Blogpost: Blackboard Learn Ultra Organisations: Important Information

As part of the Blackboard Learn Ultra project, we are now turning our attention to Organisations ready for September 2024.

Organisations are Blackboard sites for non-academic purposes. They have the same functionality as a Blackboard Course and can be used to provide information, online training, and access to materials. Unlike Courses, Organisations are created with no template. Organisations have the same features and functionality as Courses.

There are 3 types of Organisations:

Departmental Organisations

Every department has got 3 departmental Organisations: 1 for Undergraduate students, 1 for Postgraduate students, and 1 for Departmental staff. These are automatically created.

Bespoke and Training Organisations

These are Organisations that have been requested by individuals. They can be created with automatic feeds, such as types of students, students on specific study schemes, or staff members in a particular department. Some of these Organisations hold training packages that we are asked to undertake.

Practice Organisations

These are individual for each staff member and have no students enrolled on them. As part of the move to Ultra, we created all staff their own Ultra practice Organisation.

As we move to Blackboard Learn Ultra for Organisations, we have worked on a new Organisation policy outlining the types of activities they can be used for as well as their retention period. This new policy was approved by Academic Enhancement Committee on 7 February and can be viewed on our webpages.

Departmental Organisations

New Ultra Departmental Organisations will be created shortly but  will not be made available to students until September 2024.

All departments will have a separate Organisation for UG, PG, and Staff in their department.  

These are in the form: 

DEPT-[departmental letter]-UG (e.g. DEPT-N-UG) 

New students and staff members will automatically feed onto the Organisation once they have activated their account. Once these Organisations are available, we will contact Departmental Directors of Learning and Teaching, Faculty Registrars, and Heads of Department to help facilitate the move to Ultra Organisations.

Bespoke and Training Organisations

These are Organisations that have been requested individually for a specific purpose. We have never removed or deleted Organisations before (unless this has been requested).

As part of this work, we will:

  1. Remove access to all bespoke Organisations that have not been accessed in 3 years with a view to retire the Organisation.
  2. Contact those who still have responsibility for an existing Organisation to see if they are required and facilitate the move to Ultra for these Organisations.

Practice Organisations

Staff members currently have access to two practice Organisations – one in Original and one in Ultra.

We will be retiring the Original Organisations in September 2024. Colleagues need to copy any materials they want to retain onto the Ultra version of the Organisation.

If you have any questions about Organisations, please contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (

Blackboard Learn Ultra Update: Building Blocks Retiring

On 31 December 2023, Blackboard is retiring Building Blocks as an integration solution for third party tools and they will no longer function in Blackboard. This will not affect Blackboard Learn Ultra Courses.

Whilst we made use of Building Blocks in Blackboard Learn Original (courses which ran before 2023-24), your Blackboard Learn Ultra Courses do not use them.

Building Blocks are installed software packages used to integrate tools such as Panopto and Turnitin (among many others) into Blackboard. Over the past two years we have upgraded these tools to LTI (Learning Tools Interoperability) integrations. The retiring of Building Blocks was one of the drivers for moving to Blackboard Learn Ultra.

LTIs offer us access to regular updates, bugs fixes, and ongoing developments and enhancements designed for Blackboard Ultra. Building Blocks required manual upgrades and received infrequent updates as this form of integration approached retirement.

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit has done extensive testing to ensure that this change will have as minimal an impact as possible on current Blackboard Learn Ultra courses.

We will undertake the work of disabling Building Blocks on Tuesday 12 December during the regular IS Tuesday Morning Maintenance window in preparation for their final retirement.

If you come across any issues, please contact

Retirement of AirServer

AirServer, the software used to connect mobile devices to teaching room equipment, is being retired.

Over increasing years, AirServer has been unable to cater for different types of mobile devices.

A workaround using Microsoft Teams can be used to link your tablet devices to teaching room equipment.

Take a look at our FAQ: How do I connect a tablet / mobile device to a teaching room machine?

If you have any questions, please contact Information Services (

Panopto Assignment Workflow in Blackboard Learn Ultra

In our previous blogpost we outlined some of the changes to Panopto with our move to Blackboard Learn Ultra.

In this blogpost we’ll outline the changes to using Panopto for Assignments. Panopto Assignments are used for students to submit a recording or presentation.

As part of this change, we recommend that you:

  1. Create a Blackboard Assignment
  2. Students submit via Blackboard Assignment and upload via the Panopto submission tool

The advantages to this new workflow are that:

  1. The workflow for submission and marking is easier
  2. Marks and feedback automatically go into the Gradebook
  3. Students receive an email receipt for their submission

To support staff with this process, we have a Panopto Assignment guide that takes you through setting up the assignment, student submission, and marking on our Lecture Capture webpages.

We’ve also got a FAQ for staff and students.

If you’ve got any questions, please contact the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit (

Panopto Update for Staff: September 2023

As part of the wider Blackboard Ultra project, our Panopto integration has been upgraded to work with Blackboard Ultra. This has provided us with an opportunity to make some changes and improvements.

Accessing Panopto

You can now access the Panopto server via

Panopto Folders

Panopto folders are now organised by academic year.

Staff have frequently requested that the Panopto folders for their Blackboard Courses are organised by academic year rather than as a long list. The Panopto upgrade work gave us an opportunity to restructure our folders as requested.

Top level year folders will appear greyed out, but you still have access to your Panopto folders within.

When you open the Panopto Recorder in a teaching room:

You can either find the Panopto folder you want to record into via the folders or search for the Panopto folder you want to record into.

To find the Panopto folder you want to record into via the folders:

  • Click the dropdown button in the Folder field.
  • Double-click an academic year folder to expand it.
  • Click the dropdown arrow to the left of the academic year folder to expand it.
  • Select the Panopto folder you want to record into.
An animated gif of accessing a Panopto folder in the Panopto Recorder.

To search for the Panopto folder you want to record into:

  • In the Folder field start typing the module code or name of the Panopto folder you want to Record into
  • Select the folder you want to record into.
An animated gif of accessing a Panopto folder using the search function in the Panopto Recorder.

Sharing Panopto recordings from Previous years.

To share Panopto recordings from previous years Panopto folders, copy the recordings into the current years’ folder of the course. This can be done via This grants all students enrolled on the current years’ course in Blackboard access to view the recordings. See this FAQ.

My Folder

Everyone now has a folder in Panopto called My Folder that they can record into. In the Panopto Recorder it can be found under Quick Access.

My Folder is useful for recordings that staff or students do not want to share with others immediately or when they cannot find a suitable folder to record into.

Recordings can be moved from My Folder into another Panopto Folder later. To copy or move a Panopto recording to another folder See this FAQ.

Blackboard Ally

The Learning and Teaching Enhancement Unit is pleased to announce that Information Services has procured Blackboard Ally as part of our move to Blackboard Learn Ultra.

Blackboard Ally integrates into our Blackboard Learn Ultra environment and focuses on making digital content more accessible.

For colleagues creating content you will be able to amend the accessibility of your content. This means that your content will be more accessible to assistive technologies, such as screen readers.

Another benefit of Blackboard Ally is that content can be downloaded in multiple formats. This means that your lecture notes, PowerPoints, and other documents can be converted into many different formats, including:

  • Immersive readers
  • Audio files
  • Electronic braille

There’s nothing that you need to do to enable Ally on your course. It will automatically be enabled on Monday 11 September on 2023-24 Courses onwards and Organisations.

For more information on using Blackboard Ally, take a look at our staff or student FAQ.

If you want to know further information about creating accessible learning materials, take a look at our resources.

Changes to the Vevox PowerPoint Add-in

Vevox, the University’s supported polling tool, has updated its PowerPoint Add-in.

From September 2023, colleagues making use of the Add-in should use the updated version.

Please see our FAQ for how to use the new PowerPoint Add-in.

In our recent blogpost, we wrote about the new AI question generator.

If Vevox is new to you then take a look at our support materials and our previous blogposts.

We’ve also got a training session taking place on Monday 18 September, 14:00-15:00. This session is run by colleagues from Vevox. Book your place online.

Vevox is a great way to make your teaching interactive and further student’s learning.

August 2023 Blackboard Learn Ultra Update

One of the benefits of moving to Blackboard Learn Ultra is the increased enhancements to the virtual learning environment.

In this blogpost, we will outline some of the new functionality available in this month’s update.

1.   Groups

The location to manage the Groups feature has changed. You can now access this directly from the top menu of your course:

Screenshot of menu item with groups highlighted.

See groups guidance for additional information.

2.   Images for Learning Modules

You can now add images to Learning Modules.

Image of a Learning Module with an image

Learning Modules offer a way for you to organise your content. For further information, see Learning Modules guidance.

3.   Ultra Accessibility Checker

To ensure that your content is as accessible as possible, use the accessibility checker.

image of a document being created with the accessibility checker score highlighted

As you create your content, your accessibility score will be generated to alert you to any changes that you might want to make.

4.   Flexible Test grading

When it comes to grading tests, you can now grade by question or student in Ultra. See Blackboard’s test guidance and flex grading for further information.

For other updates this month, take a look at Blackboard’s Release notes.

If you’ve got any questions about using any of these features or Blackboard Learn Ultra, contact

Collaborative Documents available in Blackboard Ultra

Icon Blackboard Ultra

One of the great new enhancements that we’ve got in Blackboard Ultra is the ability to embed collaborative documents.

For those of us who did much of their teaching online during the Covid pandemic, you will recall us espousing the benefits of loading a collaborative document in the chat. We’ve now been working to enable this on our Blackboard Courses and we are pleased to say that they are available for you to use on your 2023-24 courses.

This means that your students will be able to collaborate together outside the classroom, on Blackboard in their own time. There are 3 types of document available for students to collaborate on:

  • Word
  • Excel
  • PowerPoint

We’re going to be using the collab docs for blog and wiki alternatives. But, if you want to maybe get your students to mind map, generate ideas, or build on each other’s notes, take a look at the collab docs. You could also use it to get students to sign up to groups. You can use the group feature in Ultra courses to limit the item to a specific student or group of students. 

Want to know how to do it? Take a look at Blackboard’s guidance on Microsoft OneDrive and collaborative documents.