Author: Jan Thomson – VLE Manager, Learning Technologies Team, CCL

UCLan will be updating our Blackboard experience from Original Learn course view to Blackboard’s Ultra Base Navigation over the summer.  This is the first step in our 2-year, 2 phase plans to move to the full Ultra Course view which will deliver a modern, intuitive, and fully responsive interface with a simpler, more powerful teaching and learning experience. 

Phase 1 – August 2021

  • Update our Original Learn experience to Ultra Base Navigation at the end of August.
  • Ultra Base Navigation will become the Blackboard landing page
  • No changes within modules, programmes, or organisation spaces
  • Assist Launched

Phase 2 –March 2022 – Aug 2022

  • Update Ultra Base Navigation to full Ultra Course View
  • All newly created modules, courses and organisation spaces will be created to the full Ultra Course View
  • Existing modules, courses and organisation spaces will be upgraded to Ultra Course View by Instructors
  • Further details, timescales and updates will be circulated to all users via appropriate communication channels, when applicable.

What is Ultra Base Navigation?

Blackboard’s Ultra Base Navigation offers a modern, intuitive navigation that provides quick access to the most critical information from across all courses, modules, and organisations. It creates a more engaging, efficient, and enjoyable experience for students and instructors, without having to access individual courses.

Benefits of the Ultra Base Navigation:

  • Modern, intuitive experience
  • Responsive on mobile devices
  • Quick access to the most critical information
  • Navigate simply, everything at the users’ fingertips.

What does this update mean for Staff and Students?

  • Staff and Students will not need to do anything during Phase 1. 
  • The Blackboard Support Team will start the process of upgrading to Ultra Base Navigation week commending Monday 24th August 2021.   We will be making changes throughout that week, so whilst it may start to look different as we configure your new Blackboard environment, customise, and add in some new features, you will still be able to access all your existing courses, modules, and organisations. 
  • The updates to the new Blackboard infrastructure require a small amount of system downtime, this will take place on the 30th August 2021, between the hours of 23:30 and 03:30 BST on the 31 August 2021 and will be communicated more widely nearer the time.

Why are we changing?

  • The architecture of Blackboard Learn Original has changed very little since we launched it in 2011.  Whilst Blackboard and UCLan have both made both aesthetic and accessibility improvements over the years, many student users prefer to access Blackboard via a mobile device and Learn Original can sometimes struggle with this.
  • Ultra Base Navigation has a fully responsive design and will work better with mobile devices, as the interface is built to adjust to fit on any computer, tablet, or smartphone.
  • We need to ensure that our learning environment is accessible to all users.  Ultra Base Navigation is designed and developed in accordance with the internationally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 Level AA, as well as the Section 508 standards in the United States. 
  • Aesthetically, Ultra Base Navigation has a simpler, more modern, and less cluttered look-and-feel than Learn Original.
  • Aggregated information, consolidating a global view with access to the most critical information within a click and much more streamlined and efficient workflows.
  • Learn Original is mostly now on a maintenance release schedule with only a small number of new features being launched.  Blackboard Ultra has been and continues to be heavily invested in by the Blackboard experts.  The roadmap for new features, enhancements and future integrations is looking exciting.

An Overview of the changes in Phase 1


The Student Portal

The first notable change will be that the existing Student Portal tabs that you normally use to access your modules, courses, and organisations will change.

Staff will be able to go directly to Blackboard from the Staff Intranet or via the existing web link (https://portal.uclan.ac.uk/) which will land on the new Ultra Base Navigation page.

The Global Navigation

The current Global Navigation area, located in the top right-hand corner of the Student Portal, that displays recently visited courses, an overview of activity and updates, as well as some customisation options will be replaced with the Activity Stream and Profile pages within Ultra Base Navigation.

Qwickly

The version of Qwickly that we have had installed on our Learn Original instance is not compatible with Ultra Base Navigation, so this unfortunately will be removed when we update the system over the summer. 

Modules, Courses and Organisations

Tools and Functionality

In this first phase of the project, it is important to note that there will be no changes to any of your modules, courses, or organisations.  All the tools, functionality, and workflows that you currently have will continue to be available within Ultra Base Navigation.  The only change that you will see within these areas is any new branding and colour theme that will be applied across the whole platform. 

Course list

You will have much more control over how your modules and programmes are displayed including the ability to change the course image, hide and show modules in your personal view including identifying favourites that you can pin to the top of the list.

Terms will be the new way in which your modules are displayed to you.  The Module and Programmes box with the annual academic year tab will no longer exist, so modules will be displayed by current courses and upcoming courses.

An overview of the Ultra Base Navigation menu system

Institution Page: Find information about your institution.  
Profile: Select your name in the list and make changes to your Notification settings  
Activity Stream: See up-to-the-minute action for all your courses.  
Courses: Navigate to past, present, and future courses.  
Organisations: Access the organisations that you lead or are a member of.  
Calendar: View course events and due dates for all your courses.  
Messages: View and send messages in all your Ultra courses.  
Marks: See what needs grading across all your courses.  
Assist:  Helps students locate support from UCLan resources.  
Tools: Access global functions that are outside of your courses such as Rubrics  

The Institution Page

Staff and students will view different Institution pages so that we can provide up-to-date, relevant, and timely information relating specifically to learning or teaching.

Your Profile Page

Your Blackboard Profile will display some basic information that will be pulled through automatically from Banner.

Here you will also be able to completely customise all your Blackboard notifications, including setting up email alerts for the more critical tasks.

The Activity Stream

The Activity Stream provides up-to-the-minute information on all the action in your courses. Users can see what is due and what needs their attention in their courses. Items are sorted into Important, Upcoming, Today, and Recent categories. Users can jump directly into course activities from the list.

  • Follow student discussions as they happen, including the latest submissions.
  • Take note of how many submissions are ready to grade. You can also access new submissions from the stream. 
  • Enjoy a bird’s eye view of course activity and direct access to course items.
  • Filter your view. Use the Filter menu and choose Show All, Assignments and Tests or Grades and Feedback.

Configure the activity stream

You do not need to maintain the activity stream or manage settings. The system populates the stream with information from all courses that users are enrolled in, similar to the Notifications within Learn Original. The tool is always on in the Ultra Base Navigation, you cannot turn it off.

Users can configure their own activity streams on a limited basis. Due dates always show in the activity stream, but users can show or hide some activity types. All users can select the activity stream’s Stream Settings icon to open the Notifications Settings panel.

More on what instructors see in the activity stream

More on what students see in the activity stream

The Courses and Organisations areas

On the Courses page, you can access all your modules and programmes from the current or past semesters, as well as for upcoming semesters.  You can now manage course availability and add a image to your course to make it more easily identifiable.

The Course List is more intuitive, showing your current courses by default. You can add courses to your Favourites list, so it always appears at the top.  There is a new search facility, and you can also filter your list, to see what you only need to see.

Finding Courses

The page lists your Current Courses by default, but you can use the forward and backward arrows, or the Current Courses drop-down menu to access previous or upcoming semesters. You can also use the Filter menu to modify your view of the page or use the search function to find courses on the current page.

If you access a course frequently, you can select the star icon to add it to your favourites, so it appears at the top of the list. You can select the star icon again to remove a course from your favourites when you are finished working in it often.

If there are courses you do not need to see, you can hide them from your view. Click the … menu next to the course and select Hide Course. Once hidden, you can use the filter menu to view the courses that are hidden from you. Note, this only hides the course from your view and does not affect whether students or other faculty and staff can view your course.

Managing Course Availability

In addition to the settings within your course, you can adjust the availability of your course from the Courses Page. Click the … menu next to the course and choose to open the course or make it private (this is equivalent to available and unavailable).  

Grid View

Use the course view toggle at the top of the page to switch between list view (default) or grid view. In grid view, your course card includes an image. Every course is assigned a default image from a library of landscape photographs. You can even add a custom image to represent your course by clicking the pencil icon in the corner. However, please note that replacing the tile image will replace or add a course banner in your course.

Organisations

This page works in the same way that the Courses page. Select Organisations to view the list.

Calendar

The calendar is a personalised organiser that all users can control.  In addition, assessment due dates and course-related events are synced to the individual. The calendar is not synced to your university outlook calendar.

Messages

The Messages feature can be accessed from the Ultra Base navigation as well as from within a module, course, or organisation.  Messages can be sent to a single user, a group of users, or the entire class. Course messaging is used for communication within your online class only. 

Important:  Course messages and the Email tool are not the same. 

Marks

From the Ultra Base Navigation, users have access to all their courses’ grading tasks on the global Grades page. All courses appear together in alphabetical order. The system populates the page with information from all courses that users are enrolled in.

Instructors will see a summary for each course. They see how many grades to post and the average course grade and can begin grading from this page.

Students will see a list of recent grades and their overall grades for each course. Students also see newly posted grades in their activity streams.

Tools

Most tools are unchanged from the Original Learn experience. The tools appear in the Original Course View.

Phase 2

This will take place during 2022.  Modules, programmes, and organisation spaces will all be upgraded to full Ultra Course View in readiness for teaching in September 2022.  Further details and regular updates will follow.

Any questions, help or advice?

Please contact us at Blackboard Support


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