Introducing the Blackboard Learn Ultra Experience



Last week at BbWorld, we released the technical preview of Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience. This is part of our strategic design overhaul of all of our products, and is the next application of our emergent design language. Previously, I described how we’ve applied this language to the Blackboard App for students and Blackboard Collaborate. I want to describe how we’ve extended this new interaction, visual, and theoretical way of thinking about products to our flagship LMS.

As with both Bb Student and Blackboard Collaborate, this represents a complete product rethinking. And as with those products, our Ultra experience redesign started with qualitative research with students and instructors in order to better empathize with them. As a result of this research, we realized a series of emotional boundaries around the product. Since this is very theoretical, we worked to translate these boundaries into a value promise and a series of experiential design pillars.

Experiential Design Pillars

Our value promise rests on these experiential fundamentals:

  • Build one integrated story. Instructors and students don’t think and work in features; they have educational experiences. We must build one integrated story to support the teaching and learning journey.
  • Do less, better. Our product should excel based on the quality of our capabilities, not the quantity. We must better form an opinion about our product and contain features to support that vision, rather than reacting to market forces around competitive products.
  • The details aren’t the details; the details are everything. Every interaction with instructors and students reduces or improves trust and anxiety. We must build a product that reinforces a positive, productive teaching and learning.

Value Promise for Instructors

We promise to empower instructors to better manage and plan the educational journey for their students: to create a simple way to develop curriculum, to ensure students are successful in their studies, and to provide useful and timely feedback through grading to students.

Ultra Course Outline

The following capabilities help us fulfill this promise:

  • Planning. Instructors can leverage and reuse course materials while planning their courses, in order to streamline their workflow and minimize minutia. This content is displayed in a familiar outline structure.
  • Driving Student Success. Instructors can better coordinate and support student success through integrated, simplified quantitative understanding of learning progress.
  • Grading. Instructors can experience extraordinarily streamlined grading, so students can view and understand assessment in time for it to resonate.

Value Promise for Students

For students, we promise to enhance confidence and minimize anxiety by helping them work collaboratively, experience their education in a way that makes sense to them, and to benchmark their academic progress and constantly improve.

The following capabilities help us fulfill this promise:

  • Filtered, personalized deadline tracking. The stream presents students with a prioritized list of what they need to do, and filters out the noise to provide a deep sense of signal. Students can see exactly what’s due, and can respond to the most pressing academic deadlines.
  • Supportive encouragement. Students view integrated analytics in their stream in a helpful, colloquial voice. These analytics help students gain an awareness of their activity and take action in an appropriate timeframe.In-line Analytics
  • A centralized course outline. Students can view their courses in both a timeline and a visual course calendar, helping them understand and manage their progress. An integrated course list sets the scene for future-looking degree and academic planning.
  • Seamless transition between mobile and desktop. Students can build and maintain awareness of their academic journey in any digital modality, and move easily between Bb Student and Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience. Unified Design Language System

Additionally, both instructors and students benefit from integrated Collaborate in both the Ultra experience and Bb Student. This creates a dynamic sense of community, helping students leverage their peers and instructor support in a medium that makes sense to them.

We’re extremely excited to introduce the Ultra experience to you, and to learn about how you use this completely redesigned product to enhance and improve the way you teach and learn. Our technical preview will continue to evolve, as we begin to execute on a continuous delivery model of regular improvements. Gone is the “hatch an egg” legacy approach to product development; we’ll be fixing defects, improving the product design, and selectively adding capabilities on a regular basis.

If you want to give Blackboard Learn with the Ultra experience a try, visit and let us know what you think and see the Ultra experience in action.