Earlier this year, we told you that the Ultra Course in Blackboard Learn will be an effective choice for many schools to start rolling out to specific instructors, programs, and/or departments by BbWorld 2016. We’re now hitting our stride in terms of development and the rollout of workflows. Since this is built on a cloud architecture, we are able to quickly add new functionality.

This week, we pushed out a series of features based on the prioritization feedback you had given directly to us. I’ve listed out some of the key enhancements below, but remember, you can already use these features in the Original Course, which is just your Blackboard Learn 9.1 course today.

The news isn’t the fact that these features are in the Ultra Course, but rather how we’ve made it much easier to work with these and reduced the number of clicks it takes to complete a task.

Group Assignments: Assigning students to groups is a breeze. You can now eliminate manual work by randomly assigning students through a simple drop down.

Randomly assign students to a group through a simple drop down

Graded Discussions: Faculty members are able to jump directly from a discussion into a grading workflow (and vice versa) as opposed to having to move back between screens. A grader can simply click from the grade center and see the highlighted comment from one student and then seamlessly move to the next student.

Flow easily between discussions into a grading workflow

Add Media to Ultra Course Assignments: We’ve made this easier than ever by allowing you to drag and drop files and rich media content directly from your computer. These engaging pieces of content may be viewed or played within the Assignment page without requiring students to download and open image or video files on their computer.

Add files and view rich media content on the assignment page

Administrator Control for Ultra Enablement: In direct response to your feedback, system administrators now have the ability to manage course view options (Original vs Ultra Course) at the course level, instead of system-wide, which allows more flexibility for instructors. (And by BbWorld 2016, we plan to provide institutions with the option of making the Ultra Course View available to instructors, departments, and programs of their choosing.) So for example, XYZ institution can decide that the entire Math department will use the Ultra Course View while the rest of the institution uses the Original Course View. That was just one example, but we expect different schools will make different choices based on their needs. We’ll continue adding the right amount of granular options around Ultra enablement to make sure it fits your institution’s particular needs and timelines.

Jon Kolko, our Vice President of Design, eloquently wrote about the approach we’ve taken to the product with regard to features. You can try it out yourself in the Educator Preview – an easy way to test and play with the Ultra experience for Blackboard Learn. This is an early release of the Ultra Course – you’ll consistently see new workflows over time.

And because we’ll be rolling out new functionality on a regular basis through our cloud architecture, keep an eye out this spring for things like goal alignment, targeted notifications, rubrics and test enhancements.

In addition to the new functionality, the cloud architecture also allows us to quickly apply fixes across all Blackboard Learn SaaS instances. At 5:00 pm ET on 4/26, a customer reported a bug with assignments in the Educator Preview. About 36 hours later, we applied the fix and helped that team proceed with the testing of the new experience for Blackboard Learn – all without downtime, disruption and people even noticing!

Your direct feedback has already helped us prioritize development and enhancements, and it will continue to do so as we move forward. We’re proud of what the team has built and want to continue hearing your reactions either through the Blackboard Community Site or via email.



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