Since BbWorld 2015, we’ve been hard at work on our new user experience for learners and educators we’re calling the Ultra experience. It’s an experience that is modern, efficient, and intuitive; and one that is focused on improved workflows and an accessible and responsive design. Blackboard’s new Ultra experience is a set of design principles we’re applying across all of our teaching and learning products. Available via our SaaS deployment, Learn with the Ultra experience is redefining what an LMS can be. Collaborate with the Ultra experience provides high fidelity audio and video web-conferencing integrated with the LMS. And Bb Student provides anytime, anywhere access for today’s learners. Combined, Blackboard’s Ultra experience is poised to transform the overall teaching and learning experience.

At the same conference we also announced our continued long term commitment to Learn with the Original experience (also known as Learn 9.1 for managed-hosted and self-hosted customers). Providing the greatest breadth and depth of functionality in the market, combined with the ability to leverage self-hosted, managed-hosted, or SaaS deployments, our Original experience provides institutions with the greatest range of flexibility available.

Institutions support a wide range of instructor experience and comfort as it pertains to technology, in particular the LMS. No two courses and instructors are alike, and there shouldn’t be a one size fits all structure that instructors are forced into. Nor should institutions be forced to adopt a deployment method that’s not right for them. Our focus as a company has evolved to a strategy where we are able to service all user types as well as a full range of institutional needs.

While there has been some delay in the rollout of our strategy, at BbWorld 2016 we’re happy and proud to say that we’re ready when you are. Since last year we’ve:

  • Enabled the full range of our SaaS deployment options for the US market, providing institutions with flexibility around their integrations and how and when they update.
  • Provided important updates to Learn with the Original experience that make it possible to move to SaaS with minimal interruption and little change management.
  • Delivered important new functionality for Learn with the Original experience that honors our long term commitment, while also benefiting from some of the Ultra experience design principles via a new theme. That new theme brings an Ultra-inspired look and feel and provides greater mobile responsiveness in key areas.
  • Launched an Educator Preview that allows anyone to try out the Ultra experience for Learn, Collaborate, and Bb Student.
  • Delivered via continuous updates the Collaborate Ultra functionality needed to make it fully ready for virtual classroom use.
  • Delivered via continuous updates the Bb Student functionality needed to fully support both Learn and Collaborate.
  • And, delivered via continuous updates the Learn Ultra functionality that will meet the needs of many instructors. In fact, at BbWorld 2016 we declared that Learn with the Ultra experience is available now for pilot and production use.

So let’s clarify what we mean when we say that Learn with Ultra experience is available now. Learn with the Ultra experience now has a rich enough feature set to meet the needs of a certain segment of instructors. It’s ready for those who use the fundamental elements of an LMS. Will it be right for everyone? No, but the Original Course View, which can be run side by side with the Ultra Course View in SaaS, will meet the needs of the rest of instructors, those who need the full depth and flexibility the Original experience provides. And over time, we’ll continue to deliver more functionality for the Ultra experience on a frequent and regular basis, just like we have with Collaborate and Bb Student.

We’re encouraging everyone to take a look for themselves by signing up for our Educator Preview. You be the judge as to whether Learn with the Ultra experience is rich enough to meet your needs. Kick the tires, join a cohort, start a pilot – follow the same best practices you would for managing any other change. But most of all, take a look and see where we are and where we’re headed. We think you’ll like what you see.

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