Ultra Updates - August

The past month was filled with updates and new features inspired by users from the Blackboard Community Idea Exchange. If you aren't participating in the exchange yet, we urge you to join and have your voice heard by the Blackboard product development team! It is a great place to connect with other faculty and staff, submit ideas for improvement, and vote on new features. August featured updates to grading, learning modules, accessibility, and group messaging. We've selected some of those enhancements to demonstrate for you here.

For Instructors:

Flexible Grading

Flexible Grading is a new, efficient assessment grading experience that provides intuitive and streamlined navigation, eliminates artificial barriers to grading, and saves time and effort when navigating from student to student or question to question.

Flexible Grading capabilities allow you to:

  • Grade by question or student
  • Filter on grading status of choice
  • Navigate between students and multiple submission attempts
  • Keep track of your grading process
  • View both the attempt and the final grade for each assessment
  • Provide meaningful feedback with or without a rubric
  • Grade inline using Blackboard Annotate
  • Collapse side panels to view more of the student submission
  • Post all grades when ready

Supported assessment grading configurations within Flexible Grading allow for individual student test and assignment submissions, single and multiple attempts, grading with rubrics, and SafeAssign. Other assessment configurations will continue to route through to the current grading experience. There is no loss of grading functionality for anonymous submissions, group submissions, two graders per student, and peer review.

Flexible Grading will come to these assessment configurations in future releases.

Instructor view of grading a test by question; the Needs Grading filter is applied to filter out any automatically graded questions:

A screenshot of the Blackboard grading view. Questions at the top left is underlined and the needs grading status below it is highlighted. Below that, and essay question is selected. This demonstrates that when an essay is selected all student answers appear on the right side of the screen.

Instructor view of grading a test by question:

A screenshot of Blackboard grading view with the students option selected. The right side of the screen shows the full exam.

Instructor view grading and assignment with a rubric:

A screenshot of Blackboard grading view with students selected on the left. The right side of the screen shows a grading rubric and the center view is of the selected student assignment.

Learning Module Images

Learning Modules offer a valuable means to arrange and structure course content effectively. We are excited to introduce a new enhancement that allows you to elevate the visual appeal of your course. With the newly added image support for Learning Modules, you can now enhance the overall aesthetics and make content identification even more seamless.

To add an image to a Learning Module, instructors can edit the module. To edit the Learning Module, select edit from the Learning Module ellipsis menu:

A screenshot of a blackboard ultra course with the content area selected. A drop down menu on the right shows the edit option highlighted.

The instructor can select “Add image” or the image button:

A view of the module settings. The center of the image shows an image thumbnail and the words add image highlighted.

Instructors can drag and drop an image of their choice or upload one from their device. Drag and drop the image or select "Upload file":

A screenshot of the insert image menu. It displays a file upload icon and directs the user to drag and drop a file.

The image appears in preview. This helps the instructor ensure that the desired image is selected. Image preview:

A screenshot that demonstrates a preview of the desired image.

Instructors can drag the image and modify the zoom to select the focal point of the image. Drag or zoom the image to select the focal point:

This screenshot shows the desired image with an adjustable grid for modifying the image.

Instructors can mark the image as decorative or provide appropriate alternative text. Accessibility settings for Learning Module image:

An image of the module settings menu. The accessibility features are highlighted, showing the option to add a description or mark as decorative.

The final result reveals a Learning Module image on your Course Content page:

A screenshot of the course content area which now features a decorative image next to the module topic.

Accessibility Checker

Embracing accessibility to foster inclusive learning experiences and meaningful engagement is central to our mission. To support instructors in this endeavor, we are delighted to introduce the Ultra Accessibility Checker (Powered by Anthology Ally). This powerful tool scans content in the content editor for Ultra Documents, helping instructors effortlessly identify and resolve accessibility issues.

Instructor view - Ultra Document content editor with Score Gauge indicator:

A screenshot of the accessibility checker which features an orange score gauge marked at 64 percent.

Instructors will find the Score Gauge indicator visible while active in the content editor of Ultra Documents. Instructors can select the Score Gauge to view the Instructor Feedback panel, which presents actionable suggestions for addressing accessibility matters at scale. Instructors can also view the content editor in a preview. Furthermore, the Score Gauge provides a live score, effectively flagging any accessibility issues during content creation and editing.

The Score Gauge displays only while an instructor is actively creating or editing content in the content editor for the Ultra Document. The Ultra Accessibility Checker does not provide any additional checking or guidance for files, reporting, or alternative formats.

Instructor View - Score Gauge and suggestions for fixing accessibility issues:

A screenshot that highlights each area of a document that needs enhancements to accessibility. The right side of the screen features an apply button for applying suggested changes.

For Instructors and Students:

Group Messaging Improvements

Effective communication and collaboration among group members is a vital component of a productive learning environment. With our latest update, instructors now have the ability to send messages to any group or group set, promoting seamless interaction. Instructors can also select multiple groups as recipients for a message, and students can conveniently select their groups as message recipients as well.

Those in the message can view the groups or group sets that received the message. Recipients can view who sent the message.

To enhance user experience, we have introduced a message icon on the Groups page, providing an easy means to communicate with a group. The message auto-populates the recipient with the selected group. Users can change the recipients as appropriate.

Instructor view - button to draft/send a message to specific groups:

Instructor view - button to draft/send a message to specific groups.

Student view - button to draft/send a message to specific groups:

Student view - button to draft/send a message to specific groups.

New Message page with a group in the recipient list:

New Message page with a group in the recipient list.

Group message thread, with the group name in the recipients' list:

Group message thread, with the group name in the recipients' list.