August 2021 Release

Educator Insights Blackboard Learn SaaS Release 3900.19.0

This release includes a number of updates for Ultra Course View. We dive into the deep and seamless integrations between Microsoft Teams Classes and Ultra. There are improvements to the Ultra Calendar as well as advanced filtering options for the Gradebooksubmission linking, and calendar links for Ultra Peer Review. Students can now mark and track progress and the student experience is improved with a new navigation menu!

This post is designed to provide an educator lens over relevant new features and updates provided by Release 3900.19.0 of Blackboard Learn SaaS. These new features are available on production as of 5 August 2021. Full release notes including API updates and bug fixes

Administrators and Learning and Teaching Support Staff will find this information helpful as they work on change management with their end-users.


Microsoft Teams classes in Ultra - 3900.19.0

Ultra Experience, Ultra Course View
Impact: Administrators, Instructors and Students

Blackboard and Microsoft have partnered to develop deep and seamless integrations between our native software solutions for a powerful education experience for students.

Users can now experience the power of Teams directly from within their Blackboard Learn Ultra course. This integration is the first in a series of upcoming integration capabilities with the Microsoft collaboration suite.

Learn Ultra Instructor integration with Microsoft Teams screenshot

The integration will be available for Ultra courses only as part of the 3900.19.0 Learn SaaS release. The Microsoft Teams classes integration provides the following set of capabilities:

  • Learn administrator setup and Microsoft 365 global admin approval.
  • Enrollment synchronisation between Ultra course enrollments and Microsoft Teams class participants.
  • Automatic Microsoft Team class creation and Team activation control (Instructor/Team Owner availability management).
  • Student and instructor course level launch of Microsoft Teams classes.
  • Support for institution email data mapping to minimize user account enrollment issues.
  • Support for Learn Preview User.
  • Ultra course enrollment size of up to 1800 students. As we continue to enhance the integration, we'll aim to reach higher enrollment numbers.

The integration means that a course instructor can use course membership data from Learn Ultra to create a Team class for their course. The benefit for students enrolled in the Learn Ultra course is that they will be automatically enrolled into the Team class and be able to launch their Team class directly from their Ultra course.

The instructor will have to activate the Team to give students access to it.

As part of this integration, there is a new entitlement to achieve both configuration and synchronisation. The new entitlement is Course/Organization Outline > Microsoft Teams > Configure. To provide this new entitlement to a custom role, all Ultra courses must have a full system-provided instructor role enrolled before this action takes place. There are further details in the Release Notes for Administrators on Testing, Integration and data synchronisation.

Ultra calendar: Links

Ultra Experience, Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors and Students

Given the rapid shift to online learning, virtual office hours or synchronous collaboration sessions have become quite common. Instructors want the ability to easily link sessions to calendar invitations so students can have the best opportunity to successfully find where they need to be.

With this release, Ultra now supports hyperlinks in the calendar location field. Instructors can link any virtual tool of their choice in the calendar event, and students can launch the virtual session from the calendar itself.

Screenshot depicting the Learn Ultra with Calendar Links update

Ultra gradebook: Advanced filtering options

Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors and Students

Gradebook in Ultra Course View now has advanced filtering options! We are really excited about this feature as it promotes an easier grading process for Instructors. Gradebook filters will make segmenting the grading process of large courses easier.

Instructors will be able to filter their gradebook view by multiple variables like users, groups, items, and categories. Our new approach provides a more dynamic experience for Instructors where multiple filters can be used on demand. The filters applied can also be bookmarked and accessed later. Besides seeing the filters in the gradebook, the user will be able to move back and forth among the students’ submissions that are included in the selected filters.

Ultra peer review: Submission linking and calendar links

Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors and Students

This release adds new functionalities to peer reviewed assignments in Ultra Course View.

Now, instructors can access the submissions reviewed by a student right from that student's grading panel. They can easily select a specific submission and grade a student’s review in context.

Students also have direct access to the submissions available for their review from either the Due Date or the Calendar views. This makes it easier for them to act when reviewing their pending tasks.

Ultra progress tracking

Ultra Course View (Alpha Release)
Impact: Administrators, Instructors and Students

Ultra Course View will allow students to mark and track their progress inside their courses. This new feature comes from direct client feedback and it aligns with how students and instructors think about pace and progress. Once turned on, students can visually identify what tasks they have started, completed, or haven't interacted with. Students can also manually update their progress on specific items. This is a new level of personalisation in Ultra, and it should help students see progression through their course.

Progress tracking will be initially released as an “Alpha stage” feature. This means that the feature will be limited to only new courses where no activity has taken place. Instructors will need to make a decision before their course has started whether they want to try progress tracking or not. Those who choose to turn the feature on will provide Blackboard with valuable input about how the feature functions so that we can improve it in future releases. In addition to the feature itself, we're introducing feature flagging as part of the release of progress tracking. Progress tracking will be behind a feature toggle. This means that administrators can decide whether they want to give instructors the ability to turn this feature on at the institution level. The ability to decide when to allow access to the feature will be for a limited time only.
Finally, while this is a starting point, it’s the beginning of the journey. This “Alpha stage” feature will be released to a set of institutions. In its initial phase, this Alpha release will only be available for English-speaking countries. We have a number of exciting enhancements that will expand the benefits of marking progress to not just students but also instructors. In later milestones we'll expand this capability to all institutions, and provide valuable insights and information on the student’s progress to higher roles.

Ultra: Navigation menu

Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors and Students

Ultra Course View is getting a new navigation menu! The top menu has changed to text based vs. the iconography we used to have. On top of that, we’ve made the top menu sticky. This means that it will remain visible to users even after they have scrolled down the page.

Gif showing the Ultra Navigation Menu

In addition to these changes, we’ve also removed Student Preview from the Details and Actions menu and placed it in the new header. This will allow instructors access to student preview whenever they are on any top navigation page (e.g. Calendar, Gradebook, etc.)

We're excited about this feature because it's an example of how we are evolving Ultra Course View to be more intuitive for the user. This is also the first step we're taking to improve Ultra Course View. Up next will be allowing instructors to add a banner image to their course homepage.