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

Attempt Logs for Assignments and TestsNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: New Feature

The Ultra Course View currently provides you with informtaion on when a student opened and submitted an assessment, but there is no way to know what happens in between. The new Attempt Log provides you with valuable insights into students' progress through the assessment and can help to validate issues students may encounter during an assessment.

For tests, the logs provide the following:

  • Detailed information, including the date and time fo the start and when the answer to each question was saved
  • Question-specific details, such as question number, a preview of the question, and estimated time spent on each question
  • Submission receipt number, final grade, and attempt grade
  • Easy toggling between all in-progress and submitted attempts for comprehensive assessment tracking

screenshot of the attempt log for a test

For Assignments, the logs offer:

  • Start and submission date and time
  • Submission receipt number
  • Seamless toggling between different attempts for a holistic view

ultra-assignment-attempt-log.png

You can access the Attempt Log for a student from the ellipsis menu (...) on the submission page or on the Grades Tab of the Student Overview page.

ultra-attempt-log-access.png

For anonymous assessments, the attempt log isn't availbale until after grades are posted and the anonymity is lifted. This ensures that the Attempt Log does not disclose anything about a student's identity.

Bulk Change Dates on the Batch Edit PageNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: Enhancement

The Batch Edit page is used for taking bulk actions on content in your course, such as rolling dates forward based on the start of the semester or making several items visible or hidden. This new update allows you to change several dates in your course at once to a specific date and/or time. This includes dates and times for content availability (show and hide) and assessment due dates.

screenshot of the menu to select a specific date or time for batch edit

To use this new tool, simply select the items that you want to edit and click the Edit Dates button at the bottom of the page. Change the Edit Type menu to Change to specific date and/or time, then select which dates and times you want to change. You can choose to change both date and time or either date OR time. 

For example, perhaps you want to change all of your assignment due dates from 6 PM to 8 PM. You can change those in a single operation without changing the dates those assignments are due. 

Note that you can only change dates which already exist in the system. You cannot use this bulk operation to add dates to content or assessments.

Release Conditions on Assessments No Longer Affect Grade VisibilityNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: Enhancement

When release conditions are set, such as visibility dates and times, students cannot access the material until those conditions are met. However, this has the unintended consequence of also hiding assessments from them on the Gradebook tab. This is usually not the intended outcome, particularly when tests or assignments are hidden to prevent student confusion or access after the due date, and causes confusion for both faculty and students when students cannot view their grade or feedback.

Now, release conditions that affect the visibility of an assessment do not affect the visibility of the grade item on the Gradebook tab. Students will see the item but be unable to access it if the release conditions aren't met (i.e., it is before the "Show on" date or after the "Hide after" date).

Manage Course Quota with the Unused Files Management ToolNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: New Feature

Every course at NIU has a 2 GB quota for file storage. This helps us manage our digital footprint and reduce costs for licensing Blackboard. When you reach that quota, Blackboard will inform you that you cannot add additional content. In the past, it has been challenging for you to reduce your storage to free up space. The Unused File Management tool will help you identify and delete copies of files in your course that you are not using but which are taking up unnecessary space.

access the unused files management tool by clicking the ellipsis menu at the top right of your course

When you launch the Unused Files tool from the ellipsis menu (...) at the top of your course, you will have two views available: unused files or all files. The file name, upload date, and file size display along with an option to download a copy of the file. You can easily select and delete unused files.

screenshot of the unused files page

Total and Weighted CalculationsNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: New Feature

The Calculation item in the Gradebook lets you create custom formulas for calculating student grades. However, sometimes what you really need is an additional Total or Weighted calculation and not a custom formula. This update adds the ability to create new Total items that operate in the same way as the Overall Grade calculation. 

You can add a Total calculation from either the Grid View or the List View by clicking the plus icon above, below, or between any existing graded items. The Total calculation can be based on points or a weighted calculation and can include calculation rules to drop scores from a category (which you cannot do currently with a custom Calculation).

Enhancements to the Gradebook Grid ViewNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: Enhancement

Blackboard continues to focus on improving the usability of the Gradebook. To maximize screen real estate of the Gradebook Grid View, they have made the following enhancements:

  • Displaying more rows
    • Reduced the size of the icons in the column header and the spacing around them
    • Removed group names and highlighting on group assessments
    • Course name moves up and hides when scrolling vertically to show more rows
  • Improved student identification
    • When a student's name is truncated for space, you can hover over the name to view the full name in a tool tip
Category Information Added to the Gradebook List ViewNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: Enhancement

To provide greater efficiency and clarity in the Gradebook List View, this update adds a new Category column. This column, along with the grading item icon, helps you mroe readily identify to which category the item belongs. You can also sort this column ascending or descending alphabetically.

screenshot of the list view of the gradebook highlighting the addition of a column for the category of each graded item

Delegated Grading ImprovementsNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: Enhancement

The ability to delegate grading responsibility based on group membership was introduced in October, 2023. This update adds the ability for you to use delegated grading with the setting to hide student names for anonymous grading. The graders will still only see submissions made by students in the group(s) assigned to them, but they will not know the identity of the student for each submission that they grade.

Improved Attempt Display in Flexible GradingNew

Date added: Anticipated for January 4, 2024
Type: Enhancement

When multiple submissions are enabled, the Flexible Grading workflow tries to anticipate which submission is most appropriate for you to grade based on the settings you have selected for that assessment and the grading status for that student. By default, Flexible Grading has been showing you the most recent submission, but this update adds more nuance to which submission is displayed to you.

Attempt Aggregation Model Grading Status and Attempt Displayed
Average of all attempts

If all attempts are graded, the most recently submitted attempt displays.

If ungraded attempts exist, the most recent, ungraded attempt displays.

First attempt with a grade

If all attempts are graded, the first submitted attempt displays.

If ungraded attempts exist, the oldest ungraded attempt displays.

Attempt with highest grade

If all attempts are graded, the attempt with the highest grade displays.

If ungraded attempts exist, the most recent ungraded attempt displays.

Last attempt with a grade

If all attempts are graded, the most recently submitted attempt displays.

If ungraded attempts exist, the most recent ungraded attempt displays.

Attempt with lowest grade

If all attempts are graded, the attempt with the lowest grade displays.

If ungraded attempts exist, the most recent ungraded attempt displays.

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.

2023 New Features

New Image button Added to Additional ToolsNew

Date added: December 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The "Add Image" button was introduced in November, 2023 as an easier way to add images within the text editor by uploading files or searching the Unsplash library. Initially, this was only available in Ultra Documents, Journal prompts, Discussions, and Messages.

screenshot of the text editor in an Ultra Document highlighting the add image button

With this update, the "Add Image" button is now also available in the text editor in the following tools:

  • Announcements
  • Assessment Questions
  • Student answers on questions (by uploading a local file only; no access to Unsplash)
  • Submission feedback
  • Journal entries and comments
Rubric Restrictions Removed for Number of Columns and RowsNew

Date added: December 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Rubrics have been limited to a maximum of 15 rows and columns to ensure that they performed well (i.e., there was minimal delay when editing or grading with a rubric). This update removes that restriction; rubrics can now have an unlimited number of rows (criteria) and columns (performance levels). 

Group Assessment Due Date ExceptionsNew

Date added: December 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

There are times that you may need to set different due dates for each group working on a group assessment. In the past, there was no way to do so. With this update, you can now add a Due Date Exception for a group assessment using the same workflow that you would for an individual assessment.

screenshot of the submission tab for a group assignment showing the overflow menu open for one group and highlighting the ability to add or edit an exception

Negative Credit Automatically Assigned for Incorrect Answers on Multiple Choice Questions with Multiple Correct Answers and Partial Credit EnabledNew

Date added: December 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Multiple Choice questions can have one or more than one correct answer. When more than one correct answer is selected, the student must select all of those answers to receive full credit for the question. However, partial credit was enabled and the student selected all of the answer choices, both correct and incorrect, they would also receive full credit for the question. This is a flaw in how the question is graded because there is no penalty imposed for the incorrect choices.

Now, when you enable partial and negative credit for a question that has multiple correct answers, negative credit will be auto-distributed across the wrong answer choices (e.g., if there are 3 correct answer choices, each correct choice will be worth 33% and each incorrect choice will be worth -33%). You can modify or remove the negative credit if desired.

screenshot of a multiple choice question with more than one correct answer selected and partial credit enabled

Grid View Sorting ControlsNew

Date added: December 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Sorting controls for columns have been added little by little throughout the Grid View of the Gradebook. This update adds sorting controls for all remaining columns:

  • Calculations
  • Discussions
  • Group Assessments
  • Journals
  • Group Discussions
  • LTI tools (this includes integrations like Yellowdig, Voicethread, Kaltura Quizzes, and publishers like Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Macmillan, and Pearson)
Sorting Controls on Students TabNew

Date added: December 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The Flexible Grading page has sorted students alphabetically by last name. This update allows you to sort students in various ways, including:

  • Submission date of latest attempt (oldest - newest and newest - oldest)
  • Last Name (A - Z and Z - A)
  • First Name (A - Z and Z - A)
  • Student ID (ascending and descending)

The sorting control is also "sticky", meaning that if you stop grading and resume later, the last sorting option you used will still be applied.

screenshot of the Flexible Grading interface for an assignment showing the menu for sorting submissions that is located to the right of the grading statuses filter menu

Updated "Add Image" Option for Ultra Documents, Journals, Discussions, Assessment Attempts, and Course MessagesNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Images plan an important role in the learning process by enhancing comprehension and engagement. While images could already be embedded within content in the Ultra Course View by using the paperclip attachment icon, that process was often confusing and easy to overlook.

screenshot of the text editor in an Ultra Document highlighting the add image button

The new Image button on the toolbar in the text editor makes this a much easier process! When you click the image icon, you can choose to upload an image from your device or to search for a royalty-free image from Unsplash. The Image button will be available to instructors in Ultra Documents, Journal Prompts, Discussions, and Messages. It will be available to students in Discussion responses, Assignment and Test responses, and Messages. In other areas, the paperclip icon can still be used to attach and embed an image.

After selecting the image, you and your students can reposition the focus and zoom of the image. There's also an option to alter the aspect ratio of the image.

Sorting Controls in Gradebook Grid ViewNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: New feature

Sorting options in the gradebook provide a more efficient grading experience. While sorting has been added to various places in the List View and Submission Views of the Gradebook, now you can sort the grid view columns by student last name, overall grade, or by individual tests, assignments, and manual columns.

You can sort records in ascending or descending and remove any applied sorting. A purple highlight in the column header helps you identify where sorting is applied. Any sorting applied is a temporary change; when you return to the Gradebook Grid View, students will again be sorted by last name. 

As a side effect of this change, you now must click specifically on the icon at the top of a column in the Grid View to access the menu for that column. Clicking the name of the column will apply sorting, if available for that column.

screenshot of Ultra Gradebook Grid View highlighting the sorting controls for individual columns

A future update will add sorting controls for Calculations in the Gradebook Grid View.

Gradebook Grid View Performance ImprovementsNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

To improve the user experience in the Gradebook Grid View, Blackboard has made several improvements to address overall performance and reduce the load time.

Performance tested scenarios:

  • 25,000 student enrollments and 400 gradable items:
    Load time reduced from 108 s (about 2 minutes) to 14s (87% performance improvement)
  • 2000 student enrollments and 400 gradable items:
    Load time reduced from 19s to 8s (57% performance improvement)
  • 40 students and 400 gradable items:
    Load time reduced from 8s to 6.8s (14.75% performance improvement)
Files Submitted to an Assignment Now Displayed as TabsNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When students submit multiple files to an Assignment, it has historically been challenging to review and provide feedback on all of them. The files were displayed in individual Bb Annotate windows, so it was easy to miss additional files at the bottom of the page. This also caused multiple scroll bars to appear on the page, making navigation difficult. 

Now, when grading file-based submissions, the student's file(s) will be displayed using tabs at the top of the page. The first tab will display the assessment instructions for reference while grading. For efficiency, the first attached file will display by default when viewing a student's submission. 

screenshot of file-based assignment submission showing files displayed as tabs

This new tab-based navigation has several benefits, particularly on devices with smaller screens:

  • More of the student submission is visible to you without scrolling, yet you can also conveniently switch between the assessment instructions and the submitted file(s).
  • Navigating file-based submissions is more transparent and easy by removing multiple scroll bars.
  • The option to download the student-submitted file(s) is more visible with a Download icon to the right, above the Bb Annotate window.
  • The number of files the student attached to their submission is clear.
  • You can easily navigate across the submitted files.
Matching Question Updates: Partial Credit Enabled for All Matching Questions and Improvements to Question ConstructionNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

This update includes 4 primary updates to how matching questions are constructed.

  1. Previously, partial and negative scoring options had to be enabled and were confusing. Now, partial and negative credit is turned on by default. Partial credit will be distributed automatically as a percentage across the matching pairs (e.g., if there are 4 matching pairs, each is worth 25% of the points for the question). You can turn it off, adjust the partial credit values, or add a negative value for incorrect matches, but having partial credit set up initially should save time in most cases. 
  2. In the past, "Reuse an answer" and "Delete pair" were hidden in the ellipsis (...) menu. Now, these options appear on the right side of the answer for each pair.
  3. When answers were reused, these used to simply say "Reused answer from pair #". Now, the answer itself is displayed for clarity, with "Reused answer" just below the text.
  4. "Additional Answers" has been renamed to "Distractors"

screenshot of the updated matching question interface

Anonymous Grading in Flexible Grading ViewNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

In the original Flexible Grading release, anonymous grading was not supported. This update adds the ability for your to grade assessments where you have chosen to grade anonymously within the Flexible Grading interface. Instead of names and profile photos, you will see a list of anonymous students and silhouettes.

Tab Navigation for JournalsNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

To improve navigation for journals, this update introduces a new tab navigation. Now, you can switch between the Journal and the Participation page. When you set up a journal for grading, the Participation tab is replaced by Grades & Participation. This improves the usability of the Journal and provides consistency of navigation with Discussions and Assessments.

screenshot of the Journal page with new tabbed interface

Edit/Regrade in Questions ViewNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The Flexible Grading interface introduced the ability to grade by question instead of by student. However, if you caught a mistake or needed to update something in a question, you were unable to edit a question when grading by question; you could only do so when grading by student. This update adds the "Edit/Regrade" option when grading by question. Click the ellipsis (...) menu at the top of the page to be able to edit and regrade the question.

screenshot of grading by question in the Ultra Course View highlighting the menu to edit or regrade the question

Self-Enrollment via URLNew

Date added: November 2, 2023
Type: New feature

Most courses have a defined enrollment managed by course registration in MyNIU. However, there are some use cases, particularly for Organizations, where you may want to provide the opportunity for someone to self-enroll in that space. For example, you could post a link to your website that would allow NIU students or employees to self-enroll for optional training or invite participants by emailing a link to them. Note that your participants/learners would need to already have NIU Account IDs to use this self-enroll option.

To enable this for your Organization, please reach out to us at citl@niu.edu. There is some configuration that has to happen on the admin side of Blackboard for self-enrollment to be enabled. If you are interested in using Blackboard to offer a course to individuals outside of NIU, there are alternative solutions for that, as well. 

SafeAssign Direct Submit

Date added: October 5, 2023
Type: New feature

Direct Submit allows you to submit items to SafeAssign for originality review yourself, instead of checking all of the student submissions to a particular Assignment, or to add files to the institutional database without checking for plagiarism. SafeAssign now appears as an instructor tool in Books & Tools, which you can access in the Details & Actions panel within any Ultra course

There are two document submission methods:

  • Upload File: Select this option to drag or upload files via a pop-up window. The standard SafeAssign document processing rules apply:
    • Maximum support file size is 10 MB
    • Supported file types: .zip, .doc, .docx, .docm, .ppt, .pptx, .odt, .txt, .pdf, .rtf, and .html.
  • Copy/Paste Text: Select this option to enter a title for the submission and paste the text.

On the SafeAssign Direct Submit page, click the buttons for Upload File or Copy/Paste text

When uploading a file or copying and pasting text, be sure to select the settings to check for plagiarism and/or add to the institutional database. You can also choose to share the submission, which makes it available to other instructors in the course. If you do not check the Share box, you will be the only one who can access the SafeAssign report.

screenshot of the SafeAssign upload file panel

Submissions will take some time to process. Return to the Direct Submit page to view the matching score and the originality report for each submission.

Send Reminder from Gradebook List and Grid Views

Date added: October 5, 2023
Type: New feature

Part of effective teaching is creating a supportive environment for students, such as by reminding them of upcoming or overdue assessments. The new Send Reminder feature makes this easier than ever! 

In the List View of the Gradebook, you can access the Send Reminder feature from the ellipsis (...) menu. In the Grid View, click the icon at the top of the column to open the menu. After clicking Send Reminder, you will be prompted with the number of students who will receive the message and asked to confirm that you want to send the message.

screenshot of the Ultra Course View gradebook in List View demonstrating the ellipsis menu for a single assessment

screenshot of the Ultra Course View gradebook in Grid View demonstrating the column header menu

Reminders are sent as a blind carbon copy Message to students or groups who have not submitted the assessment. The message language is standardized as "[Assessment Name] has not been received." The message will also include the due date for the assessment, if one is set.

In this first release, reminders can only be sent if the item is visible to students and has no release conditions (e.g., show or hide after dates). Future updates will allow you to send reminders for items with release conditions. 

Delegated Grading by Group Membership

Date added: October 5, 2023
Type: New feature

There are times when you may want to distribute the grading workload for an assessment to multiple graders, such as for larger classes with multiple TAs. This feature will allow you to divide the class into groups and assign a specific person with the Instructor, TA, or Grader role to grade each group. 

This first release of Delegated Grading supports assignment submissions from individual students. Tests, group assessments, and anonymous submissions are not supported at this time.

screenshot of the settings panel for an Assignment in the Ultra Course View highlighting the Delegated Grading checkbox

After enabling the Delegated Grading setting, select the appropriate Group Set. You can assign one or more graders to each group in the group set; if multiple graders are assigned to the same group, they will share the grading responsibility for the group members, but only one grader can grade each individual student.

screenshot of the page to assign delegated graders to groups in the Ultra Course View

Graders assigned to a group of students will only see submissions for those students on the assignment’s submission page. They can only post grades for their assigned group members. Any unassigned instructors enrolled in the course will see all student submissions on the assignment’s submission page and can post grades for all students.

 

Sorting Controls for Manually Added Gradable Items

Date added: October 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

You can now use sorting controls on the grades page for manually created items (those created directly in the Gradebook as opposed to automatically when an assessment is added to the course). The sorting controls enable sorting in both ascending and descending order. You can sort the following information:

  • Student name
  • Grade
  • Feedback
  • Post status

The applied sorting order is temporary and resets when you leave the page.

screenshot of the submission view for a manually graded item highlighting that the student, grade, feedback, and post columns can now be sorted

Anonymous Comments in Bb Annotate

Date added: October 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

In some grading scenarios, you may prefer that students are not able to identify the individuals offering feedback on their submissions, such as in high-stakes assessments or when there are multiple graders involved. To enhance anonymity, graders can now post Bb Annotate comments without disclosing their names. You can mark inline comments as anonymous when creating them or even after comments are added.

screenshot of a comment being edited in Bb annotate highlighting the anonymous icon in the lower left

To change a comment to Anonymous, click the anonymity icon in the lower left. It looks like a pair of glasses and hat.

Copying Grading Schemas Between Courses

Date added: October 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

You can now copy individual grading schemas from Ultra and Original courses to other Ultra courses. Previously, you had to copy all schemas from the Original course. From the new Grading Schemas folder on the Copy Items panel, you can select which schemas to copy.

Note that a course may contain up to 100 grading schemas. If copying the selected schemas would cause the course to exceed this limit, you will see a banner to alert you of this. The copy process will copy as many as possible until it reaches a total of 100.

Course Banner and Learning Module Images from Unsplash

Date added: September 7, 2023
Type: New feature

Course banners and images for learning module are impactful ways to customize the look and feel of your course, but finding and editing images can be time consuming. The new integration with Unsplash helps you find high-quality, royalty-free images from within your course!

To get started, access the course banner settings or edit a learning module and click the Insert Image icon. Change the Image Source to Stock images from Unsplash. Type some keywords in the Search field to find an image that you like, select it, and move to the next step where you can crop the image and add alternative text for accessibility. It's that easy!

screenshot highlighting that "stock images from Unsplash" is selected as the image source

Grading Using a Tablet

Date added: September 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

While the Ultra Course View is designed to be inherently mobile-friendly, there are some features that are easier than others to use from a mobile device, like an iPad or other tablet. The recent Flexible Grading update makes it much easier to grade student assignments and add annotations with a tablet. This update improves upon that in a few ways by maximizing screen real estate. Now, only one of the side panels (students/questions or rubric/feedback) will be open at any time. Opening another panel collapses the other.

screenshot of selecting a student in the flexible grading workflow on a tablet

Batch Edit Enhancement - Modify Content in Multiple Folders

Date added: September 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Batch edit is located under the ellipsis (...) menu at the top of the course content page and allows you to make changes to multiple items in your course at the same time, such as editing dates and visibility or deleting items. Previously, these actions were restricted to the contents of a single folder or learning module at one time, limiting the value of batch edit. This update changes the display of items on the Batch Edit page so that everything is visible on a single page with folders and learning modules that open and collapse, just as they do on the course content page. This change allows you to select items in multiple folders or learning modules to edit at once.

screenshot of batch edit page demonstrating multiple checkboxes to edit content in different folders

Additional enhancements are planned, including the ability to add or edit dates directly on the Batch Edit page. Learn more about Batch Edit.

Auto-captioning for Audio and Video Grading Feedback

Date added: September 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Recording audio and video feedback can help students to better understand your feedback to them and can support a stronger sense of connection with you as the faculty member, but it is not accessible to all students without captions. This update adds automatic captioning for any audio and video content recorded in assessment feedback.

screenshot of video feedback with captions visible

Hide Collaborate Link in Details and Actions

Date added: September 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Every course uses a different set of tools, and having tools that aren't being used visible can cause confusion and distraction. That is particularly true of web conferencing tools. At NIU, you can choose to use Class Collaborate, Microsoft Teams, or Zoom for your courses. The link to Class Collaborate is visible by default in the Details & Actions area, which can be problematic if you don't want your students to use Collaborate.

This update provides you with control over whether Class Collaborate appears in the Details & Actions area. To turn it off, click the Course Settings in the upper right corner of your course and switch the toggle for Class Collaborate off. When disabled, Class Collaborate will not appear in the Details & Actions area nor within conversations enabled for assignments with group submissions.

Granular Copy of Announcements

Date added: September 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

This update allows you to copy individual announcements from one course to another. This can reduce the time it takes for you to send the same information to multiple courses (write it once, and then copy to your other courses). It can also help you reuse announcements when you teach the same course in the future. Copied announcements are set to Draft so that you can review and update as needed before posting the announcement to students.

screenshot of Copy page focused on copying announcements

Flexible Grading

Date added: August 16, 2023
Type: New Feature

Flexible Grading empowers you with unprecedented flexibility and efficiency in the grading process. This all-new approach allows you to grade Tests or Assignments by question or student and even mix-and-match approaches.

Flexible Grading features:

  • Grade by question or student
  • Easily move between student attempts
  • Keep track of your grading process
  • View both the attempt and the final grade for each assessment
  • Provide meaningful feedback with or without a rubric
  • Grade inline using Blackboard Annotate
  • Collapse side panels to obtain more screen real estate
  • Post all grades when ready
Progress Tracking Enabled by Default

Date added: August, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Progress tracking has been available since January 2022. This feature allows students to identify and track the content and assessments in your course that they have accessed and completed. It also gives you access to more details on how and when students have accessed items in your course.

Previously, Progress Tracking had to be enabled individually for each course. In this update, Progress Tracking will be enabled by default. It can still be disabled, if desired.

Disable Roster and Messages in Organizations

Date added: August 7, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When Blackboard Organizations are used for non-academic purposes, such as compliance training for all staff or new students, the user list is often very long and communication should be limited. This update allows Organization Leaders to choose to disable the Roster link in Details & Actions and Messages.

To modify the availability of these tools, go to the Organization Settings link in the upper right of the Organization. When the Roster is disabled, the Organization Leaders can see the Roster link in the Details & Actions panel but participants do not see the link. When Messages are disabled, the Messages tab is removed from the top navigation for participants and leaders. Participants can send email to the Organization Leaders from the list above Details & Actions; leaders can send email to the participants from the Roster. 

At this time, neither Roster nor Messages can be disabled in Courses.

Learning Module Images

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Learning modules are a great way to organize and structure content. To enhance the visual aesthetics of a course and make it easier for students to find the content they need, you can now add a thumbnail image to learning modules!

screenshot of a learning module in Ultra Course View highlighting the new image display

To add an image

  1. Edit the Learning Module by clicking the ellipsis (...) to the right of the module and choosing Edit from the menu
  2. In the side panel, click the Add image link or the image button to the right of the Image heading
  3. Drag and drop your image or select Upload file to find and select your image
  4. Confirm that the preview is for the correct image click the Next button
  5. Use the preview window and slider to position and crop the image. Click the Save button when you are happy with the result
  6. Leave the image marked as decorative or uncheck that option to enter alternative text (if the image doesn't convey any additional information, it should be fine to leave it as decorative; add alternative text if the information in the image is crucial for understanding the content)
Unread Message Indicator on the Messages Page and Within a Course

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Messages are a critical avenue for you and students to communicate with one another. It has been difficult to stay up-to-date with these communications, however, so Blackboard continues to improve notifications for new Messages. This update includes two changes to make it easier to find unread messages.

Courses with Unread Messages First on the Messages Page

The Messages page in the base navigation menu lists all of your courses so that you can easily access messages in multiple courses quickly. If you have a large number of courses, however, this list has been difficult to navigate. Now, courses with unread messages will display at the top of the list on this page, making it easier for you to find and read your messages.

screenshot of the Messages page in the Blackboard base navigation showing that the courses with unread messages are listed first

Unread Messages Indicator Within a Course

If there are unread messages in a particular course, you will now see a red indicator on the Messages tab from within the course. On the Messages tab, there will also be a red indicator to draw attention to any thread that has one or more unread messages in it.

screenshot of a Blackboard Ultra course on the Messages tab, highlighting the red circle with a number on the Messages tab in the top navigation and next to one of the Messages

Groups Moves to the Top Navigation Bar

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

As the work to simplify the Details & Actions pane continues, Groups has now moved to the top navigation bar. This improves the visibility and prominence of Groups.

screenshot of a Blackboard Ultra course highlighting the Groups item in the top navigation

Introduction of Group Spaces

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: New Feature

This release introduces the first step in a brand new feature to help students collaborate more effectively with one another: Group Spaces.

screenshot of the first version of Group Spaces for Ultra Course View

In this first version, clicking on the group name will take students to a list of all of the assessments assigned to that group. From here, clicking one of the assessments will open it.

Instructors can access Group Spaces from the Group Set page. Click the ellipsis (...) to access the group management options and select Enter group space from the menu.

screenshot of the page to manage a group set, highlighting the ellipsis menu for a particular group and the option to enter the group space

This is only the beginning for Group Spaces! Future milestones will include additional tools to help students collaborate, including synchronous communication and project management features.

Group Messaging Improvements

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

It is easier than ever to send messages to all of the members of a group. On the Groups page, there is now a message icon next to each group (expand a group set to see the individual groups). Both students and instructors can use the group message feature, although students will only see and be able to message their groups.

screenshot of Groups page in Blackboard Ultra Course View, highlighting the message icon for three groups in a group set

The message auto-populates the recipient list with the members of that group. The message is sent to all of the group members as CC, so they can all read and contribute to the conversation.

Alert Flags in the Course Activity Report

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The Course Activity report on the Analytics tab provides you with valuable information to identify students who may be at risk or struggling. This update adds a flag for each student who has an alert for days of inactivity or their overall grade. On the chart view, students with an alert are displayed with a purple dot. On the list view, students with an alert have a flag next to their overall grade or the days since their last access.

screenshot of the Course Activity report highlighting an alert flag for a student based on their overall grade

You can customize the thresholds for those alerts (days of inactivity or minimum overall grade) and determine whether students are alerted on their Activity Stream. These settings also appear in the Gradebook settings.

Dashes (-) Replace "Grade Now!" in the Gradebook Grid View

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

There is a lot of information in the grid view of the Gradebook, and it needs to be easy to scan that page. Previously, any cell without a grade displayed the text "Grade Now!". This was overwhelming and made it harder to find empty cells. 

This change replaces that text with a dash (-). This is a minor change that makes it much easier to view the contents of the Gradebook at a glance.

Screenshot of the Ultra Gradebook highlighting an empty cell that now has a dash instead of the words Grade Now

Increased Visibility for Moving Items in the Gradebook List View

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Organization of the Gradebook is important to help both you and your students find specific assessments. While this has always been possible on the Gradebook List View via drag and drop, that has not been obvious because the move icons only appeared when you moused over them. 

This update makes those icons visible at all times. The Move icon is represented by two arrows pointing up and down.

screenshot of Ultra Gradebook list view highlighting the column of Move icons

To move an item, click the Move icon and drag the item to the new location. The changes to the order will be reflected in the Gradebook grid view and in the students' view of the Gradebook.

Bulk Download of Anonymous Submissions

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When an assessment has anonymous grading enabled, you have to be cautious to preserve that anonymity and the integrity of the grading process. The new ability to download the anonymous submissions in bulk protects anonymity by renaming the downloaded files with the submission receipt number instead of using the username, like normal bulk download of an assignment would. 

screenshot of Ultra Gradebook grid view highlighting the process to download submissions

To download submissions in bulk:

  1. Go the Gradebook in grid view
  2. Click the column header for the assessment 
  3. Click Download Submissions in the drop down menu
  4. Click the Send button to generate the .zip file
  5. When the bulk download is ready, you will receive a Message with a link to download the file. You can access it from the Messages tab or from the email

Once anonymity has been disabled from the assessment, you can use the Submission Receipt lookup to associate the downloaded file with the student.

Course Banner Improvements

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The course banner image provides a sense of identity for the course by establishing a visual connection to the content. This update improves the workflow for you when setting the image. 

The image below shows the old process (on the left) and the new process (on the right).

screenshot highlighting the new course image display settings

To add a course image

  1. In the Details & Actions panel, click the Edit display settings link under Course Image 
  2. Click the image icon in the upper right corner (note that the preview image now indicates when the image is a placeholder)
  3. Drag an image file to the upload target or click the Upload file button to find and select a file
  4. Preview the image to be sure it is the correct file, then click the Next button
  5. Drag the image to change the position of the cropped region and use the zoom slider to change the size of the image. When you are happy with the banner selection, click the Save button
  6. Leave the image marked as decorative or deselect that checkbox to add descriptive alternative text
Assessment Submission Receipt Improvements

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The submission receipt provides students with reassurance that their assessment submission was successful and it provides a mechanism for you to verify student's submission.

Based on feedback from faculty, the submission receipt will now contain additional information:

  • Course name and ID
  • Assessment name
  • Submission size (if the assessment contained a file submission or an essay question)
  • Auto submit indicator (if the assessment was automatically submitted by the system because the timer elapsed or the Prevent Late Submission setting was enabled)

You can view this information by using the Submission Receipt search icon in the upper right of the Gradebook.

Replacing a File Truly Replaces the File Instead of Creating a New Version

Date added: August 3, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Every Blackboard course at NIU has a 2GB quota; this space is more than adequate for most courses, but for others, managing the allotted storage can be challenging. This update changes how files are handled when you use the Replace functionality, to reduce overall storage and better manage your quota.

In the past, when you used Replace, the system retained a copy of the original file and made a new version of the file, doubling the storage. Now, the system will instead replace the existing file without creating new versions. 

Edit and Format Comments in Bb Annotate - NOW LIVE!

Date added: Summer 2023
Type: Enhancement

After a few delays, this feature is now live! 

Bb Annotate is the tool that allows you to view and comment on student assignment submissions directly in the browser. The commenting feature allows you to leave feedback in the margin at a single point or associated with a highlighted phrase or passage. 

This enhancement to the comments will allow you to use richer formatting in the comments, such as colors, bold, underline, and hyperlinks. You will also be able to edit already placed comments.

To format a comment, open an annotation comment and type some text. Highlight a portion of the text to see the format features appear.

To edit a comment, click the ellipsis (...) menu in the upper right.

Progress Indicator and Start/Continue/Completed Options for Learning Modules

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Progress Tracking provides students with clear visibility of their progress throughout a course. In the past, students would need to expand the module to view progress for the contents of a Learning Module. This update provides a clearer indication to students of their progress by displaying a summary at the top level of the module. Progress Tracking must be enabled in the course for the progress indicators to be displayed. Forced sequence must be enabled forthe Start/Continue links to be displayed.

When students have not yet started the Learning Module (i.e., they have not yet opened any of the contents of the Learning Module), it will have a Start button. Clicking Start will take the student to the first item in the module.

Once students have begun working on the module, Start will change to Continue; clicking Continue will take the student to the next incomplete item in the module. A progress bar will also be displayed that shows students how many items they have completed out of the total items currently available to them in the module.

When they have completed all of the available items in the module, Continue will change to Completed. If you add content to the Learning Module, the label and progress bar will update accordingly.

At any time, students can expand the Learning Module to access any of the content or assessments in the module. 

This is the first of several changes to how Learning Modules are displayed in the Ultra Course View. Future updates are planned to allow faculty to see and use the sequential navigation (arrows to move forward or backward within the module), to add floating arrow navigation at the bottom of the browser window, and to add thumbnail images to the top level of the Learning Module.

Resizing Images in the Ultra Text Editor

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Images can help to better explain visual information and can make your course more engaging. When you (or your students) added an image via the Ultra Text Editor, the image was automatically sized and surrounded by wide gray bars.

This enhancement allows you to resize an image added to the text editor by clicking and dragging handled in each corner, similar to resizing images in Microsoft applications. There are also keyboard controls to resize images, for accessibility. The same controls will be available for videos and media inserted via URL. Both methods preserve the original aspect ratio of the image so that it does not become distorted.

click the corner handle of an image to resize it

Full details on the changes made to inserting and modifying images:

  • Gray background of the media was removed
  • Delete icon relocated to the top right corner of the media
  • All media attached or inserted via URL maintains original aspect ratio (can't be stretched or squished)
  • All media is centered on the page (future development will add other placement options)
  • Media can be sized to the maximum width of the content editor 
  • Media must be at least 200 pixels in height and width
  • When adding media, the Image Settings include a space to add alternative text box and an option to force users to download the media (instead of displaying it in the browser)
Deleting Files in a Course Also Deletes File from Content Collection, Simplifying Quota Management

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When files are added to a Blackboard course, they are also added to the Content Collection in the background. The Content Collection functions as the storage directory for the course. In the past, when a file was deleted from the course, it was retained in the Content Collection. This made it challenging to reduce the amount of storage your course used, if you had reached the maximum quota (2 GB per course at NIU) and were trying to create space for additional files.

With this update, when you delete a file from your course, Blackboard will check to see whether the file is also used in other courses or in another location within this course. If it is only used once in this course, the file will also be deleted from the Content Collection.

Manage Course Duration and Roster Availability in New Course Settings Panel

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: New feature

Thus far, the Details & Actions panel has contained all of the settings for your course, which has made that area cluttered and difficult to use. In the second of several steps to clean up Details & Actions, this update introduces a new Course Settings panel (the first step was moving Announcements to the top navigation, in June 2023). You access Course Settings via a button in the upper right corner of your course.

screenshot highlighting the Course Settings icon in the upper right corner of the course page

Initially, Course Settings will include the ability for you to hide the Roster from students (useful in large sections or when it would not be appropriate for students/participants to see each others' identities, such as Organizations used to communicate with all students in a program or for staff training). Course Settings will also feature new tools to change the duration of your course, such as changing the start or end date of the course. At NIU, you can also manage your course duration using the Course Availability Settings tool.

As Blackboard continues to simplify the Details & Actions panel and other administrative areas of the course, additional settings will be migrated to the Course Settings panel.

Formative Label for Assessments and Associated Gradebook Filter

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: New feature

Formative assessment is an essential component of the teaching and learning process because it provides ongoing feedback to you and your students that can inform your teaching, guide student learning, and support student progress. This new feature will help you communicate to your students when an activity or assessment is intended to be formative and will help you view those assessments more easily in the Gradebook. 

screenshot highlighting the Formative Assessment setting on an Assignment

The Formative Assessment setting can be enabled for Assignments and Tests. You may also choose whether you want it to be visible to students. When displayed to students, it appears on the Course Content page, in the assessment panel before starting an attempt, on the assessment details & information, and in the Gradebook. 

screenshot highlighting the Formative label on an assessment

In the Gradebook grid view, you can filter assessments by whether they are formative (have the Formative setting enabled) or summative (do not have the formative setting enabled). 

Future milestones are planned for formative assessment. The label and filter are simply the first step in that development.

Partial and Negative Credit Improvements for Multiple Choice Test Questions

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

On multiple answer questions where students should select more than one response to be completely correct, enabling partial credit allows you to provide students with a portion of the overall points for selecting some but not all of the correct answers (e.g., 2 out of 3 points for selecting A and C instead of A, C, and E). Subtracting points for incorrect answers allows you to discourage guessing by reducing the student's score for selecting incorrect responses (e.g., earned 2 points for selecting A and C but lost 1.5 points for selecting D for a net score of .5 points).

When partial credit was initially introduced for multiple answer questions, the overall points for the question were automatically distributed equally across the correct answers (in the example in the prior paragraph, 1 point for each correct answer when there were 3 correct answers, A, C, and E, on a 3-point question). Similarly, points subtracted for incorrect responses were also equally weighted across the incorrect answers (in the example in the prior paragraph, 1.5 for each incorrect answer when there were 2 incorrect answers, B and D, on a 3-point question). You could not control how much partial and negative credit would be awarded for each correct and incorrect answer, and the overall score for the question could not be less than 0.

This update provides more flexibility and control. When you enable partial and negative credit, you can define the percentage that each response is worth, both positive and negative. You can also enable a setting to allow the overall score for the question to be negative, if more weight is attributed to the incorrect responses that the student has selected (e.g., if they earn 1 out of 3 points for selecting 1 correct response, but lose 1.5 points for selecting 1 incorrect response, the student's score could be -.5 points). 

screenshot of a multiple answer question highlighting the settings to enable partial and negative credit

New Tab Navigation for Assessments

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Assessments like Assignments and Tests have always featured arrows at the top of the page to navigate between the content of the assessment and student submissions, but that navigation was not obvious. This update replaces the arrows with tabs. This provides convenient access to the content and settings, submissions, student activity, and question analysis.  

screenshot of an Ultra Assignment highlighting the new tabs at the top of the page

You can continue to access Student Activity from the ellipsis menu (...) for the item on the course content page and Question Analysis from the Analytics tab in the top navigation of the course. Blackboard will automatically direct you to the Content and Settings tab when you access an assessment from the course content page and to the Submissions tab when you access an assessment from the Gradebook.

Updated Language for Students Completing Assessments

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When students click the name of an assessment on the course content page, a peek panel opens that contains key details about the assessment like the due dae, time limit, the number of attempts permitted, and the points possible. To view the instructions and to submit the assessment, the student clicks a button at the bottom of the peek panel. Previously, this button was labeled View assessment, which students reported as confusing and unclear. Now, the button will dynamically display different messages based on the student's progress.

Initially, the button is labeled as Start attempt.

screenshot of an assessment details panel highlighting the Start attempt button

After students have started an attempt and saved a draft, the button will change to read Continue attempt along with the attempt number. If the student is eligible to make a new attempt, the button displays Start attempt along with the next attempt number. The student can view previously submitted attempts using the link in the Attempts field.

screenshot of assessment peek panel highlighting continue attempt button

When the student has exhausted the permitted attempts, the button will read View submissions

On the submission page, to clarify how a student can attach files or add content to their submission, the instructions in the Submissions section have been updated to read Drag and drop files here or select (click) to add text.

screenshot of the submission field on an assessment

Updates to Anonymously Graded Assessments: Reminders and Exceptions

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Anonymity is useful for reducing bias in assessment, but it can limit your ability to communicate with students about an assessment or provide exceptions like extended time or additional attempts.

Send reminders for anonymously graded assessments

This update will allow you to send reminders to students who have yet to make a submission for an anonymously graded assessment, without compromising the anonymity of the assessment. In other words, you can send the reminder to anyone who has not yet submitted without the need to know who those students are.

screenshot demonstrating highlighting the Send Reminder button for an anonymously graded assessment

Add exceptions and exemptions for anonymously graded assessments

This update allows you to grant student exceptions for anonymously graded assessments by granting additional attempts, extending the submission deadlines, or changing the dates that the student can access the assessment. You will also be able to grant an exemption to a student who is excused from completing the assessment.

screenshot highlighting the ellipsis menu and the option to add exceptions

Complete/Incomplete Grade Schema

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: New Feature

The complete/incomplete grade schema allows you to track whether students have completed an assessment, as opposed to requiring points or a letter grade. The complete/incomplete schema can be selected in the grade settings for an assessment. It shows a checkmark in a green oval when students have submitted the assessment or a dash in a gray oval for students who have not submitted the assessment. 

screenshot of a gradebook with a column using the complete / incomplete schema

Delete Grade Schemas

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Previous updates introduced the ability to create and edit grade schemas. This update adds the ability to delete grade schemas, provided they are not used in the course. This allows you to keep the list of possible grade schemas from becoming cluttered.

To delete a grade schema, go to the Grade Schema page from the Gradebook settings. Select a grade schema by clicking on the name. Then, click the ellipsis menu above the schema table to delete it.

screenshot of grade schema page showing that the menu to delete a grade schema is just above the grade schema table

Import Instructure Canvas Course Packages

Date added: July 6, 2023
Type: New Feature

Whether you want to reuse materials you created at another institution in Canvas, are looking to share materials from a colleague who uses Canvas, or have found a course package developed by a publisher or an association for use in Canvas, it is now easier for you to make use of those materials in Blackboard Ultra Course View. 

Start with an empty course or shell (we highly recommend requesting and using a shell for this instead of a course, in case of errors or issues during the import). You begin the import in Ultra Course View by clicking the ellipsis (...) menu at the top right of the course content list. Click the option to Import Course Content. Canvas exports courses in a proprietary format with the .imscc file extension; browse your computer to find the exported package.

screenshot highlighting the Import Course Package option in the import content menu

Note that course structure and tools differ between Canvas and Blackboard. Once the import has processed, you should carefully review all content and settings. Not all course elements will be converted, and you may need to adjust the content so it is suited for the Ultra Course View.

Announcements Moved to the Top Navigation Bar

Date added: June 1, 2023
Type: Enhancement

In the first of several updates to create better access to key tools in the Details & Actions panel, the June 2023 update will move the Announcements tool from the left panel to the top navigation. While the functionality of Announcements will stay the same, this move makes it easier to find and review announcements.

screenshot of Ultra Course View highlighting the location of Announcements in the top navigation.

Upload Questions from a File to Tests and Assignments

Date added: June 1, 2023
Type: New Feature

Creating test questions can be time consuming and tedious. This update can help you be more efficient by creating questions in applications that allow for more familiar workflows, like Microsoft Excel. Once uploaded, the questions can be used and edited just like questions created manually. 

sample of questions formatted in Excel for upload to Ultra

The questions must be formatted in specific ways, and the file must be saved as a txt file. Learn more about creating and uploading question files and download a sample file.

Note that this feature only applies to Tests initially; a future update will extend this feature to Question Banks. In the meantime, you can import questions to a Test and then use the Reuse Questions functionality to copy them to a Question Bank.

Anonymous Grading of Tests

Date added: June 1, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Anonymous grading is one method for reducing grading bias for high-stakes assignments. Until now, this option was only available for assignments. With this update, you can now also turn on anonymous grading on tests. This adds an additional layer of fairness and impartiality to the grading process.

Add Exemptions for Anonymous Assessments

Date added: June 1, 2023
Type: Enhancement

In the past, you could not provide an exemption for students on anonymous assessments. This update enables the ability to add an exemption even when anonymous grading is enabled.  

Add Exceptions from the Gradebook Grid View and the Student Overview Page

Date added: June 1, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Assessment exceptions allow you to provide individual students with additional attempts, a different due date, or extended access to an assessment. The standard way to access exceptions is via the submission page, by clicking the ellipsis (...) menu for a particular student. 

This update adds two new ways for you to access the exceptions. The first is from the Grid View of the Gradebook. Clicking in a cell in the Grid View includes a menu that includes the ability to add or edit exceptions.

screenshot of gradebook grid view showing the option to add or edit exceptions for a particular cell

The second new route to add or edit exceptions is from the Student Overview page. You can open the Student Overview by selecting a student from the Students tab in the Gradebook or by clicking on a student's name in the grid view of the Gradebook. You can also access this page from the Progress Tracking reports. On the Student Overview page, you can access exceptions for an assessment by clicking the ellipsis (...) menu for a given assessment.

screenshot of the student overview page in Ultra Course View highlighting the add exceptions option under the ellipsis menu

‘Base calculation on points earned out of total graded points’ support for Custom Calculations

Date added: June 1, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The Overall Grade calculation includes the option to configure whether the calculation is based on all of the items in the calculation or only on those that are currently graded. This configuration changes the total points possible. When the setting is off, empty cells are treated as zeroes (0). 

This update adds this configuration option to custom, manual calculations. Previously, custom calculations were always based on only graded items. The new setting is directly below the menu to select a grading schema.

Send Messages from the Submission Page

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: New feature

When reviewing assessment submissions and results, there are many reasons why you would need to communicate with students. For example, you may want to send a reminder to students who had not yet submitted the assessment, or to provide an update about grades. To make this workflow simpler, this update adds the ability to send Messages from the Submissions page of an Assignment or Test.

You can identify and select students using the checkmarks on the page. The Student Status and Grading Status filters make that easier by letting you view and select all of the students who share a status, such as those who haven't made a submission or those who you have not yet graded. 

screenshot of Submissions page with Student Status filter set to No Submissions and students selected

Messages sent from the Submissions page are sent as private copies (BCC).

Add Private Notes to Student Overview

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: New Feature

Keep track of student details can be challenging, so the new Notes tab on the Student Overview page provides you with a private, dedicate space to take notes about students in your courses. Only instructors, teaching assistants, facilitators, and graders can access them.

You can open the Student Overview by selecting a student from the Students tab in the Gradebook or by clicking on a student's name in the grid view of the Gradebook. Then, click the Notes tab. You can add a note or review and previous notes.

screenshot of student overview notes tab highlighting notes from multiple authors

These notes have many possible uses:

  • tracking the evolution of a student's progress over time
  • Noting agreements with a student, such as extensions on assignments or meeting times
  • Noting students with behavioral issues or a history of academic dishonesty

Key considerations:

  • Each note includes the author's name and a timestamp with its creation date. If a note is edited, a separate timestamp for the latest edit is added.
  • Authors can edit and delete their own notes. They cannot edit or delete someone else's notes.
Drag and Drop Desktop Folders to Upload to the Course Content Page

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Efficiency is key when creating course content. This update allows you to drag and drop a folder from your computer to the course content page, allowing you to quickly build out your course based on files you have already identified and organized. 

screenshot demonstrating a folder being dragged from the local computer storage to the Blackboard course

Once uploaded, the files will be contained within the folder as organized on the local computer storage. If you drag and drop more than 25 files at the same time, you will receive a warning message that the upload may take a few minutes to complete. If the upload takes too long, you can cancel at any time and the files will be deleted.

The folder and files will be uploaded as Hidden from students. You will need to make the files visible for students to be able to access them.

Add Exemptions via the Gradebook Grid View

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Exemptions allow you to excuse specific students from assessments of activities in the course. When you exempt an assessment or activity:

  • The exempted item is not factored into the Overall Grade calculation
  • The exempted item is not marked late for students who do not submit
  • The students with an exemption will not receive an automatic zero

Exemptions previously existed, but could only be applied from the submissions page and student detail view. This update allows you to add an exemption directly from the grid view of the Gradebook. 

screenshot demonstrating the exemption option available when clicking in a cell in the grid view of the gradebook

Rubric Improvements - Hidden Performance Level Descriptions, Deselection of a Rubric Level, and Keyboard Navigation

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: Enhancement

This update includes several enhancements to rubrics to streamline the grading process.

Performance level descriptions are now hidden by default. This change streamlines grading when you are familiar with the performance level requirements. You can choose to display the performance descriptions if needed for grading.

screenshot of a rubric used for grading an Assignment, highlighting the toggle to show descriptors

Now it’s possible to deselect a performance level if choosing another level of performance isn’t appropriate (i.e., to clear the grade from the rubric). Criterion feedback is also collapsible, allowing for a more streamlined view of the grading panel.

Blackboard values accessibility, so they have improved keyboard navigation of rubrics. Navigate between rubric criteria with tab and use up/down arrows to select a performance level.

Grading Attempt Selection Improvements

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When multiple attempts are enabled for an assessment, you may or may not need or want to grade all of the attempts. A recent update changed the attempt selection from a peek panel to a drop down menu on the submission view, and this update improves which attempt is automatically selected to show to you initially.

Grade Attempts setting Grading completion status Default attempt displayed
Last attempt with a grade Any Most recent attempt
First attempt with a grade Any First attempt
Attempt with the highest grade All attempts are graded Attempt with the highest grade
Attempt with the lowest grade All attempts are graded Attempt with the lowest grade
Average of all attempts All attempts are graded Most recent attempt
Attempt with the highest grade There are ungraded attempts Oldest ungraded attempt
Attempt with the lowest grade There are ungraded attempts Oldest ungraded attempt
Average of all Attempts There are ungraded attempts Oldest ungraded attempt

When the grade calculation method requires additional grading tasks (such as for grade settings for highest/lowest/or average of attempts), you are taken to the attempt that you need to grade. If there are not attempts that need to be graded, the most appropriate graded attempt is displayed. 

Reuse Questions from Tests in Question Banks

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: Enhancement

This update allows you to reuse questions from Tests in Question Banks, so that you can build question banks from the questions that you have already created on tests. The process creates a copy of the questions, leaving the originals still in the Test.

screenshot showing the reuse questions option on a Question Bank

Prevent Backtracking in Tests with Page Breaks

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When Page Breaks were added to Tests, they initially did not have the ability to prevent backtracking across pages. This update allows you to use the Prohibit Backtracking setting on a Test that includes Page Breaks so that students cannot return to an earlier page once they have completed it. This option is helpful when upcoming questions provide hints or reveal answers to questions on previous pages.

screenshot of the test settings in Blackboard highlighting the checkbox for Prohibit Backtracking

If students have left any questions blank on a page when Prohibit Backtracking is enabled, they will receive an alert that informs them they cannot go back if they proceed to the next page.

Control Where Web Links Open

Date added: May 4, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Opening links in a new window is generally considered best practice, especially for external websites. This avoids browser security features blocking content from loading. However, there may be situations where you prefer to have that content open within a panel in the Ultra course.

This update adds a checkbox to the Web Link settings panel to give you the flexibility to determine whether content should open in a new window.

screenshot of the web link settings panel highlighting the checkbox to open the content in a new window

Course Content Search by Title

Date added: April 6, 2023
Type: New feature

It is sometimes difficult to remember the location of a course item, and locating an item can be a time-intensive task that requires opening every folder or learning module.

Course content search changes that! You can use the discreet yet easy-to-find magnifying glass icon in the upper right of your course to search for specific items in your course. In this first iteration of search, Blackboard will find items based on the title of the item; future releases will add additional capabilities.

screenshot of a blackboard course in the ultra course view highlighting the magnifying glass search icon in the upper right

Click the course search icon, a magnifying glass at the top of the course content page, and begin typing. After you have typed a few letters, the course search function displays a list of matching items. You can select one of the recently modified items or show all item results to find the specific item you need.

screenshot of the course search results

Multiple Grading Schemas: Add, Edit, Copy

Date added: April 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

In the past, Ultra courses allowed only one grading schema per course (Letter). Now you can add, copy, and edit up to 100 grading schemas per course. Items copied from other courses will keep their grading schemas, as well. You can select the best grading schema for each assessment in your course.

screenshot showing a grade schema being edited

Grade schemas can use letters, phrases, and symbols, as shown in the screenshot below. Note that some columns show a letter grade, some show Pass or Fail, and some use emojis.

screenshot of gradebook grid view with multiple schemas in use

Circle Shape for Hotspot Questions

Date added: April 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Hotspot questions allow you to provide an image and ask students to mark the area of the image that corresponds to the question you are asking (e.g., marking a location on a map). Previous iterations of the hotspot question have included square, rectangular, and free-form polygon shapes. This update allows you to draw a circle as the target that students need to mark. 

screenshot of a hotspot question with an image of the sun and four planets, showing two of the planets circled with a hotspot target

Sorting Controls on the Assessment Submission Page

Date added: April 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

There have been several sorting controls added in the previous releases (such as the Gradebook List View in February and Student List View in March). This time, the focus is on the Submission page for an assessment. This update allows you to sort the list of submissions by first or last name, student status, grading status, grade, and post status.

screenshot of assignment submission list showing sorting controls for column headers

Quicker Access to Submissions that Need to be Graded

Date added: Anticipated for April 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Sometimes small changes can make a world of difference for your efficiency! This small enhancement makes it easier for you to access the list of submissions that need to be graded for a particular assessment.

Click the # to grade value for any assessment to navigate directly to the submission page with the Needs Grading filter applied. This makes it easier for you to begin the grading process.

screenshot of the gradable items view in the Gradebook

New Tabs for Navigating in Discussions

Date added: April 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

This update makes it easier for you to monitor student activity in discussions and access the grading workflow for graded discussions. You will now see three new tabs at the top of Discussions. The first tab shows you the discussion content.

ultra-discussion-tabs.png

The second tab provides actionable analytics on student activity in the discussion. For example, you can send a message to students who have not yet participated in the discussion.

screenshot of a discussion that demonstrates the content of the student activity tab

The third tab, Grading & Participation, will only appear on Discussions that have grading enabled. It allows you to view and grade individual student participation.

screenshot of grading and participation tab on a discussion

Students Who Dropped or Withdrew Will Not Appear in the Student Progress Reports

Date added: April 6, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The Student Progress report for an individual content item is a useful tool to understand how students are engaging with course materials. (Note: you must first enable Progress Tracking to have access to this report). However, this report has been showing all of the students who had ever enrolled in the course, including those who had dropped or withdrew from the course.

With this update, students who have dropped or withdrawn will not appear in the progress reports. 

Improved Attempt Switching when Grading Student Submissions with Multiple Attempts

Date added: March 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Enabling multiple attempts for assessments can provide students with opportunities to improve their mastery as well as reduce technical issues (such as from mistakenly uploading the wrong file to an Assignment), but it makes grading more complex, as you navigate to find the correct submission to grade. 

This update makes it easier to grade assessments with multiple attempts enabled by replacing the side-panel that listed the attempts with a drop-down menu within the attempt view. Now, when you click a student name in the Submissions list, the most recent submitted attempt will be loaded. You can choose to view a different attempt using the drop-down menu.

screenshot of a test in Blackboard Ultra with the Select Attempt drop-down menu highlighted

Hide the Roster from Students

Date added: March 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

While community building is essential to create a supportive learning environment in most courses, there are circumstances where you may not want students to be able to view the Roster and identify who else is enrolled in the course. One important use case is for Organizations that provide services or training to a large group of students or employees. 

This update allows you to manage whether the Roster is visible to students/participants in the Details & Actions area of your Course or Organization. The Roster is always available to those with an elevated role in the course, such as Instructor/Leader, Teaching Assistant/Assistant, or Course Builders. 

To change the visibility of the Roster, click the Roster link in the Details & Actions area then use the drop-down menu in the upper right to change the visibility setting.

screenshot of the roster in a Blackboard Ultra course highlighting the visibility menu in the upper right

Sorting on Overall Grade Column in the Gradebook Student List View

Date added: March 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Blackboard continues to add additional controls for sorting students by grade in the Gradebook. This update adds the ability to sort the Student List View by the Overall Grade column, to order students from highest to lowest grade, or vice versa.

Screenshot of the Gradebook Student List View highlighting the ability to sort by overall grade

Course Activity Report Table Enhancements

Date added: for March 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The course activity report, which you can access from the Analytics tab, helps you understand students' performance. With this information, you can:

  • Identify struggling or high performing students based on their grade, hours in course, or days of inactivity.
  • Message students who have a low grade and/or have not accessed the course recently.
  • Receive alerts when a student has not accessed their course in a while or if a student's grade has dropped.

This update makes a number of improvements to the table view of the report (click the toggle at the upper left to switch from the scatter plot to the table view):

  • New Table - Updated to be more consistent with other features. Those who use progress tracking will find the feel of the new table should be familiar. The new table makes it easier to select and message students.
  • New Days of Inactivity Column - Adds number of days since a student last accessed your course. You can use this information to identify students who might be falling behind.
  • Access Student Overview - Click or tap a student's name to see their grades, progress, and activity over the weeks. You can use the Student Overview to get a full picture of a student's performance and engagement in a course.
  • More Student Information - Accommodations and name pronunciation are now visible (note that pronouns are visible in the screenshot but not yet available at NIU). You can use this information when drafting messages to students.

screenshot of the course activity report in the table view, highlighting key changes like the days of inactivity and student information like accommodations and name pronunciation

Prevent Edits to Discussion Posts

Date added: March 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When discussions are graded, you may want to prevent students from editing or deleting their posts to ensure the activity is preserved for evidence of the grade earned. This update adds a new setting on discussions to prevent students from editing or deleting their posts. This setting can be changed at any time.

You can use this setting with "Post first" to prevent students from posting something generic to see their classmates' responses and then editing their initial post to improve it. 

screenshot of the settings on a discussion board highlighting the setting to prevent editing

Assessment Exemptions

Date added: February 2, 2023
Type: New feature

There are times that you may need to exempt a student from particular assessments or activities, so that they do not contribute to that student's overall grade. The new exemptions feature will help you communicate this to students and simultaneously affect their individual grade calculation.

You may exempt any gradebook items in two ways:

  • From the submission list view, select the ellipsis menu (...) of a student and choose to add or edit the exemption
  • From the student detail view, select the ellipsis menu (...) of the item and choose to add or edit the exemption

screenshot of the submission list view for an assessment highlighting the ellipsis menu to add or edit exemptions

When exempting an item, the item will not be:

  • included in the overall grade calculation for that student
  • marked late for that student if they do not make a submission
  • assigned an automatic zero for that student
Extra Credit Questions in Assessments

Date added: February 2, 2023
Type: New feature

Including extra credit questions on an exam allows students to demonstrate additional mastery, tackle more challenging material, or offset points lost on other content. A student is not penalized for incorrect answers to an extra credit question, but correct answers will add points to the student's grade.

To mark a question as extra credit, select the Extra Credit checkbox next to the points possible field.

screenshot of a test question highlighting the extra credit checkbox

When students take the test, extra credit questions are clearly identified with a purple medallion next to the points possible. The total value of extra credit available on the assessment is indicated in the side panel of the assessment. Students can also filter their view of the assessment to focus on the extra credit questions. 

screenshot of student view of extra credit on a test

Item Sorting in the Gradebook List View

Date added: February 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

As part of an ongoing series of enhancements planned to improve usability of the Gradebook, the list view of gradable items will now be able to be sorted by item (alphabetically), due date (chronologically), grading status (places items with submissions to be graded at the top), and posting status (places items with grades to be posted at the top).

screenshot of the gradebook list view highlighting the grading status column

Polygon Shapes for Hotspot Questions

Date added: February 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

In addition to a standard rectangular target for hotspot questions, this updates adds the ability to draw more complex shapes for use as hotspot targets. 

screenshot of a hotspot question showing an irregular shape drawn as a target on an image of the bones in the hand

Course Group Members Visibility Improvements

Date added: February 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

In the past, there was not an obvious way for instructors and students to see the members in a course group. Members were only visible to students when the group was attached to an Assignment or Discussion, and instructors needed to edit the group to see the members.

This enhancement will make it easier for you to see the members in all course groups. Students will only see members in the groups to which they belong.

Visibility Filter Added to Student Progress Tab

Date added: February 2, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The Student Progress report can help you track individual student progress in a course, including what students have accessed and completed. This view includes items that are not visible to the student. 

This enhancement adds a filter to the report so that you can focus on only those items that are currently visible to students. This will be the default view going forward so that you can better identify student progress on those items which are available to them. 

screenshot of student progress report highlighting the content availability filter

The filter also lets you view all of the items in the course, should you wish to do so. 

Essay Question Model Answer for Grading and Student Feedback

Date added: January 5, 2023
Type: New feature

With this update, you can include a model answer for essay questions on Tests. The example of a correct response will be visible to you and others (such as teaching assistants) who are grading the responses.

screenshot showing a model answer added to an essay question on a Test in the Ultra Course View

Students do not see the model answer when they take the test. If you have configured the test to show correct answers (in the Assessment results settings), students will see the model answer when reviewing their test results. 

screenshot showing the student's submitted answer and the model response to an essay question

Randomization of Test Questions with Text Blocks, Files, Images, and Pages

Date added: January 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The ability to randomize the order or test questions helps to improve academic integrity, but it is technically challenging when advanced features are used on a test. In the past, you could not enable randomized questions if the test contained text blocks, files, images, or page breaks. 

In this update, tests containing these features can now also include randomized question order. The non-question elements (text blocks, files, or images) are locked in place and questions between those elements are displayed in a randomized order. This allows you to create questions that reference the same set of instructions or content, such as multiple questions about a single data set. Note that the example below has an Instructions text block; this would be held in place as the first item that students see on the test, and questions would be randomized after it.

screenshot of the test settings for a test that includes a text block, showing the Randomize Questions setting enabled

Similarly, tests containing page breaks can now include randomized question order and randomized page order. When you randomize questions on a test with page breaks, the questions are randomized within their assigned page, locking any non-question elements in place. When you randomize pages, the pages themselves are displayed in a random order. When randomizing page order, you can choose to lock the first page in place, if you have used it as a cover page or for test instructions. You can select the options to randomize questions within a page and the page order on the same test.

screenshot of test settings highlighting the settings to randomize questions and pages

Automatically Lock Discussions at the Due Date to Prevent Late Posts

Date added: January 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Discussions now include a setting to Stop discussion activity after due date. This option prevents students from creating new posts, replying to existing posts, and editing their posts after the discussion due date. Students with a due date accommodation can continue to create, reply to, and edit posts, in accordance with their accommodation. 

screenshot of the settings on a discussion highlight the checkbox to stop discussion activity after due date

Status and Filters for Group Submissions

Date added: January 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

The submission and grading status filters on the Submission page for an assignment help you track student submission progress as well as your grading progress. Previously, this has only been available for assignments with individual submissions. 

This update allows you to filter group submissions by the submission status as well as by grading status. You can combine these two filters for greater efficiency.

screenshot showing the grading progress filter open on an assignment with group submissions enabled

Improvements to Sending Messages by Course Role

Date added: January 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

Sending Messages in bulk to all users of a certain role is efficient but potentially problematic, particularly for students. In the past, students were able to send messages to "All course members", which could be used maliciously or abused. This update restricts students to sending messages to all instructors or to selected course members. Instructors can send messages to all course members, all instructors, all students, and selected course members.

Create Categories in the Bb Annotate Comment Library

Date added: January 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When using Bb Annotate, you can use the content library to store comments that you reuse frequently within the same course as well as across courses. This enhancement adds the ability for you to organize those comments into categories to help you find the comments more easily. Existing comments will be part of a general comments category until you decide to move them to a new one.

See and Edit Grades for Anonymous Submissions Prior to Posting

Date added: January 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

When using anonymous grading in the past, you could only view grades on the Submissions page once you had posted those. This prevented you from being able to edit grades before students could view them. Now, you can view grades on the Submission page before posting. Student anonymity is still preserved until the grades are posted. To edit a grade, click to open the attempt. 

screenshot demonstrating that grades are viewable on grading submissions page when anonymously grading

Non-posted Grades Included in Grade History

Date added: January 5, 2023
Type: Enhancement

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

2022 New Features

Drag-and-drop improvements

Date added: 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 Links

Date added: 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 Report

Date added: 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 Content

Date added: 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 Attempts

Date added: 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 Search

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 Preview

Date added: 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).

Hot Spot Question Type added to Tests

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 Assignments

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 Connections

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 Improvements

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 Saved

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 Overview

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 Items

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 Documents

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 Tab

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.


Login to Blackboard

Get Help

Technical Support and Student Help

Division of IT Service Desk

815-753-8100
servicedesk@niu.edu

Teaching Support and Faculty Help

Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning

815-753-0595
citl@niu.edu

Back to top