes the preview user and data from the roster, gradebook, messages, discussions, journals, and conversations. A new exit icon appears instead of the (...) icon.

Yes

Yes

LaTex equation support

Instructors and students can create and edit LaTeX equations in the content editor. LaTeX equations display as text in the content editor. Users can edit the equation using the Math formula option. When users save the text, the LaTeX equations render as images. 

Special notes:

  • Essay questions and the "Additional Content" section in Assessments do not have a save option in the text editor. In these areas, LaTeX equations will render as images after submission. Students can verify that the formula will render by opening the equation using the Math editor option.

  • Formatting such as italics or bold must be in the LaTeX code. Users can add the code formats in text or when editing using the Math editor. If a user chooses the bold format in the content editor, the image will render without that format. Example:

    • Code without format: $$axˆ2+bx+c=0$$

    • Code with format: $$\style{font-size:72px}{axˆ2+bx+c=0}$$

  • LaTeX equations are not rendered when they are inside code snippets because LaTeX equations are treated as part of the code format.

Yes

No

Send messages in private / unavailable courses

Instructors can send messages to students enrolled in private and unavailable courses. When a course is private, instructors will see a banner in the course inbox or when drafting a message. The banner states that students cannot access the messages in the course when the course is private but will receive an email copy instead.

Students will receive an email copy of any message sent. They will be able to access the message from within their course once the instructor opens the course.

Yes

No

Course copy status in logs

Content reuse is an important aspect of building out and updating courses. Instructors will now have access to the status of all the course tasks that they start including copy, Ultra course conversion, archive, export, import, and restore.

Logs are available for all course tasks. Instructors will be able to view the conversion report, view/filter, and download logs. These logs will help instructors triage any issues that may arise.

Yes

Limited

Unified mobile app for both instructors AND students

Blackboard consolidated the mobile app for both instructors and students rather than have separate apps. The user experience will change based on the user’s role within a course. Instructors can use the updated Blackboard app for both Original and Ultra courses.

The user experience in the Ultra Course View will be the same between the Blackboard mobile app and a web browser. This new Blackboard mobile app will be available August 8, 2022, from the iOS and Android app stores. Students using the current Blackboard app should simply update. Instructors, assistants, and graders should remove the Blackboard Instructor app and download the Blackboard app.

NOTE: Support for the Blackboard Instructor iOS and Android apps ends in September 2022. Instructors, Assistants, and Graders should download the Blackboard app for iOS or Android.

Yes

Limited

Additional updates for August

  • When an instructor copies a course with linked assessment questions, the copied test will remain intact. 

July 7, 2022 (v3900.44) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Calculate gradebook using points

Some instructors prefer to define the overall grade calculation based on points. Now the Overall Grade supports a points-based calculation. This new calculation gives instructors greater flexibility and supports varied evaluation practices. The setup wizard guides the instructor to select points or weighted calculation, and includes examples of each calculation type.

Yes

Yes

Display gradebook as points

The instructor may choose to display the overall grade as points. This display option supports the new points-based calculation for the overall grade. With the points display option, instructors and students see the overall grade as a fraction. For example, 745/800.

Yes

Yes

Copy question banks between courses

Instructors spend a great amount of time building and refining assessment questions. Reusing these questions across courses is of utmost importance. Now instructors can copy question banks from Original and Ultra courses. This saves time and provides greater efficiency.

From the Copy Content menu, instructors may select the Question Banks folder from the desired course. To copy all banks the instructor may select the checkbox for the Question Bank folder and select the checkbox for each bank to copy. Copied Question Banks appear in the Question Banks area under the Details and Actions menu of the course.

Yes

Yes

Prohibit backtracking of test questions

Robust assessment settings are key for supporting a range of instructional scenarios. Building on the one-question-at-a-time feature, instructors can now prevent backtracking. This option allows instructors to force a sequence through questions in an assessment. A sequence is important when upcoming questions provide hints or reveal answers to earlier questions.

Once the student answers the question and continues to the next, the student cannot go back. If a student skips a question, an alert informs the student that they cannot go back to the question.

Yes

Yes

Download grade center history

Instructors and administrators need a record of changes to grades in a course. These records are important for addressing quickly student questions and grade challenges. Instructors can download the grade history from an Ultra course as a tab or comma separated file (.xls or .csv).

Yes

Yes

Edit points earned on an assessment question

Instructors can now change the points a student earns on an assessment question. The points field supports negative and positive values with up to two decimal points. The grade on an assessment may change when:

  • an assessment posts grades automatically, but then the instructor changes the points earned on a question

  • the instructor removes an overridden grade so that changes to points earned reflect on the assessment grade

Students will receive a grade change notification if an assessment grade changes based on their notification preferences. 

Yes

Yes

Improvements to test question filtering

When a student applies a filter, a corresponding filter chip appears below the test header. A student may quickly remove any applied filter from this area by selecting the X on the filter chip. When a student applies a filter, a filter button appears. If a student selects the filter button, the question filter options menu opens below.

Yes

No

Recategorize discussions & journals

Recategorizing assessments is important to instructors who assign weight to categories in the overall grade calculation. An instructor may select a category that does not match the assessment tool used. For example, an instructor may wish to include an Assignment in the Test category. There is now a 'Grade category' selector in the settings panel for graded discussions and journals. The category options include both default and custom categories.

Yes

Yes

Inline file rendering of files in Course Content, Folders, and Learning Modules

Various files will now render inline in Course Content, folders, and learning modules. Instructors can set the behavior of these files for users:

  • view and download (default)

  • view only

  • download only

Please review supported file types. For the file types: .xlsx, .xls, .xlst, .csv, and .tsv, inline viewing is only supported for files up to 10 Mb in size. Files over 10 Mb are downloadable only.

NOTES:

  • Non-supported file types will always be downloadable for users.

  • Some image, video, and audio file types will now open in a large panel. Users can view or play back media in the browser

  • Inline rendering applies to new and existing files in the course. Existing files will be set to ‘view inline and download’ by default. Instructors can change the files to 'view only' or 'download only' if preferred.

  • We convert supported content types to PDF on demand when a user accesses them. This conversion provides an improved user experience. We cache these files for 30 days. Files converted to PDF as part of this feature do not count towards your storage quota.

  • Hyperlinks in files are disabled.

Yes

No

Original Blank Pages converted to Ultra Documents

When Original courses are converted to Ultra courses, Blank Pages will be converted to Ultra Documents. This conversion will help ensure a smoother transition from Original to Ultra Course View.

Yes

N/A

Accessibility improvements of math formulas

Instructors and students often use math formulas in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses. In the past, formulas might render slowly or lose quality when zoomed. Now we will render math formulas as images in Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format. This allows users to zoom in or enlarge formula images without losing quality. This change also improves accessibility for users with low vision.

Users can create math formulas using the text editor. Some content types include a description. The description appears on the Course Content page. Some notifications on the Activity Stream also display the description. When a description for a discussion or journal includes a math formula, Ultra replaces the formula image with '[Math formula].' When the user selects the content or notification, the math formulas will render as images.

Yes

No

Larger panel for Message review and composition

Messages will use a larger panel for viewing and composing messages rather than the smaller panel. Two option are moved above the rich content editor:

  • Allow replies to this message

  • Send an email copy to recipients

Yes

No

Pronoun and name pronunciation settings in Original courses

Institutions can allow users to express their personal pronouns. This fosters greater respect among students and with faculty.

Institutions can also enable name pronunciation. Users can add text guidance to describe the pronunciation of their names for other users. Users can record the pronunciation of their names. The recording tool counts down to when the recording begins. The recording may be up to 20 seconds long. For accessibility reasons, text guidance must be allowed if name recording is enabled. Recordings are compressed and included in storage use calculations.

This setting is targeted for availability in FA2022.

Yes

Yes

Additional updates for July

  • The rich text editor is a valuable tool used throughout the course. The insert content button gives users the option to add math, media, and other types of content. Users shared feedback about uncertainty of the "LTI item" option. To provide greater clarity, Blackboard changed the name of the "LTI item" button to Content Market.

June 2, 2022 (v3900.41) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Weigh individual assessments and categories for final grade

In the past, instructors could only weight gradebook items or grade categories. Now, in the release, both items and categories can have weight in the overall grade calculation. This allows instructors to weight high stakes assessments while also weighting categories.

Instructors may unlink items from categories to assign weight at the item level. Unlinked items appear ahead of the related category. An instructor may specify the weight and lock it to prevent further changes to the weight. Locking is helpful because the weights auto-adjust to ensure that the weighted calculation sums to 100%.

Please review the FAQs before the release for more information about this important change.

Yes

Yes

Running total in gradebook

In this release, Blackboard adds the option to calculate the overall grade as earned points divided by total possible points. To provide greater clarity to students, dynamic text explains the instructor's calculation choice. Students can see the Overall Grade and calculation details from the information icon in their Gradebook. The student may also select the Overall Grade pill to see calculation details.

Yes

Yes

Attachments render inline for Ultra Documents and Assessments

Currently, instructors can add file attachments to Ultra Documents and Assessments. Students who click on the file attachment link(s) can download the file(s).

With this release, instructors can set the behavior for attachments in Ultra Documents and Assessments:

  • view and download (default)

  • view only

  • download only

The view option renders the file in the web browser without the need to download a file and open it with a specific application. Supported files include: PDF, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OpenOffice. Office files are converted to PDF and will be cached for 30 days.

Yes

No

Multiple attempts for group assessments

Instructors may want student groups to submit work in phases. Other instructors may wish to provide student groups with iterative feedback. With this release, instructors will now have the option to give more than one attempt for group assessments. 

Yes

Yes

Additional updates for June

  • The Ultra developers listened to your feedback about the “Choose at least one correct answer” clause when creating multiple choice questions -- this text was visible to instructors during question creation, question editing, and grading, but it was not not visible to students. They've taken that text out to avoid confusion.


  • As with Original courses, the maximum file upload is limited to 75 MB per individual file, which is generally sufficient for most individual PowerPoint and PDF files. Also, since media tends to be quite large and Blackboard is not a streaming service, audio and videos should always be uploaded to Panopto for encoding and distribution to students. 

May 5, 2022 (v3900.39) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course