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. 

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.

December 2, 2021 (v3900.28) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Point-based & point range rubrics

The new point-based rubrics in Ultra offer customized options such as varying scales, ascending or descending ranges, and totals exceeding 1,000 points possible for an assessment. 

Point-based rubrics created in Original courses will migrate to Ultra courses when content is converted, which provides faculty with ample time to review the new rubric format and prepare courses for Ultra.
YesNo
Accessibility support for course banner image

Providing visually appealing courses that adhere to accessibility best practices and standards can help engage students and ensure an equitable learning experience. To ensure that all visual elements are accessible, faculty will have the option to include an image description when uploading a banner image in the course or add an image description to existing course banner images. Images can also be marked as decorative whenever they are not used as primary content. 

YesNo
Hide groups from student view

Groups are also enhanced in the December update. A new choice to hide course groups from the students’ view gives instructors the option to use groups to discretely organize students based on their performance, interests, adopted knowledge, and other criteria. The visibility of the groups can be easily seen when using gradebook filters or conditional release.

YesYes
Granular time accommodations

When adding a time limit accommodation, faculty may specify any percentage of extra time (e.g., 15% or 80%) that is needed to honor a time limit accommodation. Currently, faculty must use a fixed percentage for for the additional time accommodation. This change provides greater flexibility to the instructor supporting both the students’ needs and the instructor’s assessment strategy.

YesNo
Save preferences for Bb Annotate

Instructors and graders will be able to save common preferences for the Bb Annotate grading tools, which minimizes the need to reset between grading student submissions.

Note: This feature is on a gradual deployment, which means it may be released over several weeks rather than with the update on December 2nd.

YesYes
File Size Upload limit

Individual file uploads in Original courses will be limited to 75 MB to reduce impact on course quotas. The file upload limit applies to both faculty AND student submissions.

Instructional Technology recommends that large files are uploaded to cloud storage and media files (audio/video) to Panopto

NoYes

Bug fixes address these issues:

  • Issues with Discussion board and Discussion analysis: Discussion analysis showed no information and the Discussion board visible/hidden menu was too small to use. These issues have been fixed and the UI now behaves as expected, and allows for better working space.
  • Student assessment answers show "None given" and "saved question 0 multiple times": The access log for assessments displayed confusing and inaccurate messages. The log now displays messages as expected.
  • Issues with special characters causing erratic behavior: The platform was having issues interpreting some characters,  causing special characters to appear in the subject of Original course messages in the global navigation updates, and the “What's New” Module. It also caused inadvertent posting of an announcement and emails sent to users to fail when an ampersand was in the course name. This behavior has been fixed and now works as expected.
  • Student preview does not work properly on Ultra courses: The 'Reset preview' text box was shown in white over white, which made the message invisible unless the user highlighted it. Also, selecting the 'Reset' button didn't reset the actual coursework for the student preview user. These issues have been fixed by changing the color of the text and correcting the behavior of the 'Reset' button.
  • Adding LTI option to the questions feedback: To give instructors more tools for providing feedback on student evaluations, the present development makes the LTIs available in the question feedback RTE. The following plugins were enabled in the automatic feedback editor: LTI content, YouTube inserts and Cloud files access.
  • Spacing issues on Ultra documents - Course restore: The line spacing between a heading and paragraphs was affecting legibility. After resolving the spacing issues for courses that are currently in the database, the issue remained for course documents that were restored in Ultra. The space issue was adjusted and corrected for courses that weren't in the database when the upgrader was executed.

November 4, 2021 (v3900.26) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Pronoun support

As part of planned diversity, equity, and inclusion improvements, this update allows users to express to others their personal pronouns. This fosters greater respect between students and with faculty engaging online by letting others know how best to refer to them in their group activities and discussions.

The first phase of pronoun support will display pronouns to users in Ultra courses. A future release will allow for the display of pronouns in Original courses.

NOTE: Support for pronouns in Blackboard will be announced at a later date. Please follow myUMBC for updates.

YesNo
Course banner image

As a next phase in Blackboard's work to improve overall navigation and an intuitive course experience, the course card image the Courses page can now be used as a course banner in Ultra courses.

When adding a new course image, instructors can opt to make it visible within the course and are able to easily crop the image to the preferred size and zoom in or out on the uploaded image to select the part they want to focus on. This change also makes it easier for instructors to add a course schedule and for students to identify course faculty members and class meeting days, times, and location.

YesNo
Tables enhancements

In October tables were released. With the next update, tables have additional formatting options:

  • Text Style
  • Alignment options
  • List Attachment
  • Insert content

These options provide greater flexibility for faculty and students, especially in disciplines where the presentation and formatting of data is particularly important.

YesYes
Progress tracking improvements

The first phase of progress tracking required no activity in the course to be enabled. With this release, instructors will be able to enable progress tracking at any time during the term. Enabling this functionality will give students an easy way to keep track of what they have done inside each one of their courses.

When enabling progress tracking later than the beginning of the term, participatory items will be retroactively marked as complete. For example, assessments submitted previously by students will be marked as complete. Non-participatory items, like Ultra documents, will still need to be manually marked by students.

YesNo

Bug fixes address these issues:

  • Needs grading didn't take effect in Ultra grade journal on 'Grades and Participation' screen: this issue is now fixed and the Needs Grading filter is working as expected.

  • Unable to rename file in Ultra assignment: when an instructor tries to rename a file added into an Ultra assignment, a pop up titled "Close Without Saving?" appears when the user navigates away from the page. The edit option is there for instructors to be able to rename assignment's files, and it is now working without errors.

  • When the search box was clear in the gradebook grid view, not all columns were restored: when interacting with the search box, the elements (students(rows) and gradable items (columns)) are filtered. Now when the input is clear (by using the X button or removing the text explicitly with the keyboard), and all elements are restored, meaning no filtering.

  • Completed Course was not displayed in the vertical message tab for students: this has been fixed. Completed courses are displayed in the messages tab for students.

  • In the Ultra Course View, students' usernames were not displayed after due date accommodation was enabled for groups, the roster or the discussions page. We've fixed the issue.
  • In the Ultra Course View, the entire discussions UI was freezing if a user had a lot of enrollments.
  • In the Ultra Course View, the Enable/Disable feature, and the Save and Submit buttons weren't behaving properly for assessments that have text questions only. The assessments were enabled in the presence of an answer, but couldn't be disabled when the answer was removed.
  • In the Ultra Experience, multiple options for matching questions weren't supported with voiceOver for IOS phones, and gestures didn't allow a correct interaction with controls or inputs, affecting the experience for IOS users who had voiceOver enabled and tried to select an answer in an exam or quiz.
  • In the Original and Ultra Experiences, whenever a tab was loaded, individual records for all modules on the accessed page were logged. While on Ultra the impact was negligible, on the Original Experience this could account for between 25% to 75% of data, slowing down the execution of reports for more relevant details.
  • In the Original and Ultra Experiences, some users were still experiencing overlapping issues on Wiris math formulas after the latest fix we provided. The Stix font family wasn't used when the overlapping happened. Blackboard fixed the issue for formulas created from this point onwards. Formulas created before this fix need to be modified again manually, using the Wiris editor.

October 7, 2021 (v3900.23) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Student receipts for assignments

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 can also receive an email with that information to their UMBC email, and download a similar text file to keep for their records.

YesYes
Increased rows & columns for rubrics

Rubrics are grading tools that help instructors to assess student performance and give feedback in detail. Before, Ultra allowed a maximum of 10 columns and rows. To provide more flexibility for the grading processes, Blackboard will increase the limit up to 15 columns and rows.

YesYes
Tables in content editor

Tables are a common way for instructors and students to align and organize content in a customized manner, better suited to their own preferences. For deeper versatility in the Rich Text Editor, there will be an Add Table functionality.

NOTE: For this initial release, tables will not support:

  • Text Style
  • Alignment options
  • List
  • Undo
  • Attachments
  • Insert content
YesYes

Bug fixes address these issues:

  • In the Ultra Experience, when instructors sent messages to course users and then marked the course as complete, the unread message count for students wasn't reduced when message was read. 
    In the Original Experience, when admins copied a course with embedded LTI links within the Rich Text Editor to a new or existing course, those links broke. They were still pointing back to the old course where users of the new course didn't have permissions. Links within course copies made before this fix still need to be manually fixed.
  • In the Ultra Course View, when creating assignments with the auto zero set on, any past due standard assignments and basic LTI links are marked with automatic zeros after their due date. However, items deployed using partner cloud were never marked. 

  • In the Ultra Course View, in the instructor view, the help bubble icon on a discussion board disappeared once an instructor had created and closed the discussion. When accessing the discussion again, the icon disappeared as well. 

  • In the Ultra Experience, an instructor added a SCORM package to a course content with a grade category TEST/ASSIGNMENT, and then created another test with a release condition based on the performance of the SCORM content. However, the SCORM test didn't appear for students. 

  • In the Ultra Course View, when users tried to add content to a course by selecting the plus sign "+" for adding content, then selecting on "+ Create", a menu on the right was displayed. If the user then selected the 'X' for canceling the action on that menu, the content area didn't refresh properly. 

  • In the Ultra Course View, students couldn't access the feedback when selecting the feedback icon in tests that used Respondus LDB, getting a console error instead.
  • In the Original and Ultra Course Views, instructors were required to login again to Learn, after they accessed an LTI tool and selected the Return to Learn button.

September 2, 2021 (v3900.21) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Collapsible grading panel

To help instructors, teaching assistants, and graders have a better view of the content they're grading, Blackboard widened the screen of the submission area. It also includes a collapsible and expandable panel where users can navigate through tabs such as rubrics, feedback, and originality report.

Additionally, instructors and students can navigate the submission view and the panel tabs with different scroll bars. Independent scroll bars allow instructors or graders to scroll up and down the submission content without affecting the side tab navigation or the header. Now, instructors can use rubrics in a more practical way and provide feedback focused on a specific part of the submission.

YesNo
Partial credit for fill in the blank questionsThis improvement will support those instructors who wish to grade student attempts at a more granular level. It will also benefit students based on their associated effort on these complex questions, and provide them with a more accurate representation of their proficiency.YesYes
Show or hide "Additional Content" section in assessments

At the end of Ultra Assignments and Tests there is section called “Additional Content” where students can add text, images and files to complete their submissions or support their answers. This section was always included by default and could confuse students into thinking they needed to complete this extra requirement. Instructors would like to choose when this should be an option or not.

In this release, Blackboard has added a toggle to allow instructors to show or hide the “Additional Content” section. This gives greater control to instructors over what’s displayed to their 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.

YesNo
Notification enhancements

Email notifications are reminders to help instructors and students keep track of important updates in their courses. In this release, we've made an email styling enhancement to the following email areas:

  • New announcement
  • New message
  • Assessment overdue soon
  • Assessment overdue
  • Daily digest

To provide better context, the course ID appears now above the course name. Message content will now follow the justification that the author selected. This makes messages easier to read and allows greater customization for the author. The footer now explains when notification settings can be managed. Finally, the new general style is cleaner and should align better to user expectations. We're excited because users will receive the valuable information contained in their emails in the best possible way.

YesYes
Peer review assessment enhancementsBlackboard improved the user experience of a peer review assignment when a student is removed from a course (disabled or unavailable), and when a student’s submission is deleted during the peer review process.

When an instructor deletes a student submission containing peer reviews, they'll receive a warning message, as they'll lose those reviews. The list of affected students will be visible. When grading or viewing peer reviews, the submission from a disabled or unavailable student will still be available.

If a student started or completed a review on a student submission that is no longer available (because it belongs to a disabled or unavailable student), they'll see they no longer have access to it. The student can start a different review if they’d like or if asked by the instructor. An instructor can see when a student completed a review that’s no longer available, giving the opportunity to let the student know they don’t need to complete another review if that’s preferred.

YesNo

Bug fixes address these issues:

  • In the Ultra Course View, an instructor attempting to grade an assessment submission with rubrics and then cleaning the rubric with the grading's bar grading pill, was seeing the bar's grading pills empty and colorless, unlike the rubric's grading pill. 

  • In the Ultra Course View, when changing the way students were sorted in the gradebook for a course's discussion, assignment, test or attendance, students were sorted alphabetically by first name instead of being sorted by last name. 

  • In the Ultra Experience, within the Grade Center of a course set as Unavailable, the Last Accesscolumn was showing students as if they had accessed the course instead of showing no activity. 

  • In the original Course View, the preview mode for the TinyMCE editor was displaying a grey background. We've updated the editor and made it transparent, for better readability of contents.

  • In the Original Course View, there was an inconsistency in the TinyMCE editor between edit and display modes for list items regarding their line spacing. 

  • In the Original Course View, there were differences of color for certain HTML tags within the TinyMCE editor, between the display and edit modes. 

  • The course cards in Base Navigation now better reflect the access state for students when viewed by instructors. There are several settings that determine whether students can access a course including the availability setting, course duration dates, and term dates. Previously, a course would appear as “private” or “open” depending only on the availability setting and didn’t consider duration or term date restrictions. Now the displayed state of a course card will consider these settings and better reflect students’ ability to access the course.

August 5, 2021 (v3900.19) 

Feature

About

Ultra Course

Original Course

Progress tracking

Students can mark and track their progress inside their courses. Progress tracking will be initially limited to only new courses where no activity has taken place. Instructors will need to make a decision before their course has started whether they want to try progress tracking or not. Those who choose to turn the feature on will provide Blackboard with valuable input about how the feature functions to help improve it in future releases.

In this first version, student preview activity counts as activity, so if anything has been done from student preview mode, instructors won’t be able to turn this feature on.

YesNo
Updated Navigation Bar in Ultra Courses

Ultra Course View is getting a new navigation menu! The top menu will be changed to text based vs. the iconography currently used. The top menu will be sticky – this means that it will remain visible to users even after they have scrolled down the page. In a later release, instructors will be able to add a banner image to their course homepage.

Additionally, the Student Preview tool will be moved to the new header. This will allow instructors access to student preview whenever they are on any top navigation page (e.g. Calendar, Gradebook, etc.)

YesNo
Gradebook filltering

Gradebook in Ultra Course View is getting advanced filtering optionsFilter your gradebook view by multiple variables like users, groups, items, and categories. Navigate back and forth among student submissions that are included in the selected filters. Bookmark frequently used filters to reuse in a course for that term.

YesYes
(smart views)
Badges

Being rewarded is a powerful extrinsic motivator. One of the best rewards is recognition for a job well done. You can reward your students with badges throughout your course to keep students motivated and create a map of what they can learn. You can award badges for the completion of a project, skill proficiency, or levels of experience. Students' badge collections can represent the key learning milestones that they met. Earned badges show a complete view of a person's skills and achievements. 

The Badgr integration replaces achievements currently used in an Original course.

YesYes
Calendar Hyperlinks

Given the rapid shift to online learning, virtual office hours or synchronous collaboration sessions have become quite common. Instructors want the ability to easily link sessions to calendar invitations so students can have the best opportunity to successfully find where they need to be.

The Ultra calendar will support web addresses and hyperlinks in the calendar location field. Instructors can link any virtual tool of their choice in the calendar event, and students can launch the virtual session from the calendar itself.

YesYes
Peer Review Submission LinkingInstructors can access the submissions reviewed by a student right from that student's grading panel. They can easily select a specific submission and grade a student’s review in context.YesNo
Embedding Images & Files in Original CoursesOriginal courses will see increased support for adding files and images to tests. These question types and fields now support attached files and media using the Add Content button in the editor:
  • Calculated formula: Question text
  • Essay: Answer text
  • Matching: Question/Answer pairs
  • Multiple Answer: Answer options
  • Multiple Choice: Answer options
  • Ordering: Answer options
  • Short Answer: Answer text
YesYes
Original course Content Editor update

The Content Editor for Original Experience and Original Course View was last updated in November 2020. Since then, there have been inconsistencies in the way content is formatted when editing content and when viewing it. With this release, settings like font, size, color, and spacing are more consistent. When existing content is selected, the editor tool bar updates to display its current font, size, and header settings. This creates a better WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) experience.

NoYes
MS Teams integration

NOTE: This feature will NOT be available at UMBC until a patch is available to reconcile usernames and campusIDs with our email structure.

The updated Microsoft Teams integration provides enrollment synchronization between Ultra courses and MS Teams class participants for up to 1800 enrollments in a course. 

YesTBD

Bug fixes address these issues:

  • In the Ultra Course View, when making a copy of a course, if quotes were used in custom alt-text descriptions for images, the Ultra assignments and assessments in the course appeared blank.
  • In the Original Experience, some Learn SafeAssign reports couldn't be rendered.
  • In the Original Course View, we've added support for media and files in more places for Tests, Surveys, and Pools.
  • In the Original Course View, some instructors and administrators couldn't save their HTML in the new Content Editor despite having the privilege to do so.
  • In the Original Course View, any image in the data picker component (icons, chevrons, etc.) used within courses, always appeared broken.
  • In the Original Course View, a text in a table cell remained left aligned even though a different text alignment was specified using the TinyMCE.

View previous updates to the Ultra Experience.