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.

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.

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.

What’s New in Blackboard Learn Ultra April 2024 

The April update to Blackboard Learn Ultra includes a much-requested feature; Anonymous posts for discussions. Additionally, there are improvements to feedback and Gradebook calculations. 

Anonymous posts for Discussions  

Discussions play a pivotal role in nurturing peer-to-peer interaction and critical thinking. Students need to feel free to express their ideas and opinions without fear of judgement. To support this, Blackboard have added an option for instructors to allow anonymous posts in ungraded discussions. This feature provides flexibility for instructors. They can toggle anonymity on or off as the discussion progresses. Any existing anonymous posts keep their anonymity.  

Image below: Setting to turn on anonymous posts 

Note: When intending to post anonymously a student must tick Post anonymously. 

Image below: A student making an anonymous post with Post anonymously ticked (highlighted)

A student making an anonymous post with Post anonymously ticked (highlighted)

Image below: An anonymous post in a discussion 

An anonymous post in a discussion

Add question feedback when grading by student 

Instructors can now provide contextual feedback by student on all question types. Question level feedback promotes deeper understanding and personal growth among students. Question level feedback complements the existing capabilities of overall submission feedback and automated feedback for auto-graded questions. 

Note: Blackboard are targeting the May release for per-question feedback when grading tests by questions rather than by student. 

Image below: Instructor view of adding per question feedback 

Instructor view of adding per question feedback 

Image below: Instructor view of question with saved feedback   

Instructor view of question with saved feedback

Once students have submitted their tests and scores are posted, students can access the feedback. 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 

Student feedback remains visible to students regardless of release condition settings 

Instructors may want to control access to course content using release conditions. This is helpful for providing custom learning paths through course content. The release conditions include an option to show or hide content to/from students before they meet release conditions. Blackboard have modified how these settings impact the students’ view of feedback from instructors. Now instructors can set release conditions without any impact to feedback to students.   

In the past, when an instructor selected the option to hide content, students could view associated grades but not the feedback. Blackboard have corrected this to ensure that students can always review feedback.   

Image below: Instructor view of release conditions settings with date/time release condition set in combination with Hide state in “When will content appear?” 

Instructor view of release conditions settings with date/time release condition set in combination with Hide state in “When will content appear?”

Image below: Student gradebook view with display of student’s feedback and grade regardless of the release condition setting in the above image. 

Student gradebook view with display of student’s feedback and grade regardless of the release condition setting in the above image.

Persistent navigation for Learning Modules 

To improve students’ navigation in a learning module, Blackboard have updated the navigation bar. Now the navigation bar is sticky and remains visible as students vertically scroll through content. Students no longer need to scroll back up to the top of content to access the navigation tools.  

Image below: The navigation bar is always visible 

The navigation bar is always visible

Calculations changed from using BigDecimal to BigFraction 

Instructors need a gradebook that supports diverse grading scenarios. Blackboard are changing the software library used to perform calculations in calculated columns and the overall course grade. 

Example: A course contains 3 assignments worth 22 points each. The student scores 13/22 on the first assignment, 14/22 on the second assignment, and 15/22 on the third assignment. An instructor creates a calculated column to calculate the average of these assignments.   

Using the new software library, BigFraction, the average will calculate as 14/22. 

With the former software library, BigDecimal, the average would incorrectly calculate to 13.99/22. The new software library ensures calculations compute as expected. 

What’s New in Blackboard Learn Ultra – March 2024

This month Blackboard brings us the ability to see Gradebook item statistics, being able to set assessments with no due date and some tweaks to message notifications.

Gradebook item statistics 

Item statistics give insight to course members’ overall performance on a graded content. Now, instructors can select a column in the gradebook to access summary statistics for any graded item. The statistics page displays key metrics such as: 

  • Minimum and maximum value 
  • Range 
  • Average 
  • Median 
  • Standard deviation 
  • Variance 

The number of submissions requiring grading and the distribution of grades also displays. 

Image below: Access to item statistics from the Grid view. 

Access to item statistics from the grid view

Image below:  Access to item statistics from the Gradeable Items view.

Access to item statistics from the Gradable Items view

Image below: Item Statistics page.

Item statistics page

No Due Date assessment option

Due dates are an important aspect of the teaching and learning process. In some scenarios, such as self-paced learning, an instructor may not want to apply a due date. To make the option for not having a due date more evident, we’ve added a “No due date” option for Tests and Assignments. 

Image below: Test Settings panel showing the new “No due date” option. 

Test Settings panel showing the new “No due date” option

We also updated the default due date and time to tomorrow’s date at 11:59 pm. 

Image below: Test Settings panel displaying the new default due date and time. 

Test Settings panel displaying the new default due date and time

There may be cases when the “No due date” selection conflicts with the Assessment Results settings. When this occurs, the instructor is prompted to review the settings. 

Image below: A warning banner appears when the “No due date” selection conflicts with Assessment Results settings. 

A warning banner appears when the “No due date” selection conflicts with Assessment Results settings

Instructors can navigate to the Assessment Results section in the Settings via the link in the banner. 

Image below: Assessment results timing options when there is no due date. 

Assessment results timing options when there is no due date

Please note that for summative and high stakes assessment, we still advise having a due date and time. To discuss your requirements for test settings, please contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (elearning@aber.ac.uk).  

Announcement indicators and mark announcements as read/unread

Announcements are an important communications channel within a course. It is important to help create awareness of new announcements and read/unread controls. 

Now, there is a number indicator next to the announcement tab in the course. The indicator signals the number of unread announcements available. 

Additionally, students can now mark announcements as read or unread. On the New Course Announcement pop-up, users have the option to mark the read state. Students can also mark announcements as read or unread from the Announcement page. 

Image below: Number of unread Announcements next to the Announcement tab 

Number of unread Announcements next to the Announcement tab

Image below: Announcements pop-up with the option to mark as read/unread 

Announcements pop-up with the option to mark as read/unread

Image below: Announcements page with the option to mark as read/unread. 

Announcements page with the option to mark as read/unread

Image below: Matching announcement and messages indicators for consistency 

Matching announcement and messages indicators for consistency

Reminder: Access the Course Activity Report and message students from within it. 

The Course Activity report helps you understand how well your students are performing and how much they are interacting with your course. The Course Activity Report enables Instructors to: 

  • Message students who are falling behind and encourage them to increase their course activity 
  • Identify struggling students based on their overall grade, missed due dates, the number of hours they spend in your course, and the number of days since their last access 
  • Congratulate students performing well in your course and ask them to be mentors 
  • Customize your course alerts to identify struggling students when their overall grade drops below a specific value, they’ve missed due dates, or they haven’t accessed the course for a certain number of days 
  • Download the table view to a CSV (comma-separated values) file to analyse the data with other tools 
  • Download the scatter plot as a PDF or image to share information with other instructors or mentors of the course 

To access the Course Activity Report select Course Activity in your course’s Analytics tab. 

Image below: Accessing the Course Activity Report from the Analytics tab 

The table view of the Course Activity report on the Analytics tab, with a blue box around Analytics and Course Activity.

Sending Messages 

Instructors can select students and send them messages from Course Activity by selecting the Send message button. When you send a message to multiple students, each student will receive an individual message and will not know which other students were included. 

Image below: A student selected to be contacted and the Send message button highlighted 

The table view of the Course Activity report on the Analytics tab, with a blue box around a student selection and Send message.

For more information on the Course Activity Report see the Blackboard Help Page on the Course Activity Report. 

Reminder: Grading Tests with Flexible Grading 

It is possible to grade tests either by student or by question —making it easy to compare answers across the course and ensure fairness and consistency in grading. Marking by student is currently limited to non-anonymous submissions. Marking anonymous submissions will be included in a future update 

For more information on Flexible Grading see the Blackboard Help Page on Flexible Grading. 

What’s New in Blackboard Learn Ultra – February 2024 

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is excited to share with you details of the new Forms and the new Linkert question type which were introduced in the February update. 

Forms 

Instructors frequently need to survey their class to gauge student interests or opinions on a range of topics from field excursions to course feedback. Now, instructors can create a Form for these use cases. 

The following items are supported in a Form: 

  • Essay question 
  • Likert question 
  • Multiple choice question 
  • True/false question 
  • Text 
  • Local file 
  • File from cloud storage 
  • Page break 

By default, a Form is not graded. Questions in a form don’t have correct or incorrect answers. Forms are currently not anonymous, this functionality will be included in a future update. 

Image below: An example ungraded Form used for a clinical teaching placement 

Example of ungraded Form used for clinical teaching placement

Some instructors may choose to grade a Form to encourage participation. When this is the case, instructors must manually enter a grade for each submission. 

Instructors may view Form submissions by student or by question in the new grading view. 

Image below: Ungraded Form submissions by question 

Ungraded Form submissions by question

Image below: Graded Form submission by student  

Graded Form submission by student

Instructors may download the Form results from the Gradebook and Submissions page as an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file. 

Image below: Download Form results from Gradable Items view 

Download Form results from Gradable Items view

Image below: Download Form results for Submissions page  

Download Form results for Submissions page

In the Gradebook grid view, student submissions for an ungraded Form appear as “Submitted.” Graded Forms display the manually entered grade or appropriate grading status. 

Likert question type 

Likert questions help provide a quantitative measure of opinions and attitudes. The responses often range from strongly disagree tostrongly agree. This question type is now available in the Form assessment type. 

Image below: Set up a Likert question

Set up a Likert question

The scale range defaults to three options, with suggested labelling for options one and three as strongly disagreeandstrongly agree. Instructors may select a range of three, five, or seven options and label the poles as desired. Instructors may also choose to include a “not applicable” option. 

Image below. Example Likert question in an end of unit survey  

Example Likert question in an end of unit survey

Note: A Likert question in a survey created in the Learn Original course view converts/copies to a Form in the Learn Ultra course view. The scale range default is three. 

January 2024 Blackboard Learn Ultra Update

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

Batch Edit: Change to specific date and/or time.

Instructors often want to change the date and time for several selected items in their course at the same time. The problem with making that change is that it would be very tedious if you had to do one item at a time. 

Using Batch Edit, instructors can now override the existing date and/or time for selected items. The same feature also works on show on and hide after dates and times. 

Note: Batch edit of dates/time only works with items that have pre-existing date and time values. Items without a date or time value will not have one applied.

Image below: Accessing Batch Edit from Course Content. 

Image below: Change to a specific date and/or time option for Batch Edit.

Total and Weighted Column Calculations

Instructors need a gradebook that supports diverse grading scenarios. The gradebook supports the creation of calculated columns and an overall course grade. We are expanding gradebook functionality to also support total and weighted calculated columns. These types of calculations are helpful for specific events or periods, such as midterms or finals. 

Total calculated columns can be point-based or weighted calculations. Like setting up the Overall Grade, instructors may link/unlink items in a category in the calculation. They may also choose to exclude categories from the calculation. For an included category, instructors may edit the calculation rule. The calculation rule allows instructors to drop scores or to include only the lowest or highest score in the category. 

Instructors may wish to define a total calculated column for their own use. In this case, they can choose to hide from students. If desired, instructors can include a total calculated column in the overall grade calculation. 

Image below: Add a Total Calculation column from the Grid view.

Image below. Add a Total Calculation column from Gradable Items view.

Image below: Editing a Weighted Total Calculation Column.

Image below: Define rules for the Weighted Total Calculation column.

Attempt logs for enhanced assessment integrity for Blackboard Tests and Assignments.

The Attempt Logs prove to be an indispensable tool for validating issues students may encounter during an assessment. The logs also help instructors identify signs of academic dishonesty.

Note: Attempt logs can be used with Blackboard Tests and Assignments, not with Turnitin.

For Tests, the logs provide the following: 

  • Detailed information, including the date and time of the start and answers to each question. 
  • Question-specific details, such as question number, a preview of the question, and estimated time spent on each question. 
  • Submission receipt number, final grade, and attempt grade. 
  • Easy toggling between all in-progress and submitted attempts for comprehensive assessment tracking. 

Image below: Test attempt log with multiple attempts made by the student. 

For Assignments, the logs offer: 

  • Start and submission date and time. 
  • Submission receipt number. 
  • Seamless toggling between different attempts for a holistic view. 

Image below: Assignment attempt log.

Instructors can access the Attempt Logs from two primary areas: 

  • Context Menu on Submission Page – exclusive to individual assessments. 
  • Grades Tab under Student Overview Page – available for both group and individual assessments. 

Image below: Access from the Submission tab.

Image below: Access from the Grades tab from the student overview. 

For anonymous assessments, the report becomes active after grades are posted, and the anonymity is lifted. This ensures that the Attempt Logs report is a robust tool even in scenarios where student identities are initially concealed. 

Grade visible to students in Gradebook when item is hidden by release conditions.

Release conditions provide options for custom learning paths through course content. When instructors set release conditions, content is unavailable until students meet those conditions. An option to ‘Hide’ selected content from students is available. This setting also hides the grade from the student view of the gradebook. 

Now, instructors can set release conditions without concern of hiding grades. Regardless of the setting in “When will content appear?”, students can see the grade. All other functionality of release conditions is unchanged. 

Image below: Release conditions settings with date/time release condition set in combination with Hide state in “When will content appear?” 

Image below: Student Gradebook view with display of student’s grade regardless of the release condition setting in the image above. 

Note: It is still possible for Instructors to hide grades and Gradebook columns should this be necessary for exam boards or moderation purposes. Once the associated Test or Assessment is complete; Click on the column in the Gradebook, select Edit, then adjust the Release Conditions to Hidden from Students.

Image below: Changing Release Conditions to Hidden from Students. 

Unused files management tool. 

To help instructors understand the usage of files in their course and reduce their digital footprint Blackboard have created the Unused Files tool. This tool helps instructors find and delete course files that are not in use. Instructors can locate the Unused Files tool in the three-dot menu on the Course Content page.  

Image below: Unused Files tool. 

There are two views available; unused files (default view0 or all files. The file name, upload date, and file size display along with an option to download a copy of the local file. Instructors can easily delete unused files. 

Image below: List of unused files.

Image below: List of All files.

December 2023 Blackboard Learn Ultra Update

This month there are three improvements in Blackboard Learn Ultra that the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit would like to highlight for Instructors.

Additional image insertion options

Images enhance comprehension of and engagement with course content. Instructors and students want to use high-quality images in content and submissions. To help with this, a new image button has been added in the content editor in the following places:

  • Announcements
  • Assessment Questions
  • Student answers on questions (local file upload only)
  • Submission feedback (standard view)
  • Journal entries and comments

Image below: Instructor view – image button on content editor for Announcements.

Flexible grading – sorting control on students tab

Grading large numbers of submissions without a way to organize them can be tedious. Now, instructors can apply various sorting options in flexible grading:

  • Submission date (oldest – newest) of latest attempt
  • Submission date (newest – oldest) of latest attempt
  • Last Name (A – Z)
  • Last Name (Z – A)
  • First Name (A – Z)
  • First Name (Z-A)
  • Student ID (ascending)
  • Student ID (descending)

The grading interface stores the most recently used sorting option. If an instructor stops grading an assessment and resumes grading later, the last sorting option is applied.

Also, if sorting the submissions by last name or grading status, the chosen sorting option carries over into the grading interface.

Image below: Sorting options as shown from Students tab in flexible grading.

Group assessment due date exceptions

Instructors may want to set different due dates for each group working on a group assessment.

In the past, there was no way to assign varying due dates for each group working on a group assessment. Now, instructors can assign a unique due date to each group using the exceptions workflow.

On the group assessment Submissions page, the instructor may add or edit exceptions for a group.

Image below: Instructor view – add or edit exceptions option on the group assessment Submissions page.

The Exceptions panel displays relevant information such as the assignment name and selected group name. This helps ensure the accuracy of an exception. Instructors can select a due date for the group using the date and time picker.

Image below: Instructor view – exceptions panel.

Image below: Instructor view – group assessment Submissions page displays the exceptions indicator for Project Group 1.

November 2023 Blackboard Learn Ultra Update

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit would like to highlight five enhancements for Instructors from the November Blackboard Learn Ultra Update. These enhancements are in three areas:

  • Making your content more visual using Images.
  • Updates to Tests.
  • Managing your Gradebook.

Making your content more visual using images:

1. Image insertion option for Ultra Documents, Journals, Discussions, Assessment attempts, and Courses 

Images play an important role in a student’s education experience. Images help to enhance comprehension of and engagement with course content. To help instructors more easily identify high-quality images, Blackboard have added a new image button in the content editor in the following places: 

  • Ultra Documents 
  • Journal prompts 
  • Discussions 
  • Course Messages 

Image below: Instructor view – New image button on content editor for Ultra Documents. 

Screenshot of an Ultra Document

When selected, the instructor has the following options: 

  • Upload an image through selection or drag and drop. 
  • Select a royalty-free, high-quality image from Unsplash. 

Image below: Instructor view – Image source options. 

screenshot of uploading an image

Students can also access the new image button on the content editor in the following areas: 

  • Discussion responses. 
  • Assessments and test question inputs. 
  • Course Messages. 

Image below: Student view – New image button on content editor for discussion response. 

Image below: Student view – Drag and drop or upload an image file. 

After selecting the image, instructors and students can reposition the focus and zoom of the image. There’s also an option to alter the aspect ratio of the image. 

Image below: Modify the zoom and focus of the image; set the aspect ratio. 

Users can rename the image. It is important always to consider the accessibility of course content. The user should mark the image as decorative or provide suitable alternative text. 

Instructors can also set the view and download file options for the image. After the image is inserted, the instructor can resize the image. 

Updates to Tests:

2. Edit/Regrade in Questions 

Instructors may spot a mistake in a test question when grading a test submission. For example, instructors may have found a typo, chosen a wrong answer, or wanted to adjust points. 

In the past, the “Edit/Regrade Questions” option was only available when grading submissions by “Student.”  Now, instructors can also access the Edit/Regrade workflow when grading by question. 

Image below: Instructor view – Edit/Regrade option when grading a test by question.

Image below: Instructor view – editing a question using the Edit/Regrade option. 

3. Matching question updates: partial credit auto-distribution and other updates 

Matching questions are useful for testing a student’s skill in making accurate connections between related concepts. This question type also checks students’ understanding in a structured format. 

To reward students who show partial understanding, some instructors wish to award partial and/or negative credit for matching questions. 

In the past, instructors selected a scoring option: 

  • allow partial credit. 
  • all or nothing. 
  • subtract points for incorrect matches, but question score can’t be negative. 
  • or allow negative question scores. 

These options were exclusive and, at times, created confusion for instructors.  

Now, partial and negative credit is turned on by default. Blackboard auto-distributes partial credit as a percentage across the matching pairs. The auto-distribution of credit saves instructors time. Instructors can edit the partial credit values if needed to grant some pairs more or less credit. Values for partial credit must sum to 100%. 

If desired, instructors may also specify a negative credit percentage to any pair. Negative credit is only assessed when applied and when a student mismatches a pair. If desired, instructors may choose to allow an overall negative score for the question. 

We also made a few other improvements to this question: 

  • Blackboard re-worded the question construction guidance and moved it to an info bubble. 
  • In the past, the “reuse an answer” and “delete pair” options were behind the three-dot menu. Now, these options appear on the right side of the answer for each pair. 
  • Before reused answers appeared as “Reused answer from pair #” in the answer field. Now, the answer itself is displayed in the answer field. “Reused answer” appears beneath the answer for the pair. 
  • “Additional answers” renamed to “Distractors.” 

Image below: New Matching question layout. 

Managing your Gradebook: 

4. Gradebook grid view performance improvements 

Some instructors prefer to work in the gradebook grid view. To improve the user experience, we made several improvements to this view. These improvements address overall performance and reduce the load time. 

Performance tested scenarios: 

  • 25K student enrolments and 400 gradable items: 
    Load time reduced from 108 s (about 2 minutes) to 14s (87% performance improvement) 
  • 2000 student enrolments and 400 gradable items: 
    Load time reduced from 19s to 8s (57% performance improvement) 
  • 40 students and 400 gradable items: 
    Load time reduced from 8s to 6.8s (14.75% performance improvement) 

5. Sorting controls for Student Name, Overall Grade, Assessments, and Manual Columns in grid view. 

To use the grid view click the toggle grid and list view button:

Sorting options in the gradebook provide a more efficient grading experience. 

Now instructors can sort the following gradebook grid view columns: 

  • Student Name 
  • Overall Grade 
  • Tests and Assignments 
  • Manual columns 

Instructors can sort records in ascending or descending and remove any applied sorting. A purple highlight in the column header helps instructors identify where sorting is applied. 

Any sorting applied yields a temporary change to the sort order of all columns in the gradebook grid view. 

Image below: Sorting an assessment in the grid view with filters applied. 

Blackboard Learn Ultra: October Update 2023 

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit would like to highlight four enhancements to Instructors from the October Blackboard Learn Ultra.

1. Partial credit auto-distribution for correct answers for Multiple Choice questions

Multiple-choice questions with more than one correct answer are valuable assessment tools. Also known as multiple-answer or multiple-select questions, these questions assess comprehensive understanding. They also promote deeper learning and higher-order thinking skills. 

Some instructors wish to award partial credit for these question types. This practice awards students who have a partial understanding. It also fosters a positive learning experience. 

In the past, instructors had to enter a value for partial credit percentage for each option. Now, Blackboard will auto-distribute partial credit across correct answer choices. This distribution provides efficiency and saves instructors’ time. If desired, instructors can edit the values if some correct answer options warrant more or less credit. Values for correct answers must sum to 100%. 

Image below: Question credit auto-distributes across correct answer options; values can be edited.

A screenshot of creating a multiple choice question. Allow partial and negative credit highlighted. Percentages highlighted.

2. Send reminder from gradebook list and grid views

Instructors may want to send a reminder to students or groups who haven’t yet made a submission for an assessment. To make this easy, Blackboard have added a “Send Reminder” option to items in the Gradebook. 

There are two views of the Gradebook that can be toggled between using the button. List view and grid view

Image below: Use the list view and grid view button to toggle between views. 

From the Gradebook list view, the option to send a reminder is in the overflow menu (three dots). 

Image below: Send Reminder option from list view 

A screenshot of the Gradebook in list view. Send reminder is highlighted.

Instructors may access the “Send Reminder” option in the grid view by selecting the gradebook column header. 

Image below: Send Reminder option from grid view

A screenshot of the Gradebook in grid view. Send reminder is highlighted.

3. Delegated grading distribution by group membership

Instructors sometimes distribute the grading workload for an assessment to multiple graders. This is a popular practice in larger classes. Instructors can assign graders to groups of students with the new delegated grading option. Each grader will only see the submissions made by students in the group(s) assigned to them. 

Delegated Grading can be used with all available group types. This first release of Delegated Grading supports assignment submissions from individual students. Tests, group assessments, and anonymous submissions are not supported at this time. These will be released at a later date. 

After selecting the Delegated Grading option, select the appropriate Group Set. Instructors can assign one or more graders to each group in the group set. If multiple graders are assigned to the same group, they will share the grading responsibility for the group members. 

Graders assigned to a group of students will only see submissions for those students on the assignment’s submission page. They can only post grades for their assigned group members. Any unassigned instructors enrolled in the course will see all student submissions on the assignment’s submission page. They also post grades for all students. 

Note: At least one Group Set complete with Groups must be present in the course before using the Delegated Grading option. 

Image below: Instructor view of the assessment Settings panel with the Delegated Grading option enabled.

A screenshot of the assignment settings. Delegrated Grading is highlighted.

4. Sorting for manually added gradable items.

Sorting controls help instructors organize and find information in the gradebook. Instructors can now use sorting controls on the grades page for manually created items. The sorting controls enable sorting in both ascending and descending order. Instructors can sort the following information: 

  • Student name 
  • Grade 
  • Feedback 
  • Post status 

The applied sorting order is temporary and resets when you leave the page. 

Note: Sorting controls can be applied to one column at a time. When you sort another column, items will order according to the selected column. 

Image below: Instructor view of sorting controls on the grades page for a manually added gradable item 

A screenshot of the the Gradebook for a manually created item. The sorting controls at the head of columns are highlighted.

September 2023 Blackboard Learn Ultra Update

This month saw the release of several further enhancements in Blackboard Learn Ultra. 

Batch Editor enhancements

Batch editing streamlines making changes to multiple items at once in Blackboard whether that is editing visibility, release conditions or deleting. Blackboard have updated batch edit so that actions now apply to all items inside of Folders and Learning Modules. 

All items are now visible on a single page. Blackboard have added the ability to expand and collapse Folders and Learning Modules.   

For more information on using the Batch Editor, see the Blackboard Batch Editor help page

Unsplash Image Library

As we covered in a previous blogpost, Instructors can now search the extensive Unsplash stock image library for high-quality, royalty-free stock images to use within Blackboard.  

See our previous blogpost here. 

Blackboard Ally

This month also saw us enable the Blackboard Ally accessibility tool that allows students to download alternative formats of content as well as accessibility checker for Instructors. 

See our previous blogpost here. 

If you have any questions regarding Blackboard Learn Ultra please contact elearning@aber.ac.uk