Currently viewing the tag: "Ultra"

Many thanks indeed to everyone who took the time to complete our ‘What new features do you want to see in your Ultra courses?’ survey that ran during August and September 2022.

The good news is that most features that staff wanted to see in Ultra are either already available or are in development. The University of Northampton, along with many other institutions worldwide who use Ultra, have been working with Blackboard to provide ideas and feedback about Ultra, and in response to this Blackboard have recently tripled the size of their Ultra development team and have substantially increased the rate at which Ultra is developing and improving.

Below are the responses that we received from staff about what improvements they wanted to see in Ultra, along with a response from the Learning Technology Team about whether the improvements are available or coming soon. Please note that where improvements are planned for one to three months, they are very likely to be implemented. Improvements planned for three to six months are in development, and is it fairly likely that these will be implemented. Improvements planned for six to twelve months are in the early stages of development and may be implemented, but this could change.

Also, did you know that new features are added to Ultra courses every month? Normally, Blackboard is upgraded on the evening of the first Thursday of each month, meaning that new tools are features are available on the first Friday of each month. The Learning Technology Team provide a summary of all the new features that are coming to Ultra courses, and you can keep up-to-date with each month’s upgrade at: https://blogs.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/category/nile-update/

Survey responses from staff and replies from the Learning Technology Team

Response 1. “Exportable Rubrics – I would like to be able to create a rubric in NILE Ultra and then download it as a document (PDF?) and then add that to the NILE section on Assessments so students can easily see the criteria. I’d also like the rubric window when assessing to take up more of the screen – currently it’s over to the right hand side in a really narrow space which can be difficult when giving longer feedback.”

Response 2. “Rubrics in a grid.”

Reply to 1 & 2: When a Blackboard Ultra assignment, test, discussion or journal is marked with a rubric, students are automatically able to view the rubric as many times as they like prior to submitting the assignment. Students can do this by selecting the assignment and choosing ‘This item is marked with a rubric’. This will open the rubric, but will not begin the submission process, so students can come back as often as they like in order to view the rubric.

• Student view of accessing a rubric

Blackboard are also aware that the current view of the rubric is narrow, and there have been many requests to Blackboard for the complete rubric to be viewable in an expanded, grid, or pop-out view. Blackboard have added this to their roadmap for Ultra, and improvements to the ways that rubrics can be viewed will be available in a future upgrade, currently planned for release in the next six to twelve months.


Response 3. “Analytics: The ability to track student engagement with NILE sites. With the old NILE system, it was possible to see how engaged students had been with modules, e.g., if they’d downloaded items, looked at lecture slides etc. Not only was this useful to see if students were active on the course, but it also helped if they were claiming that they had been but this wasn’t the case. It was also sometimes a vital tool when there were submission problems, to be able to see if the student had actually been on the site and attempted to submit. It’s really important that module leaders are able to access this information quickly and easily.”

Response 4. “An ability or an easier ability to track student interactivity within the NILE sites – when they last came on and when they or if they have accessed certain files/information/content.”

Reply to 3 & 4: Following the October 2022 upgrade, when track progress is enabled, it is possible to view student interactions with many different types of content in Ultra courses. Once track progress is enabled, the student progress option is automatically enabled for content items for which student progress can be tracked.

• Progress tracking on/off switch
• Accessing information about student progress

Blackboard are also planning further improvements to the analytics that are available in Ultra courses, and have recently announced that a student overview tool will be included in an upgrade in three to six months’ time. The planned student overview tool is intended to provide a comprehensive overview of each student’s activity, performance, and progress in their Ultra course.


Response 5. “Leader boards.”

Reply to 5: Leader boards in Original courses were provided by a third-party supplier who has, unfortunately, chosen to discontinue work on this tool. This means that the leader board functionality is not available in Ultra courses, and will be also be unavailable in Original courses by the end of 2023 when Blackboard will remove the underlying technology (known as ‘building blocks’) that supported the leader board tool. At present, there do not appear to be any alternative tools that provide this functionality.


Response 6. “Sorting or ordering items without dragging.”

Reply to 6: A number of staff using Ultra have reported that drag-and-drop ordering and re-ordering of content is problematic, especially when using a laptop with a smaller screen. Blackboard are aware of this and are making improvements to the way that content is moved in Ultra courses, and which will be included in a future upgrade in approximately one to three months’ time.


Response 7. “Multiple level folder structures.”

Reply to 7: At present, a top-level folder (or a top-level learning module) can contain only one other folder. The rationale for this is that content is less likely to become lost in complex folder structures, and to ensure that, once students have opened the course, no content item is more than three clicks away. To better support students trying to find content in their Ultra courses, Blackboard have announced that a course content search function will be included in a upcoming upgrade in one to three months’ time.


Response 8. “Thumbnails for external videos.”

Reply to 8: When adding an external video from both Kaltura and YouTube to an Ultra document, a video thumbnail is now available.

• Video with thumbnail included in an Ultra document

More information about creating and working with Ultra documents is available from Blackboard’s Create Content Items or Documents page.


Response 9. “Hotspots questions.”

Reply to 9: Hotspot questions are currently in development for Ultra tests, and Blackboard have announced that these are planned for release in a future upgrade in one to three months’ time.


Response 10. “Groups on timed assignments.”

Reply to 10: A timed test cannot currently be assigned to a group or groups of students. It is not known when or whether Blackboard are likely to incorporate this into a future upgrade, but we have sent this idea to Blackboard via their Ideas Exchange platform. Currently the idea has been marked by Blackboard as ‘future consideration’ which means that they will consider implementing it in a future upgrade. This is a positive response from Blackboard, as ideas that they do not feel are viable are usually marked ‘unlikely to implement’.


Response 11. “Surveys.”

Reply to 11: Surveys, which were available in Original courses, are not currently available in Ultra courses. However, this functionality has been requested and Blackboard have announced that they are planning to implement surveys in Ultra courses as part of a wider upgrade that brings in other additional functionality around the use of formative and ungraded assessments, as well as surveys. The planned release time for the whole range of tools that support formative and ungraded assessments, and surveys, is three to twelve months.


Response 12. “Gradebook is a mess, confusing and difficult to navigate.”

Response 13. “Gradebook returned to old format GC [Grade Centre].”

Reply to 12 & 13: Blackboard have made a number of improvements to the Ultra gradebook, and have more improvements planned. The key improvements to the gradebook that are already in place are the ability to reorder gradebook columns, gradebook search, a gradebook filter which allows staff to apply filters the gradebook based on which assignments and/or which students they want to see, and a grid view of the gradebook which presents a view which looks much more like the old grade centre in Original courses.

• Ultra gradebook with grid view marked (in red), and search and filter tools highlighted

A number of additional improvements are also planned for gradebook. Upgrades planned for the next one to three months will make the Ultra gradebook easier to navigate, and will allow staff to grade student work more efficiently by adding in features that allow quicker access to submissions that need grading, easier switching between multiple submission attempts, and reducing the overall number of clicks needed to grade and feedback on an assignment submission. Other gradebook improvement include features that will provide greater insights into student performance and activity, and a remembered gradebook view, in which the gradebook will remember your preferred gradebook view (list view or grid view) and will default to this each time that you access the gradebook. Future upgrades will also prevent undeployed tests from showing in the gradebook, which will improve the navigability of the gradebook for staff who have a lot of tests in their Ultra courses.


Response 14. “I would like to be able to add visuals to announcements. We work on a creative course and not to be able to use visuals is a problem.”

Reply to 14: When creating an announcement, it is now possible to add visuals using the attachment option (the paperclip icon) in the content editor.

• Adding an attachment to an announcement
• Announcement with image added

If the attachment is an image file that can be displayed inline (e.g., a JPG or PNG file) then the image will be displayed along with the body text of the announcement. However, please note that when the announcement is emailed, the image will not be included in the body of the email – it will only be viewable when viewing the announcement in the Ultra course.


Response 15. “To be able to find contact details of students enrolled on the module site. This was really useful on the old NILE sites.”

Reply to 15: The ‘Class register’ in Ultra courses contains details of all the students enrolled on the course. Selecting the student from the class register opens a side panel which contains more information about the student, including their email address, which is visible under the account information section.

• Accessing the class register

Response 16. “To be able to have a subject NILE site not linked to a specific module or year, in order to communicate across the subject area.”

Reply to 16: As well as module-level NILE courses, all programmes also have their own programme-level NILE course, which contains all students from all years studying the subject.


Response 17. “The option to have multiple submissions for group assessments.”

Response 18. “Group assessment multiple submissions.”

Reply to 17 & 18: Following recent upgrades, it is now possible to allow multiple submissions for group assessments when using Blackboard Ultra assignments.


Response 19. “Feedback on students’ individual test questions.”

Response 20. “The ability to do short answer questions – so with the Original site we could create a question, the students could attempt and answer and then after they submit we could provide a model answer- it was a quick and effective way to create a mock exam.

Reply to 19 & 20: Automatic feedback for both the correct and incorrect answers can now be included on a number of types of computer-marked test questions, including true/false, multiple choice, multiple option, fill in the blank, matching question, calculated formula, and calculated numeric. Students can currently answer short answer or essay questions in Ultra tests, but it is not possible to provide automatic feedback or model answers for this question type. However, Blackboard are aware that this functionality needs to be included in Ultra and have announced that the model answer question type is in development and will be included in a future release in approximately three to six months’ time.


Response 21. “The ability to send reminders to specific people about overdue assignments …”

Reply to 21: The ‘Email non-submitters’ function in Turnitin assignments is, unfortunately, now no longer available in either Original or Ultra courses due to a change in the way that Turnitin is integrated with Blackboard. However, Blackboard are planning to implement a number of improvements to the messaging tool in Ultra courses, including the ability to send messages (via email) to non-submitters. The improvements to the messaging tool are planned for inclusion in upgrades in three to six months’ time.


Response 22. “Remove a student preview – at the moment we test the site and then we are unable to remove the student preview ‘student’, so they stay on the NILE site and show up as late or not submitted.”

Reply to 22: Following a recent upgrade, this is now possible to do in Ultra courses. When exiting the student preview, staff will be given the option of keeping the student preview user, or of completely deleting it.

• Exiting student preview

Response 23. “The ability to attach feedback or a mark sheet to a submission for e.g., a dissertation or an oral presentation. This has vanished from the old NILE sites and this is problematic. We used to be able to attach this in the Grade Centre [in Original courses].”

Reply to 23: When using Turnitin in Ultra courses it is not possible to attach an external document to the feedback. However, it is possible to do this with Blackboard Ultra assignments. Blackboard Ultra assignments can be used effectively for oral presentations, as the offline submission option means that a Blackboard Ultra assignment can be used even though students are not submitting any work. For more about this particular workflow, please see Ultra Workflow 5: Performance, Presentation, Viva, Artefact.

While Blackboard Ultra assignments currently do not allow for submitted work to be checked for matching text (as would be needed for a dissertation or other text-based assignment), Blackboard and Turnitin are working on an integration that will allow work submitted to a Blackboard Ultra assignment to be checked for matching text using Turnitin. This will create a ‘best of both worlds’ situation in which the grading and feedback tools in Blackboard Ultra assignments can be used (including the ability to upload external documents as part of the feedback), while also being able to check students’ work for matching text using Turnitin. This feature is scheduled for release in September 2023.


Response 24. “Grading notes. Vital for moderation & external examiners.”

Response 25. Private area for moderation / second markers comments. We do not usually enable students to see both markers’ comments, but a combined version. There is currently nowhere on Ultra to save second markers or moderators comments.

Reply to 24 & 25: The process of recording comments about the grading process, including internal moderation notes, is necessarily different in Ultra courses to the process used in Original courses. In order to enable staff to privately upload and store documents and information related to grading and moderation, each Ultra course has its own hidden folder called ‘Grading, feedback, and verification’ and this can be used to store all documents relating to assessment moderation.

• Grading, feedback and verification folder in Ultra courses

More details about this process can be found on our Grading, feedback, and verification processes in NILE page.


More information

As ever, please get in touch with your learning technologist if you would like any more information about any of the features discussed in this blog post.

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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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Blackboard’s June upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 3rd June. The June upgrade includes the ability for staff to set PDF, Microsoft Office and OpenOffice files to render inline in Ultra documents. This means that students can view these documents directly in the browser without having to download them. Additionally, from 3rd June onward, staff can allow groups to have multiple submission attempts when using Blackboard assignments in Ultra courses.

Attachments render inline in Ultra documents

Image files in Ultra documents can already be set to display inline (i.e., directly in the browser), but from 3rd June onward, when uploading a PDF, Microsoft Office or OpenOffice file into an Ultra document, instead of students having to download the attached file in order to view it, staff can set the attachment to display inline so that students can view the file without having to download it.

Inline rendering is supported for the following file types:

  • Adobe Acrobat Documents (PDF)
  • Microsoft Word (DOC, DOCX)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (PPT, PPTX)
  • Microsoft Excel (XLS, XLSX)
  • OpenOffice Documents (ODS, ODT, ODP)

When uploading an attachment that can be displayed inline, staff will be given the following options:

  • View and download
  • View only
  • Download only
Staff view of options when uploading a file supported by inline rendering
Student view of .docx file rendered inline in an Ultra document

Files that are not compatible with inline rendering can still be uploaded, but students will need to download these in order to view them.

You can find out more about inline file rendering in Ultra documents here: https://youtu.be/e6o0xrePzyU

Multiple submissions are allowed for group submissions in Ultra courses

From 3rd June onward, staff will be able to allow groups to have multiple submission attempts when using a Blackboard assignment. Previously, group submissions were restricted to one submission attempt only, but following the June upgrade staff will be able to specify a maximum number of group submission attempts between 1 and 10, or unlimited.

You can find out more about setting up and deploying tests in Ultra courses here: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Tests_Pools_Surveys/Create_Tests_and_Surveys

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 the June upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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Blackboard’s May upgrade will be available from the morning of Friday 6th May. The May upgrade includes improvements to Ultra tests for students, improvements to Ultra journals, the addition of an ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ function for Bb Annotate (the tool used to make notes and feedback on students’ assignments submitted via a Blackboard assignment submission point), and an Ultra course session time-out warning.

Improvements to UItra tests for students

The May upgrade includes improvements to Ultra tests for students, bringing in a test question filter, a test submission warning where students attempt to submit without answering all questions, and the ability to show and hide the timer on timed tests.

• Test question filter

The question filter supports common test taking strategies. For example, students may complete questions they know first and leave harder ones to complete later in the test. The filter enables students to quickly return to skipped questions. Students may also use the filter to find essay questions.

• Submit test warning

If a student submits a test with unanswered questions, a warning will alert the student. The alert shows the number of unanswered questions. The student may choose to submit the test or keep working. If the student chooses to keep working, the unanswered questions filter auto applies.

• Control timer visibility

In response to student feedback, students may now choose to hide the timer in timed tests. This may help to reduce pressure and anxiety during assessments. Once hidden, the timer may be easily made visible again.

Timer is visible
Timer is hidden

Improvements to Ultra journals

To better support staff and students who use Ultra journals, the May upgrade will include the following improvements:

  • students may make unlimited journal entries;
  • students and staff have improved navigation with pagination on the entries page;
  • students and staff can decide the number of items that appear per page;
  • staff have a count of graded journals and students filtered for grading.

Improved navigation with pagination
Select the number of items that appear per page
Visible count of graded journals and students filtered for grading

‘Undo’ and ‘redo’ capability in Bb Annotate in Original and Ultra courses

Following the May upgrade, staff using Blackboard assignments in both Original and Ultra courses will find that the Bb Annotate tool (the tool using for writing notes and feedback on students’ submissions) includes an ‘undo’ and ‘redo’ option.

Ultra course session time-out warning

When a person does not do anything in NILE for over three hours their session ends (i.e., they are automatically logged out of NILE). They must then login again to continue to use NILE. Every time a user saves a page or selects a button their NILE session refreshes and stays active for three more hours. However, there can be times when a person is actually working but is considered by the system not to be doing anything. This happens because the browser is not sending data to NILE and can occur, for example, when a person is writing a long discussion board or journal post, or developing a complex rubric.

Following the May upgrade, staff and students who are working in an Ultra course and whose session is ending soon will receive a warning. This warning will appear at least six minutes before the session times out. If the warning is closed before the session ends, the session will be extended for three more hours, allowing staff and students plenty of time to complete their work and save it before their session ends again.

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 the May upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist.

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Blackboard’s April upgrade (officially known as ‘Learn SaaS 3900.37.0 Feature Production Release’) was originally scheduled for 7th April 2022, but has been delayed and is currently tentatively scheduled for 21st April. Please note that the release date refers to the evening on which the release will be applied, so a 21st April date means that the upgrade will be available to users first thing on 22nd April. You can find out more about when the April upgrade will be available here: https://status.blackboard.com/incidents/0940tk6n2993.

The April upgrade includes:

  • Significant improvements to Ultra tests.
  • Improvements to the Ultra course copy tool, allowing copying of content within an Ultra course.
  • Improvements to the Ultra content editor, allowing use of code snippets.
  • The ability to verify students’ Blackboard assignment receipts in the Ultra gradebook.

The rest of this blog post explains each of these improvements in more detail,

Improvements to Ultra tests

The April upgrade includes many significant improvements to Ultra tests.

• Display test questions to students one at a time

Currently, Ultra tests display all the test questions to students in one long list. Following the April upgrade, staff will have the choice to display test questions to students all at once, or one at a time.

• Disable auto-posting of grades when using 100% computer marked tests

Currently, when using Ultra tests which contain only computer marked questions (e.g., a 100% multiple choice test) the overall test score is immediately displayed to students on completion of the test. After the April upgrade, staff will be able to choose whether or not the tests marks are posted automatically.

• Control over students’ ability to view their test submission, question feedback, question scores, and correct answers.

Currently, students can view their test submissions as soon as they have submitted them. The April release brings in the ability for staff to decide if and when a student can view their test submission. Staff can prevent students from ever being able to view their test submission, or can allow them to see their submission at a particular time, including immediately after submission, on the due date, on a particular date, or when all marks have been posted.

If a student is allowed to view their submission, staff can also choose when to display automated question feedback, individual question scores, and which answers in a computer-marked question were the correct answers.

You can find out more about how to use these settings here: Blackboard video – student feedback display controls.

• New Ultra test question type: calculated numeric question

The April release includes the ability to add a calculated numeric question type.

This new question type supports the following:

  • Students may enter a number as an answer. The number can be an integer, decimal, or scientific notation. The largest value supported is 16 digits.
  • Instructors may combine text and mathematical formulas in the question.
  • Instructors may define an answer range. The range value can be an integer, decimal, or scientific notation. The largest value supported is 16 digits.
  • The answer field validates only numeric digits.

You can find out more about using calculated numeric questions here: Blackboard video – calculated numeric question type.

• Download Ultra test results

The April release includes the ability for staff to be able to download Ultra test results.

When downloading results, the following options are available:

  • File type – Excel spreadsheet (.xls) or comma separated value (.csv); the default is .xls
  • Format results by student or by question and student; the default is by student
  • Download all attempts or only attempts included in the grade calculation. The instructor defines which attempts to include in the grade calculation in the ‘Grade attempts’ settings. The default is to download only attempts used for calculation.

You can find out more about downloading Ultra test results here: Blackboard video – download test results.

• More information about setting up and using Ultra tests

You can find out more about Ultra tests here:

Copy content within the same Ultra course

Currently, it is possible to copy content from one Ultra course to another, but staff are not able to copy content within the same Ultra course. The April release will include the ability to copy content within the same course.

You can find out more about the enhancements to the Ultra course copy process here: Blackboard video – copy content enhancements.

Content editor update – code snippets

The April upgrade will allow staff and students to author and share computer code in the content editor using a new code snippet tool.

The content editor identifies eleven programming syntaxes:

  • Python;
  • Java;
  • JavaScript;
  • Kotlin;
  • R;
  • PHP;
  • Go;
  • C;
  • Swift;
  • C#;
  • HTML.

You can find out more about code snippets here: Blackboard video – code snippets

Submission receipts for Blackboard assignments

Currently, while Blackboard assignments generate and send students a receipt for a submission, the receipts are easily edited and cannot be verified. Following the April upgrade, staff will be able to verify students’ submission receipts in the Ultra gradebook.

You can find out more about these enhancements here: Blackboard video – submission receipt enhancements.

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 the April upgrade: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist.

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The March upgrade, which will be available from Friday 4th March, includes some minor changes to way that learning modules in Ultra courses are set up and modified.

Learning Modules

When setting up learning modules after Friday 4th of March, the following panel will open up once a learning module has been selected for creation:

From this panel, the learning module can be named and a description can be added. The learning module availability can also be set (‘Visible to students’ or ‘Hidden from students’), or release conditions can be set allowing the learning module to be made available to all or only certain groups of students. Release conditions can also include the learning module being made visible after and/or until a particular date.

Additionally, learning modules can be set so that students have to navigate through the content in order and cannot skip ahead. To enable this, ‘Forced sequence’ should be chosen when setting up the learning module.

To update any of the learning module settings after it has been created, simply select the ellipsis menu on the right-hand side of the learning module and choose ‘Edit’.

Also, learning module descriptions are now visible immediately, and students no longer have to open the learning module to read the description:

You can find out more about how to use learning modules in Ultra courses at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Course_Content/Create_Content/Create_Containers_for_Content/Create_Learning_Modules

More information

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

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Sorry. The upgraded version of Blackboard scheduled to be available from the 4th of February has been delayed, and will now be available from the 11th of February.

February’s upgrade, which will be in place from the morning of Friday 4th February, adds additional functionality to Blackboard Ultra test settings, and brings in the option for granular copying of content from Original courses to Ultra courses. Also included in the February update is a bug fix which means that the date and time shown on submission receipts for Blackboard Ultra assignments will, from Friday 4th February onwards, be the date and time that the submission was made, not when it was started. Note that this bug did not affect Turnitin assignments – the submission receipt for Turntin assignments has always shown the correct date and time of submission.

Blackboard Ultra test settings

From the 4th of February onwards, staff will be able to select two new options when setting up tests in Ultra courses:

  1. Prohibit late submissions
  2. Prohibit new attempts after due date

Selecting prohibit late submissions enforces a hard deadline and prevents students from making a late submission. In-progress and saved attempts will auto-submit at the due date, and students will receive a submission receipt via email. Specified accommodations are still respected.

Selecting prohibit new attempts after due date prevents students from beginning a new attempt after the due date.

Note that selecting ‘prohibit late submissions’ auto-enables ‘prohibit new attempts after due date.’ However, staff can enable the ‘prohibit new attempts after due date’ option on its own.

If an instructor enables the due date and/or time limit, students will see these details, as they will appear in the Details & Information section for the assessment.

Please note the current limitations with these new settings. ‘Prohibit late submissions’ does not work in combination with Peer review, Group submissions, or Offline submissions. And the ‘prohibit new attempts after due date’ setting enabled on its own does not work with Peer review, or with Offline submissions.

You can find out more about setting up tests in Ultra courses at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Tests_Pools_Surveys/Create_Tests_and_Surveys

Granular copy content from Original to Ultra courses

Staff making use of the copy content function in Ultra courses will now find that content from their Original courses is available to copy into their Ultra courses. More importantly, and more usefully, the upgraded Ultra copy content tool allows staff to select individual elements of their Original courses, including content items, folders, and tests, to copy into their Ultra courses.

However, please be aware that content copied from Original courses into Ultra courses is transformed (or Ultra-ified) in the process, and incompatible elements are stripped out of the copy. This means that any content copied into an Ultra course from an Original course needs to be manually checked over before it is made available to students. In the case of tests, in particular, incompatible questions will be removed during the Original-to-Ultra conversion process.

More information about the Ultra copy content tool is available from: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Course_Content/Reuse_Content/Ultra_Copy_Content

Blackboard Ultra assignment receipts

Students submitting Blackboard assignments in Ultra courses will have found that the submission date and time on the receipt was the date and time that the submission was started. From the 4th of February the date and time shown on the receipt will be the date and time of actual submission.

You can find out more about setting up and using Blackboard Ultra assignments at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Assignments/Create_and_Edit_Assignments

More information

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

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2022 dates for all of the following Learning Technology Team training workshops are now available:

  • An Introduction to Blackboard Ultra: Getting started with Ultra
  • Using Turnitin Assignments in Blackboard Ultra
  • Setting up Assignments and Marking in Blackboard Ultra
  • Discussions and Journals in Blackboard Ultra
  • Creating and Deploying Tests in Blackboard Ultra
  • Learning and Teaching in the Virtual Classroom with Blackboard Collaborate
  • Introduction to Padlet
  • Content Development
  • Recording and Editing Video
  • Xerte Training
  • Xerte Advanced Training

To view the times and dates for these training workshops, please see: https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/scheduled-training

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December’s upgrade includes improvements to rubrics, accommodations, and groups in Ultra courses. Also included in the December upgrade is the ability to add a description to Ultra course banners. New features in the December upgrade will be available from Friday 3rd December.

Rubrics

Rubric types in Ultra courses have been extended to include both points and points range rubrics. The addition of qualitative rubrics is on Blackboard’s roadmap, although no date has yet been given for when these will be availalble.

Guidance on creating and using rubrics in Ultra courses is available from: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Grade/Rubrics

Accommodations

Currently, accommodations for time-limited assessments only include the options to give an individual student +50% or +100% more time, or unlimited time. Following December’s upgrade, any percentage can be selected.

More information about accommodations for time-limited assessments in Ultra courses can be found at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Interact/Roster#about-accommodations_OTP-2

Groups

A small and subtle change to groups in Ultra courses, but following the upgrade, staff will have the option to decide whether groups are visible to students or not. This will be useful for staff who like to set up marking groups in Turnitin, for example, to manage the marking of a large cohort amongst multiple markers. While it’s not a problem to do this already, such groups can be hidden from students following the upgrade.

More information on using groups in Ultra course is available at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Interact/Course_Groups/Create_Groups

Course banner description

Ultra course banners were introduced in the November upgrade. These course banners should always be used as a decorative element to the course, and they are treated as such for accessibility purposes, informing students using a screen reader that the image is decorative and does not need describing. However, December’s upgrade allows an image description to be added, and which, if used, will explain to students using a screen reader what the image contains.

More information about adding a course banner to your Ultra course can be found at: https://help.blackboard.com/Learn/Instructor/Ultra/Getting_Started/Navigate_Inside_a_Course#customize-your-course_OTP-2

More information

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

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Sorry. The upgraded version of Blackboard scheduled to be available from the 5th of November has been delayed, and will now be available on the 12th of November.

November sees some great new features arriving in Ultra courses, including the much requested feature to add a bit of colour to courses via a course banner. Already available is another often requested feature, which is the ability to create Collaborate breakout groups from your course groups in NILE.

Available Now!

NILE course groups sync with Collaborate breakout groups

When setting up breakout groups in Collaborate sessions, quite a few people have said how useful it would be if they could set up their breakout groups to match the groups they have already set up in their NILE courses. Well, now this is possible.

When setting up your breakout groups, you will now see an option called ‘Course group set’. This will allocate the students in your Collaborate breakout groups according to groups that you have already set up in your NILE course. And if you have multiple groups set up in your NILE course, you can choose which NILE course groups you want to sync with your Collaborate breakout groups.

Available from Friday 5th November

• New UI (User Interface), including the ability to add a course banner

You can see immediately that the UI (User Interface) has changed a little in the new Ultra courses, with staff now being listed in the area immediately above the ‘Details & Actions’ menu. But probably of most interest here is the ability to add a course banner. From the 5th of November the ‘Details & Actions’ menu will include a ‘Course Image’ option, which means that you will be able to add a banner image to your course. Images must be at least 1200 x 240 pixels, but please do not add images which include text, as these are not accessible.

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be finding a great image to use for your course banner. A terrific source of free, high quality images can be found on the websites of the ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA. The links below will take you directly to their image galleries:

ESA and NASA images are free to use for educational and informational purposes, and, provided that any images you use do not contain an identifiable person, you will not be infringing anyone’s copyright or privacy by using them in this context. If you use images from ESA and NASA, please credit them somewhere in your course. Full terms and conditions about ESA and NASA image use can be found at the bottom of their pages which are linked above.

• Progress tracking

Also coming to the ‘Details & Actions’ menu will be the option to turn on ‘Progress Tracking’ for your students.

This feature allows your students to more easily see and mark which items in your course they have engaged with. At the moment, this feature is just for students, and academic staff do not get any information about how their students are engaging with their course content, although this is planned for a future release.

Content that a student has not looked at at all will be marked with an empty circle. Once a student has opened an item, the circle will become half-filled. Students can then click on the half-filled circle and mark it as complete (or, if Blackboard knows that the item is complete, such as when posting to a discussion or making a journal entry, it will automatically mark it as complete). Where items are in a learning module or folder, once all the items in the learning module or folder are complete, the learning module or folder will automatically be marked as complete.

• Improvements to tables

Finally, tables, which were new to Ultra courses in the October upgrade, are getting a few improvements in the November upgrade. From the 5th of November onwards, the following formatting options will be available when using tables in Ultra documents:

  • Text Style
  • Alignment options
  • List Attachment
  • Insert content

These options provide greater flexibility for staff, especially in disciplines where the presentation and formatting of data is particularly important.

Need more information?

As ever, if you would like any advice, guidance, or training with any aspects of NILE, please take a look at the guides and FAQs on our website, or get in touch with your learning technologist:

https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/Learntech

https://libguides.northampton.ac.uk/learntech/staff/nile-help/who-is-my-learning-technologist

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