Beginning with SU2018, UMBC's Blackboard will receive monthly updates as part of Blackboard's continuous delivery model. As a software industry standard practice, continuous delivery updates are small, may include maintenance, enhancements and/or new features, and are delivered on a more frequent and consistent basis.

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

The most recent updates are posted to the top of this page. 

View previous updates to the Ultra Experience or read the latest news about Ultra updates at myUMBC.

January 5, 2023 (v3900.56) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Model essay response for grading

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

YesNo
Randomize test pages

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

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

YesNo
Improvements for test question randomization

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

YesNo
Lock discussions after due date

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

YesSome
Send messages to specific course roles

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

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

YesYes
Grading workflow improvements

A variety of improvements to grading workflows and displays include:

  • Instructors can view grades on the Submission page before they post grades. Student anonymity is still preserved until the grades are posted. To edit a grade, an instructor can open the attempt.
  • Instructors can more efficiently navigate directly between a student’s attempts. If a student has multiple attempts for an assessment, an instructor will see an option to switch attempts. 
  • Display submission status and grading status on group assignment page
YesSome
Display third-party tool icons in gradebook

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

YesSome
Include non-posted grades in grade history

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

YesYes

Additional updates for January:

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

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

    • Announcements

    • Discussions

    • Assignments

    • Documents

    • Journals

    • Groups and Group Sets

    • Tests and Question Types

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 1, 2022 (v3900.54) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Drag & Drop improvements

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

  • tab to navigate to an item
  • enter to select an item
  • up/down arrows to move an item
  • enter to drop the item

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

YesNo
Course Links

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

  • Insert a link at the desired location on the Course Content page
  • Browse the elements of a course to select an item
  • Rename the link that will appear on the Course Content page
  • Move a link on the Course Content page independent of the target item

Exceptions:

  • You cannot create course links using the Content Editor.
  • You cannot create Course Links for Folders, Learning Modules, Discussions, and Web Links.
  • You cannot create Course Links with Learning Modules where force sequence is enabled. This is because links could allow users access to something they should not yet access. If a Course Link exists in a Learning Module, it will not be possible to enable forced sequence.
  • You cannot copy Course Links for Documents and third-party content (LTI).
  • When copying or converting from an Original course, the copy process will exclude Course Links for Folders, Learning Modules, and Web Links.
YesYes
Single Student Progress Report

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

  • The content they have created for their students
  • The progress the student has made with relevant date/time stamps
  • The current visibility status of each item

Instructors can access this new report:

  • By selecting a single student from the Student Progress report on a content item
  • By selecting a single student from the gradebook list view, Students tab, Student Progress tab
  • By selecting a single student from the gradebook grid view, Student Progress tab

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

YesNo
Course Copy improvements

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

  • A larger item selection page shows selected items and items that can be selected at the same time. In the past, instructors would need to switch between two views.
  • Tabs now separate courses and organizations. This makes it easier for instructors to find the correct source location.
  • Breadcrumbs make navigation easier. Using breadcrumb links, instructors can return to a higher level of the course or organization structure. This prevents instructors from having to start again from the top level.
  • The course and organization lists are displayed in alphabetical order. This makes it easier for instructors to find the correct one.
YesNo
Descriptions for question banks

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

YesYes
Search titles & descriptions of question banks

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

YesSome
Needs grading for 1st and last attempts

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

  • last attempt with a grade - when the instructor grades the last attempt, previous attempts do not increase the "needs grading" count
  • last attempt with a grade - if the student makes a new attempt after the instructor grades, that attempt does increase the "needs grading" count
  • first attempt with a grade - when the instructor grades the first attempt, attempts that follow do not increase the "needs grading" count
YesNo

Additional updates for December

  • In Original Course View users can choose any color for text. Content could be hard to read or not accessible—for example, yellow text on white background. The Ultra Course View has a curated selection of font colors to ensure readability. Users choose from black, gray, purple, blue, and green font colors. We now remove any unsupported font colors during a content copy or course conversion from an Original course.
  • Student Preview helps instructors experience their course contents and settings. Saving the preview user on exit retains the user in the Roster and Gradebook. Discarding the preview user on exit removes this user from the course. Previously, the two options were displayed with a default selection and a confirmation action. This was confusing. Now when exiting Student Preview, only the two choices are displayed as actions.

November 3, 2022 (v3900.52) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Enhanced Student Grades Overview

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

  • surfacing the last access, username, and accommodations;
  • adding the Student Activity report; and 
  • surfacing accommodations.
YesNo
Hot Spot Question Type

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

YesYes
Assessment Page Breaks & Pagination

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

YesNo
Improvements to Gradebook History

New user interface allowing instructors to 

  • Select which gradebook items to include in the download,
  • Include deleted items, and
  • Select timeframes to optimize the amount of information downloaded.

The download file report will include additional information:

  • Student username
  • Grade category
  • Submission receipt: The submission receipt number
  • Submission attempt: The number of the submitted attempt

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

YesPartially
Enhanced auto-save for students

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

YesNo
Rich feedback editor for manually created columns

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

YesYes
Add files from course Content Collection

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

YesNo
Course Activity Report

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

  • Identify struggling students based on their grade and hours spent in the course. This data is a snapshot taken weekly that allows instructors to compare.
  • Act by messaging students who have a low grade and/or have not logged in recently.
  • Focus on a student to see how their engagement and performance has changed each week.
  • Receive alerts when a student has not accessed their course in a while or if their grade has dropped.
  • Notify students when their course activity or grade in the course is below average.

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

YesYes
Unread Messages indicator for courses & orgs

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

YesYes

Additional updates for November

  • Instructors can save which version of the gradebook (list or grid) they prefer to use as a default.
  • The gradebook now features added tool tips for its icons.
  • Instructors can navigate student journals student by student as expected.

October 6, 2022 (v3900.50) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Course Content progress tracking

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

  • Students who have not yet opened content;
  • Students who have opened or started viewing content; and
  • Students who have marked the content as complete.

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

The following content types are tracked:

  • Learning Modules & Folders
  • Ultra Documents
  • Uploaded files
  • Links
  • LTI content with no associated grade

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

YesNo
Overview of student grades

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

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

YesNo
Auto-save for student assessments

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

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

YesNo
Screen reader accessibility for math formulas

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

Key considerations:

  • Users should confirm that their device and Learn Ultra course have the same language configuration.
  • Languages supported depends on WIRIS library. As of October 2022, WIRIS supports Arabic, Catalan, Chinese, English, French, German, Norwegian, Portuguese and Spanish.
  • If the Learn Ultra course is configured to use a language not supported by WIRIS, math formulas are read in English.
  • Math formulas can be added in content editors using the math editor or by typing LaTeX equations. Both formats are accessible with screen readers.
  • LaTeX equations display as text in the content editor. When users save the text, the LaTeX equations render as images. The screen reader reads the equations as text in the content editor and reads the math formulas when rendered as images.
  • Content editors that have the math editor option also render LaTeX equations.
  • LaTeX equations are not rendered inside code snippets because LaTeX equations are treated as part of the code format.
YesNo
Course name in browser tab

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

YesN/A

Additional updates for October

  • When upgrading from Original to Ultra, the forced sequence for Learning Modules is preserved.
  • The line spacing for course titles on the global grades page has been reduced.
  • To support effortless movement between mobile and desktop experience, Blackboard added settings categories and mobile-specific categories. A new design of this section provides simplified toggles for configuring user preferences.

September 2, 2022 (v3900.48) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Copy Rubrics between courses

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

YesYes
Sort question banks

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

YesYes
Respond to discussions from grading

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

YesYes
Set points for manually added grade items

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

YesYes
Test Timer Notifications for students

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

YesNo
Student Access to Instructor Feedback

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

YesNo
Summary of Grading Annotations

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

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

YesYes
Microsoft Immersive Reader for Ally 

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

YesYes
Send messages in private / unavailable courses

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

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

YesNo
Prevent duplicative content of an entire course 

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

YesNo


August 4, 2022 (v3900.46) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Manage question banks

With this enhancement, instructors will be able to:

  • Create new, empty question banks in their Ultra courses,
  • View and search for questions within a question bank, and
  • Add, edit, and delete all aspects of a question within new and existing question banks
YesYes
Due date exceptions

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

Key considerations:

  • Due date exceptions support is for individual tests and assignments only.
  • If an assignment or test does not have a due date, an exception cannot be set.
  • If an instructor wishes to remove the due date on an assignment or test, the instructor must first remove all due date exceptions.
  • To find students with the due date exception, instructors may access the submission list view page. Students with the clock icon next to their name have the due date exception.
  • Instructors may grant due date exceptions in combination with other exception types.
  • Automatic zeros respect due date exceptions. Automatic zeros are only applied if students with the due date exception do not submit on time.
  • The “prohibit late submission” and “prohibit new attempts” options respect due date exceptions. These settings only apply if students with the due date exception do not submit on time.
YesYes
Create, import, export groups and memberships

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

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

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

YesYes
Improvements to submission filter

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

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

YesNo
Advanced calculation for Overall Grade

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

YesNo
Collaborative document creation

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

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

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

YesYes
Delete preview student user and/or data

Instructors have a choice when exiting student preview:

  • save the preview student and data
  • delete the preview student and data

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

YesYes
LaTex equation support

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

Special notes:

  • Essay questions and the "Additional Content" section in Assessments do not have a save option in the text editor. In these areas, LaTeX equations will render as images after submission. Students can verify that the formula will render by opening the equation using the Math editor option.
  • Formatting such as italics or bold must be in the LaTeX code. Users can add the code formats in text or when editing using the Math editor. If a user chooses the bold format in the content editor, the image will render without that format. Example:
    • Code without format: $$axˆ2+bx+c=0$$
    • Code with format: $$\style{font-size:72px}{axˆ2+bx+c=0}$$
  • LaTeX equations are not rendered when they are inside code snippets because LaTeX equations are treated as part of the code format.
YesNo
Send messages in private / unavailable courses

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

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

YesNo
Course copy status in logs

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

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

YesLimited
Unified mobile app for both instructors AND students

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

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

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

YesLimited

Additional updates for August

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

July 7, 2022 (v3900.44) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Calculate gradebook using points

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

YesYes
Display gradebook as points

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

YesYes
Copy question banks between courses

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

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

YesYes
Prohibit backtracking of test questions

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

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

YesYes
Download grade center history

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

YesYes
Edit points earned on an assessment question

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

  • an assessment posts grades automatically, but then the instructor changes the points earned on a question
  • the instructor removes an overridden grade so that changes to points earned reflect on the assessment grade

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

YesYes
Improvements to test question filtering

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

YesNo
Recategorize discussions & journals

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

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

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

  • view and download (default)
  • view only
  • download only

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

NOTES:

  • Non-supported file types will always be downloadable for users.
  • Some image, video, and audio file types will now open in a large panel. Users can view or play back media in the browser
  • Inline rendering applies to new and existing files in the course. Existing files will be set to ‘view inline and download’ by default. Instructors can change the files to 'view only' or 'download only' if preferred.
  • We convert supported content types to PDF on demand when a user accesses them. This conversion provides an improved user experience. We cache these files for 30 days. Files converted to PDF as part of this feature do not count towards your storage quota.
  • Hyperlinks in files are disabled.
YesNo
Original Blank Pages converted to Ultra Documents

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

YesN/A
Accessibility improvements of math formulas

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

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

YesNo
Larger panel for Message review and composition

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

  • Allow replies to this message
  • Send an email copy to recipients
YesNo
Pronoun and name pronunciation settings in Original courses

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

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

This setting is targeted for availability in FA2022.

YesYes

Additional updates for July

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

June 2, 2022 (v3900.41) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Weigh individual assessments and categories for final grade

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • view and download (default)
  • view only
  • download only

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

YesNo
Multiple attempts for group assessments

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

YesYes

Additional updates for June

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

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


May 5, 2022 (v3900.39) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Improvements to weighted grade calculation

Some instructors prefer to use category weights to calculate the overall grade. Currently, instructors are unable to assign weight to any empty grade category. This restriction requires each category to have at least one assessment. This is not always practical, especially at the beginning of an academic term. Now instructors can configure a weighted overall grade that includes empty grade categories. This will give the instructor greater flexibility for configuring the calculation.

Blackboard also added options to auto-balance weights and lock values you do not want to change. Currently, there is a warning when the weights do not sum to 100%, but the actual sum is missing. Now categories will auto-balance as the instructor sets the weights. Instructors can lock the weight for any category. A locked category is excluded from the calculation as other category weights are set.

YesSome
Test question filtering

The question filter supports common test taking strategies to reduce test anxiety. Students may complete questions they know first and skip harder ones. The filter enables students to quickly return to skipped questions. Students may also use the filter to find essay questions.

If a student submits a test with unanswered questions, a warning will alert the student. The alert shows the number of unanswered questions. The student may choose to submit the test or keep working. If the student chooses to keep working, the unanswered questions filter auto applies. The unanswered questions display automatically.

YesNo
Hide test timerIn response to student feedback, students can choose to hide the timer in timed tests. This may help to reduce pressure and anxiety during assessments. When students hide the timer, the timer icon stays visible. Students may view the remaining time as needed.YesNo
Prohibit late submissions usability improvements

In February, Bb released the Prohibit late submissions & Prohibit new attempts after the due date feature. With this release, there are two enhancements:

  • An instructor has selected this setting for an assessment. If students have submitted attempts, the instructor cannot change the due date to a date in the past.
  • If the due date has passed, the instructor will not be able to select the "prohibit late submission" setting.

These changes prevent instructors from triggering the submission of in-progress and saved attempts.

YesNo
Undo & redo in Bb Annotate grading tool

This release adds new functionality for the Bb Annotate grading tool: An "undo" and "redo" option. An instructor may undo a change and then if inclined, redo it.

NOTE: "Undo" and "redo" will not apply to comments. All other annotations are included for this capability.

YesYes
Display more than 50 entries in journals

To better support instructors and students who use journals:

  • students may make unlimited entries
  • students and instructors have improved navigation with pagination on the entries page
  • students and instructors can decide the number of items that appear per page
  • instructors have a count of graded journals
YesN/A
Session timeout warning for Ultra courses

When a user is idle for over three hours the session ends. A user must login again to continue to use Blackboard. If a user saves a page or selects a button, the session refreshes and stays active for three more hours. There can be times a user is working but considered idle. This happens because the browser is not sending data to Blackboard:

  • posting or responding to a discussion,
  • creating an assignment submission in the text editor, or
  • creating a content item.

With this release, users whose session is ending soon will receive a warning. This warning will appear at least six minutes before the session times out. If the user closes the warning before the session ends, the session will extend for three more hours.

NOTE: A user away from the computer for an extended time will receive the warning, but will not be able to extend their session. When the user closes the warning, they will return to the login page.

YesYes

April 7, 2022 (v3900.37)

(delayed until 4/22)

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Display one question at a time

Instructors may enable this setting from the Test Settings panel. This option also appears in Assignment Settings when the assignment includes questions.

Watch a video about displaying one question at a time on Ultra tests.

YesYes
Updated feedback display controls 

Supporting academic integrity and protecting assessment content is important. Instructors need controls and flexibility for sharing assessment results with students. This new choice allows the instructor to decide when assessment results become available.

If selected, the instructor defines when the student can view their assessment submission:

  • after submitting the assessment,
  • after the instructor posts the individual student's grade for the assessment,
  • after the assessment due date,
  • after the instructor posts all the grades for the assessment, or
  • on a specific date.

When not selected, students cannot view:

  • assessment content such as the title, videos or images, text sections,
  • the assessment questions,
  • answers,
  • automatic feedback, or
  • the additional content section at the end of the assessment.

Watch a video about how instructors can decide when assessment results become available for students.

YesYes
Post grades automatically

This new option gives control to the instructor to post grades at the right time. When selected, an assessment grade appears to the student as soon as the attempt is graded. To prevent students from viewing grades, the instructor may de-select this option. The instructor may view this new setting in the assessment settings and assessment preview panels. The workflow to post grades manually is still the same.

Watch video about how instructors can control to post grades at the right time.

YesNo
Calculated numeric question type

Robust and diverse questions better support assessment across various disciplines. The calculated numeric question type is important for math and other STEM courses.

This new question type supports the following:

  • Students may enter a number as an answer. The number can be an integer, decimal, or scientific notation. The largest value supported is 16 digits.
  • Instructors may combine text and mathematical formulas in the question.
  • Instructors may define an answer range. The range value can be an integer, decimal, or scientific notation. The largest value supported is 16 digits.
  • The answer field validates only numeric digits.

Watch a video about how to use this new question type within assessments and other student resources.

YesYes
Download test results

Instructors may need to download test results for external analysis and evaluation. External analysis is important for supporting course quality and assessment efforts. Furthermore, institutions often want compiled assessment data for accreditation and program review activities. With this release, instructors may download assessment results in the Ultra course experience. Instructors may download assessment results from either the gradebook grid or list views.

Watch a video about how to download test and assessment results data.

YesYes
Instructor search for student submission receipts

For each attempt a student makes, the instructor can search for a receipt confirmation number. This helps instructors find student submissions when extra verification is needed. Using this receipt confirmation number, the instructor can find the following information:

  • assessment name
  • assessment grade
  • the number of attempts for an assessment the student who submitted the assessment
  • the size of any file included with the submission; this allows the instructor to insight into what a student has attached for marking
  • submission date and time stamp

This information appears on the peek panel for all submitted attempts.

Watch a video about how to access student submission receipts.

YesYes
Copy content within an Ultra course

Course copy is an important feature for building out and updating courses. This new workflow supplies a way to duplicate content for quicker course building. Instructors can access the Copy Content menu to search for the current course. From there it is easy to navigate content and select content to copy or duplicate.

Supported content types include:

  • Folders
  • Documents
  • Tests, including group tests
  • Assignments, including group assignments
  • Links to websites
  • SCORM packages
  • Discussions and Journals
  • Learning Modules and individual items within a Learning Module

Watch a video about how to copy content within a single Ultra course.

YesYes
Code snippet added to content editor

Instructors and students can author and share computer code in the Content Editor using a new Code Snippet tool. The Content Editor identifies eleven programming syntaxes: Python; Java; JavaScript; Kotlin; R; PHP; Go; C; Swift; C# and HTML.

Watch a video about how to author and share computer code in the Ultra course content editor using the new Code Snippet tool.

YesYes
Enhancements to Instructor mobile app

The Blackboard Instructor app provides instructors with a way to manage courses on a mobile device. New updates include improvements to managing course content, grading, and engaging students. The new app uses Responsive Web Design (RWD) for Ultra courses. RWD ensures consistency and reduces the differences between desktop and mobile experiences.

Instructors will now be able to complete the following tasks in Ultra courses using the Blackboard Instructor app:

  • course building - including creating and uploading content
  • grading students work - including updating assessment settings
  • communication - including participation in discussions

The enhanced Blackboard Instructor app will be available on April 11, 2022, from the iOS and Android app stores. If you have already downloaded the app then it will be automatically updated if you have this choice enabled on your device or will require a manual update if this choice is not selected.

YesNo
Updates & surveys within Blackboard

To help users understand changes and effectively use new features, Blackboard will introduce:

  • Product updates are brief mentions of what is new in the Ultra Course View or Original Course View. Product updates will vary by role so instructors will have different updates from students.
  • User engagement surveys are brief polls launched to a small sample of users. Each survey has its own purpose. For example, a survey might ask users to rate their overall experience of a feature or workflow. A user can easily dismiss a survey and will not see the survey again.
YesYes
Session timeout warning for Original courses

When a user is idle for over three hours the session ends. A user must login again to continue to use Blackboard. If a user saves a page or selects a button, the session refreshes and stays active for three more hours. There can be times a user is working but considered idle. This happens because the browser is not sending data to Blackboard. Some examples are when a user is:

  • authoring a Discussion Board post,
  • authoring an Assignment submission in the text editor in Learn, or
  • creating a Content Item.

With this release, users whose session is ending soon will receive a warning. This warning will appear at least six minutes before the session times out. If the user closes the warning before the session ends, the session will extend for three more hours.

NoYes

March 3, 2022 (v3900.34) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Microsoft OneDrive File Integration

This integration allows instructors to add OneDrive files to the Course Content area, Learning Modules, and Folders. The instructor may need to sign into a Microsoft account to view and select files. After adding the OneDrive file, the instructor may rename the file in the course. The instructor may also set student visibility. To edit the content of the file, the instructor may enter full screen. A new browser tab opens, and the file is now editable.

The student has a read-only view of the file in the course.

YesNo
Learning Module improvements

When an instructor creates a learning module, all settings appear in a peek panel that opens on the right that lets the instructor:

  • name the learning module,
  • set the visibility of the learning module for students,
  • add an optional description,
  • apply forced sequence to the content in the module. Note this option is no longer available on the Release Conditions panel.

An instructor can add more content to a learning module with forced sequence applied. If an instructor adds or changes content, a warning notifies the instructor: "Additions and changes in content can make students who already started the module follow a different order."

YesNo
Sticky test header for students taking assessments

Test taking can be a stressful experience. We have designed a new test header to improve the student's testing experience. The new header provides 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 the instructor has set a time limit.

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.

YesYes
Automatic grades release for third party tools

This feature requires that the third-party tool uses LTI Advantage.

Updated behavior for tools

  • Ultra Course View: We now default to auto-post grades for LTI Advantage tools. Instructors will not have to remember to post grades. One exception exists when a tool indicates that grades should not post to students.
  • Original Course View: The behavior for LTI Advantage tools remains unchanged. Grades auto-release when the tool sends scores. One exception exists when the Grade Center column is not visible.

New capability for tools

  • Ultra Course View: If a tool sets that grades should not auto-post, scores sent to the Learn Gradebook only display to instructors. Instructors can choose to post grades for students, or the tool can auto-release grades later.
  • Original Course View: If a tool sets that grades should not auto-post, scores sent to the Learn Grade Center appear behind a “Needs Grading” status indicator. Students and instructors see that students have submitted work but not the result. When the tool releases grades, all students will see their scores.
YesNo
Automated course archive clean-up

Existing user-generated course packages will be set to expire in 90 days after the March update. Users who can create course packages will receive a one-time email notification about this change. Course packages created after the March update will expire and auto-delete 30 days after the creation date.

Users will be notified about the auto-deletion date in three ways:

  • When creating the package, the interface informs the user of this time constraint.
  • The notification that a package is ready to download informs the user of the time constraint.
  • In the course package list view for the course, the removal date displays for each package.
YesYes

Bug fixes address these issues:

  • Date picker uses the default server time zone rather than the user’s time zone: The date/time selector for course duration on course management pages uses the default server time zone rather than the user’s time zone.
  • Notifications are not created for some users: In the past, because of performance reasons, we omitted notifications for users with 500 or more enrollments. Now if the number of enrollments for a user falls below 500, the notifications resume. Please remember that this process will run only every 24 hours.

  • Unable to change course role in Ultra courses due to "Save" button disabled: Users with the appropriate privileges were unable to save role changes made in other users' profiles. The issue was that the "Save" button was disabled. This will be corrected in March.

February 3, 2022 (v3900.32) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Prohibit late submissions & new attempts after due date

Two new assessment settings are now available to give instructors more control over due dates and time limits.

  • "Prohibit late submissions" - Select this setting to enforce a hard deadline and disallow a late submission. In-progress and saved attempts will auto-submit at the due date. Students will receive a submission receipt via email. Specified accommodations are still honored.

  • "Prohibit new attempts after due date" - Select this setting to prevent students from beginning a new attempt after the due date.

Selecting "Prohibit late submissions" auto-enables "Prohibit new attempts after due date." However, an instructor can enable the "Prohibit new attempts after due date" option on its own to allow students to resume any attempt saved before the due date passes in the event there is a technical disruption during the assessment. Students who submit an attempt after the due date will have their submission marked as late.

YesNo
Granular Course Copy

Instructors can now select content from Original courses when copying content to an Ultra course. Previously, one had to go into the Original course and push the copied content into Ultra, which could be inconsistent in performance. This enhancement to course copy provides efficiencies and greater flexibility for reusing content. This will save time and reduce frustration when building a course.

The course copy procedure and process remain the same. The Copy Content menu now includes both Original and Ultra courses. Instructors may choose to copy all or select content. If the system encounters a problem with content copy an error report will appear. The details will provide more information about why the content failed to copy.

Supported content types are as follows:

  • folders
  • documents
  • tests, including group tests
  • assignments, including group assignments
  • links to websites
  • SCORM packages
  • discussions and journals
YesNo
User name pronunciation

All users can add text guidance and an audio recording of their name to their user profile. Users can use the text guidance to describe the pronunciation of their names for other users. Users can record the pronunciation of their name. The recording tool counts down to when the recording begins. The recording may be up to 20 seconds long.

This feature is released to Ultra first and will come to Original at a later date.

YesNo


Changes to Force Complete in Original Courses

The Force Completion option now requires a time limit and automatic submission. Blackboard made this change to enforce the submission of incomplete or abandoned attempts. This change is important so that instructors can access and grade these attempts. Instructors may also create a multiple attempt assessment with the Force Completion option. This change ensures that students can now start new attempts in this scenario.


Bug fixes address these issues:

  • When a student tried to access a course that began on a future date, the student received this error: "This course has ended. You can no longer access this course." This message is now updated to provide clearer information: "You can't access this course right now. Your instructor will allow access when the course is ready." 
  • When a student tried to access a group assessment, the student received this error: "Oops! Something went wrong. Please reload the page." Bb corrected this error. Students can now access the group assignment as expected.
  • Incorrect submission date on assignment submission receipt: The assignment submission receipt included the timestamp when the student started the attempt. The timestamp now shows the time/date the student submitted the attempt.
  • Feedback was not saved if the instructor did not click save before updating and saving the grade. This problem occurred only in Ultra courses. Bb corrected this error. Both the grade and feedback save as expected.


The January 2022 update consisted of bug fixes.

View previous updates to the Ultra Experience.