November 4, 2021 (v3900.26)
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.
|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.
In October tables were released. With the next update, tables have additional formatting options:
These options provide greater flexibility for faculty and students, especially in disciplines where the presentation and formatting of data is particularly important.
|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.
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.
October 7, 2021 (v3900.23)
|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.
|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.
|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:
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)
|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.
|Partial credit for fill in the blank questions||This 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.||Yes||Yes|
|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.
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:
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.
|Peer review assessment enhancements||Blackboard 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.
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)
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.
Unfortunately, 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.
|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.)
Gradebook in Ultra Course View is getting advanced filtering options! Filter 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.
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.
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.
|Peer Review Submission Linking||Instructors 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.||Yes||No|
|Embedding Images & Files in Original Courses||Original 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:||Yes||Yes|
|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.
|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.
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.
July 1, 2021 (v3900.17)
Bb redesigned the group set configuration page to improve performance and allow large courses to be more stable.
|Display overall grade as percentage|
This enhancement allows instructors to show the overall grade in a way that best aligns to the method in which they currently teach the class. Instructors can select now between Letter (grade schema) and Percentage. The selection will apply to instructors and students in the overall grade.
|Turn off Attendance column in gradebook|
While some instructors want or need to track attendance, they don't always need it represented in the gradebook. With this new feature, instructors can control the visibility of the Attendance columns and choose whether they want to use attendance as a grade or not.
Additionally, instructors can remove attendance columns from the gradebook without affecting the attendance itself. If instructors want to remove attendance, now they can do so from the attendance settings.
Bug fixes address these issues:
- In Ultra courses, manual grade columns were lacking a Post All grades button on the Submissions page. A Post All button is now present there for instructors to use.
- In Ultra Courses (and upcoming courses), Organizations, and Grades pages went blank on Safari, when the zoom was below 100%. Now, the pages display the courses the user is enrolled in.
- In the Original courses, the Content Editor wasn't loading randomly. Now, the Content Editor loads in all use cases.
June 3, 2021 (v3900.15)
delayed pending bug fix
|Rubric feedback by row criteria|
Feedback by criterion will be available wherever rubrics appear, like discussions, anonymous assignments, single and multiple attempts assignments, among others. With this addition to rubrics, segmented feedback provides more flexibility and detail to feedback provided by instructors grading an assignment.
When using the parallel grading workflow, the option will be available to all graders, but only the reconciler's feedback by criterion is visible to students. The workflow remains around rubrics, and thus, feedback inside rubrics for the delegated workflow will remain the same.
|Right to Left Support|
Full Right to Left language support will be available in Ultra courses:
|Audio/video recording for course announcements||Instructors can insert a brief (5 minutes) audio or video recording into an Ultra course announcement.||Yes||No|
|Peer Assessment enhancement|
Notifications: Students and instructors can learn about relevant changes in submissions via the Activity Stream. Instructors get notifications when new reviews arrive, and students get them when their reviews are graded.
Batch Edit: Instructors can edit peer review items in batches. They can adjust the due date of separate items at the same time by delaying or advancing the date in a given batch.
Bug fixes address these issues:
In the Ultra Experience, when Ultra Stream Notifications were sent to a specific, targeted role, the system announcement was sent correctly to the specific users with that institution role, but the Admin Announcement UI indicated the notification was sent to everyone. causing confusion for admins.
In the Ultra Experience, in tests, the student's browser needed to be refreshed manually in order to show them tests hidden by conditional availability, even after these conditions were met.
In the Ultra and Original Experiences, there were software updates related to server performance causing customer email alerts: Administrators were receiving Failed to Phone Home emails for software updates on SaaS environments. They will no longer see those emails. Also, as part of this change, the Update Status column has been removed from the Installed Tools page for Building Blocks.
In the Original Experience, after a Learn user had disabled their profile image from view, other users were still able to see it as it remained publicly available.
May 6, 2021 (v3900.13)
Instructors and other privileged roles will be able to decide if they want to add additional rules to how their overall grade is calculated when using calculation by categories. They'll be able to drop as many grades as they want (lowest/highest), as long as there are more items inside the category than dropped items, or to choose just the lowest or highest grade to be considered for that category. This feature serves a great variety of use cases, for instance, to help students at the end of the term or to remove outliers (highest/lowest) grades in order to get a better sense of students’ performance.
When rules are in place, students can gain access to their overall grade calculation details and see if some additional rules have been set by their instructors, which gives them clarity on how their grades are calculated and why their calculations might defer from the ones displayed in their gradebook.
|New message indicator||At a glance, all users will know when they receive new messages through a Blackboard course or organization. The new message indicator appears as a number inside a circle on the Messages tab, which is located on the Ultra dashboard's left navigation menu. This badge changes to a solid circle when users click on the Messages tab to view the list of messages, aggregated by course.||Yes||Yes|
|Proctoring Services Framework|
By leveraging and certifying against the very latest IMS LTI Proctoring standard and combining this open standards based approach with Blackboard’s own Premium APIs, Blackboard developed an extensible framework allowing partners and clients to build and deploy their integrations into the native test settings of the Ultra Course View.
Blackboard is the first and currently only LMS provider to be certified against this latest Proctoring specification.
|Pin Collaborate videos (coming May 13)|
With this month's Collaborate update, attendees can pin videos so they are always in view. When you pin a video, it moves the video to the top of the list and pins, or anchors, it there. It doesn't change the number of videos you see, just the order you see them in.
NOTE: Only moderators can see more than 4 videos at a time.
Bug fixes include:
In the Ultra Course View, when an assignment was created with Anonymous Grading, some daily notifications and digest email received after submissions were made, contained the names of the students who have submitted them. Bb fixed the issue.
In the Original Course View, in tests, some calculated numeric questions were wrongly marked as correct when the student introduced a combination of numeric values and letters in an answer that should be numerical only. Bb fixed the issue and added a further explanation on the Help pages regarding supported types of input for scientific notation, units and constants.
In the Original Course View, when recipients were selected for an enterprise survey response period, there was no way to identify or exclude child sections of merged courses, which caused some students to receive two copies of each survey. Bb fixed the issue.
April 22, 2021 (v3900.10)
|Conditional availability by member or group|
Instructors will be able to grant differentiated access to content based on their ultimate goals. As a new option to the conditional availability rules already present in Ultra courses (date/time and performance-based rules), faculty can now allow certain students to have access to specific content while selecting one or both existing rules mentioned above.
This new feature will be an incredible addition to those who want to create remedial paths to certain students, give different content to undergraduate and postgraduate students in a course, among other use cases.
|Assignment with Peer Review for Qualitative Peer Assessment|
Peer assessment is a practice becoming more common because it encourages development of students’ critical thinking abilities, gives them practice in critique of others in a professional manner, and allows for measurement of students’ analysis and communication skills. With this release, qualitative peer review can be enabled for an Assignment in the Ultra Course View. It’s simple for instructors and students to use, and has the following features:
As this is a first release of the Peer Review option for Assignments, there are some relevant use cases that aren’t part of this development, but are planned as future improvements. Please watch the FAQs and myUMBC for additional information.
|Improvements to the Ultra content editor|
In the Ultra Experience, the Rich Text Editor improvements are related to paragraph format change and allow the creation of more rich and customizable pages. These include: Clear formatting, text alignment , line height , and undo.
|Embed LTI Content in Original courses via content editor||In Original courses, appropriate LTI course tools will appear for instructors, course builders, teaching assistants, and students in the Add Content menu as additional tools alongside existing mashup tools. Two methods are supported: either the tool can add a link in the editor, or if the tool designates that the resource should be embedded, it will be inserted into an iframe in the Content Editor and rendered automatically.||N/A||YES|
|Disable notifications for users with high enrollments|
Typically, users enrolled in so many courses are support staff or instructional designers. Some faculty course coordinators or department chairs may also find themselves enrolled in large numbers of courses.
With this update, Blackboard improved the timeliness and performance of notifications for all users by no longer generating these notifications for users with more than 500 enrollments. This includes emails, push notifications, and the Activity Stream.A user with this large volume of course enrollments will still have access to all course resources but won’t receive notifications regardless of their settings.
January 7, 2021 (v3900.4)
Format content in a variety of different ways, including font colors, font sizes, and font style. A redesigned tool base provides a secondary bar that displays additional options, which is helpful on smaller screens. Students and faculty will see these changes everywhere they encounter the rich text editor in Ultra courses.
|User activity log|
Currently, there isn’t an easy way to capture what a user was doing at the time an issue occurred. With this update, users will now be able to capture their most recent session data -- the last 30 actions the taken in Blackboard -- and send it to DoIT staff, which can be used to identify root issues or escalate to Blackboard support. This feature will be available in the Support Panel as well as anywhere the “Oops! Your name is not on the list” message can occur.
December 3, 2020 (v3900.2)
|HTML / CSS support in Ultra documents|
Instructors can create, edit, and delete custom HTML/CSS code blocks in Ultra course documents. Instructors can select Add HTML when creating a document to add their own HTML and CSS and fully customize the appearance of their Ultra course documents.
Use of this feature will require that we have some means to host the content, primarily to avoid malicious scripts impacting the entire Learn system.
|Journal grading improvements|
Participation view can now support over 1,000 students at once. Instructors can clearly see when students post new journals and comments, and can view a single submission. Instructors can also use Ultra’s grading tools, including feedback and rubrics, to create and post grades. Both participation and submission views link to the gradebook. By default, students will be allowed to delete and edit their journal entries and comments, but instructors can also now choose to disable this permission.
|Test Feedback Release Settings||Instructors can enable more granular controls on when and what type of feedback is given to students when taking an assessment. Instructors can set up timed release to automated question feedback, correct answers, and question scores. They can also select when to show feedback: after submission, after due date, at a specific date, or after the assessment is graded. Students will see if and when feedback will be available for a specific assessment after they submit an attempt.||Yes||Yes|
|Gradebook tweaks||In the Student List View, instructors will receive additional search capabilities, column sorting options, and enhanced page controls for both large and small devices.||Yes||Yes|
Additional Improvements & Bug Fixes
November 6, 2020 (v3900.0)
|Content editor update|
Original courses will receive an updated, easier-to-use, more powerful Content Editor. Adding content has been simplified, and it works better on both hand-held devices and larger screens. There are new tool icons and some changes to tool behavior. Expanded libraries of special characters and emoticons are searchable and organized by category. The spellchecker is smarter and editing HTML is faster with line numbering and tag colors. Learn more.
This release introduces several improvements and new functionality for student list view in the Ultra gradebook.
|Larger icons||In this release, you’ll see new large icons in the Ultra experience. We made these changes to our icons to improve accessibility and differentiation for all users.||Yes||No|
|Quiz Timer Update||Students will know how much time they have left down to the last second when they take a quiz in the Ultra Course View. The quiz timer will change from minutes to seconds when less than 1 minute remains.||Yes||Yes|
Additional Improvements & Bug Fixes
- To improve performance for very large classes, Blackboard removed the option to filter the blog participant list to display only non-participants in Original Course View.
- Items in the Details & Actions section of the Ultra Course View will now load in a single wave. This change will prevent students and instructors from selecting the wrong item as the page loads.
Emailed course announcements in both the Original and Ultra Course Views now include both the course name and the title of the announcement in the email subject.
In the Ultra Course View, students couldn’t navigate to the next course content item from a discussion board post if conditional availability was set.
In the Ultra Course View, users who had system permission to create materials but were not enrolled in a course couldn’t add permanent files to a course.
- In the Ultra Course View, some users couldn't join Collaborate sessions with their course links.
- In the Ultra Course View, some replies weren’t visible in discussions. Also, some users’ discussion response and reply counts didn’t appear correctly.
- In the Ultra Course View, some users’ profiles and activity in discussions appeared as though the users were unavailable.
- In the Original Course View, discussion forum links that were broken during a course copy couldn’t be removed from the new course.