Ultra Course View Feature Guide

The Blackboard Ultra Course View is a completely redesigned experience, and was released in 2017 with a small subset of the most essential tools commonly used in a learning management system. Since that time, it has been updated on a monthly basis with new tools and features, but there are some tools and features of the Original Course View that are not yet available in the Ultra Course View. 

NOTE: All tools continue to be available for the Original Course View unless otherwise noted. If a tool you rely on is not yet available in the Ultra Course View, you may want to continue using the Original Course View until it becomes available.

This list compares the features of the Original and Ultra Course Views, and will be updated frequently as features are introduced or updated. Note that the Ultra Course View contains additional features and capabilities that were never available in the Original Course View. Generally, these new capabilities are not tracked in this feature guide.

Last updated: 2/8/2024

Original Ultra Status Details
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Achievements Badgr Spaces / Canvas Credentials

With the Badgr integration in Ultra Course View, you can issue digital badges that recognize student achievement and allow them to granularly share their skills outside of Blackboard. Access the integration from Books & Tools in the Details & Actions panel by clicking the View course & institution tools link, then the plus (+) icon next to Badgr.

Feature Loss - You cannot create and issue certificates using the Badgr integration, but participants can print their badge as a certificate via Badgr. Badges can only be awarded based on Assignments and Tests; Badgr does not support achievement on other assessment types nor for manual or calculated Gradebook items. You can also create an Ultra Document with a celebratory message to recognize achievement and use Release Conditions to control when the Document is visible to students.

Adaptive Release Release Conditions

Items can be made available based on date and time, performance (such as a grade on another item), and by individual or group membership. 

Anonymous Grading Anonymous Grading - Hide Student Names

You must choose this option for each individual Assignment, Test, and Discussion you create. You cannot grade anonymously if scores are posted automatically; disable automatic posting to enable anonymous grading. 

Student grades will not be visible to you or to students until you release the anonymity. Anonymous grades also will not be included in grade calculations until anonymity is released because doing so could violate the anonymity of the assessment. You can send reminders to students who have not yet submitted an anonymous assessment and edit exceptions and exemptions. 

Announcements Announcements

To create an announcement, click Announcements in the top navigation bar of your Ultra Course. Announcements can be scheduled in advance. Announcements appear in a pop-up box when students enter the course. Announcements in Ultra can also be sent to students via email, although attachments in the Announcement can only be accessed in the course.

Assignment Assignment

Assignments are available and robust, including advanced features like group submission, rubrics, audio/video feedback, inline annotation, and more.

Assignments must remain visible to students for them to view their score, feedback, and any inline annotations. Automated reminders can be sent to students who have not submitted the assignment.

Once at least one student accesses an Assignment (i.e., views the instructions), some aspects of the Assignment cannot be edited such as adding additional content, changing or adding a rubric, or changing to a group assignment. These settings should be established before making the Assignment visible to students.

Feature Loss - Group assignment submissions cannot be downloaded in bulk. 

Attendance Attendance

Access Attendance by clicking Attendance under Details and Actions in your Ultra course. Functions and features identical to Original Course View.

Blogs TBD

Not yet developed, but under consideration for Ultra Course View.

Alternatives - Use Discussion Board in Blackboard or an external blogging platform like Wordpress

Calendar Calendar

Click the Calendar icon at the top of an Ultra course to access. Additional capabilities are planned.

Collaborate Collaborate

Class Collaborate course room and scheduler are available in the Details and Actions area of an Ultra course. When a session is in progress, the Collaborate link will flash purple for all users.

Collaborate sessions are also integrated with Assignments designated for Group submission, so that group members have a space to meet.

Contacts --

Not available in Ultra and not planned.

Alternatives - Use Profile feature to add a photo of yourself and your name pronunciation. Full name and email address are automatically updated. To share additional information within each individual course, you can create a Document (page) with information you would have included in your Contacts profile. Information about office hours can be added to the Calendar.

Content Collection Content Collection

To access the Content Collection, click Tools in the left-hand menu on the Blackboard landing page. Files from the Content Collection can be added to the course via the plus icon on the course outline. As of the November 2022 release, files in the Content Collection can be added to Documents via either the plus icon or the text editor. Additional capabilities are planned to make it easier to access and link to files in the Content Collection.

Content Editor Content Editor

The content (text) editor in Ultra includes the ability to format text, add images, embed YouTube videos, and build equations. It does not include the ability to directly edit the html code, to ensure the text is accessible and mobile-compatible. You can create HTML content blocks in a Document, however.

Course Banner Course Image

Course banners can be uploaded from a file or selected from the royalty-free Unsplash library. The Course Image option includes the ability to zoom and crop the image to be used as a banner.

Course Link Course Link

You can create course links on the Course Content page. Click the + icon and select Create from the menu. In the Create Item panel, select Link, then switch to the Course Link tab. Search for and select the item you want to link and then click the Save button. The visibility of a course link is tied to the visibility of the linked content. 

Feature Loss - you cannot link to discussions; you cannot link to a folder or learning module from within a folder or learning module; you cannot link to content within a learning module where force sequence is enabled (because this would potentially allow students to bypass the forced sequence). You cannot add course links via the text editor, such as on an Ultra Document or in an Announcement (this is planned as future functionality).

Course Menu --

In the Ultra Course View, there is no course menu. All of the content is listed on a single page, to make it easier for students to navigate, and links to course tools are organized in the Details and Actions area or along the top of the page. Content can be organized using folders and learning modules, which open and close.

In future releases, you will be able to hide some elements of the Details and Actions panel that you will not be using.

Course Reports Student Activity

The Ultra Course View does not include the same course reports as the Original Course View, but other reports are available. The Student Activity report summarizes student activity on an Assignment or Test. Access it by clicking the three dots next to the Assignment or Test and choose Student Activity from the menu. This provides information about whether students have opened the assessment, how long they had it open, and their grade. Click the three stripes above the list of students to reveal date opened, started, time from start to finish, and grade. 

The Class Performance / Course Activity Related to Grades report provides a distribution of students grades and the time spent in the course to help identify students who may be falling behind. Access this report from the Analytics tab or on the Grades page in the base navigation.

If you have enabled Progress Tracking, you can view the Student Progress report for individual items to determine whether students have opened content, when they accessed it, and whether they marked it as complete. You can view a student's individual progress on the student overview page, which you can access from the Roster or the Gradebook (either the student list view or the grid view).

Date Management Batch Edit

Date Management has been replaced with the Batch Edit tool in which you can batch edit content due dates and visibility. You can also delete multiple course items from Batch Edit. As of summer 2023, you can open and close folders within the Badge Edit tool to make changes at multiple levels at once and apply date changes to all items within a folder at once.

Additional enhancements expected soon - Significant updates to Batch Edit are anticipated for 2024, including the ability to add and modify all availability and due dates from a single page.

Delegated Grading Split into Delegated Grading by Group and Parallel Grading

Parallel Grading allows for two (2) non-student course members to grade the same student submission and for a separate individual to reconcile the grades. Delegated Grading allows you to assign grading responsibilities to Instructors, Teaching Assistants, and Graders by group membership; assigned graders can only see student submissions in their assigned group.

Feature Loss - Within Parallel Grading, there can be only 2 graders specified, graders cannot be assigned subsets of students (anticipated in 2023), graders cannot also be reconcilers, graders cannot see the rubrics/scores or feedback submitted by other graders, and students can only view the rubric/score and feedback submitted by the reconciler.

Discussions Discussions

Discussions can be created on the content page, such as in a folder or learning module, or they can be created directly on the Discussions page. Discussions have been flattened to reflect more modern discussion tools commonly used across the web. In the Ultra Course View, discussions with grading enabled have a detailed Discussion Analysis feature that provides insight on the level of complexity and critical thinking of a student's posts compared to their classmates. Discussions can require students to post before reviewing classmates' submissions (post first), students can be prevented from editing or deleting their posts, and all discussion activity can be locked after the due date for graded discussions. Additional capabilities are planned.

Feature Loss - Subscriptions are not available (planned for 2024), but discussion posts are included in the Activity Stream and daily notifications. Discussions cannot be set to be anonymous (planned for 2024).

Edit Mode --

Not available in Ultra Course View. You are always in edit mode unless you are in student preview mode.

Embed Media or Mashup Embed Media

Images and web-based videos can be embedded within a Document (page) in the Ultra Course View.

Feature Loss - Video can only be embedded from select sources, including (but not limited to) YouTube and Vimeo. For other platforms, such as social media or news sites, you will need to simply create a link to the media or paste embed code into an HTML block in a Document.

Files Upload (Course Content page), Upload from Computer (Document), or Attachment (Text Editor)

Upload files from desktop or cloud storage. Files can also be dragged and dropped into your course or the text editor. Once enabled by the institution, add live and collaborative cloud documents from Microsoft OneDrive (not yet available at NIU).

NOTE: PDF, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel files can now be configured to open as a preview directly in the browser. The instructor can also configure whether students have the ability to download the file.

Folders Folders

Folders organize content within the course outline, and open and close to make it easier for students to find specific files or Documents. Folders can have short descriptions to tell students what content is inside. Folders can be made visible or hidden to affect all of the content inside the folder.

NOTE: In the Ultra Course View, folders can only be nested two (2) levels deep. Learning Modules cannot be placed within a Folder.

Glossary --

Not available in Ultra and not planned.

Alternatives - Create a web link to an external subject-matter glossary or upload the terms and definitions as a file.

Goals Goals and Standards

Assessments can be aligned to specific Goals, including Assignments, Tests (including individual questions), Discussions, and Rubrics.

Grade Center Gradebook

Most grading functions are available in the Gradebook, which is accessed by clicking the Gradebook tab in the toolbar at the top of the course. Additional capabilities are planned.

The default Gradebook view is a list of the graded items, but there is a grid view that is similar to the Grade Center in the Original Course View. Only in Ultra Course View, you can automatically assign zeroes (0) for assessments that are not submitted by the due date. NOTE: Assessments can be set to post grades automatically or manually to control visibility of grades to students.

Overall Grades can be calculated by points, weighting, or advanced calculations. Grades can be dropped in point-based and weighted overall calculations.

Feature Loss

  • The Needs Grading view is discontinued, but you can view assessments that need to be graded in the Activity Stream or on the list view of the Gradebook. Status filters on Assignment and Test submission pages can help to identify items that need to be graded. Enhancements to streamline the grading workflow are anticipated in 2024.
  • Assessment submissions cannot be viewed chronologically by submission date/time. This is anticipated for 2024.
  • Column statistics are not available (e.g., mean, median of student grades). This is anticipated for March 2024.
Groups Groups

Groups can be created manually or generated randomly. They can be created in three different places within a course and can be used for any of the following purposes:

  • Course Groups - Created in the Details & Actions area, these groups allow you to send Messages to a subset of students. These groups can be used for Discussions and Assignments and can be used to filter the Gradebook
  • Discussion Groups - Created in the settings for a Discussion, these groups allow you to limit students to viewing and interacting in discussion only within their group. These groups can be used for Assignments but not for filtering the Gradebook
  • Assignment Groups - Created in the settings for an Assignment, these groups allow students to make a single Assignment submission on behalf of their group and assigns the same grade to each member of the group (which you can override individually if necessary). With Course Conversations enabled on a group assignment, students can have asynchronous conversations or launch a Blackboard Collaborate session to work together on the assignment. You can use Assignment Groups for Discussions but not for filtering the Gradebook

As of August 2022, group sets and membership can be imported via CSV file.

Feature Loss 

  • Groups have a dedicated group space but functionality is limited; additional capabilities are planned 
Item Document

The term "Document" refers to a page in Ultra that resembles a web page. Documents can include images, text, uploaded files, and HTML content. If you only need to add a file without accompanying text, use the Upload option instead.

Item Analysis Question Analysis

Run Question Analysis for a single test by clicking the ... button next to it in the Course Content view, or on the Analytics tab in the top navigation bar. Additional capabilities are planned.

Journal Journal

Journals can be created by using the + menu to create content, then selecting Journal under Participation and Engagement.

Learning Module Learning Module

Learning Modules can contain multiple files, Documents, Assignments, Tests, or Discussions. They can also contain a single layer of folders to organize materials within the module.

You can force students to view the content in a Learning Module sequentially by selecting the Forced Sequence option in the Learning Module settings (click the ellipsis to edit the Learning Module). Additional capabilities are planned.

Lesson Plan --

Not available in Ultra and not planned.

Alternatives - Use Learning Modules or Folders. Then, create Documents that house information that would have been in the Lesson Plan Content Information section (description, objectives, subject area). You can organize the order of items in your Learning Module or Folder however you want, and you can use Conditional Availability to force sequential viewing within a Learning Module. If you are using Lesson Plans as a planning tool only, you can follow the same steps above but keep the content hidden from students.

Performance Dashboard --

The Class Performance / Course Activity Related to Grades report provides a distribution of students grades and the time spent in the course to help identify students who may be falling behind. Access this report from the Analytics tab or on the Grades page in the base navigation.

Alternatives - You can view alerts within your Activity Stream, keep track of assignment submissions in the Gradebook, and view a single student’s grades by clicking a student's name on the Student List View or the Grid View of the Gradebook. You can view when students last accessed the course by switching to the student list view in the Gradebook.

Additional capabilities are planned.

Portfolios --

Students can create a Portfolio directly in the Portfolios tool by clicking Tools from the Base Navigation. 

Feature Loss - Portfolios cannot be directly submitted to an Assignment in the Ultra Course View. As a workaround, students can share the Portfolio with themselves as an external user to generate a URL to access their Portfolio, and then submit that URL via the text editor in the Assignment. Faculty can then access and review the portfolio from the Gradebook and utilize the rubric and feedback features of the Assignment. 

It is unclear whether additional capabilities are planned.

Publisher Integrations Content Market

Most publisher integrations are available in Ultra Course View; you should contact your publisher representative for more information.

Retention Center --

Not available in Ultra and not planned.

Alternatives - Many of the features of the Retention Center have been repurposed through the Activity Stream, where you will receive alerts for students falling behind, absent, and failing. You can no longer create rules for early alert criteria. See Course Reports and Item Analysis for more information on ways to track student progress. Additional analytics and reporting features are planned.

The Class Performance / Course Activity Related to Grades report provides a distribution of students grades and the time spent in the course to help identify students who may be falling behind. Access this report from the Gradebook > Settings or on the Analytics tab in the top navigation.

Roster Roster

Available in the Details & Actions area within an Ultra course. You can view the full student roster, enroll a TA or another Instructor, or add an accommodation for a student (such as extended timers) that apply to all assessments in the course.  

Rubrics Rubrics

Rubrics are available for all assessment types. As of December 2023, rubrics can have an unlimited number of columns and rows. Additional capabilities are planned. 

Feature Loss - You cannot download a summary rubric report from an item in the Gradebook. You cannot add a rubric to manually-created grade items.

SafeAssign SafeAssign

SafeAssign is available for Assignments and for Essay questions on Tests. SafeAssign for Discussions is planned. As of October 2023, Direct Submit is available via Books & Tools in the Details & Actions panel.


To add a SCORM package in your Ultra course, click the plus sign to add content, click Create, select SCORM package, and select Upload SCORM package or Browse Content Collection.

Self and Peer Assessment Peer Review

Assignments can now be designated for peer review. Select Peer Review in the Assignment settings, then set up peer review settings, such as the number of reviews per student and the due dates for initial submissions and peer reviews. Peer reviews are entirely anonymous, although the instructor is able to see the review assignments and who provided feedback.

Feature Loss - Peer review does not include a mechanism for self-assessment. Peer review currently only allows qualitative feedback, although you can connect it with a rubric to guide the review process. Additional capabilities are planned, including quantitative scoring.

Send Email Messages

The updated Messages tool allows you to communicate with students via email. Messages retains a copy of the conversation in Blackboard and includes the option to send the contents to the student via email. To access Messages, click the envelope icon in the upper-right corner of the course or use the Messages link on the left-hand menu on the Institution Page. You can send messages to students based on assessment status (e.g., not submitted) on the submission page for an assessment.

Additional capabilities are planned for sending messages based on course activity, course role, or group membership.

SlideShare/Flickr Embed --

Not available in Ultra and not planned.

Alternatives - Create your slideshow (PowerPoint) or document and upload it to Blackboard directly or upload it to SlideShare and share the link to Blackboard. For Flickr images, search for the image on Flickr, copy the URL, and paste it to “Insert Image from Web” in editor (Document).

Student Preview Student Preview

Access via the Enter student preview mode button in the Details & Actions area within an Ultra course. Click the ... menu in the upper-right corner to exit student preview.

As of August 2022, you will be asked whether the preview user should be saved or deleted each time you leave Student Preview mode.

Survey Forms

Forms were released in February 2024. In the initial release, they can not be anonymous, but further development is planned.

Alternatives - Use an external anonymous survey site, such as Qualtrics or Microsoft Forms.

Tasks --

Not available in Ultra and not planned.

Alternatives - The Activity Stream alerts students to upcoming due dates and assignments and alerts you about their progress and participation. Progress Tracking helps students determine whether they have completed course requirements.

Tests and Pools Tests and Question Banks

Tests can include Calculated Formula, Essay, Fill-in-the-Blank (single or multiple), Matching, Multiple Choice (single or multiple correct answers), and True/False questions. Questions can be reused from other Tests or from Question Banks (which are added in the Details & Actions area in an Ultra course).

Question Randomization - Questions can be displayed in random order for each student, and can be randomly assigned from a pool (e.g., each student receives 5 random questions from a set of 10 questions). Tests with pages can randomize the order of the pages with the option to lock the first page (such as when the first page includes instructions). 

Extra Credit Questions - Questions can be marked as extra credit. 

Grade One Question at a Time - The Flexible Grading interface introduced in August 2023 added the ability to grade question-by-question. 

Attempt Log - An attempt log was added in January 2024.

Feature Loss:

  • Some Question Types Not Available - Either/Or (Use True/False or Multiple Choice instead), File Response (Use an Assignment instead or ask students to submit the file at the end of the test using the additional information field), Jumbled Sentence, Opinion Scale/Likert (Use Multiple Choice instead), Ordering (Use Matching instead), Quiz Bowl, Short Answer (Use Essay instead).
  • Tests cannot be printed for students to take offline or for offline review/archiving; a solution is planned and under development.
VoiceThread VoiceThread

Add through Content Market option under + in Course Content or in the Books & Tools course menu item. Use the VoiceThread Deep Linking tool for best results.

Web Link Web Link

To create a link to web content, you can create a link directly in your course by clicking the +, Create, and then Link.

Wiki --

Not available in Ultra and not planned.

Alternatives - Use Microsoft OneDrive for collaborative writing and editing, or try Microsoft OneNote for a shared space for note-taking. Use Google Sites or Weebly to have students create a website, or try a dedicated wiki tool available online. Additional integrations with OneDrive for collaborative document editing are anticipated in 2022 and 2023.

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