Ultra Course View Transition
Request Ultra Courses
Instructors are encouraged to begin using ultra courses as soon as they like. Past courses will remain in their existing format and content can be copied from the old view to ultra. You can request that one or all of your courses be created in the new view.
Blackboard Ultra Course View (UCV or "ultra courses") is an entirely re-designed approach to Blackboard courses, both for instructors to create content and students to participate in courses. It is distinct from Original Course View (OCV or "original courses") which is Blackboard's name for courses as they currently exist. It is also distinct from Ultra Base Navigation (UBN), which refers to the new menu structure that was enabled at Syracuse during the summer of 2021. All courses, whether in original or ultra view, are part of Blackboard Learn.
ITS and Online Learning Services (OLS) have been working to test and configure ultra courses, create support documentation, design training materials, and develop a rollout plan in conversation with campus partners. Syracuse University instructors began offering credit-bearing courses in UCV during the Fall 2022 semester. The university will complete the transition from original courses to ultra courses during the summer of 2024. For the Fall 2024 term, all newly-created courses will be in ultra course view. Instructors will retain access to their previously-offered original courses to copy content into ultra courses and for record keeping purposes.
Instructors are encouraged to evaluate the Ultra Course View and make the move to an ultra course when they are ready by submitting a request for an ultra course; they can do so as early as Spring 2023. By default, Blackboard courses will continue to be created in the original view until Fall 2024 or an instructor requests the change. An instructor can request the change in any one course — they do not have to update all of their courses to ultra at the same time until Fall 2024.
Ultra courses provide a number of usability enhancements for both instructors and students. However, there are some features that exist in original courses that are either not yet available in ultra courses or will not be enabled in ultra course. This document is focused on some key benefits of ultra courses, but is not exhaustive. Instructors should refer to our feature comparison for help in deciding whether their course is a good candidate for conversion from original to ultra.
Please see the feature comparison for more specifics about the differences between individual tools in Ultra Course View and Original Course View.
User Interface Benefits
The following are look-and-feel benefits for ultra courses:
- Modern Look and Function — Ultra courses better reflect contemporary web design practices. They are also more accessible and function better on mobile devices.
- Streamlined Content Presentation — Ultra courses deliver content in fewer pages with folders and modules that collapse and expand. Blackboard has done extensive user testing and research to come to a design that helps students more easily find the content they need.
- Pages with Hybrid Content — A new content type called "Document" allows instructors to create pages that more seamlessly mix text, images, videos, and files. Some file types, like Word documents and PDFs, can be presented in-line rather than requiring a student to download the file to view it.
Easier Content Creation and Editing
Ultra courses include workflow improvements for instructors such as:
- Add Content Anywhere — Instructors can now add materials directly where they want in the page, including in between existing items. Instructors can also create more modular content that they can drag and drop to reorder.
- Drag and Drop Files — The ability to drag and drop files from your computer to the Blackboard page are greatly expanded.
- New Content Editor — The new Content Editor is streamlined to focus on the most common tools for adding text, links, media, and formulas. It also has features to help create mobile-compatible and accessible content.
Ultra courses enable new ways to communicate with your students or them to communicate with one another:
- Conversations — You can enable "conversations" on individual content items or assignments. This lets students ask questions and receive replies about the content in the place where they're viewed. Instructors no longer need to create dedicated discussion boards to address questions about assignments or content items.
- Announcement Pop-Ups — Course announcements now appear as a pop-up when students enter a course making it less likely that they'll miss key information.
- Messages — Blackboard has always included course messages as a communication tool but it was buried and difficult to use. The new design puts course messages in a better location for in-course communication which could replace some email use
The gradebook in ultra courses has been redesigned to include more options for its display and re-organized workflows:
- Item View — In addition to the traditional column layout, there is an new mode to view items for grading with summary information about their due date and grading status
- Students in the gradebook — Instructors can now search the gradebook for individual students and see all assignments and their status on a per-student basis
- Posting Grades — Grades in ultra courses aren't sent to students until you post them. This increases the amount of control instructors have about when students have access to their grades and feedback.
- Automatic Zeros — For past-due assignments students can receive an automatic zero. This grade can be overridden by the instructor when the student makes a submission, but helps notify the student when they've missed a due date.
- Accommodations — You can now set accommodations on a per-student basis. Once set, the accommodation is automatically applied to all of that student's assessments in the course. Instructors no longer have to go through and add student accommodations for each student on each assessment.
Access to ultra course sandboxes is now being provided on request. Please register for the Ultra Course View Orientation if you are interested in exploring the new features. Keep an eye on this page for more information about ultra course documentation and trainings offered by OLS.
The timeline below describes some of the work already completed on the path to enabling ultra courses at Syracuse University and articulates current goals for enabling ultra courses more broadly. It is subject to change based on the findings in each phase.
|Summer 2018||Transition from hosting Blackboard on-campus to a cloud-based version.||The transition from self-hosting to a version hosted in the cloud allows for more frequent bug-fixes and updates with less downtime along with the ability to enable Blackboard's newest features as they are released.|
|Summer 2021||Ultra Base Navigation is enabled.||This changed the look-and-feel of Blackboard immediately upon login, along with the way that users navigated their courses. This is a required step toward enabling Ultra Course View and introduced new ways of interacting with Blackboard at the top-level. It greatly improved Blackboard's accessibility and the way that it functions on mobile devices. There are additional benefits in this navigation level that are only realized once instructors begin using Ultra Course View.|
|Spring 2022||Ultra Course View sandboxes are made available by request.||Instructors interested in exploring the features of ultra course view can request a sandbox site to experiment in by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Exploration is welcome but unsupported at present.|
|Ultra Course View training is delivered to selected users.||Online Learning Services is partnering with select instructors, primary SITETL alumni, to get feedback on ultra course view settings and training materials. Selected instructors will complete a three-week training program and share their experiences with the new view in preparation for a broader rollout.|
|Fall 2022||Ultra Course View is used by selected instructors in credit-bearing courses.|
A vanguard group of instructors that have completed ultra course training and received ultra for their credit bearing courses. They are working closely with Online Learning Services for support. Their experiences will inform decisions about system configuration, priority for support documentation, additional training needs, and the timeline for a broader rollout on campus.
|Spring 2023||Ultra Course View is more widely available for interested instructors.||In the Spring 2023 semester, 38 faculty offered 60 credit-bearing courses in Blackboard Ultra Course view for hundreds of students in a variety of formats, from large lectures to small seminars and from undergraduate introductions to graduate-level courses.|
|Summer 2023 - Spring 2024||Instructors increasingly opt-in to teaching in Ultra Course View.|
Instructors are increasingly encouraged to adopt Ultra Course View for their Blackboard courses. New instructors are particularly good candidates for ultra courses. Instructors can adopt Ultra Course View at anytime they like.
|Summer 2024||Courses created in Ultra Course View by default.||For the Summer 2024 term, Blackboard courses will, by default, be created in the Ultra Course View. Instructors who wish to revert to Original Course View can contact email@example.com with questions.|
|Fall 2024||All Syracuse University Courses offered in Ultra Course View.||Transition to Ultra Course View complete. All newly created courses will be in Ultra Course View. Instructors will retain access to past Original View Courses as a source of material for copying into Ultra Courses and for record-keeping purposes.|