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.
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.
‘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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
|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:
- Prohibit late submissions
- 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
If you’re interested in understanding more about some of the new features that Blackboard will be bringing to Ultra and Original courses, you can join Blackboard’s Product Management leaders as they provide an update on the Blackboard Roadmap.
There are two sessions, one on the Ultra roadmap, and one on the Original roadmap. Even if you can’t attend the webinars, if you sign up to attend you will receive a recording of the webinar.
Ultra Course View
Wednesday, November 3, 2021. Time: 1:00pm GMT
Original Course View
Wednesday, November 3, 2021. Time: 12:00pm GMT
From October 8th 2021, one of the most requested features of Blackboard Ultra will finally be available: the ability to create tables in the Ultra RTE (Rich Text Editor).
Also included in the upgrade, from the 8th of October onwards the maximum number of columns and rows in Blackboard Ultra rubrics will increase from ten to fifteen.
And when students submit Blackboard Ultra assignments, from the 8th of October they will receive confirmation via email and downloadable receipt that their submission has been successful. Please note that this does not apply to Turnitin assignments in Blackboard Ultra courses. Students will still be able to download their submission receipts for Turnitin assignments in Ultra courses, but will not be emailed submission receipts. Emailed submission receipts will only be available for Blackboard assignments in Ultra courses from 8th October onwards.
Also included in the upgrade are various other minor big fixes, etc.
August 6th 2021 will bring some important changes to Blackboard Ultra courses.
First, and most difficult to miss, is a change to the location of the Tools menu and the Student Preview button. Currently the Tools menu is on the upper right hand side of the page and is indicated by icons. This will move to the left side of the page and will become text buttons instead of icons. The Student Preview button will move from the lower left to the upper right side of the page.
Currently the Tools menu and Student Preview buttons are located as follows:
However, from 6th August onwards they can be found here:
Also coming in the August upgrade is Gradebook filtering. This feature is very much like the Smart Views in Original courses, but also allows quick and easy instant filtering, as well as giving staff the ability to save preferred filters.
The August upgrade will bring improvements to the Calendar and to the Peer Review tool in Ultra courses. After the upgrade, hyperlinks will be supported in the calendar location field so that staff can link any virtual tool of their choice in the calendar event, and students can launch the virtual session from the calendar itself.
Peer Review was introduced to Ultra courses some time ago, but the August upgrade brings some useful improvements. The current capabilities of the Peer Review tool are explained in Blackboard’s guide, Peer Review for Qualitative Peer Assessments. Following the August upgrade staff will be able to access the submissions reviewed by a student right from that student’s grading panel. Students will also have direct access to the submissions available for their review from either the Due Date or the Calendar views. This makes it easier for them to act when reviewing their pending tasks.
New look-and-feel for the NILE homepage
June 2020 sees a new look-and-feel for the NILE homepage. While the new homepage is indeed radically different, NILE courses are entirely unaffected. You can read more about the new NILE homepage here:
What is the new NILE homepage for staff
What is the new NILE homepage for students
New NILE courses for the 20/21 academic year
New NILE courses for the 20/21 academic year will be available for use from the 2nd of June onwards. As usual, the new courses follow the standard template as set out in the NILE Design Standards, so you can create your courses afresh, or you can copy materials from your 19/20 courses into your 20/21 courses. To copy materials across, please follow very carefully our instructions about how to do this:
Bulk copying content between courses in NILE
Full information about finding and setting up your new NILE courses can be found in our FAQ – How do I set up my new NILE course for the upcoming academic year?
There are no significant changes to the way that module courses have been created, however, there are major changes to the way that programme courses have been created.
Changes to NILE programme courses
Earlier this year the Student Experience Committee approved changes to the way that programme courses are created in NILE. For many years each programme has had a number of different programme course variations in NILE, which meant that for most programmes there were often eight different variations, and no single course that collected together all students on a programme. From this year onwards there is now a single programme course per programme per academic year, and this course has all students on it who are taking the programme (all years of study, full- and part-time, single and joint honours). This means that a single honours student will be enrolled on one programme course, and a joint honours will be enrolled on both of their programmes courses, plus the joint honours programme course. Foundation students will also have a single programme course for all foundation students.
NILE updates for anonymous marking
As anonymous marking becomes the new normal for the 20/21 academic year, changes in the integration between NILE and the Student Records System mean that you will no longer see students on your NILE courses who have transferred or withdrawn from your modules. The main effect of this is that you can now safely use Turnitin’s ‘Email non-submitters’ tool.
Additionally, and to assist with the process of anonymous marking, the Learning Technology Team have put together the following guides for staff and students:
Anonymous marking guide for staff:
Guidance for students submitting work anonymously
Help and support with NILE
As ever, for help and support with any of the NILE tools, or simply to find out more about what NILE is and how the Learning Technology Team can help you, please see our website:
And do feel free to contact your learning technologist for advice and guidance about anything related to educational technology in general, or NILE in particular:
The December 2019 update on all the new MediaSpace features is available to watch right now.
- The ability to create 360 video content which can be added to a private MediaSpace subscription Channel.
- Video content or audio podcasts can be uploaded, downloaded and viewed offline in the Kaltura KMS Go mobile app.
- Content creators can easily share video playlists with friends or tutors.
- MediaSpace now lets you create video where the viewer chooses what happens next.
- NILE users can add My Media to the Home tab to access MediaSpace without needing to go to MediaSpace.
It’s a frankly mind-numbing 15 minutes long but, trust me, it’ll get you up to speed on everything fresh with MediaSpace. If you’d rather not listen to me yatter on then search for Kaltura on askus.northampton.ac.uk and you’ll find all the bite-sized FAQs you could possibly dream of.
If you don’t want to listen to me or read the FAQs then MediaSpace also has an expanded library of short video tutorials located conveniently and logically under the Video Tutorials tab on MediaSpace at video.northampton.ac.uk
If you don’t want to watch or listen to the updates, or read about them in teeny chunks then you can always sign up for a scheduled training session, book your Learning Technologist for some personalised support or even arrange a 1:1 in a quiet spot somewhere.
MediaSpace is getting better every month and we hope you enjoy everything it has to offer in in 2020.
Have a good break.
- Blackboard Upgrade – May 2022
- GAMING: Gamification for the Advancement of Multiprofessional/Interprofessional Groupwork
- Blackboard Upgrade – April 2022
- Reconceptualising critical digital literacies in the context of compulsory education Led by: Dr Anastasia Gouseti
- Blackboard Upgrade – March 2022
- Teaching and supporting a digital future: UoN Showcase – 4th February 2022
- Introducing the Centre for Active Digital Education (ADE)
- Changemaker Support (highlighting how the team supports staff and students’ digital employability)
- “It’s just a bit of fun! Really…?” Observations on online games in supporting student learning and student experience
- Building and promoting a Virtual Reality experience for the Campus Security/Police as part of Safer Nights Out Campaign.
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