Posts by: Robert Farmer

The new features in Blackboard’s August upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 4th August. This month’s upgrade includes the following new features to Ultra courses:

Ability for staff to add images to learning modules

Following feedback from staff about the need to make Ultra courses more visually engaging, the August upgrade will allow staff to add images to learning modules.

• Blackboard Ultra course with images added to learning modules.

For more information about customising the appearance of learning modules, please see: Blackboard Help – Create Learning Modules, Customise your learning module’s appearance

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New location for Ultra groups

After the August upgrade, the groups tool in Ultra courses will move from the Details & Actions menu to the top menu.

• Ultra courses with new Ultra groups location highlighted

For more information about creating and managing groups, and about group spaces in Ultra courses, please see: Blackboard Help – Groups

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Improvements to messages tool

Prior to the August upgrade, although courses which contained unread messages were flagged, they were not sorted to the top of the list in the messages page. Following feedback from staff and students, courses with unread messages will now be automatically placed at the top of the list.

• Messages page with courses with unread messages sorted to the top of the list.

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More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

NILE Ultra Course Award Winners 2023

The Learning Technology Team would like to say a very big thank you and many congratulations to the four members of academic staff who received a NILE Ultra Course Award at the University’s Learning and Teaching Awards ceremony on Thursday 6th July.

This year’s winners were:

  • Helen Caldwell & Joanne Barrow – EDUM074, International Perspectives on Education
  • Alison Power – MID1028, Scholarly Practice in Midwifery
  • Jodie Score – SLS1019, Introduction to Microbiology

The Ultra Course Awards recognise staff who have created excellent Ultra courses for their students, and each course submitted for an award was reviewed by a panel to ensure that it met the award criteria, which are that the course:

Nominations for the next round of Ultra Courses Awards will open in August 2023, where courses taught during the 2022/23 academic year will be considered. The winners will be formally announced at the 2024 UON Learning and Teaching Awards.

Blackboard Upgrades 2022/2023

The last twelve months have seen a lot of changes to NILE, and particularly to Ultra courses.

Between August 2022 and July 2023 we’ve blogged about 65 upgrades to Blackboard, almost all of which have been upgrades to Ultra courses:

  1. Advanced scoring options in multiple choice and multiple option test questions (July 2023)​
  2. Complete/incomplete grade schema and formative assessment option (July 2023)​
  3. Resizing media option in Ultra documents (July 2023)​
  4. Announcements moved to the top navigation bar (June 2023)​
  5. Ultra tests: upload questions from a file (June 2023)​
  6. Journals – submission status filters available when using assessed journals (June 2023)​
  7. Drag and drop content into to Ultra courses (May 2023)​
  8. Email non-submitters of Blackboard Ultra assignments (May 2023)​
  9. Improvements to hotspot questions in Ultra tests (May 2023)​
  10. Ability to prevent backtracking in Ultra tests with page breaks (May 2023)​
  11. Ability to reuse questions in Ultra question banks (May 2023)​
  12. Improvements to Ultra rubrics (May 2023)​
  13. Grading attempt selector improvements (May 2023)​
  14. Ultra course content search (April 2023)​
  15. Hotspot question improvements (April 2023)​
  16. Multiple grading schemas (April 2023)​
  17. Improved submission page sorting controls (April 2023)​
  18. Discussion navigation improvements (April 2023)​
  19. Quick access to student overview from multiple locations (April 2023)​
  20. Ultra analytics improvement – deactivated students no longer show in the student progress reports (April 2023)​
  21. Prevent editing or deletion of discussion posts (March 2023)​
  22. Improved data and analytics in Ultra courses (March 2023)​
  23. Improved attempt switching when grading student submissions with multiple attempts (March 2023)​
  24. Polygon shape tool available when creating hotspot questions in Ultra tests (February 2023)​
  25. Sort items by grading status in the Ultra gradebook (February 2023)​
  26. Students can see other members of their group in Ultra courses (February 2023)​
  27. Ally alternative format views count towards progress in progress tracking (February 2023)​
  28. Prevent students from editing or deleting Ultra discussion posts after the due date (January 2023)​
  29. Model answer question type supported in Ultra tests (January 2023)​
  30. Improvements to Ultra test randomisation options (January 2023)​
  31. Drag-and-drop content re-ordering improvements (December 2022)​
  32. Course links (December 2022)​
  33. Single student progress report (December 2022)​
  34. Improvements for copying content (December 2022)​
  35. Question banks descriptions and search (December 2022)​
  36. Simpler exit actions for student preview (December 2022)​
  37. Improvements to ‘needs grading’ count for Blackboard Ultra assignments (December 2022)​
  38. Hotspot questions in Ultra tests (November 2022)​
  39. Course activity report under the analytics tab in Ultra courses (November 2022)​
  40. Student course access data available in student grades overview (November 2022)​
  41. Improved grade history report available in the Ultra gradebook (November 2022)​
  42. ‘Sticky’ Ultra gradebook view (November 2022)​
  43. Turnitin icon is displayed in Turnitin assignments in Ultra and Original courses (November 2022)​
  44. All content market icons appear alongside the content item in Ultra courses (November 2022)​
  45. Improvements to unread messages indicator (November 2022)​
  46. Student engagement reports for course content in Ultra courses (October 2022)​
  47. Improved access to student grades overview in the gradebook in Ultra courses (October 2022)​
  48. Enhanced auto save capability in the content editor in Ultra tests & assignments (October 2022)​
  49. Maths formulas accessible with screen readers in Ultra courses (October 2022)​
  50. Course name appears in browser tab in Ultra courses (October 2022)​
  51. Add your preferred pronouns and name pronunciation to your NILE profile (September 2022)​
  52. Copy rubrics into Ultra courses (September 2022)​
  53. Ultra courses cannot be accidentally copied into themselves (September 2022)​
  54. Improvements to question banks sorting controls (September 2022)​
  55. Discussion replies in Ultra courses are available from the grading page (September 2022)​
  56. Improvements to the Ultra test timer for students (September 2022)​
  57. Microsoft Immersive Reader included as one of Ally’s alternative formats (September 2022)
  58. ​Turnitin problem in Original courses fixed (August 2022)
  59. Ability to manage question banks in Ultra courses (August 2022)​
  60. Additional exceptions available for Blackboard assignments and tests in Ultra courses (August 2022)​
  61. Improved Gradebook filters in Ultra courses (August 2022)​
  62. Improved auto-save functionality for students when using the content editor in Ultra tests and assignments (August 2022)​
  63. Improvements to LaTeX equation support in Ultra courses (August 2022)​
  64. Import/Export group sets and members in Ultra courses (August 2022)​
  65. Improvement to the Messages tool in Ultra courses (August 2022)​

More information about all of the upgrades to Blackboard is available here: https://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/category/nile-update/

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The new features in Blackboard’s July upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 7th July. This month’s upgrade includes the following new features to Ultra courses:

Advanced scoring options in multiple choice and multiple option test questions

Currently, when setting up multiple choice and multiple option test questions staff can select from the following options:

  • All or nothing – students must select all the correct answer choices to receive credit. If a student selects one or more incorrect answer choices, they earn no points;
  • Allow partial credit – students receive partial credit if they correctly answer part of the question;
  • Subtract points for incorrect answers – students will have points subtracted for incorrect answer choices, although the overall question score will not be less than zero.
• Multiple choice/option test question options prior to the July upgrade

Following the July upgrade staff will have more control on the way that scores for each question are compiled, and will be able to:

  • Define a positive percentage value to award credit for a correct answer;
  • Enter a negative percentage value (up to a maximum of -100% ) to subtract credit for an incorrect answer;
  • Allow a negative overall score for the question.

In the following example, it is possible to score from a maximum of 10 points (by selecting only the first and third answers) to a minimum of -30 points (by selecting only the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth options). A student selecting all six options would score -20 points.

• Multiple choice/option test question options following the July upgrade

More information about using tests in Ultra courses can be found at: Blackboard Help – Tests, Pools, and Surveys

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Complete/incomplete grade schema and formative assessment option

Following the July upgrade, staff will be able to use a complete/incomplete schema when assessing student work that does not require a grade to be given. The complete/incomplete schema still requires an assessment to be given a point value, but any amount of points given, including zero, will result in the assessment grade awarded being ‘complete’.

• Ultra assignment with complete/incomplete schema selected

When a value is provided, the mark shows as a tick to show that the assessment has been completed.

• Gradebook view of an assessment with a complete/incomplete schema.

The July upgrade also includes the option to mark assessments as formative. When this option is selected, the word ‘Formative’ is displayed alongside the assignment in the gradebook. Staff have the option to display ‘Formative’ to students also.

• Assignment settings panel with complete/incomplete schema and formative assessment selected

The complete/incomplete schema and the ability to note assessments as formative can be used independently or together, and can be used with both Turnitin and Blackboard assessments.

The following screenshot shows the student view of the gradebook where two assignments have marked as formative and where the complete/incomplete schema has been used.

• Student view of the gradebook

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Resizing media option in Ultra documents

After the July upgrade, when adding an image to an Ultra document staff will be able to resize the media using the corner handles that appear when the document is being edited and the image is selected.

• An image being edited in an Ultra document

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More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

Blackboard are currently researching the next round of gradebook enhancements for Ultra courses and are keen to hear directly from academic staff who have used the Ultra gradebook.

If you would like to give feedback directly to Blackboard about your experience of using the gradebook, and to put forward suggestion for gradebook improvements, you can access the survey below.

Learn Ultra Gradebook Feedback Survey: https://forms.office.com/r/k9T8C2S6Gx

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Kaltura Essential Maintenance Complete

JULY 5, 2023

Kaltura is now available again, following essential server maintenance that took place between 12:00 BST on Monday the 3rd of July and 12:00 BST on the Wednesday the 5th of July, 2023.

Important changes to be aware of and actions to take

• New location for video.northampton.ac.uk
Students and staff are no longer able to log in to video.northampton.ac.uk to access Kaltura MediaSpace.
The new address is: mymedia.northampton.ac.uk

• Action needed to reconnect the Kaltura Capture recorder
Please note that action is required by all students and staff to relink their Kaltura Capture recorder. See the following FAQ for more information: How do I connect Kaltura Capture to MyMedia?

• Videos temporarily not displaying the correct creation date
Content uploaded to Kaltura prior to 12:00 BST on the 3rd of July will not currently display the correct creation date. However, all content creation dates will be restored in due course.
Content uploaded to Kaltura on or after the 5th of July will display the correct content creation date.


Kaltura – Essential Maintenance Notification – 3rd to 5th July 2023

JUNE 19, 2023

Essential maintenance will be taking place to the Kaltura system between 12:00 BST on Monday the 3rd of July and 12:00 BST on the Wednesday the 5th of July, 2023.

During the maintenance window some aspects of the Kaltura system will be unavailable.

Services not affected:

Kaltura media content embedded in NILE courses and elsewhere will continue to be available and will play as normal. This includes Kaltura videos which have already been submitted by students for assessment.

Services affected for staff

Staff will not be able to upload new content into Kaltura through NILE, at video.northampton.ac.uk, via Kaltura Capture, or when using the KMSGo app. Media previously uploaded into Kaltura will not be able to be embedded into NILE courses and elsewhere.

Services affected for students

Students will not be able to upload new content into Kaltura through NILE, at video.northampton.ac.uk, via Kaltura Capture, or when using the KMSGo app. Media previously uploaded to Kaltura will not be able to be added to assignments as part of the assignment submission process.

Recommended actions:

  • Kaltura content that needs to be available in NILE courses during the maintenance window should be added before 12:00 BST on the 3rd of July.
  • Video assignments with submission dates during the maintenance window should be moved to fall after 12:00 BST on the 5th of July.
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NILE courses for the 23/24 academic year have been created and staff are now able to find and enrol themselves onto their 23/24 NILE courses. All NILE courses created for the 23/24 academic year and onward are now Ultra courses.

To find out more about enrolling on NILE courses, and how to get them set up ready for teaching, please see our guide: Getting your NILE course set up and ready for teaching.

If you are planning to copy content into your new NILE course from an old NILE course, please make sure that you follow the instructions in our FAQ: How do I copy content into a NILE Ultra course? (Note that this guide is also available as a three-minute video demonstration.)

To find out more about the expected standards and requirements for NILE courses, please see the NILE Design Standards.

For practical design ideas, and to see what a well-designed Ultra course can look like, please see the Learning Technology Team’s Ultra demonstration course, CRIT101, which is available for all staff to view in NILE under the Organisations tab.

For additional guidance about creating effective Ultra courses, staff are encouraged to book a NILE Ultra Course Development Workshop with their learning technologist.

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The new features in Blackboard’s June upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 2nd June. This month’s upgrade includes the following new features to Ultra courses:

Announcements moved to the top navigation bar

Following the June upgrade, Announcements will move from the ‘Details & Actions’ menu to the top menu in Ultra courses.

• Blackboard Ultra course with new location for ‘Announcements’ highlighted

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Ultra tests: upload questions from a file

Prior or to the June upgrade, Ultra tests could only be created directly in Blackboard. After the upgrade, staff will be able to author tests offline in Excel or in a plain text editor (e.g., Notepad for Windows or TextEdit for Mac) and create tests questions in bulk in Ultra courses by importing the file. For more information about how to do this, please see: Blackboard Help – Upload Questions

• Blackboard Ultra test setup screen showing option to upload questions from file

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Journals – submission status filters available when using assessed journals

Following the June upgrade, staff will be able to use filters in the Marks & Participation view in journals. These filters will allow staff to quickly view their students’ journal entries based on the status of their submissions.

• Journal Marks & Participation view with Marking Status options highlighted

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More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

The new features in Blackboard’s May upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 6th May. This month’s upgrade includes the following new features to Ultra courses:

Drag-and-drop content into Ultra courses

Staff will be able to upload files into their Ultra courses simply by dragging a file or folder into the course content area of their Ultra course.

• Drag and drop content into Ultra courses

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Email non-submitters of Blackboard Ultra assignments

Staff using Blackboard Ultra assignments will be able to quickly select and message students who have not submitted any work for assessment by setting the student status filter in the assignment inbox to ‘No Submission’, selecting all students, and choosing ‘Send Message’. When selecting more than one student as a recipient of a message, the recipients will be BCC’d into the message, ensuring that students’ identity and contact information remain confidential.

• Blackboard Ultra assignment inbox, with student status filter, select all, and send message button highlighted

As well as being able to email non-submitters from an Ultra assignment inbox, staff can also use this functionality to send email messages to students based on other critera. By using the inbox filters and the sortable header columns, staff can quickly organise the inbox, and can also manually choose one or more students to send email messages to from the Ultra assignment inbox.

Please note that this ability to select and email students directly from an Ultra assignment inbox is only able to be used with Blackboard Ultra assignments, and is not available when using a Turnitin assignment in an Ultra course.

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Improvements to hotspot questions in Ultra tests

Staff creating hotspot questions in Ultra tests will be able to zoom in to their image, and to view it full screen in order to more precisely define the hotspot area.

• Ultra test hotspot question with zoom in/out and fullscreen buttons highlighted

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Ability to prevent backtracking in Ultra tests with page breaks

Prior the May upgrade, staff could only use the ‘prevent backtracking’ option in Ultra tests if the test did not contain any page breaks. After the upgrade, staff will be able to prevent backtracking in tests which contain page breaks. The ‘prevent backtracking’ option ensures that students progress through the pages of a test in a predetermined sequence, and will be helpful when later test questions provide hints or reveal answers to questions on previous pages.

As tests with page breaks may contain multiple questions per page, students who have an unanswered question on a page and try to navigate to the next page will receive a warning message prompting them that they have an unanswered question, and that they will be unable to answer it should they proceed to the next page.

• ‘Continue to the Next Page’ unaswered question warning message

You can find out more about setting up and using Ultra tests at: Blackboard Help – Create Tests

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Ability to reuse questions in Ultra question banks

Staff will be able to copy questions between question banks by selecting the new ‘Reuse Questions’ option. Additionally, staff will be able to copy questions from existing tests directly into their question banks.

• Ultra question bank with ‘Reuse questions’ highlighted

You can find out more about using Ultra question banks at: Blackboard Help – Question Banks.

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Improvements to Ultra rubrics

When marking using Ultra rubrics the performance level descriptions will be hidden by default. This change streamlines grading for staff who are familiar with the performance level requirements. However, staff can quickly choose to display the performance descriptions if needed for grading.

• Marking with an Ultra rubric – ‘Show description’ highlighted

Following the May upgrade it will also be possible to deselect a performance level (e.g., excellent, good, statisfactory, etc.) if choosing another level of performance isn’t appropriate. Prior to the May upgrade, once a peformance level was selected, it could be changed, but not deselected.

The May upgrade will also allow criterion feedback to be collapsed, allowing for a more streamlined view of the grading panel.

Finally, keyboard navigation of rubrics will improve following the May upgrade, introducing the ability to navigate between rubric criteria using the tab key, and to use the up/down arrows to select a performance level.

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Grading attempt selector improvements

When viewing a student’s Blackboard Ultra assignment submission, if there are multiple submission attempts the assignment viewer will automatically choose the most appropriate attempt to present by default based on the ‘Grade Attempts’ setting and the grading completion status.

Grade Attempts settingGrading completion statusDefault attempt displayed
Last attempt with a gradeAnyMost recent attempt
First attempt with a gradeAnyFirst attempt
Attempt with the highest gradeAll attempts are gradedAttempt with the highest grade
Attempt with the lowest gradeAll attempts are gradedAttempt with the lowest grade
Average of all attemptsAll attempts are gradedMost recent attempt
Attempt with the highest gradeThere are ungraded attemptsOldest ungraded attempt
Attempt with the lowest gradeThere are ungraded attemptsOldest ungraded attempt
Average of all attemptsThere are ungraded attemptsOldest ungraded attempt

Regardless of the settings, all attempts will still be available to view in the assignment viewer, and can be quickly accessed via the attempt selector.

• Blackboard Ultra assignment with attempt selector highlighted

For more information about setting up and using Blackboard Ultra assignments, please see: Ultra Workflow 2: Blackboard Assignment

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More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

The new features in Blackboard’s April upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 7th April. This month’s upgrade includes the following new features to Ultra courses:

Additional features coming on Friday 14th April.

For the first time in Blackboard (this was never a feature in Original courses), after the April upgrade users will be able to search for and locate content in a course. The content search facility is available to both staff and students.

• Ultra course content area with the search button highlighted
• Ultra course content area with a search term entered and results showing

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Hotspot question improvements

Following the April upgrade, staff will be able to define hotspot areas in Ultra tests using a circle shape selector, as well as the rectangle and polygon shape selectors.

• Hotspot question editor with circle selector selected
• Hotspot question with two circular hotspot areas defined

You can find out more about using hotspot questions at: Blackboard Help – Hotspot Questions

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Multiple grading schemas

Prior to the April upgrade, Ultra courses could only contain one grading schema. Following the April upgrade, Ultra courses will be able to contain multiple grading schemas. Schemas can be added and updated in the Ultra gradebook settings, via the ‘Manage Mark Schemas’ tool.

• Ultra gradebook with ‘settings’ button highlighted
• Ultra gradebook settings with ‘Manage Mark Schemas’ highlighted

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Improved submission page sorting controls

After the April upgrade, staff will be able to more effectively sort Blackboard assignment submissions in Ultra courses, and will be able to sort by students’ first or last names, ascending or descending.

• Sorting Blackboard Ultra assignment submissions in the gradebook

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Discussion navigation improvements

After the April upgrade, staff will be able to more easily view student activity, and marks and participation in Ultra discussions via the updated tab navigation in the discussions panel.

You can find out more about setting up and using Ultra discussions at: Blackboard Help – Discussions

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Quick access to student overview from multiple locations

Prior to the April upgrade, selecting a student in the class register opened up the member information side panel which contains only limited information about the student.

• The member information side panel in the class register

Following the April upgrade, selecting a student in the class register will take staff directly to the student overview page for that student.

• Student overview page

Staff can still access the member information panel in the class register by selecting the ellipsis ‘•••’ menu located to the right of the student’s name in the class register, and choosing ‘Edit member information’.

Following the April upgrade, the student overview page will also open when a student’s name is selected in an Ultra discussion or message.

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Ultra analytics improvement – students with deactivated enrolments no longer show in the student progress reports

Prior to the April upgrade, students with deactivated enrolments (i.e., students who had been originally enrolled on a NILE course, but who subsequently transferred off the module, or withdrew from their studies) still showed up in the student progress report in Ultra courses

Following the April upgrade, the analytics tools in Ultra courses will no longer show students with deactivated enrolments.

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Bb Annotate – improvements to commenting feature

Prior to the April upgrade, when using Bb Annotate to add comments to papers submitted to Blackboard assignments in Ultra and Original courses, comments could only contain plain text. Additionally, once saved, staff could delete their comments, but could not edit them.

Following the April upgrade, staff will be able to both edit and delete comments they have made. Also, comments will allow rich text features to be added, such as the ability to change the font colour, to make text bold or underlined, and to add hyperlinks.

• Adding a comment to a Blackboard assignment

You can find out more about using Bb Annotate to provide feedback and comments on student assessments at: Blackboard Help – Bb Annotate

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More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

The new features in Blackboard’s March upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 3rd March. This month’s upgrade includes the following new features to Ultra courses:

  • Prevent editing or deletion of discussion posts
  • Improved data and analytics in Ultra courses
  • Improved attempt switching when grading student submissions with multiple attempts

Prevent editing or deletion of discussion posts

The March upgrade includes an important enhancement to discussions in Ultra courses, which allows staff to prevent students from editing or deleting their discussion posts while the discussion is ongoing.

At present, staff can choose to lock an assessed discussion on the due date, but cannot prevent students from editing and deleting their own discussion posts prior to the due date. Following the March upgrade, staff will be able to select ‘Prevent editing’ when setting up an assessed or non-assessed discussion, which will make all published posts permanent.

• Discussion Setting with ‘Prevent editing’ selected

More information about setting up and using Ultra discussions is available at: Blackboard Help – Create Discussions

Improved engagement analytics in Ultra courses

Following the March upgrade, staff will be able to get a quick overview of their students’ engagement in their Ultra courses.

Under ‘Course Activity’ in the Analytics section of an Ultra course, staff will be able to see how much time students have spent in their Ultra course, along with the number of days since their last access. Both ‘Hours in Course’ and ‘Days of Inactivity’ will be sortable ascending and descending, and from this view staff will be able to select one or more students and bulk message them.

• View of ‘Course Activity’ panel following the March upgrade

Improved attempt switching when grading student submissions with multiple attempts

When students make multiple submissions to Blackboard assignments in Ultra courses, after the March upgrade it will be quicker and easier to navigate the submissions.

Rather then having to choose which submission to view, staff will immediately be presented with the most recent submission, and will be able to switch between submissions directly inside the submission viewer.

• Viewing a Blackboard assignment with multiple submissions

More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about the new features available in this month’s upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist