Blackboard Learn Ultra Courses 2024-25

Blackboard Learn Ultra Course Creation for 2024-25 will take place on Monday 3 June this year. After this date instructors will be able to add content and customise their new courses.

We have made some improvements to the default course template based upon staff and student feedback and also enabled the AI Design Assistant.

For general help using Blackboard Learn please see our Blackboard Ultra guide for staff.

Accessing 2024-25 Courses

Instructors can access their 2024-25 courses by using the Terms filter dropdown menu on the Courses page and selecting Cyrsiau 2024-25 Courses. Courses under 2024-25 will move to the default Courses page on 1 September.

Learning Modules

The Module Information, Assessment and Feedback and External Examiners areas remain, but are now learning modules rather than folders. Learning modules have all the functionality of folders in terms of how content is added and accessed but are more visually appealing and are easier to navigate, especially from a student’s perspective.

Learning modules each have a default image, but we encourage instructors to choose a more relevant and meaningful image for their learning modules. Adding an image to a learning module provides a visual identity to a course and helps students locate the learning module. Instructions on how to customise learning modules appearance can be found in  this section of the Blackboard help page for Learning Modules.

Blackboard Ultra Course template with Module Information, Assessment and Feedback, and a hidden External Examiners Learning Module

Content can be added to learning modules in the same way as folders; by expanding them and clicking the plus symbol. Create, Copy Content and Upload options remain unchanged.

GIF of expanding Learning Module and adding content

All the usual hidden/visible and release conditions settings are also available.

Instructors can continue to use folders if they wish, or they may wish to create additional learning modules and copy existing content into them from folders. The options to add additional learning modules and folders can be found by clicking the plus symbol and Create.

Please note that Learning Modules can only be added to the landing page of Content and not within folders.

Screenshot of the Course Content Items Creation menu

For more information on learning modules see the Blackboard help page on Learning Modules.

Class Register

The class register is now hidden from students. They can still see staff on the course under Course Staff, but they can no longer see the other students of the course. You are welcome to make the Class Register visible again if you like.

GIF showing how to make class roster visible to other students

Progress Tracking

Progress tracking is now enabled by default for students. Progress tracking gives students an easy wat to keep track of what they have done in the course. 

Screenshot of progress tracker from a student's perspective

Additionally, on the Student Overview page Instructors can access the Progress tab for each Student which tracks progress in a course. You can see completed and uncompleted tasks for each Student. For more information see  the Blackboard help page on Progress Tracking.

AI Design Assistant

Context and Guidance Principles

Anthology, the vendor of Blackboard Learn, have added AI tools to Blackboard as part of their ‘AI Design Assistant’. Anthology’s approach is to empower staff to use AI to “promote authentic assessment, engaging learning experiences and academic integrity, while also providing efficiency for educators and improved outcomes for students as a result.”

Anthology have published their Trustworthy AI Approach, with the key principles being:

  • Fairness: Minimizing harmful bias in AI systems.
  • Reliability: Taking measures to ensure the output of AI systems is valid and reliable.
  • Humans in Control: Ensuring humans ultimately make decisions that have legal or otherwise significant impact.
  • Transparency and Explainability: Explaining to users when AI systems are used, how the AI systems work, and help users interpret and appropriately use the output of the AI systems.
  • Privacy, Security and Safety: AI systems should be secure, safe, and privacy friendly.
  • Value alignment: AI systems should be aligned to human values, in particular those of our clients and users.
  • Accountability: Ensuring there is clear accountability regarding the trustworthy use of AI systems within Anthology as well as between Anthology, its clients, and its providers of AI systems.

If Instructors opt to make use of the AI Design Assistant, we recommend:

1. Generating and checking content

AI-generated content is never automatically added to a course. It will not be released to students without instructors making that decision. Instructors will always need to approve content before it is made available to students.

Instructors can always review and change AI-generated content. For example, if an instructor generates Test questions, it is likely some will not be useful. The instructor should choose what they would like to use and edit them as needed. It is important for instructors to ensure everything generated by AI is checked before it is added to a course and made available to students.

2. Consider adding a Use of Artificial Intelligence statement to a course

In line with University artificial intelligence guidance, if content is substantially generated using an AI tool, this should be declared clearly to the students.  A statement on the use of artificial intelligence in a Blackboard Learn course can be added in the Module Information learning module area using the Document feature.

AI Design Assistant Tools

The following tools are available to Instructors on courses.

Generate Learning Modules

This feature allows a course structure to be created using learning modules based on the name of the course and any additional information that has been provided. Learning modules are akin to folders.

The AI Design Assistant can generate one or more learning modules which will consist of a title, an image, and a description. For further information see the section on course structure suggestions on the AI Design Assistant help page.

Generate Test Questions & Question Banks

This feature generates test questions and question banks based on the content that is included in the course. Instructors can specify the level and the types of questions that are asked.  The complexity and question type can be adjusted. For further information see the section on test question generation on the AI Design Assistant help page.

Generate Keywords for Unsplash

Unsplash is a copyright free image library accessible from within Blackboard. The AI tool will generate relevant keywords based upon the course name and content with which to search Unsplash.

Generate Journals

Based on course name and content, journal activities are proposed and created. For further information see the section on journal generation on the AI Design Assistant help page.

Generate Discussions

Based on course name and content, discussion activities are proposed and can be created. For further information see the section on how to auto-generate discussions on the AI Design Assistant help page.

Generate Assignments

The assignment generator will create prompts for assignments, using Bloom’s taxonomy to include different levels of complexity. This complexity can be adjusted. This only applies to the inbuilt Blackboard assignment tool and not Turnitin. For further information see the section on assignment prompt generation on the AI Design Assistant Help Page.

Note: The Blackboard AI Design Assistant does have a Rubric generator and an AI image Generator which we have not enabled.

For further information on the AI Design Assistant see Blackboard Help and our University webpages.

Weekly Resource Roundup – 22/5/2024

As leader of our PGCTHE programme, I keep an eye out for resources to help staff teach effectively. These include webinars, podcasts, online toolkits, publications and more. Topics include active learning, online/blended teaching, accessibility/inclusion, and effective learning design based on cognitive science. Below I’ve listed items that came to my attention in the past week. In the interest of clarity, our policy is to show the titles and descriptions in the language of delivery. 

Online events and webinars

May

June

July

Resources and publications

Resources on Generative AI

Other resources

Other

  • Monthly series European Network for Academic Integrity, ENAI monthly webinars free open webinars on various topics related to academic integrity.
  • Subscribe to SEDA’s mailing list for email discussions about educational development and emerging teaching practices. This is one of the sources I use when identifying useful material for the Roundup.
  • Follow University of Birmingham’s Higher Education Futures institute HEFi on Twitter for daily posts with links to pedagogical literature and more. This is one of the sources I use when identifying useful material for the Roundup.
  • Join the #LTHEchat on Twitter Wednesday nights for one hour of lively discussion about learning and teaching in HE. I often find out about good resources for the Roundup from the chat.

Please see the Staff Training booking page for training offered by the LTEU and other Aberystwyth University staff. I hope you find this weekly resource roundup useful. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact our team at lteu@aber.ac.uk. You may also wish to follow my Twitter feed, Mary Jacob L&T.

What’s New in Blackboard Learn Ultra May 2024 

Please find below some of the latest enhancements from the May update of Blackboard Learn Ultra that the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit would like to highlight to Instructors. 

Supporting multiple performance criteria in release conditions

Release conditions determine when students can view course content. Release conditions are on the content’s visibility setting on the course content page. Currently, you can set:

  • Which course members or groups have access;
  • When the course content is accessible, visible, and hidden;
  • When student performance is necessary for completing an assignment or scoring.

Instructors can now set more than one performance criteria per content item. 

Image below: Release condition panel with additional performance criteria selected.

Release condition panel with additional performance criteria selected.

Add question feedback when grading a test by question

When grading by student or by question, Instructors can now provide contextual feedback and can add this feedback to all question types. Question level feedback promotes deeper understanding and personal growth among students while also enhancing both overall submission feedback and automated feedback for auto-graded questions.

Image below: Instructor view of adding per-question feedback when grading by question.

Instructor view of adding per-question feedback when grading by question.

Image below: Instructor view of question with saved feedback.

 Instructor view of question with saved feedback.

After scores are posted, students can access their feedback in the Gradebook. Students can access both overall feedback and question-specific feedback.

Image below: Student view of feedback added to an essay question.

Student view of feedback added to an essay question.

Improved Gradebook navigation

To create a more intuitive navigation, Blackboard have replaced the grid and list view buttons with text links. The options are now: 

  • Gradable Items
  • Grades (grid view)
  • Students

The Gradebook will remember the last view you used in each course.

Image below: Instructor view of the new gradebook navigation menu

Instructor view of the new gradebook navigation menu

Proportionally and Equally weighted column calculations

Instructors have diverse grade calculation needs. Some instructors use weighted calculations to help with aggregating calculations like midterm or final grades.

Now instructors can assign equal weights to items in the same categories. The chosen calculation method, whether proportional or equal, applies to all categories. In the past, weighted items in the same category had proportional weights. These weighted items were based on the possible points of each item.

To better understand student performance, some instructors use drop rules to remove outliers. Because it’s important to know the weighting method when managing these settings, Blackboard now displays the instructor’s chosen weighting option in the calculation rules panel.

Image below: Instructor view of the new Proportionally weighted calculation options.

Instructor view of the new Proportionally weighted calculation options.

Image below: Instructor view of the new proportional weighted calculation option. Instructors can see what percentage each item in the category contributes to the overall category weighting.

 Instructor view of the new proportional weighted calculation option. Instructors can see what percentage each item in the category contributes to the overall category weighting.

Image below: Instructor view of the equally weighted calculation option; Instructors are informed of the equal percentage that items count towards the overall category weighting.

 Instructor view of the equally weighted calculation option; Instructors are informed of the equal percentage that items count towards the overall category weighting.

Image below. Instructor view of the updated Edit calculation rule panel confirming the selected category weighting option.

Instructor view of the updated Edit calculation rule panel confirming the selected category weighting option.

Weekly Resource Roundup – 9/5/2024

As leader of our PGCTHE programme, I keep an eye out for resources to help staff teach effectively. These include webinars, podcasts, online toolkits, publications and more. Topics include active learning, online/blended teaching, accessibility/inclusion, and effective learning design based on cognitive science. Below I’ve listed items that came to my attention in the past week. In the interest of clarity, our policy is to show the titles and descriptions in the language of delivery. 

Online events and webinars

May

June

July

Resources and publications

Resources on Generative AI

Other resources

Other

  • Monthly series European Network for Academic Integrity, ENAI monthly webinars free open webinars on various topics related to academic integrity.
  • Subscribe to SEDA’s mailing list for email discussions about educational development and emerging teaching practices. This is one of the sources I use when identifying useful material for the Roundup.
  • Follow University of Birmingham’s Higher Education Futures institute HEFi on Twitter for daily posts with links to pedagogical literature and more. This is one of the sources I use when identifying useful material for the Roundup.
  • Join the #LTHEchat on Twitter Wednesday nights for one hour of lively discussion about learning and teaching in HE. I often find out about good resources for the Roundup from the chat.

Please see the Staff Training booking page for training offered by the LTEU and other Aberystwyth University staff. I hope you find this weekly resource roundup useful. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact our team at lteu@aber.ac.uk. You may also wish to follow my Twitter feed, Mary Jacob L&T.

Keynote announcement: Annual Learning and Teaching Conference: Professor Lisa Taylor

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce this year’s Annual Learning and Teaching Conference speaker.

Professor Lisa Taylor from the University of East Anglia will be joining us to present on employability in the curriculum. Lisa is Professor of Employability and Learning Innovation and Associate Dean for Employability for the Faculty of Medicine and Health.

Lisa is an Occupational Therapist by background with ten years of clinical experience within the NHS whilst also completing her MSc and PhD.

For the last twelve years Lisa has worked in higher education as a lecturer within the Occupational Therapy academic team at the University of East Anglia. Lisa has held employability leadership roles alongside her lecturing role for eleven of those years, initially as employability director for the School of Health Sciences and then as Associate Dean for Employability for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

Lisa is passionate about employability and learning innovations, maximising the impact for students/learners, academic colleagues, and external partners. A prestigious Advance HE National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) was awarded to Lisa based on her sustained ability to facilitate and influence quality student learning.

Lisa has helped developed the wider employability agenda through supporting and engaging with colleagues locally, nationally, and internationally, impacting on student learning outcomes and experience, through teaching, strategic initiatives and learning innovations. The award of an NTF positions Lisa as a sector leader in employability and learning innovations. Lisa publishes and presents widely, helping to steer the national conversation about employability. 

One of Lisa’s learning innovations is the Peer Enhanced e-Placement (PEEP). Lisa has won multiple awards for the pioneering PEEP and has published a book based on its design and delivery principles, Constructing Online Work-Based Learning Placements: Approaches to Pedagogy Design, Planning and Implementation. The PEEP will be presented as part of Lisa’s keynote lecture.

The Learning and Teaching Conference will be taking place between 10 and 12 September. Colleagues are welcome to submit proposals and bookings are now open.

Learned Society of Wales medals

The Learned Society of Wales  (LSW) annually awards medals to researchers who excel in their field. The medal categories celebrate excellence in several areas of achievements, with further information on each medal at –

If you would like to nominate a colleague or an Early Career Researcher (ECR) please see the guidelines and nomination forms on the LSW web page.

To be eligible for any of the medals, nominees must be resident in Wales, born in Wales, or otherwise particularly connected with Wales.

The deadline for 2024 medal nominations is 5.00pm on 30 June 2024. Each medal has a dedicated committee to assess the nominations and decide who should receive the award.

Winners will be announced in October 2024 and will receive a specially struck medal and a cash prize of £500.

Please read the guidelines before you complete the medal nomination form. If you have any questions, please contact the LSW Fellowship Officer, Fiona Gaskell – fgaskell@lsw.wales.ac.uk. For further information about the LSW Medals, including past winners, visit www.learnedsociety.wales/medals or you can have an informal conversation with Annette Edwards, LTEU aee@aber.ac.uk