May 2021 Release

Educator Insights Blackboard Learn Ultra SaaS Release 3900.13.

Welcome to Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere! In the Ultra Course View, we are pleased to announce the delivery of a proctoring framework to allow proctoring providers to integrate their solutions with native Learn Ultra assessment flow. In the Ultra Experience and Ultra Course View, instructors can now drop grades inside categories for overall grade calculations. There are also new options for Ultra messages and upgrade notifications for Admins.

This post is designed to provide an educator lens over relevant new features and updates provided by Release 3900.13.0 of Blackboard Learn SaaS. These new features are available on production as of 6 May 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. 



Ultra Experience, Ultra Course View
Impact: Administrators

COVID-19 has placed a much higher need for proctoring services to be available for online exam supervision. Proctoring services provide students with the flexibility and options of an online platform, while retaining the integrity of a supervised exam.  There are a number of benefits for students, academic staff, and the institution.  These include increased flexibility in when exams can be held, a reduced carbon footprint, being able to offer rich media in exam questions, and removing the issues involved with marking handwritten work.

Learn Original proctoring integrations already exist but many proctoring partners have been reaching out to implement Ultra integrations. We have developed a solution that is generic enough for any proctoring service to employ using the new IMS Proctoring Spec to streamline the integration process. This feature also supports the demand for a more tightly integrated UI appearance which the Ultra Extension Framework (UEF) enables.

By leveraging and certifying against the very latest IMS LTI Proctoring standard and combining this open standards-based approach with Blackboard’s own Premium APIs, we have been able to provide an extensible framework allowing partners and clients to build and deploy their integrations in Ultra. Alongside all Proctoring partners we are already working closely with, we expect to see many additional solutions and services within the assessment security realm aligning to this specification in the coming months.

Blackboard is the first and currently only LMS provider to be certified against this latest Proctoring specification.

Useful links:

Drop Grades inside categories for overall grade calculation

Ultra Experience, Ultra Course View
Impact: Instructors

From this release on, instructors and other privileged roles will be able to decide if they want to add additional rules to how their overall grade is calculated when using calculation by categories. They'll be able to drop as many grades as they want (lowest/highest), as long as there are more items inside the category than dropped items, or to choose just the lowest or highest grade to be considered for that category. This feature serves a great variety of use cases, for instance, to help students at the end of the term or to remove outliers (highest/lowest) grades in order to get a better sense of students’ performance.

Instructors collect multiple individual homework assignments, quizzes, and other categorized graded items throughout the semester. Often, instructors want to help students earn higher category grades by dropping one or more of the lowest scored items within the category.

  • For example, a student completes a weekly comprehension quiz for the duration of a 12-week course. The instructor only counts the highest 10 scores toward the student's grade, but still needs to grade and be able to view all 12 quizzes.

To meet this need, Instructors need to be able to set a grade book category to drop one or more of the lowest scores and only count what is left toward the student's total category score. Although the example above was for dropping lowest scores, we have also added the ability to drop the highest scores, as well as use only the highest or use only the lowest as the calculation. These options match the current functionality in Learn Original.

Drop Grades inside categories for overall grade calculation

Useful links:

Ultra messages: Unread message indication

Ultra Experience, Ultra Course View, Original Course View
Impact: all users

We have included an Unread message indicator for messages on the Ultra Base Navigation. This was a highly requested feature from our community, and we are excited to bring this capability to our clients. This solution will provide a clearly identifiable number count highlighting any new messages received for both Original and Ultra courses. When a user selects the Messages tool on the base navigation, the red number count will change to a red pill icon to reduce distraction, but navigating away from this page will again show the unread message count. This capability will provide a greater level of transparency and engagement when new messages are sent and received for all users, and continues our commitment to enhancements for the Messages tool in Ultra.

Upgrade notifications for administrators

Original Experience, Ultra Experience
Impact: Administrators

In the Ultra and Original Experiences, System administrators for Learn deployed in SaaS can opt-in to receive email notifications when an upgrade process starts and completes. This is particularly helpful for SaaS clients who want to be able to communicate with their support teams and user communities, with greater specificity when feature changes are available or bug fixes have been implemented. Users with the full System Administrator role can opt-in at Admin Panel > Notifications > System Alert Settings. Each administrator must opt-in individually to receive emails.

Upgrade notifications for administrators