Is the Ultra Course View Right for Me?

Following the May 2019 uprade to the Ultra Base Navigation, faculty now have the option to adopt the Ultra Course View. The Ultra Course View is cleaner with a more modern design and easy-to-use workflows. It also has powerful new tools that are not available in the Original Course View, like Discussion Analytics. There are some features of the Original Course View that are not available in the Ultra Course View, however. Some are on their way, others have been discontinued. Learn more and decide whether your course will work well with Ultra Course View!

Keep in mind that all courses will continue to use the Original view by default, and faculty can choose whether to enable the Ultra Course View on one or more of their courses.

Review the Ultra Course View Feature Guide for a complete comparison of the features in Original and Ultra Course Views. The lists below summarize the differences that would have the biggest impact on your decision to switch to Ultra Course View.

Low Priority

Instead of setting a test exception to allow a student to have a longer timer or extended availability window on each test individually, in the Ultra Course View you set an Accommodation for the student on the Roster. Those Accommodations then apply to every assessment in the course.

Individual exceptions can be granted on the Submissions page for an Assignment or Test to provide a longer availability window or additional attempts.

In the Ultra Course View, Announcements appear as a pop-up when students enter the course. They must dismiss the pop-up before accessing any files or assessments in the course. Announcements are also included on the Activity Stream and in the Daily Digest emails. However, Announcements cannot be sent via email, as they can in the Original Course View.

If you need to reach students via email in an Ultra Course, you can send a Message and select the option to Send an email copy to recipients.

Blackboard Collaborate is available in Ultra Course View, and is accessed within the Details & Actions area of an Ultra course. However, it is not visible until your course is Open. You will have to wait to create Collaborate sessions until your course is Open to students.

The Ultra Course View makes it easier for students to find and access Collaborate sessions. When a session is active, meaning that there are people in the session, the Collaborate link will flash with a purple activity indicator to draw attention to it.

You can track student discussion activity in the Ultra Course View in a few ways. You can view student activity in the gradebook grid view. You can also view discussion activity in Discussion Analytics and in the Grades & Participation area of the discussion. To view individual student analytics, click on the student’s name under Grades & Participation for an individual Discussion assignment. Students are allowed to edit or delete their posts (there is no option to turn this off), but all replies to a deleted post are preserved in the thread; a system note appears to let users know that a post has been deleted.

Ultra Course View does not support the option to enable subscriptions for Discussion Forums. In the Original Course View, this option allows you and your students to sign up to receive email notification whenever a post is made to a particular Discussion Forum.

In the Ultra Course View, YouTube Videos can be embedded on a Document, which is similar to a simple and easy-to-create web page. If you have a YouTube video embedded as an Item or Mashup in your Original Course that you convert to the Ultra Course View, Blackboard will automatically convert it to a Document.

In the Ultra Course View, folders can only be nested 2 levels deep. So, for example, you could have a Content folder with individual Weekly folders within it, but you could not then have a Chapter 1 folder within a weekly folder: Content (level 1) > Week 1 (level 2) > Chapter 1 (level 3). This promotes a simpler structure for your Blackboard course, which makes it easier for students to find the content, assessments, and activities that they need.

In the Ultra Course View, the workflow for creating group discussions is reversed from the Original Course View. In Ultra, you create a single Discussion Forum and then assign it to groups for private group discussions. Because you create new groups each time, you can reuse the membership from previous groups if you want consistent groups, or create new groups so students engage with other classmates each time.

In the Ultra Course View, Tests can include blocks of questions that randomly assign students a sub-set of a larger question pool. For example, you can have a pool of 25 questions on a topic and have Blackboard randomly assign each students 5 of those questions.

The terminology has changed from Original Course View to Ultra Course View, based on Blackboard's user research and industry standards. 

Original Course View Ultra Course View Description
Pool Question bank A set of potential questions that can be used on any Test, individually or with a random sub-set
Random block and question set Question pool Created within a Test to specify that students receive a sub-set of the questions within these questions (e.g., the set of 25 questions out of which students will receive 5)

To create a random set of questions for students, first create a Question Bank in the Details & Actions area. Then, create a Test, click the + icon to add a question, and select Add question pool.

Medium Priority

Achievements (badges and certificates) are not currently available in the Ultra Course View, but they are planned for a later release.

Blogs are not currently available in the Ultra Course View, but they are planned for a later release.

In the Ultra Course View, you set up the Overall Grade to automatically calculate student course grades. At this time, that is limited to using percentages for weighted grading, as opposed to calculating grades with total points. There are two potential workarounds, however.

Workaround 1: You can use the percentage system and convert your points to percentages by dividing each the points possible for each assessment by the overall points possible for the course.

Workaround 2: You can create a Calculated Column to build a formula that calculates the students’ grades based on points and then use the Overall Grade to display the students’ grades only based on the Calculated Column.

In the Ultra Course View, there is not a feature to automatically drop one or more lowest grades from a group of assessments. There is a workaround, however, that will work for dropping 1 lowest grade (but not for more than 1).

Workaround: Add a Calculation and build a formula with TOTAL (Category) – MIN (CATEGORY), and then use that calculation instead of the category in the Overall grade.

This does get tricky if the individual assessments don’t have the same points possible that leads to inconsistent results in how many points the calculation is worth in the Gradebook, but the overall calculated grade is correct even though the column looks wrong.

In the Ultra Course View, you cannot access the HTML editor to directly edit HTML code or add embed code for multimedia or widgets/tools, like a Vimeo video, O365 document, or Twitter feed. You can still embed YouTube videos in a Document (similar to a simple and easy-to-create web page).

Journals are now available in the Ultra Course View, but with limitations related to grading. You can mark a Journal for grading, which automatically creates a column in the Grade Book for the Journal. However, there is not yet a workflow for reading and grading a Journal simultaneously. This is on the roadmap for future development. For now, you can review the Journal and then enter a grade directly into the Grade Book. 

Rubrics are available in the Ultra Course View, but with some limitations. Currently, rubrics are limited to percentage and percentage-range only; there are no point or point-range options. Also, rubrics are limited to a maximum of ten rows and ten columns.

Surveys are not available in the Ultra Course View, but they are planned for future development.

In the Ultra Course View, you have a single control to determine whether students can see the answer choices, their submitted answer, and the correct answer immediately after submitting a test. This setting can be changed at any time, but it must be done so manually as opposed to the conditional settings available in Original Course View. Enabling the setting is an on/off choice, and you cannot specify the types of feedback students can see (e.g., you cannot show students their submitted answers but not show the correct answers).

Wikis are not available in the Ultra Course View, and are not planned for future development.

High Priority

In the Ultra Course View, Delegated Grading is called Parallel Grading. While it is available, there are some significant limitations. Currently, parallel grading is limited to 2 graders and assumes that each grader is grading all of the students. There is no way to use Parallel Grading to assign graders to a subset of students, as you can in the Original Course View, or to have more than 2 graders. Also, students cannot see the rubrics or comments made by the graders, so rubrics and comments would need to be recreated when grades were reconciled.

The Ultra Course View is well-suited to a fully online course. It is easy to find course materials, Discussion Boards are more modern, and there are more embedded analytics on student progress and achievement. It is significantly different from a course in the Original Course View, however, and students in a fully online program expect a consistent experience for their courses.

Publishers such as Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Wiley, and others are working on updating their integrations to be compatible with the Ultra Course View, but some of them are not yet available at this time.

There are several question types that are not yet included in ULTRA, including:

  • Calculated Numeric
  • Either/Or (you can use True/False question or Multiple Choice)
  • File Response (you can use an Assignment)
  • Hot Spot
  • Jumbled Sentence
  • Opinion Scale/Likert
  • Ordering
  • Quiz Bowl
  • Short Answer (you can use Essay question)

Most of these are being developed over time, or other question types can be substituted.

Self-and-Peer Assessment is not available in the Ultra Course View, although it is planned. Blackboard is completely rebuilding this feature to be more flexible and intuitive.

Last updated: 7/1/2020