A Better Blackboard Learn - May 2019 Upgrade to Learn Ultra

See What's Better

Blackboard Learn, the course management system utilized by Northern Illinois University faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and students, continues to be an important platform for facilitating teaching at learning at NIU, with over 97% of students and 95% of teaching faculty using the system during Fall 2018. 

This year, we are moving to the Blackboard Learn Ultra Experience! 

The upcoming upgrade will occur on Friday, May 24 at 10:00 PM. It will not require an outage, and should not affect the speed or function of the system. 

In addition to new features to make Blackboard easier to use, this year's upgrade will include moving to a new landing page with a fresh look and feel and introduces the Blackboard Learn Ultra Course View that provides a simple, streamlined course experience for you and your students.

The following is a quick overview of the tools that will become available following the upgrade.

Blackboard Ultra Experience - Navigation

The new Ultra experience is a completely redesigned interface with simplified, intuitive workflows, a modern look and feel, and an improved mobile experience. Everyone will see the new Ultra landing page and navigation. 

Highlights of the new navigation

open all close all

Blackboard Ultra institution page

The overall design of Blackboard has not changed significantly in 9+ years. The new look and feel of Blackboard Ultra is clean and contemporary. Through simplified icons and a consistent visual design, the new Ultra experience feels modern and innovative.

Blackboard Ultra on a smartphone

Blackboard Learn Ultra is designed to be fully responsive on a mobile device and to display consistently across devices. That means you will have a better experience when you log into Blackboard directly in the browser on your mobile device. Note that courses using the Original course view may be only partly mobile-responsive, and using a computer is recommended for submitting assignments or tests in a course using the Original course view.

Blackboard Ultra Institution Page

The Institution Page includes information and helpful links for using Blackboard and other technologies for teaching. The information on this page is customized for you based on your teaching role. Students will see slightly different information to help them be successful. Learn more about the Institution Page »

instructor profile in Blackboard Ultra

Your Blackboard Profile lets you customize the information students see about you in your Blackboard courses. Edit your profile to add an image to represent you, add contact information, and modify your notification settings. Your profile image appears on course content pages, rosters, discussions, messages, and in the Activity Stream. Learn more about editing your profile »  

activity stream in Blackboard showing important due dates and recent messages

On the Activity Stream, you can see what's new in all your courses and jump directly into course activities from the list! You don't need to dig through the system or miss submissions from students. You see a prioritized list of what's relevant to you, including updates to discussions, recent messages, and new student submissions to assessments. For a student, the Activity Stream also highlights upcoming or past due dates, newly added content, and recently posted grades. Learn more about the Activity Stream »

courses page in Blackboard Ultra

The new Courses page sorts your courses into a timeline so that you can focus on courses that are currently active. You can search for courses by name or filter the view. Courses you mark as a favorite will appear at the top of your course list, making it easy for you to access the courses you use most frequently. You can even make courses visible or hide them from students right from your Courses list. You can no longer reorder your course list; courses are listed in alphabetical order. Learn more about the Courses page »

email notification settings

Stay up-to-date on activity in your courses with updated notifications. You will receive a daily digest of activities in any of your courses, based on your configuration of what notifications are important to you. You can also customize the notifications you receive in your Activity Stream and disable email notifications. Learn more about Notification Settings »  

Blackboard Ultra Course View

The Ultra Course View extends the benefits of the base navigation to courses with a cleaner, more modern design, easy-to-use workflows, and powerful new tools. All courses will continue to use the Original view by default, and faculty can choose whether to enable the Ultra Course View on one or more of their courses. Learn more about the Ultra Course View by watching the Ultra Course View Preview, or by attending an upcoming workshop.

Highlights of the new course view

open all close all

ultra course view

The Ultra Course View is cleaner and more modern than the Original Course View. It is simpler to use and more intuitive, as well. Tools are contextual to reduce clicks and content appears in the course using peek layers that slide from the right.

ultra course view highlighting the arrow to open or close a learning module

Content is displayed on a single page within learning modules and folders that expand and collapse, so it is easier for students to find the content and assessments they need.

blackboard ultra course view highlighting the menu to add content

Quickly add files, links, assignments, and other content and assessments wherever you want! In addition to uploading files from your computer, you can also add content from cloud storage systems like OneDrive For Business, Dropbox, or Google Drive. Learn more about creating content »

adding content to a Blackboard Ultra course using drag and drop

Quickly add files to your course by dragging them to the content panel of your course. You can drag one or multiple files, or even a folder (in some browsers). Learn more about creating content »  

Document content type in blackboard with the ultra course view

While you can build your content primarily using uploaded files, the Ultra Course View includes a new content type, Document, that allows you to build complex pages with a mix of text, images, videos, and files. Documents are optimized for mobile devices, so you and your students can access them directly from a smartphone browser. Learn more about the Document content type »

brand new text editor for Blackboard Ultra Course View

The brand-new text editor in the Ultra Course View is optimized to create content that is mobile-compatible, so that you and your students can access it directly from a smartphone browser. The text editor is simplified, but includes tools for formatting text, adding links and media, and embedding mathematical and scientific formulas in your text. Learn more about the new text editor »

class conversation on an assignment in the Blackboard Ultra Course View

If you enable Conversations for individual content items, students can discuss the content with you and their classmates. They can ask for help, share sources, or answer questions others have. As the conversation develops, it appears only with the relevant content. You can enable conversations for Documents, Assignments, and Tests. Learn more about Class Conversations »  

Item List View of the Gradebook in the Blackboard Ultra Course View

The Item List is your new default view of the course gradebook. You can view all the coursework you have assigned and your grading progress. Quickly see how many students have submitted an assessment, how many you need to grade, and how many grades need to be posted. You also can see when you have completed grading an item.

Use the toggle in the upper left to switch from Item to Student Grid view. The Student Grid view is a traditional spreadsheet-like view of the Gradebook. Learn more about grading in the Ultra Course View »  

keep grades private until you post them in the Ultra Course View

In the Ultra Course View, you can control exactly when students are able to see the grades you have entered. Once you enter a grade, it is private until you Post it. You can post individual grades, or wait and post all of the grades for a particular assessment at once. Learn more about entering and posting grades »  

gradebook with a zero that was assigned automatically due to a missed submission after the due date

If your assessment has a due date enabled, Blackboard can automatically assign a zero to any student who does not submit the assessment by the due date. You can override the zero with a grade, of course, but the automatic zero can help students realize that they have missed a due date.

While automatic zeros is enabled by default, you can disable it in the Gradebook settings. Learn more about Automatic Zeros »  

view student profile photos in the course roster

Get to know your students with the new profile photos, which they can edit from their Profile in the global navigation menu. These photos appear in the Roster, Gradebook, Discussions, Conversations, Messages, and more. Learn more about Profiles »  

adding an accommodation for a student

In the Ultra Course View, you can set accommodations for a student once via the Roster, and then they will apply to all assessments in your course. Accommodations can affect due dates, by never marking a student’s submission as late, or the time limit, by providing extra or unlimited time for assessments with a timer. Learn more about Accommodations »  

announcement in a pop-up window within the Ultra Course View

In the Ultra Course View, you cannot have announcements sent to students via email, like you can in the Original Course View. Fortunately, announcements appear in the Activity Stream along with other course updates. Announcements also appear as pop-ups for each student the next time they enter the course. Learn more about Announcements »  

creating a message in the Ultra Course view

The Ultra Course View does not include the Send Email function that you may be used to in the Original Course View. Instead, send Messages. You and your students can send messages to each other, multiple people, or the entire class. Unlike sending an email in Original Course View, the Messages are kept in the system and can also be sent via email. Learn more about Messages »  


Learn More

Quick guides, and tutorials developed by Blackboard are also available in addition to workshops from the Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center.

Visit Us on Facebook
Follow Us on Twitter

Last Updated: 4/29/2019