Published January 7, 2021
To answer this question and help you decide if Ultra Course View is ready for your courses, we reached out to Don Trainor, a learning systems specialist with the UB Learns support team. Hopefully, the information below will help you decide which course view option is best for you and your courses.
A course view in UB Learns is how an online course looks and functions to faculty and student users. UB Learns now offers two course views, Original Course View and Ultra Course View, for faculty to utilize through the Blackboard learning management system.
Faculty can now choose, on a course-by-course basis, between Original Course View and Ultra Course View.
It is important to emphasize that Original Course View will remain the default course view, and UB Learns will continue to support both course views to ensure that faculty have the tools and functions that best meet their course objectives.
The Ultra Experience brings a more modern, intuitive user interface to UB Learns, which provides greater efficiency for daily tasks, increased accessibility and responsive design (adapts to the user’s device). The Ultra Experience has two components: Ultra Base Navigation and Ultra Course View.
Ultra Base Navigation is the easy-to-navigate main menu in UB Learns that provides quick access to critical information, such as grading tasks and grades, due dates, activities and course messages for all your courses. UB Learns adopted Ultra Base Navigation in May 2020, and it’s important to note that Ultra Base Navigation does not affect the way your courses look or function.
Ultra Course View includes a more modern design intended to increase efficiency for both instructors and students. Ultra Course View is a relatively new option, so there are tools and functions in Original Course View that are not currently available in Ultra Course View. Blackboard continues to improve Ultra Course View, but due to the global pandemic, the development schedule has changed, and a detailed roadmap is currently unavailable.
Instructors considering which course view to use need to think about how they integrate UB Learns into their courses. Original Course View works with a wide variety of courses, from those used only to post a course syllabus and readings to others that rely heavily on assessments to facilitate content mastery.
Based on recommendations from Blackboard and feedback from UB faculty who taught with the new course view in fall 2020, UB Learns courses that are primarily used for the delivery of course content (course documents, instructional videos, etc.) and have limited assessments are best suited for Ultra Course View.
There are a number of advantages with Ultra Course View. First, let’s begin with the new design layout where the clean, modern look is a welcomed change. All course content is displayed on the Course Content page, which is also the landing page for all courses, making the user experience more efficient and consistent.
Documents, which are enhanced versions of Items found in Original Course View, are a notable addition to Ultra Course View. These “Ultra Docs” allow you to build engaging course content directly in UB Learns. You’re able to include text, images, videos, and files all on one page. What’s great is that these documents will scale for mobile devices and can be downloaded in multiple formats for accessibility.
Ultra Course View includes Panopto integration and allows you to add media files from several sources, including YouTube, SlideShare, Prezi, Khan Academy, Soundcloud, Spotify, Genial.ly, NearPod, Quizlet and Vimeo.
New course announcements immediately appear when students enter a course and must be closed before viewing the course content.
Building classroom community is a challenging and ongoing factor in course development. Discussion analytics have been improved and allow you to easily monitor students who are regularly participating and those who need a little nudging. For those students who need some encouragement, you can message them directly, either individually or with a group message to all non-participants.
We all need help staying focused and on track, especially as this global pandemic continues to drag on. To help make students aware of missed due dates, you can enable automatic zeros for late assignments.
Setting student accommodations is much easier too. Once accommodations are added for a student, they are applied to all gradable items in the course. You no longer have to add accommodations every time you create an assessment.
There are also some disadvantages to Ultra Course View. You can only have two levels of folders and learning modules, so the organization of your course is more important than ever. It’s great that you can’t send students down into the content abyss, but only being able to create one level of child folders inside parent folders or learning modules does present limitations.
Ultra Course View does not currently include support for tables, HTML, source code or block quotes. So, if these features are essential for your course, hold off on making the leap and wait for updates.
There are also limitations for assessments. Several question types are not currently available in Ultra Course View. These include Calculated Numeric, Short Answer (use Essay), Either/Or (use T/F or Multiple Choice) and Quiz Bowl. Opinion Scale/Likert, Ordering and Hot Spot are in development. Presenting one question at a time to help ensure academic integrity and grading one question at a time are also on the development road map.
Course groups have several limitations in Ultra Course View. You’re unable to bulk create groups, bulk enroll students in specific groups or export group lists. Additionally, group assignments are limited to one submission attempt.
Blogs, surveys and self and peer assessments are currently unavailable but planned for a future release.
Lastly, Blackboard does not plan to add Wikis or Tasks to Ultra Course View due to low usage.
The UB Learns support team offers information sessions about Ultra Course View to all faculty and instructional staff. These sessions cover building a new course site using Ultra Course View and highlight the new course view’s advantages and challenges. Topics include adding content, Panopto integration, discussion boards, assessments and the gradebook.
The first step is to attend an information session and review the materials available on the Next Steps webpage. These resources will help you decide if Ultra Course View has the tools that you need.
If you feel that Ultra Course View will align well with your course and improve your students’ learning experiences, fill out the Ultra Course View Request Form (link available at the bottom of the Next Steps webpage). The UB Learns support team will work with you collaboratively to ensure the course will be successful throughout the entire semester.
We understand it’s not easy (re)designing your course, so you need to consider if you have the time to devote to the conversion. Most of the faculty in the early adopters program took the opportunity to rethink the structure and delivery of their course materials and decided to start with a blank course.
If you are interested in learning more about Ultra Course View, I encourage you to sign up for one of the information sessions scheduled in March and April. You can also directly contact Don Trainor (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions about Ultra Base Navigation and Ultra Course View features.
As always, if you would like support with designing a course or would like to discuss how to incorporate UB Learns into your course (re)design and content development, please don’t hesitate to request a one-on-one consultation with a learning designer at UB’s Center for Educational Innovation.
Best of luck with your spring 2021 course building!