Introduction

Following up on our recent post, ‘What do UON staff think about Blackboard Ultra?‘, staff who have designed, built and taught students on Ultra courses shared their thoughts with us about the work involved in creating Ultra courses.

In order to better understand this issue, we asked UON staff piloting Ultra courses the following question:

“If you were discussing Ultra with a colleague, what would you advise them on the following two matters:

  1. How much time would you suggest they put aside for training and getting up-to-speed with Ultra?
  2. How much time would you suggest they put aside to put their first Ultra course together, assuming that they had already got the static content items (PPTs, PDFs, videos, etc.) they needed already prepared?”

This question was put to all members of staff piloting Ultra courses, and eight responses were received (FAST=4; FBL=1; FHES=3). Of the eight members of staff who responded: one was teaching a 20 credit level 4 module; one was teaching a 20 credit level 4 module and a 10 credit level 5 module; one was teaching a 20 credit level 5 module; two were teaching 20 credit level 6 modules; one was teaching a 40 credit level 6 module; and two were teaching 30 credit level 7 modules.

Findings

The responses to the first question varied, with suggestions ranging from 2 to 3 hours, to 4 to 5 hours, and up to 2 days.

As can be seen from the chart below, the responses to the second question varied very widely; however, both the median and mean averages are very close at 3.25 and 3.29 days respectively. Interestingly, there was no correlation between the credit value of the module and amount of time taken to put together one’s first Ultra course. Respondents 1, 5, 7 and 8 (who chose the most and the least amounts of time) were all teaching 20 credit undergraduate modules.

Suggested time (in days) to build one's first Ultra course

Please note that the qualitative responses from staff are in many cases considerably more nuanced than the simple quantitative figures presented here in the findings, and in some cases a judgement has been made as to the best single figure to represent a respondent’s views

Recommendations

Given the available evidence, it is suggested that staff may need to spend the following amount of time training, planning, and putting together their Ultra courses.

  • Approximately 1 day Ultra training (including Ultra training with a learning technologist, and spending time on one one’s own getting used to Ultra)
  • Between 3 and 3.5 days to plan out and put together the first Ultra course
  • Between 2 and 2.5 days to plan out and put together subsequent Ultra courses

The following timescales do not take account of the amount of time it takes to prepare, create and update teaching materials and other static content (e.g., PowerPoints, videos, etc.)

Further considerations

Where staff are transferring extant Original courses to Ultra, rather than working on a brand new module, this may be a good opportunity to consider a redesign of the NILE site. Some staff have reported that the Original to Ultra process presented a good opportunity to do this. Additionally, these staff also reported that incorporating a redesign made the task of rebuilding their Original courses in Ultra a more worthwhile experience, and that subsequently their Ultra courses were better than their Original courses. Support for a NILE site redesign is available from the Learning Designers (LD@northampton.ac.uk).

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