What's New in Ultra?

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

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

New Features Coming Soon

There are no new Ultra features scheduled for release in the October 2020 update. Check back in mid-October for information on new features that will be available in the November 2020 update.

New Features Now Available

Date added: September 3, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

Date added: September 3, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

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

Date added: September 3, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

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

Date added: September 3, 2020
Type: New feature

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

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

Date added: August, 2020
Type: Administrative

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

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

Date added: August, 2020
Type: Integration

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

Date added: August, 2020
Type: Enhancement

Now, you can use an enhanced text editor to add and display more types of content, links, embedded media, and file attachments in announcements in Ultra courses. Learn more about creating announcements.

Date added: August, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

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

Date added: June, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

Date added: June, 2020
Type: New Feature

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

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

Learn more about Journals.

Date added: June, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

Date added: April, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

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

Date added: May, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

Learn more about Bb Annotate.

Date added: March, 2020
Type: Enhancement

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

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

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

Date added: December, 2019
Type: Enhancement

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

Date added: November, 2019
Type: Enhancement

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

Date added: October, 2019
Type: Enhancement

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

Date added: October, 2019
Type: Enhancement

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

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

Date added: September, 2019
Type: Enhancement

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

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

Date added: September, 2019
Type: Enhancement

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

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

Date added: August, 2019
Type: New feature

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

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

Date added: June, 2019
Type: New feature

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

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

Learn more about parallel grading.