Currently viewing the tag: "Awards"

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:

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The Learning Technology Team was officially created on 1st September 2007 (15 years ago) although some of the key parts were actually started when Rob Howe became the first UON Learning Technology Adviser on 1st August 1997 (25 years ago).

Over the years we have worked with some amazing staff and students.

We’ve gone from strength to strength over the years and have a lovely collection of awards to our name over this time including:

Blackboard Catalyst Award for Leading Change Winner, 2018

Belinda Green – Computing, Women in IT Excellence Awards, 2018

Changemaker Team of the Year, 2017

ALT – second place Team of the Year, 2017

Iain GriffinALT Learning Technologist of the Year (Highly commended), 2016

ALT – winner of the team award, 2014

Thank you to everyone who has made this all possible. You can see more details about the team in the Unify news article (login may be required)

Blackboard Catalyst 2018
Changemaker 2017
ALT, Blackboard and Changemaker awards
Belinda Green – Women in IT Excellence Awards 2018
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Project update

The University of Northampton is now three years into its five year project to move NILE from Blackboard Original to Blackboard Ultra courses. While it might seem like we’ve only completed the first year of a three year project, the project actually started back in 2019, around six months before the UK’s first COVID lockdown in March 2020.

In order to move to Ultra courses, the first thing that we needed to do was migrate NILE from Blackboard’s data centre in Amsterdam to a new data centre in Frankfurt. The planning for this began in autumn 2019, and the actual move took place during the 2019/20 winter break. Almost immediately after the move, our first Ultra course, EDUM129, was in development with the UON’s Institute of Learning and Teaching, and, very soon afterwards, EDUM129 was piloted with students.

In June, 2020, we enabled UBN (Ultra Base Navigation), which transformed the look and functionality of the NILE home page.

Remember the old days when NILE looked like this?

We’ve come a long way since then.

In second phase of the project, which took place during the 2020/21 academic year, all faculties were invited to nominate staff to take part in a review of Ultra courses, the outcome of which would determine whether to adopt Ultra courses across the University. Staff from seven different subject teams took part in the pilot, the results of which were positive, and which gave UMT (University Management Team) the confidence to go ahead with the roll out of Ultra courses across the University.

You can read more about the findings from the 2020/21 Ultra course pilot in our previous blog posts:

The third phase of the move to Ultra was the adoption of Ultra courses for all zero-credit modules, plus all modules at foundation and level four, which took place during the 2021/22 academic year.

The upcoming academic year, 2022/23, sees us entering the fourth phase of the move, in which as well as zero-credit, foundation, and level four modules, modules at level five will be delivered as Ultra courses on NILE.

The 2023/24 academic year will be the final year of the Ultra project, in which modules at levels six, seven, and eight will be delivered for the first time via Ultra courses. In 2023/24, NILE programme-level courses will also be Ultra for the first time.

From September 2024 onward, all courses will have been Ultra for at least a year, and Ultra will be business as usual.

Ultra course awards

Have you created a great Ultra course? Or, do you know someone who has? We’re really keen to find out more about how staff have used Ultra courses this year, and to highlight and celebrate example of good practice with Ultra.

If you’ve designed a good Ultra course, or have just been using one or two Ultra features well this year, we’d really like to hear from you.

You can nominate yourself, or someone else. You can nominate an individual member of staff, or multiple members of staff, or an entire team. In your nomination, we’ll just ask you who it is that you’re nominating, which module the nomination is for, and what it is that you think they’ve done well. And you don’t have to tell us who is making the nomination if you don’t want to.

Nominations are open until the 18th of September, 2022.

What new features do you want to see in your Ultra courses?

Blackboard have put a significant amount of development into Ultra, but we know that there are still features that staff would like to see added to Ultra courses. This is why we would like to invite you to contribute your ideas for the development of Ultra. These could be things that you liked to use in Original courses that are not available in Ultra courses, or it could be entirely new things. We will collate your responses and send them to Blackboard’s product development team.

Submissions are open until the 18th of September, 2022. To submit your ideas for Ultra, please use the following form:

More information and help with Ultra

Throughout the move to Ultra, the Learning Technology Team have been on hand to advise and train academic staff about all aspects of Ultra. If you’re new to Ultra, or simply want to find out how to get the best from it, please do get in touch with your learning technologist:

If you’re stuck for ideas about how to design your Ultra course, your learning technologist can help you with this. You might also find it useful to check out our Ultra demonstration courses, and to have a look at the NILE design standards:

You can find out lots more about the move to Ultra on the UON Ultra project page on our website, which includes information about what Ultra is, and why we are moving to it:

Finally, did you know that new features are added to Ultra every month? You can always catch up with what’s new in Ultra courses via this link:

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