What's New in Ultra?

One of the hallmarks of the Blackboard Ultra Experience is the speed with which new features are developed and released. In fact, new features become available every month! Some of these features are large updates with entirely new functionality, others are very small enhancements that improve the teaching and learning experience.

Below you will find a list of the important new features that have become available since the Ultra Course View became available at NIU.

New Features Coming Soon

Drag-and-drop improvementsNew

Date added: Anticipated for December 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Drag-and-drop is convenient for rearranging and reordering content, but the drag-and-drop in Ultra Course View has been finicky, to say the least. This update greatly improves drag-and-drop performance.

screenshot of an item in Ultra Course View being moved via drag-and-drop

Specific changes to drag-and-drop:

  • The entire item is now clickable for drag-and-drop functionality instead of only the arrows. Click the title of the content to open it.
  • Click and pause briefly (a fraction of a second). When you begin to drag the item, it will be highlighted with a purple border.
  • A purple shadow will indicate where the item would be placed when released.
  • Movement of the item is smoother and more controlled, including scrolling when moving outside of the space visible in the browser window.
  • Hold the item over a folder to expand the folder and place the item inside it.

Keyboard reordering is also still possible, if desired. 

Course LinksNew

Date added: Anticipated for December 1, 2022
Type: New feature

Course links allow you to place multiple links to a single item in your course, making it easier for students to access items that are reused in several places. For example, you might create an Assignment in a single module but link to it in several modules because students work on it for several weeks, instead of telling them to return to the previous module to submit it. Similarly, you might create an Ultra Document once and link to it multiple times for students to quickly reference it.

To add a course link, click the Plus Icon (+) on the Course Content page and select Create from the menu. Select Link in the peek panel and switch to the Create Course Link tab at the top of the page.

screenshot of the course link search page

On the New Course Link page, you can search by keyword and/or category and click the Search button to view the results.

Once you have selected the target content, you can edit the display name and description for the course link separately from the target content, but visibility and release conditions are linked between the two (so that you cannot create a course link to content that students cannot access). 

The link will display the same icon as the target content, but will include a small link icon to indicate that it is the link and not the original.

screenshot of course link to an Ultra Document

Limitations in the Initial Release:

  • Course links cannot be made to folders, learning modules, discussions, or web links 
  • When course links are included in a learning module, forced sequence cannot enabled (to prevent students from accessing something they should not yet access in the sequence)
  • Course links cannot be made using the text editor (this is planned for future development)
  • Course links to Documents cannot be copied to a new course
Single Student Progress ReportNew

Date added: Anticipated for December 1, 2022
Type: New feature

Insight into how students are progressing in your course is invaluable for supporting their success and encouraging them to stay engaged. The new Single Student Progress Report focuses on the path each student is taking in your course to provide detailed information on their progress. You must have enabled Progress Tracking for your course to access this report.

In this report, you can view:

  • Status of the item for that student, including unopened, started (i.e., first opened), and completed
  • Date and time stamp for when the student started (i.e., first opened) or completed an item
  • Student information like the last access date, name pronunciation, and accommodations
  • Student Activity log, which includes a chart view of student activity as well as a list view of date and duration of the time they spent in the course

screenshot of student progress report

You can view this report in several ways:

  • Select a single student from the Student Progress report on a content item (click the three dots ... next to the item to access Student Progress)
  • From the Gradebook list view, switch to the Students tab and select a single student, then select the Student Progress tab (initial view is the single student grade report)
  • From the Gradebook grid view, select a single student, then select the Student Progress tab (initial view is the single student grade report)
Improvements for Copying ContentNew

Date added: Anticipated for December 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The granular course copy in the Ultra Course View is a huge timesaver, but the peek panel is small and can be difficult to navigate. This update replaces the small panel with a full-page interface for copying content.

screenshot of the copy content panel in Ultra Course View

In addition to the larger panel, this update includes the following additions:

  • Tabs to separate Courses and Organizations
  • Courses and Organizations are now displayed in alphabetical order, making it easier to find the correct source course
  • Breadcrumbs have been added to make it easier to select items from multiple areas of a course (or even from multiple courses) in a single copy
Improved Clarity of Needs Grading Counts for Multiple AttemptsNew

Date added: Anticipated for December 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The number of submissions left to grade for a specific assessment is a useful indicator of how much grading is left to complete and confirmation that you have completed all of the grading. This becomes complex when multiple attempts are enabled, as you may not need to grade all of the submissions. 

This update changes how the number of items to grade is calculated for assessments with the "first attempt with a grade" or "last attempt with a grade" selection.

Last Attempt with a Grade

  • Only the last attempt is included in the "To Grade" count; previous attempts do not increase the value
  • If the student makes a new attempt after you have graded their submission, the "To Grade" count will increase, to alert you to the new attempt

First Attempt with a Grade

  • Only the first attempt is included in the "To Grade" count; subsequent attempts do not increase the value

Grade by Average, Highest, and Lowest Grade 

  • All attempts are included in the "To Grade" count
Question Banks Descriptions and SearchNew

Date added: Anticipated for December 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

When using questions from a question bank on an assessment, it can be challenging to find the right one. This update adds the ability to add a description to question banks to help identify them. 

This update also adds a search field for question banks that searches both the name and description of the bank, to quickly find the correct question bank.

screenshot of the Question Banks page highlighting the search field

Simpler Exit for Student PreviewNew

Date added: Anticipated for December 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Student Preview is helpful for determining whether your course looks and functions as you intended, but exiting the preview mode can require several clicks. This update changes the pop-up message you receive when exiting preview mode so that you can more easily choose whether to keep the preview user or discard it.

screenshot of pop-up when exiting student preview mode in Ultra

Choosing Save will keep the preview user and any interactions that you created (e.g., discussion posts, assignment submissions) while in preview mode. Choosing Discard will delete the preview user and any data associated with them (e.g., posts, submissions, grades).

Integration with Live and Collaborative Microsoft OneDrive Files

Date added: Coming Soon
Type: New Feature

Blackboard and Microsoft are developing extensive capabilities for integrating between Blackboard and OneDrive. Two upcoming major features include the ability to integrate files that are editable by the instructor and (if desired) collaboratively by students.

When this feature becomes available, instructors will be able to add links to files in their Microsoft OneDrive storage. Unlike the existing Cloud Storage integration that copies the file from OneDrive into Blackboard, files linked using the new Open from OneDrive feature will remain in the instructor's OneDrive storage. 

OneDrive files can be linked in the Course Content list and within Learning Modules and Folders. This option is not available elsewhere in the course.

click the plus icon on the course content list to access the Open from OneDrive tool

The instructor can continue to modify the file within OneDrive OR from Blackboard, and students will be automatically shown the updated version. Instructors should access the Full Screen view to begin editing.

view files in OneDrive in the browser

As the Instructor in the Blackboard course, you will be able to configure whether you want to open the file from OneDrive, in which case students will have a read-only version and will not have the permissions to edit or modify the file, or to start a collaboration, which allows students to edit the document from within Blackboard.

This feature is the result of an ongoing partnership between Blackboard and Microsoft to better integrate Microsoft products in Blackboard. Future updates are expected, including the ability to provide a Word document as a template for assignments that students can use for their submissions.

2022 New Features

Hot Spot Question Type added to TestsNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: New Feature

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. 

screenshot of hotspot question asking students to place a pin on the sternum in an image of a skeleton

The hot spot question type in the Ultra Course View is more refined than what is possible in the Original Course View. Notably, hot spot questions can include more than one target location. Hot spot questions can also be created and answered with keyboard controls, which is accessible to more users. 

While hot spot questions are not accessible to those who use screen readers at this time, future enhancements will add the ability to present an alternate question for students who are using a screen reader.

Page Breaks in Tests and AssignmentsNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: New Feature

In both Original and Ultra Course View, the only options for displaying a test was to have all of the questions on a single page or to display each question on individual pages (i.e., one question at a time). With the addition of page breaks, you can control which questions are displayed on each page to allow for grouping of questions on similar topics or with a shared set of instructions, image, passage, or data table. 

Page breaks are inserted using the same drop-down menu as any other assessment component, such as text or questions. Page breaks can be used with text, files, all question types, and question pools (i.e., random sets of questions pulled from a question bank or test).

add page break is included in the same drop down as other assessment components

Page breaks are visible when creating the test as a black line. Click the line to combine the pages and remove the page break.

screenshot of ultra course view test with a page break

In the first release, question randomization cannot be used with page breaks. Turning on question randomization will remove any existing page breaks (a pop-up warning will first confirm that you wish to proceed). Future releases are planned to allow for randomization within a page (i.e., all of the questions on a given page could be randomized). 

Warnings on Tests for Lost ConnectionsNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Disruptions to internet connectivity can prevent students from submitting all of their answers. This latest enhancement to auto-save on tests will warn students if their internet connection has been lost so that they can resolve the issue before submitting. 

warning message reads "Connection lost. Latest changes weren't saved. Check your internet connection."

The warning will disappear after 20 seconds. If the connection is not restored, a pop-up warning will inform the student that their progress has not been saved.

When the connection is restored, the system alerts the student and confirms that progress is saved.

warning message reads "Connection restored. Latest changes were saved successfully."

Grade History ImprovementsNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In an earlier release, Blackboard added Grade History to the Ultra Course View. In this release, the report will have an updated interface that will allow you 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.

Gradebook View SavedNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The Gradebook will now remember and return you to the last Gradebook view you had selected when you leave and return to the Gradebook. For example, if you switch to the grid view of the Gradebook, you will be automatically returned to the grid view when you return to the Gradebook. 

This is a minor update, but one that should save you time and make it easier for you to interact with the Gradebook in the way that you prefer to do so.

Enhanced Student Grades OverviewNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In the Ultra Course View Gradebook, you can view all of the assessments for a single student by clicking their name in the Student List View or the Grid View. The Student Grade Overview page provides you with a quick way to review their performance. 

With this enhancement, the Student Grade Overview page will now include additional information and tools:

  • date that the student last accessed the course
  • username
  • access to view their accommodations, if any
  • access to the Student Activity report

screenshot of student grade overview page

Future enhancements are planned for this page, including adding a view of the individual student progress tracking data.

Richer Feedback Options for Manually-Created Grade ItemsNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Currently, manually-created grade items can only include plain-text for feedback. This update adds more options to the content editor for feedback on these items, including formatted text, lists, links, attachments, and media (pre-recorded or recorded directly in the browser).

Content Collection in Ultra DocumentsNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

This update adds the ability for you to link to content that you have saved in the Content Collection within Ultra Documents. You can browse and select files in the Content Collection by clicking the plus (+) icon on the Document view or within the text editor on a Document.

Course Activity vs. Grades Report Moved to Analytics TabNew

Date added: November 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The Course Activity vs. Grades report is a useful tool for identifying students who may be struggling based on their performance and engagement within the course. This report was available from the Grades page on the base navigation or within the Gradebook Settings panel in a course. Now, this report will be easier to find on the Analytics tab within an individual course.

Enhanced Auto-Save Capability for Tests and Assignments

Date added: October 6, 2022 
Type: Enhancement

This update improves auto-save for students when completing Tests and Assignments in two key ways.

  1. Typed text responses will auto-save two seconds after the student stops typing as opposed to when they click out of the text editor. The "last saved" time is displayed at the bottom of the assessment.
  2. If the student has a disruption in connectivity, they will receive a "connection lost" warning to inform them that their changes haven't been saved. Once the student re-establishes their connection, auto-save will begin working again.

screenshot of test in the Ultra Course View highlighting the Last Saved time stamp just above the Save and Close button

Student Progress Report for Course Content

Date added: October 6, 2022
Type: New feature

Progress tracking provides students with better methods for tracking their progress through course requirements, such as content, readings, assignments, and tests. The new Student Progress Report provides you with insight into how students are progressing your course.

On the Student Progress Report, you will be able to see student progress and whether they have marked content complete for the following content types:

  • Ultra Documents
  • Uploaded files
  • Links
  • LTI content (with no associated grade)
  • SCORM packages
  • Learning modules
  • Folders

The new report allows you to view three distinct progress markers for an individual piece of content:

  • Students who have not yet opened or accessed the content
  • Students who have opened or viewed the content
  • Students who have marked the content complete

screenshot of student progress report

The report includes the date and time an action occurred, such as when a student first viewed the content. You can sort the list by student name or progress status, and you can send individual or bulk messages (BC'd) to students based on the report. 

You must have Progress Tracking enabled to access this report. Once enabled, you can access this report in two ways:

  • Click the ellipsis (...) menu for the piece of content, select Student Progress
  • Open the piece of content, such as an Ultra Document, and click the Student Progress tab

screenshot demonstrating clicking the ellipsis menu next to an Ultra Document and selecting Student Progress

Math Formulas Accessible with Screen Readers

Date added: October 6, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Content added to a course using the equation editor or by pasting LaTeX content into the text editor are rendered as graphics, which can be a barrier to those who rely on screen readers to access course content. With this update, the content of the formula will be added as alternative text and read out via the screenreader. 

LaTeX equations will be read as text when the content is being edited and as a formula when saved and rendered. 

Access to Student Grades Overview from the Grid View of the Gradebook

Date added: October 6, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In the Grid View of the Gradebook, clicking a student's name would bring up their profile card, which only lists their name and account ID. With this update, clicking a student's name will instead bring you to the Grades Overview page for that student. This view provides quick access to the student's performance on all of the assessments in the course. 

screenshot of the student grades overview page

Course Name in Browser Tab

Date added: October 6, 2022
Type: Enhancement

If you frequently have multiple tabs open in your browser, you will appreciate this change! Going forward, the course name and the current course area will be visible in the browser tab (e.g., Content / Medical Terminology). 

screenshot showing the course name in the browser tab

Test Timer Notification for Students

Date added: September 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

When taking a timed assessment, it is important for students to be aware of the time that remains to complete it. However, a fixed display of the timer can also add stress. To support various student preferences, this update introduces notifications for timed assessments. These notifications are less invasive yet keep the student informed.

  • For assessments less than 10 minutes, there is no notification.
  • For assessments less than 1 hour but greater than 10 minutes, there will be a single reminder when 10% of the time remains. For example, for an assessment with a 10-minute time limit, the notification will appear when 1-minute remains.
  • For assessments longer than or equal to an hour, there will be an added notification when 50% of the time remains. For example, for an assessment with a one-hour time limit, the notification will appear when 30 minutes remain. A second notification will appear when 10% of the time remains.
  • If a student has a time limit accommodation, a notification will appear when 10% of the extra time remains. If the extra time allowed is less than 10 minutes, there will be no added notification.
  • If a student has an unlimited time accommodation, there will be no notifications for the time remaining.

All notifications for remaining time auto-dismiss after 20 seconds. If a student prefers, they can dismiss the notification.

screenshot of a test timer notification warning that there are 2 minutes remaining

Microsoft Immersive Reader for Ally

Date added: August 31, 2022
Type: New feature

This update to Ally adds a new alternative format: Microsoft Immersive Reader. Microsoft Immersive Reader helps students improve their reading, comprehension, and grammar skills. It helps the reader by focusing attention, improving reading speed, and increasing the readability of text. The text decoding capabilities of Microsoft Immersive Reader also provide support for students with dyslexia and other learning needs.

screenshot of text on the periodic table in the Microsoft Immersive Reader

The Microsoft Immersive Reader will also be available as an alternative format in the Original Course View.

Reply to a Discussion while Grading

Date added: September 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

This update simplifies the process of reviewing, grading, and responding to discussion board posts by adding the ability for you to reply to a student's post from the discussion grading workflow. While viewing an individual student grading page, you can reply to any of their posts.

screenshot of the individual student grade page for a discussion, highlighting the ability to reply to the student's post

Question Banks Sorting Controls

Date added: September 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In the past, question banks were difficult to navigate. With this release, you can now use sorting controls by clicking the column headers for Name, Number of Questions, or Last Edited date. These controls supply improved navigation through the questions in the bank. 

screenshot of question bank page highlighting the column headers that can be used for sorting

Copy Rubrics Between Courses

Date added: September 1, 2022
Type: Enhancement

While rubrics are copied between courses whenever an Assignment with a rubric is copied, it has not been possible to copy rubrics on their own. This update adds Rubrics as a category within the Copy Content menu so that you may copy one or all of the rubrics from a course. 

screenshot of the copy content panel highlighting the ability to copy rubrics

Copied Rubrics appear in the Gradebook Settings area. On the Gradebook page, click the gear icon in the top right-hand corner, and review all the rubrics in the Course Rubrics section.

Summary List of Annotations for Inline Grading

Date added: September 8, 2022 
Type: Enhancement

Files submitted to Assignments can be annotated directly in the browser while grading. This update adds a side panel that will summarize all comments in a list. Clicking a comment will navigate the instructor or student to the location of that comment in the document. This change makes it easier to find comments and feedback within an annotated file.

"Undo" and "Redo" Capability in Bb Annotate

Date added: September 2022
Type: Enhancement

Bb Annotate provides a number of tools to help you efficiently provide effective feedback to your student by displaying their Assignment submission in the browser and allowing you to add annotations, drawings, and comments to their work. This enhancement adds the ability for you to quickly undo an annotation. 

"Undo" and "redo" cannot be used with comments, but all other annotations are included.

Mobile App Consolidation and Retirement of Blackboard Instructor App

Date added: August 8, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Currently, there are two separate Blackboard mobile apps for faculty/instructors and students. This update will consolidate the two apps into a single app that will provide appropriate access to your courses based on your role within a course. 

The updated mobile app will be available for iOS and Android on August 8. Faculty, instructors, and teaching assistants will be able to remove the Blackboard Instructor app from their mobile device and install the Blackboard app at that time. Support for the existing Blackboard Instructor app will end in September, 2022. 

This app update will also provide a more consistent experience between the mobile app and browser experience for the Ultra Course View, for all course roles. The Original Course View will be supported but functionality may be limited in the mobile app or on mobile browsers.

Create, Search, and Edit Question Banks

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In the Ultra Course View, Question Banks are collections of test questions that can be used in one or multiple tests, often as pools of questions where students are presented with a random selection of questions (e.g., each student is presented with 5 random questions from a set of 20 potential questions). This is the equivalent of a Pool and Random Block in the Original Course View. 

Previously, the only way to create a question bank was to import a pre-existing package, such as a test bank from a publisher, and those question banks could not be modified. This update adds the ability for you to create and build new question banks.

click the plus sign to create a new question bank or import an existing question bank package

This update also allows you to edit questions in a question bank. Plus, the new search and filter panel helps easily find a specific question to review or modify.

screenshot demonstrating the ability to edit a question in a question bank

Filter Assessment Submissions by Submission and Grading Status

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

When viewing student submissions to a graded activity, like an Assignment, Test, or Discussion, it can be challenging to determine what actions to take for each student. This update splits the Status column into two separate submission and grading statuses. It also adds new filter menus that allow you to identify specific students based on the actions you want to take. For example, you can identify:

  • Students with no submission, to send a timely reminder (a future update will add a bulk reminder action)
  • Students with a draft that has not been submitted
  • Students with submissions that need to be graded
  • Students with grades that haven't been posted (when manually posting grades is enabled for the assessment)

screenshot of list of student submissions to an assignment in the Blackboard Ultra Course View with the student status filter menu open

Delete Student Preview User

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The student preview feature is critical for understanding students' experience in your course. It adds a student preview user so that you can experiment with features that require student submissions and activity data, such as progress tracking, grading workflows, or grade calculations. However, that student preview user can be distracting, particularly in the Gradebook, and it is visible to all course members, including students. 

This update provides you with the option to save or delete the student preview user when you leave student preview mode. It also changes the three dots to exist preview mode to an exit icon.

screenshot demonstrating the options to save or delete the student preview user when leaving student preview mode 

Advanced Calculation for Overall Grade

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Advanced Calculation is now the third option for calculating an overall grade (the option for a point-based grade calculation was just recently added in the July 2022 update). This new calculation gives instructors greater flexibility for how students' overall grades are calculated, and is a completely new option for the Ultra Course View that has never been available in the Original Course View.

screenshot of advanced calculation for overall grade

In the advanced calculation formula builder, you can select from the functions, variables, and operators to build a custom grade calculation formula. You can switch between points, weighted, and advanced grade types using the tabs at the top of the page.

Due Date Exceptions for Individual Students

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Adding due dates to assessments in Blackboard helps students keep track of their coursework and manage their time, but automatic zeros and overdue notifications can cause students anxiety, particularly when a student has been granted an extension on a particular assessment. Fortunately, the due date exception feature allows you to set a different due date for a specific student on a single assessment. 

You can crate, view and modify exceptions from the submission list view page for an assessment. In addition to providing a due date extension, you can also allow a student to view the item at a different time (e.g., opening a test early for a student who will miss the testing window) or allow additional attempts (e.g., give a student a second attempt because they submitted the wrong file to the assignment).

screenshot demonstrating that you can view existing exceptions by hovering your cursor over the clock icon next to a student's name in the submissions list view

Click the three dots at the far right of a student's row to add or edit exceptions. Hover over the clock icon to view the exceptions in place for a student.

When a due date exception is in place, other assessment features respect the updated due date for that student, including automatic zeros, prohibit late submission, and prohibit new attempts. Students will see their updated due date on the Activity Stream, Calendar, Grades page, and within the assessment details.

Note that due date exceptions are only available for individual assessments at this time; they are not available for group assignments.

LaTeX Equation Support in the Text Editor

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Creating mathematical and scientific formulas in electronic format is time consuming. The MathType editor is helpful, but it requires a significant amount of effort to create even fairly simple formulas. This update will allow you to create or paste LaTeX equations directly in the content editor to be rendered as formulas. 

screenshot of LaTeX equation as text in the content editor

The LaTeX equation will display as text when the text editor is active (i.e., when in edit mode). Once you save or submit the text, the LaTeX equation will be rendered using MathML and displayed as a formula. 

screenshot of LaTeX equation rendered as image

You can preview the LaTeX equation and make graphical adjustments by placing the cursor within the LaTeX formula and launching the MathType equation editor in the text editor toolbar. 

If you want the LaTeX equation to be visible as text (such as in a course where you are teaching LaTeX syntax), you can use the code snippet tool in the text editor to display the LaTeX equation.

Import and Export Group Sets and Members

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In addition to building group sets using random assignment, allowing students to self-enroll, or manually assigning students, this update allows you to efficiently create groups and enroll students in them by importing a CSV file. 

screenshot of the panel to import groups as a csv

Two templates are provided to demonstrate the appropriate format for the CSV file. One template is for creating group sets; the other is for importing members into the groups. Mandatory cells in the template are marked with an asterisk (*). 

Updates to Messages in Private Courses and to Provide Clarity on Group vs. Individual Messages

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

There are several updates to Messages in the August update.

Send Messages in Private Courses

Before a course is opened to students, they are unable to access the Messages portal within the course, so they cannot read and respond to course messages. This update adds the ability to send messages to students regardless of whether the course is open or private. To ensure that students are able to receive those messages, any messages sent while the course is private will be automatically sent to them via email, as well. 

When the course is opened, students will be able to view the messages within the course and to reply to those messages, if that selection was made when the message was sent. 

Clarity on Whether Messages are Group or Individual Messages

In the past, it may have been unclear whether messages sent to more than one recipient would be sent to individuals (i.e., blind copied, other recipients not visible) or the group as a whole (i.e., carbon copied, recipients visible to all). This update will provide an explicit statement for all messages with multiple recipients to indicate whether it is an individual or group message. 

All Roles

Messages with multiple recipients are treated as group messages (i.e., CC, other recipients visible) when sent from the following locations:

  • Messages on the base navigation
  • Messages tab within a course
  • Message icon next to the course instructor icon within a course
  • Messaging a user from the course roster

Instructor Role within a Course

Messages with multiple recipients are treated as group messages (i.e., CC, other recipients visible) when sent from the following locations:

  • Messages sent to a group from within a group set, an Assignment, or a Discussion
  • Gradebook, student list view (ellipsis next to a student, then add additional students)
  • Gradebook, individual student view (Send Message button, then add additional recipients)

Messages with multiple recipients are treated as individual messages (i.e., BCC, other recipients not visible) when sent from the following locations:

  • Discussion > View Analytics page (accessed via the ellipsis ... associated with a discussion), click the ellipsis for the Students who haven't participated field and the Message all X non-participants option
  • Class Performance page, Message icon - this page can be accessed from the Gradebook Settings or from the overall Grades page on the base navigation. It is also called Course Activity Related to Grades
Improved Microsoft Teams Meetings Integration

Date added: August 13, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The existing Microsoft Teams Meetings Scheduler in the Ultra Course View is a separate tool with basic functionality to schedule a Microsoft Teams meeting for your course. The improved integration will be moved from the Books & Tools area to the Details & Actions panel within your Ultra course. In addition to providing easy access for scheduling Microsoft Teams meetings, the integration will include:

  • Schedule new or recurring Teams Meetings
  • Invite specific users from the course or the entire course
  • Access recordings
  • When also using a Microsoft Teams Class (configured by the Instructor in Blackboard), schedule a Teams Meeting for a specific Teams channel
  • Scheduled Teams Meetings will populate in the Teams and Outlook calendar
Microsoft Teams Classes Integration

Date added: July 22, 2022
Type: New Feature

The Microsoft Teams Classes integration allows you to set up and sync enrollments from your Blackboard course to a Microsoft Team. Your students can also launch the Team from your course within the Details & Actions panel. Learn more about the Microsoft Teams integration.

Point-Based Overall Grade Calculations

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

With point-based overall grade calculations, students' overall grades will be calculated as the sum of the points they have earned on any assessments that have been graded. The grade can be displayed as the total points, a percentage, or a letter. When points is selected, the grade is displayed as a fraction (total points earned / total points possible). For percentage, the total points earned is divided by the total points possible, either to date or for the entire course, depending on how you have configured it. When a letter is displayed, the percentage is mapped to a letter grade based on the schema you have specified in your Gradebook settings. 

screenshot of overall grade setup page which provides examples of point-based vs. weighted grading

Points-based overall grade calculations allow you to:

  • Drop grades from a category (e.g., drop the 2 lowest grades in the homework category)
  • Exclude an entire category from the grade calculation (e.g., you want to record scores that are not directly calculated into student's final grade)
  • Exclude an individual assessment from a category (e.g., you eliminate an assignment from the course but do not want to delete it from Blackboard)
  • Unlike an individual assessment from a category (e.g., you want to ensure a particular item in the category is not dropped)

screenshot of point-based overall grade calculation

Blackboard will prompt you to choose points or weighting for the overall grade calculation when you set it up, but you can change that using the tabs at the top of the Gradebook at any time.

Display Points for Overall Grade

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

This feature adds the ability for you to display students' overall grades as points instead of a percentage or letter. When Points is selected for the grade display, the overall grade will be shown as a fraction of total points earned / total points possible. Based on configuration, the total points possible will either reflect only the assessments that have been graded thus far (i.e., a running total) or the total points possible in the entire course.

screenshot of Gradebook grid view with points displayed for overall grade

Copy Question Banks

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Question banks form the foundation of random pools of questions on tests in the Ultra Course View. In the Original Course View, question banks = pools and question pools = random blocks. Question banks have only been copied during a full course copy in the Ultra Course View, but this update adds the ability for you to find and select an individual question bank to copy to another course.

screenshot of copy panel in Ultra Course View highlighting the Question Banks option

A later update will include question banks automatically whenever a test that uses the bank is copied. Until then, the question pools need to be rebuilt once the question bank has been manually copied.

Prohibit Backtracking on Tests

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

When tests are presented one question at a time, this update will add the ability to prohibit students from backtracking to review or change their answers on previous questions. 

screenshot of a test attempt in the Ultra Course View highlighting the message at the bottom of the screen that reads "You're not able to go back to the previous question in this assessment"

Once a student answers a question and continues to the next, they cannot go back. If a student skips a question, an alert informs the student that they cannot go back to the question if they continue without selecting or entering an answer.

Download Grade History

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: New Feature

The Grade History provides a log of every change made in the Gradebook, such as student submissions, grades entered, grades changed, and attempts cleared. The Grade History will be available to download as a .csv or .xlsx file from the work offline menu.

download the grade history from the work offline menu

Edit Test Question Score for an Individual Student

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

There are times when you need to edit the score that a student earned on an automatically graded test question, like when a student successfully defends why their selection on a multiple choice question was correct, or to accept a variation or alternative on a fill-in-the-blank question. This update allows you to edit the points earned for a single student on a single question.

screenshot showing the ability to update the score in the grade pill for a single test question

If you previously submitted a manual override for the overall assessment score, you will need to remove that override for the change to be reflected in the overall score.

Inline Preview for Files in Content, Folders, and Learning Modules

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The June update added the ability to preview files inline in Documents, Assignments, and Tests. This update adds the same functionality for files added directly to the content page, including those within folders and learning modules. When you upload a file, you can choose whether students are able to view the file inline, download the file, or both. Files previously uploaded will default to being visible inline as well downloadable, although you can edit the file to change this setting.

The inline view displays in a panel that slides from the right to provide adequate screen real-estate for the preview of the file. Hyperlinks in files are disabled.

Quality and Accessibility Improvements to Mathematical and Scientific Formulas

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Mathematical and scientific formulas created in the Blackboard text editor are displayed as images. This update changes those images to scalable vector graphics (SVG), which are higher quality and are scalable when zoomed in for individuals with low vision. 

Before:

screenshot of the quadratic formula rendered using the old image format; text and symbols are blurry

After:

ultra-math-after.png

Updates to Message Panel

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Messages will now appear in a panel that is nearly the full size of the browser instead of a narrow peek panel to the right. This will allow for easier reading on devices with larger screens. 

The options to allow replies and send via email are also relocated above the message text field. This makes the settings more visible, particularly to those using assistive technologies.

Longer Descriptions on the Course Content Page

Date added: July 7, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Both content and assessments can include descriptions that appear on the course content page, including Learning Modules, Folders, Ultra Documents, Assignments, and more. These descriptions have been limited to 250 characters for convenience when accessing Blackboard on a mobile device.

This this update, the limit has been expanded to 750 characters. To ensure mobile-friendliness and keep the content page easy to navigate on any device, only the first 2 lines of the description will be visible, with the remainder of the description accessible via a "Show more" link.

screenshot of a Blackboard Ultra course showing a learning module description with a Show More link

Disable Running Total for Overall Grade Calculations

Date added: June 21, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Currently, grade calculations in the Ultra Course View are all treated as a running total, so empty grades are not included in the grade calculation and do not count against the student. The total points possible only includes those assessments for which students have a grade. 

After this update, you will be able to disable the running total which will treat empty grades as zeroes. The student's overall grade will include the empty grades.

Name Pronunciation Display and Recording

Date added: June 13, 2022
Type: New Feature

Name Pronunciation allows faculty and students to add text guidance and an audio recording of their name in their user profile. The text guidance and audio recordings appears in multiple locations in the Ultra Course View when you hover your mouse cursor over someone's profile image, including the roster, discussions, the Gradebook, and groups. (Note that name pronunciation is also visible in the Original Course View, although less prominently). 

Inline View of File Attachments in Ultra Documents and Assessments

Date added: June 2, 2022
Type: New Feature

This update will add an exciting new feature for students to view some file attachments, including Microsoft Office and PDF files, directly within your course. This eliminates the need for them to download and open the file, which can be problematic for students on mobile devices or who do not have Microsoft Office installed. 

student view of a Microsoft Word document rendered inline

When you add a file attachment to an Ultra Document or an assessment (Assignments and Tests), you can choose whether students should be able to download the file, view it inline, or both. 

View a video tutorial on inline viewing of files.

Include Both Categories and Individual Items in Weighted Grade Calculations

Date added: June 2, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In the past, the Ultra Course View allowed you to weight either gradebook items or grade categories in the overall grade calculation, which required using unnecessary categories for single high stakes assessments. Now, you can include both categories and individual items in the same overall grade calculation. 

Initially, new Overall Grade calculations will be based on categories. You may unlink items from a category to assign weight individually. Unlinked items appear ahead of the related category. In addition, you can lock the weights that you have added to prevent Blackboard from auto-adjusting them to ensure the overall calculation reaches 100%. 

screenshot demonstrating both categories and individual items used to weight grades

Watch a video tutorial on item and category weighting.

Multiple Attempts for Group Assignments

Date added: June 2, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Enabling Groups for an Assignment allows one student to submit on behalf of their entire group and applies the same grade to all members of the group. 

This enhancement adds the ability for groups to make more than one attempt to a group assignment, which was previously prohibited.

Test Question Filtering, Hiding the Test Timer, and Unanswered Question Warning

Date added: May 5, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Test-taking anxiety is a concern for both faculty and students. These three updates are intended to help students control their test-taking environment and be confident that they have completed the test prior to submitting it.

  • Test Question Filtering
    The question filter allows students to view all of the questions, only unanswered questions, or only essay questions. This helps students choose where to focus and highlights questions that may take them more time to complete.
  • Unanswered Question Warning
    If a students submits a test with unanswered questions, a warning will alert the student and let them know how many questions are still unanswered. The student may choose to submit the test or keep working.
  • Hide the Test Timer
    Students who experience test-taking anxiety may have that anxiety increased by watching the time available decrease. This update gives students the ability to hide and show the timer as needed so that they can focus on completing the test.
Improvements to Course Copy

Date added: May 5, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Course copy is an important feature for building and reusing course content. This enhancement corrects a number of issues that have been occurring with granular copying.

  • No longer create duplicate Gradebook categories
    In the past, categories that you created in the Gradebook could be duplicated when you copied assessments in those categories. This has been corrected.
  • No longer copy unrelated data
    The gradebook included data unrelated to the copied content item which could cause errors. This has been corrected.
  • Improvements to Ultra group conversion
    In some cases, courses could contain groups that were hidden and not part of a group set. Copying into Ultra Course View resulted in errors related to groups. This has been corrected.
  • Support for courses in Ultra Preview
    You will now be able to copy content into a course in Ultra Preview mode as well as copy content from a course that is in Ultra Preview mode.
Include Empty Categories in Weighted Grade Calculations

Date added: May 5, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Previously, a category needed to have at least one item assigned to it in order to include it as part of the weighted overall grade calculation. With this enhancement, you can include categories in the overall calculation before you have set up the assessments that are associated with them. This will allow you to set up your overall grade calculation before you have your course fully built. 

The overall grade helps students assess their current progress in the course and drives other analytics, such as alerts on the Activity Stream about students who may be falling behind. Being able to set up the grade calculation earlier will provide better information to you and your students about whether additional assistance is needed, while such interventions can have a greater impact.

Course Activity Related to Grades Report

Date Added: April 21, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The Course Activity Related to Grades report has existed for some time, but it required a high level of course activity to be visible to instructors. With this release, the report will always be visible to instructors using the Ultra Course View. 

To access the Course Activity Related to Grades report, go to the Grades link on the base navigation menu (the left-hand menu when you first log into Blackboard). Find the course you are teaching (you may need to scroll several times for the list of courses to fully load) and click the pie chart icon next to the overall grade pill. You may also be able to access this report from alerts on your Activity Stream about students who are falling behind.

click the pie chart next to the overall grade pill to access the report

Students have access to a similar report on their Grades page. The How Am I Doing? panel displays their activity and overall grade on a weekly basis compared with the average activity and overall grade of their classmates. 

screenshot showing how students can view charts comparing their activity and grade to their classmates

Instructor Control of Whether Grades Auto-Post for Assessments

Date added: April 21, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In the Ultra Course View, grades for manually-graded items, such as Assignments or Tests that include essay questions, have needed to be manually posted for students to view them. With this enhancement, you can choose to have the grades automatically posted as soon as you save your grade for a given student submission. This releases student grades immediately and individually.

Similarly, for Tests that only include questions that can be automatically graded, grades have been posted and visible to students immediately after they submit the assessment. With this enhancement, you can choose to prevent students from seeing their grade immediately after submission and manually post grades at a time of your choosing. Combined with the new enhancement to prevent students from seeing their submission, this gives you much more control over when and how students can review the results of an automatically-graded test.

Major Enhancements to Test Settings: One-Question-At-A-Time, Prevent Students From Accessing Their Submission, and Download Test Results

Date added: April 21, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Blackboard is making a number of major updates to test settings in the April release. These plans are tentative at this time, but are expected to include:

  • Display One Question at a Time: New setting to display a single question on a test instead of displaying all of the questions on a single page
  • Prevent Students From Accessing Their Test Submission: New feedback control setting to limit student visibility of the test results and their test submission, including the test questions
  • Download Test Results: From the Gradebook, download a spreadsheet with all student test submissions 
Calculated Numeric Question Type

Date added: April 21, 2022
Type: Enhancement

The Calculated Numeric question type, which is currently available in the Original Course View, will be added to the Ultra Course View. This question type only accepts a numerical response for the answer and allows the instructor to provide an optional range for the acceptable answer (e.g., to accommodate for variations in rounding). 

Instructor Verification of Submission Receipts

Date added: April 21, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In October, 2021, Blackboard added submission receipts for students on Assignments and Tests, displayed within Blackboard and sent to the student via email. These receipts provide students with confidence that their work has been submitted. The confirmation number on the submission receipt could be provided to the Division of IT for verification with Blackboard via a support ticket. 

With this enhancement, instructors will be able to verify the validity of a submission receipt directly in the Gradebook. This will help instructors explore issues that arise with missing student submissions.

Copy Within a Course

Date added: April 21, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In Ultra Course View, you can copy individual materials from other Courses (in either Ultra or Original Course View) to place anywhere on your course outline. With this update, you will be able to copy materials from within the same course to create a copy. This is useful for creating a template, such as of a learning module structure or a Document, that you intend to reuse to build new content. This makes creating a consistent navigation and structure much easier and more efficient!

Code Snippets in the Rich Text Editor

Date added: April 21, 2022
Type: Enhancement

This update adds the ability to insert formatted snippets of programming code within the rich text editor, anywhere that the editor exists in a course. For example, you could include a code snippet as an example in a Document, add it to a Discussion to have students comment about it, use formatted code snippets for Test questions, or provide starter code for an Assignment.

New Test Header for Students

Date added: March 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Test taking can be a stressful experience, so the new test header is designed to provide students with key information to inform their test-taking strategy. The new header displays the following helpful information:

  • a progress bar
  • the number of answered questions out of the total questions in the test or assignment
  • and time remaining if test or assignment has a time limit set

The header is sticky, meaning that it is always visible as a student navigates the test. This header also appears in assignments that include questions.

the test header displays 5 minutes remaining for the test and 1 of 2 questions remaining to be answered

Future updates are planned to make this header collapsible so that students can hide it if they find it distracting or stressful.

Improvements to Learning Module Settings

Date added: March 3, 2022
Type: Enhancement

This update includes subtle enhancements to learning modules that make them more intuitive and efficient to set up.

All settings for a learning module now appear in a peek panel to the right. In this panel, you can name the learning module, set visibility, add a description, and apply Forced Sequence (this requires that students access or complete each item in the module before proceeding to the next one). 

learning module settings now appear in a peek panel to the right

In addition, you can also now add content to a learning module after forced sequence is applied. Previously, this was not possible. 

Prohibit Late Submissions and New Attempts After Due Date

Date added: February 10, 2022
Type: Enhancement

In the Ultra Course View, Assignments and Tests can both include a due date and a time limit. Any submission made after the due date is marked as "late". This enhancement to assessments will allow you to prevent students from either making a late submission or from starting a submission after the due date. 

blackboard ultra course view test settings highlighting the checkboxes for prohibit late submissions and prohibit new attempts after due date

Prohibit Late Submissions

Select this setting to enforce a hard deadline and disallow a late submission. Any in-progress or saved attempts will be auto-submitted at the due date. For example, if a student starts a test with a 60 minute time limit, but it is 23 minutes before the due date, the student will be notified when beginning the test that their time limit will be reduced to 23 minutes.

blackboard ultra course view test information panel with explanation to the student that their time limit has been reduced and the test will be auto-submitted at the due date 

Students who have due date accommodations will not be prevented from starting or submitting late. Students who have due date or time limit accommodations will not have the time limit reduced to meet the due date. 

Granular Course Copy from Original Courses

Date added: February 10, 2022
Type: Enhancement

Unlike Course Copy in the Original Course View, which is limited to overall content areas, Ultra Course View allows you to copy an entire course, part of a course, or a single item or assessment. Thus far, granular course copy was only available between two courses that were both using the Ultra Course View. This enhancement will allow you to copy content from an Original course to an Ultra course with the same level of control. 

Granular course copy will support:

  • Folders
  • Documents
  • Tests
  • Assignments
  • Links to websites
  • SCORM packages
  • Discussions
  • Journals
Progress Tracking

Date added: January 14, 2022
Type: New Feature

Progress Tracking is an exciting new capability that helps students identify the tasks they have started, completed, or haven't interacted with. For participation items, like Discussions, Assignments and Tests, completion will be automatically marked based on whether students have made a post or submission. For content, like documents, files, presentations, or videos, students will be able to manually update their progress to stay on task. 

You determine whether you want progress tracking to be enabled. To enable Progress Tracking, find Progress Tracking in the Details & Actions panel and click the Turn on link. In the side panel, click the toggle to change from Off to On, then click the Save button.

Future updates to progress tracking will provide instructor capabilities, such as the ability to monitor progress made by their students inside their courses.

2021 Features

Point-based Rubrics

Dated added: December 2, 2021
Type: Enhancement

This update adds point and point-range options to the existing rubrics, which previously could only be configured using percentages. Now, you are able to customize rubrics by specifying the points earned for each level of performance for each of the criteria. When grading using a point-based rubric, selecting a level of performance for a particular criterion awards that point-value.

The point-range option allows you to specify a maximum and minimum score for each level of performance. When grading using a point-range rubric, you select a level of performance and then enter the value the student earned. This value must be the minimum value, the maximum value, or between the minimum and maximum value.

When a course using the Original Course View with point-based rubrics is converted to Ultra Course View, the rubrics will be migrated appropriately.

ultra-rubric-points.png

Set Visibility for Group Sets

Date added: December 2, 2021
Type: Enhancement

Building on current functionality for Group Sets created at the course level, this enhancement allows you to hide a group set from students. Creating hidden group sets is useful for creating groups that you want to use for setting up release conditions or filtering the Gradebook, but where students do not need to know (or should not know) that they are included in a particular group. 

You can view and change the visibility of a group set from the Course Groups page or from the configuration page for a given group set.

view and modify the visibility of a group set on the Course Groups page

You can use hidden groups for Gradebook filters and Release Conditions. 

filter the gradebook by selecting a group

You cannot use hidden groups for Messages, Discussions, or for group Assignments. 

when a hidden group cannot be used, the reuse groups menu will indicate that

More Granular Control for Accommodations

Date added: December 2, 2021
Type: Enhancement

Accommodations can be used to provide students with an approved accommodation from the Disability Resource Center an extended time limit to complete assessments, including Tests and Assignments. Previously, you were able to select from a limited number of options for extending the time limit. This enhancement allows you to enter a custom percentage for the additional time to be permitted. 

enter any value for a custom percentage to extend the time limit

Course Banners with Image DescriptionsUpdated

Date added: November 4, 2021, updated December 2
Type: New Feature

Banners provide visual appeal, create a brand for your course, and help to visually identify which course you are in. With this release, the same image can be used on the course card on the Course page and as a banner within the course. 

the course banner displays below the top navigation and above the course content. Information about the Instructor has moved to a panel above the Details & Actions section

Adding a New Course Image

  1. In the Details & Actions panel, click the Edit display settings link under Course Image 
  2. Upload an image to use as your course banner and course card
  3. Use the tools to crop and zoom in, then click Done
  4. To display this image as your course banner, click the Course Image toggle in the upper right corner
  5. Click the Save button

The image must be at least 1200 x 240 pixels. With this release, the images are marked as decorative, so avoid adding essential text like instructions, office hours, or class meeting information.

The December 2, 2021, release added the ability to specify an image description for the banner, which will be read by a screen reader for accessibility purposes, or to mark the image as decorative if it does not convey any important information. 

Submission Receipts for Assignments and Tests

Date added: October 7, 2021
Type: New Feature

Students need a way to ensure their work has been correctly submitted into the system. There are times where a student believes they have submitted their work when, in fact, it wasn't sent at all, or it wasn't sent successfully.

This new functionality provides students with a unique tracking number that confirms their academic submission. Students can copy and save this number as proof of their work, and evidence for academic disputes.

A modal window with the tracking information will appear to students after they submit their work. They will also receive an email with that information, and download a similar text file to keep for their records.

when students submit an assignment or test, a pop-up window will appear to confirm the submission was successful and provide a unique confirmation number. This information can be downloaded by clicking the "Download" button

Submission receipts are only visible to students in this initial release. If there is a dispute between faculty and student about whether an Assignment or Test submission was completed, the student can provide the confirmation number and the Division of IT can verify the confirmation number with Blackboard.

A future release will include the ability for faculty to verify the confirmation number within the course. Stay tuned for more information!

Rubrics Increased to 15 Columns and Rows

Date added: October 7, 2021
Type: Enhancement

Initially, Ultra limited rubrics to a maximum of 10 columns and rows. With this enhancement, rubrics can now include up to 15 columns and rows.

Tables Available in the Rich Text Editor

Date added: October 7, 2021
Type: Enhancement

Tables are a common way for instructors and students to align and organize content in a customized manner, better suited to their own preferences. Now, you can add a table anywhere the text editor is displayed in Ultra Course View, such as Announcements, Documents, Assignments, Tests, and Discussions. 

To add a table:

  1. Click the Table icon in the toolbar.
  2. Drag to select the desired number of columns and rows. Release the mouse button to create the table.

For accessibility purposes, be sure to select whether your table has a header row and column. This marks those cells with metadata that a screenreader can use to help a student with a visual impairment navigate within the table and make sense of the content. Without header columns and rows, the screenreader simply reads the content from top to bottom and right to left as a list, and that may not provide adequate context for the student to interpret the information. 

click the "table" icon in the toolbar and drag to indicate the desired number of columns and rows

Partial Credit for Fill In the Blank Questions

Date added: September 2, 2021
Type: Enhancement

Fill-in-the-blank questions are a great assessment tool to test knowledge at different levels and contexts. This enhancement allows you to choose to provide partial credit for a fill-in-the-blank question with multiple blanks. If selected, students get one or more of the answers correct, they will receive partial credit for the question instead of zero points.

Open the Scoring Options menu and select whether the fill-in-the-blank question should be scored as "all or nothing" or as "allow partial credit"

Allow Instructors to Show or Hide the "Additional Content" Section at the End of Assessments

Date added: September 2, 2021
Type: Enhancement

At the end of Ultra Assignments and Tests there is a section called “Additional Content” where students can add text, images and files to complete their submissions or support their answers, such as adding a photo of a page they used to show their work for calculations. This section was always included by default and could confuse students into thinking they needed to complete this extra requirement. 

Now, you can use the toggle to show or hide the “Additional Content” section. This gives you greater control over what’s displayed to your students during assessments. If an assessment only has text or support visuals but doesn’t have questions, this section will be the space for the submission and will be activated always. If an assessment has questions, this section will hold additional content, for students to add supporting evidence, and the instructor can enable or disable it.

click the "Allow students to add content at end of assessment" toggle to enable a field where students can add text, images, or files at the end of an assessment as additional evidence

New Navigation Menu

Date added: August 5, 2021
Type: Enhancement

Blackboard's new navigation menu displays text in the upper left, including Content, Calendar, Discussions, and Gradebook

Ultra Course View is getting a new navigation menu! The top menu will be moved to the left, to make it more visible, and changed from icons to text. This makes the menu easier to use, without the confusion of determining what each icon means. In addition, the top menu will now be sticky, which means it will remain visible at the top of the screen as you scroll down the page. 

Student Preview will also move from the bottom of the Details & Actions pane to the right side of the top navigation menu. This allows instructors to access the student preview mode from anywhere in their course, like the Gradebook or Discussions, without returning to the Content page.

Advanced Filtering Options in the Gradebook

Date added: August 5, 2021
Type: Enhancement

New advanced filters allow you to filter your gradebook view using multiple filters at the same time, such as by users, groups, items, or categories. You can build filters on demand for a custom view of the Gradebook any time, or save your filter combinations with a bookmark to view repeatedly. This functionality replaces Smart Views in the Original Course View Grade Center.

Filters can be used in the grid view of the Gradebook. Click the grid icon in the upper left of the Gradebook to switch from the list view to grid view.

Audio and Video Recordings in Announcements

Date added: August 5, 2021
Type: New feature

With this new option, instructors will be able to insert audio and video recordings in their course announcements. To add a recording to an announcement:

  1. Click the + icon in the text editor to open the dropdown menu and select Recording.
  2. If prompted, click the Allow button to give Blackboard permission to use your camera and microphone.
  3. Your microphone will be enabled by default; click the camera icon if you want to use your camera, as well.
  4. Click the red Record button to start the recording and begin speaking after the countdown is complete.
  5. Click the square Stop button when you are done. 
  6. Review your recording to ensure you are happy with it and choose to delete the recording and re-record or click Save and Exit to embed the recording in your announcement. 
  7. Click the Save button when your announcement is complete.
  8. Click the Post Now button if you want your announcement to be visible immediately.
Display Overall Grade as a Percentage

Date added: July 1, 2021
Type: Enhancement

With this addition, you can choose to have the Overall Grade display as either a Letter (based on the grade schema) or as a percentage. Edit the Overall Grade calculation to see this new option in the right side panel of the settings.

Track Attendance Without Including it in the Gradebook

Date added: July 1, 2021
Type: Enhancement

With this update, you can choose to disable and hide the grade columns associated with Attendance so that you can track attendance without using it as part of the course grade. In the Attendance settings, simply disable the Use attendance as a grade option.

Feedback By Criterion for Rubrics

Date added: June 3, 2021
Type: Enhancement

With this addition, rubrics inside Ultra courses will allow instructors to add feedback for each criterion, providing more detail and clarity to your feedback. Feedback by criterion is available wherever rubrics appear, like discussions, anonymous assignments, single and multiple attempts assignments, among others.

When using the parallel grading workflow, the option will be available to all graders, but the only feedback by criterion students will see, is feedback given by the reconciler.

Dropping Grades Inside Categories for Overall Grade Calculation

Date added: May 6, 2021
Type: Enhancement

You can now drop one or more of the highest or lowest grades in a category when calculating the Overall Grade in the Ultra Course View. There must be more items in the category than are being dropped (e.g., at least 3 items in the category if you are dropping 2 grades). 

On the Overall Grade page, click to Add Rule for a given category to access the settings to drop grades.

Unread Messages Notification on Base Navigation

Date added: May 6, 2021
Type: Enhancement

Now you will know how many unread messages you have with a clearly identifiable count on the base navigation, in the left-hand menu. Click the Message icon to view your courses and the unread messages. Future enhancements are planned to make it easier for you to identify which courses contain unread messages.

Assignment with Peer Review for Qualitative Peer Assessment

Date added: April 1, 2021
Type: New Feature

This is the first of several additions to provide peer assessment features in the Ultra Course View. Unlike in the Original Course View, Peer Assessment is integrated within the regular Assignment tool.

Features available in this first release:

  • Due Dates - Set due dates for the initial assignment submission and the completion of peer review
  • Qualitative comments - Students can provide qualitative feedback overall on the submission
  • Flexible Handling for Late Submissions - Students who do not make an initial submission are excluded from evaluation, but will be added to the evaluation phase if they submit late
  • Rubric - students can view a rubric to inform their feedback, but they cannot grade with a rubric in the initial release
  • Anonymous Evaluation - Students do not know the identity of the student they are evaluating nor the identity of the student who provided their feedback (identities are visible to the instructor)
  • Easy Tracking for Instructors - Initial submissions, feedback provided to students, and feedback provided by students are all visible on a single page to instructors
  • Feedback Moderation - Instructors can hide peer feedback that they deem harmful or inappropriate

As this is the first release of Peer Review, there are a number of features still to be developed for future improvements, including:

  • Quantitative peer reviews using a rubric
  • Non-anonymous option for reviews
    Workaround: Ask students to add their name to the file they submit or to their feedback if you do not want reviews to be anonymous
  • Groups
    Workaround: Create multiple Peer Review assignments and use Release Conditions to limit access to a single group to ensure that group members evaluate one another
  • Multiple prompts for initial submission
  • Separate grades for student submissions and reviews
Release Conditions for Users or Groups

Date added: April 1, 2021
Type: Enhancement

This enhancement adds the ability to use Release Conditions to limit specific content or assessment availability to an individual or a course group. Date/time and performance options already exist.

Alignment, Line Height, Undo, and Clear Formatting Added to Text Editor

Date added: April 1, 2021
Type: Enhancement

This enhancement adds a few more formatting options to the Ultra Course View text editor:

  • Alignment - Change text to be left or right aligned, centered, or justified
  • Line Height - Change line spacing, including single, 1.15, 1.5, and double-spacing options
  • Undo - Undo the last change made in the text editor
  • Clear formatting - removes all formatting from the selected text
Custom HTML/CSS code blocks

Date added: May 19, 2021
Type: New feature

With this release, you can create, edit, and delete custom HTML/CSS code blocks in Documents in your Ultra course. When creating a Document, select Add HTML to add your own HTML and CSS.

Custom HTML and CSS will be checked and modified to ensure that content will be fully responsive and accessible. Students will see what the custom HTML you have created, but they will not be able to create, edit, or delete any of the HTML/CSS blocks.

New Navigation Tab in the Assessment View

Date added: February 4, 2021
Type: Enhancement

Instructors and students will find a new navigation tab at the right side of the screen when they navigate the Assessment View. This new navigation tab helps users to access all the options and features available for the current assessment from one single place. This tab will be visible to both students and instructors once a student sends the first submission.

The options available from the new side tab are: Originality Report (if SafeAssign is enabled for the assessment), Rubrics (if one is connected with the assessment), and Feedback.

New Formatting Options in the Rich Text Editor

Date added: January 7, 2021
Type: Enhancement

You now have access to more formatting tools in the Ultra Course View's rich text editor, including font colors, font sizes, and font style.

2020 Features

Student List View Improvements

Date added: December 3, 2020
Type: Enhancement

The Student List View was added to the Gradebook in September, 2020, as the first step toward providing a student dashboard in the Ultra Course View, and enhanced in November, 2020, with messaging functionality and accommodations.

This improvement offers additional search capabilities in student list view, the ability to sort columns, and enhanced page controls for both large and small devices.

Automated Answer and Feedback Controls on Tests

Date added: December 3, 2020
Type: Enhancement

This enhancement provides more granular controls on when and what type of feedback is given to students when taking a test. Instead of checkboxes to turn visibility on or off, you will be able to set up timed release of question feedback, correct answers, and question scores, such as after submission, after due date, at a specific date, or after the assessment is graded.

This replicates functionality in the Original Course View, but also offers more support for students. Exclusively in the Ultra Course View, Blackboard will inform students about if and when feedback will be available for a specific assessment after they submit an attempt.

Enhancements to Grading of Journals

Date added: December 3, 2020
Type: Enhancement

This enhancement adds the ability to use Ultra's grading tools, including feedback and rubrics, to create and post grades for Journals while reviewing a student's submission.

This enhancement also provides you with the ability to disable the ability for students to delete and edit their journal entries and comments.

Embed Office 365 Files

Date added: November 5, 2020
Type: New feature

Students and instructors can embed Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files as well as Microsoft Stream videos from SharePoint into the rich text editor in the Ultra Course View.

Message Students and Add Accommodations from the Student List View in the Gradebook

Date added: November 5, 2020
Type: Enhancement

The Student List View was added to the Gradebook in September, 2020, as the first step toward providing a student dashboard in the Ultra Course View. This enhancement adds the ability to send messages to students from the Student List View, which makes it easier to contact students who may have not accessed the course recently or whose overall grade has dropped.

This enhancement also allows you to add an accommodation for a student through the Student List View as well as on the Roster. Accommodations allow you to provide students with documented accommodations such as extended time for tests.

Customize Student Performance Alerts for the Activity Stream

Date added: November 5, 2020
Type: Enhancement

Set up Activity Stream alerts about student inactivity (based on days since they last accessed your course) and grade thresholds (set one or multiple percentage thresholds for performance). These alerts are visible to you in the Activity Stream, and you can choose whether or not they should be visible to your students. If your course contains enough activity and grading data, you can also see a detailed visualization of class performance.

Customize the thresholds for both inactivity and grade alerts by clicking the gear icon in the Gradebook, including turning off alerts for students (they are enabled by default). Disable performance alerts for yourself by clicking the gear icon on the Activity Stream.

Updated Icons

Date added: November 5, 2020
Type: Enhancement

The large icons in the course content pane have been updated with thicker, darker lines to make them more visible and accessible. The icons have been updated to make them more distinctive from one another, to better differentiate the various types of content in your course.

Show Seconds in Test Timer

Date added: November 5, 2020
Type: Enhancement

Students will now know how much time they have left down to the last second when they take a test in the Ultra Course View. The test timer will change from minutes to seconds when less than 1 minute remains.

Show and Hide Overall Grade Column

Date added: November 5, 2020
Type: Enhancement

You can now choose whether to show or hide overall grades to your students in the Ultra Course View.

Send Announcements as Email

Date added: September 3, 2020
Type: Enhancement

This is possibly the most requested feature from faculty! To ensure Ultra course announcements reach as many students as possible, in this release Blackboard has added the ability to send course announcements by email. You can also send a copy to your own email addresses. You can't send an email for an announcement that you schedule for a future date.

Secure Assessments with a Passcode

You can now add a system-generated access code for your assessments (both tests and quizzes) in the Ultra Course View. For the initial release, access codes can only be generated randomly and can't be customized. You can also regenerate the access code when needed.

Students need to enter the access code each time they start or continue an assessment, so you will need to provide the access code to them. Students won't have a way to discover the access code on their own. Students don't need the access code to access their grades and feedback.

Automated Test Question Feedback

Date added: September 3, 2020
Type: Enhancement

Automated feedback on test questions allows you to provide feedback or tips without needing to provide feedback individually to each student. In this update, you can enter feedback for correct and incorrect answers on auto-graded question types (such as Multiple Choice and True/False). Students will automatically receive the feedback when they submit the assessment.

For this initial release, feedback will be available at the question level only. While conversion of automated feedback from Original courses is supported, any images, files, or weblinks in the Original course’s feedback will not convert. Future work will add feedback for individual answer choices and manual feedback for test questions.

Student List View in the Gradebook

Date added: September 3, 2020
Type: New feature

Student List View is a new view option in the gradebook for Ultra courses that is an addition to the current gradebook list and grid views. In the student list view tab, you can see rows for each student with a quick view for critical information for each student, such as last access date, user ID, and overall grade. You can click an individual student from the student list view to view all the gradebook items for that student (and grade and give feedback on just their submissions).

The next improvement for this feature will include additional filtering and sorting options, messaging, and accommodation options within the student list view.

More Frequent Updates for Security and Patches

Date added: August, 2020
Type: Administrative

Starting in early August, Blackboard will start releasing updates weekly for security enhancements or patches to address bugs. This will ensure the system is kept up-to-date, with issues resolved even faster than before.

New features will continue to be released on a monthly cadence.

Pearson MyLab Integration

Date added: August, 2020
Type: Integration

Pearson MyLab integration is now available in Ultra Course View. If you use a Pearson MyLab product, feel free to explore using it in Ultra Course View!

Additional Sources for Embedded Media (Audio and Video)

Date added: August, 2020
Type: Enhancement

With this update, you can embed audio or video from a wider variety of sources using the text editor in the Ultra Course View, using the Insert /Edit Media from Web button. Previously, this was limited to YouTube. You can now embed media from these sites:

  • EdPuzzle
  • FlipGrid
  • Genial.ly
  • H5P
  • Kaltura
  • KhanAcademy
  • NearPod
  • Prezi
  • Quizlet
  • SlideShare
  • Soundcloud
  • Spotify®
  • Vimeo®
  • VoiceThread
  • YouTube™
Discussions Added to Course Copy

Date added: June, 2020
Type: Enhancement

With this update, you can now use Copy Content to copy discussions from one Ultra course to another. This is great for deploying the same discussion to multiple courses or re-using a discussion from one semester in the next one.

Journals

Date added: June, 2020
Type: New Feature

Journals are now available in the Ultra Course View! You can create a journal assignment on the Course Content page, add them to learning modules, and use conditional release if you want. Journal assignments appear in the activity stream, and you and the student can discuss their entry with comments. You can make a journal assignment count for a grade and add a rubric so students know what they'll be graded on.

In this initial release, grades have to be entered manually in the Gradebook. Future releases will include more advanced grading workflows.

Learn more about Journals.

Students Can Embed Media from Tools Integrated in Ultra

Date added: June, 2020
Type: Enhancement

This update allows students to embed media from tools that are integrated into Ultra, like Kaltura, within the text editor. For example, students can embed a Kaltura video they created in a Discussion post or in an Assignment submission.

Text Editor Enhancements

Date added: April, 2020
Type: Enhancement

Blackboard has made a number of small tweaks to the text editor to make it easier to use:

  • The file attachment function was moved to the top level so it's easier to access.
  • A strikethrough font style option was added.
  • Function groupings were updated so they're easier to read on smaller screens.
  • The browser will now control the background of highlighted text to improve accessibility.
Blackboard Annotate Replaced Box View for Inline Grading

Date added: May, 2020
Type: Enhancement

Inline grading allows you to directly mark up a student submission to an Assignment in the browser, without downloading the document for editing in Microsoft Word. Bb Annotate offers a more robust feature set than Box View did, allowing you to provide customizable feedback to students. Features include a sidebar summary view, freehand drawing tools, various color selections, and much more.

Learn more about Bb Annotate.

Calculated Formula Question Type Added

Date added: March, 2020
Type: Enhancement

The Calculated Formula question type is now available for tests in the Ultra Course View. Calculated Formula questions require students to make a calculation and respond with a numeric answer. Now, you can convert Calculated Formula questions from your Original courses or add new ones within the Ultra Course View.

When creating a new assessment, select the plus sign to open the menu and then select Add Calculated Formula question. Begin by adding the question text and answer formula.

A new option that is only available in Ultra Course View is a choice for whether you want the formula to be displayed to students!

2019 Features

Course-level Group Sets Aligned with Assessment and Discussion Groups

Date added: December, 2019
Type: Enhancement

With this release, instructors can create course-level group sets and align them to discussions, tests, and assignments. Within an Ultra course, select Course Groups from the Details & Actions menu. Create a new group set and save. In the settings panel of a discussion, test, or assignment, select Assign to groups. Then select your group set from the Group students menu. Learn more about creating groups.

Description Field Added for Ultra Documents

Date added: November, 2019
Type: Enhancement

With this enhancement, you can provide high-level details about what an Ultra document contains. This reduces unnecessary clicks for students and improves their overall experiences. Open the Document Settings panel in an existing document to add a description. Students can see descriptions on the Course Content page.

Bulk Download Assignment Submissions

Date added: October, 2019
Type: Enhancement

When assignments require students to submit files in Learn, it's time-consuming for you to download each individual submission to grade it, especially in large courses. With this release, you can now download multiple student assignment submissions at once as a ZIP file from the Ultra gradebook. Learn more about bulk download for Assignments.

Decimal Point Values for Assessments

Date added: October, 2019
Type: Enhancement

To balance the total points possible in their courses, you need the flexibility to assign fractional possible points to test questions and assessments. With this update, you can now enter decimal values in the Points field for individual questions and in the Maximum points field for assessments that don't contain individually graded questions.

When creating a question in an assessment, you can enter values with up to two numbers after the decimal in the Points field.

Filter Students by Grading Status

Date added: September, 2019
Type: Enhancement

Grading student work is one of the most important, yet time consuming tasks in the management of a course. Often, it can be difficult to identify which students have made submissions. This update adds a Needs Grading filter to the submissions list for individual assessments, to make it easier to find submissions and begin grading quickly.

On an item's Submissions page in the Ultra gradebook, you can use the new Filter menu to display only those submissions that need grading. At this time, you can filter by All statuses and Needs grading.

Group Self-enrollment

Date added: September, 2019
Type: Enhancement

This update allows you to create empty groups that students can select for self-enrollment. For example, you could establish a number of groups on different topics and allow students to self-enroll in the group that interests them.

You set the number of groups and the enrollment window (the dates and times during which students are able to self-enroll). Students can view the other members of a group when choosing a group (if you enable that setting), and they can move from one group to another while the enrollment window is open. Learn more about creating groups.

Import Question Pools

Date added: August, 2019
Type: New feature

To help build assessments quickly and encourage academic integrity, you can now create question pools in the Ultra Course View. With question pools, students receive different sets of questions to answer. You can add questions from all existing tests, assignments, and question banks in their courses.

In the Ultra Course View, question pools replace the Original Course View's random blocks and question sets. You can create as many question pools as they want and add, edit, and remove questions in the pools. Edits appear anywhere questions are used. Learn more about creating question pools.

Parallel grading in the Ultra Course View

Date added: June, 2019
Type: New feature

For higher stakes assessments, a double marking process is sometimes used in which each student’s submission is evaluated by two graders and a final grader reviews those evaluations to make the final decision on a student’s grade. This approach intends to reduce bias and is often paired with student anonymity. When setting up an assignment in the Ultra Course View, you can enable parallel grading and select non-student course members to act as graders and reconcilers. You can also hide student names to prevent unintended bias.

At this time, parallel grading only supports 2 graders. Future enhancements will allow for more than 2 graders as well as the use of students as graders (i.e., peer assessment).

Learn more about parallel grading.

New Features Roadmap

Get an exclusive look at upcoming Blackboard product and feature releases by joining Blackboard product management leaders for an upcoming Blackboard roadmap webinar. Learn More.


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