University to switch from Blackboard Learn to Blackboard Ultra. Here’s the difference

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Screenshot

Blackboard Ultra’s navigation page

Blackboard Learn, the university’s current learning management system, is about to be traded in for more of a “21st century experience”. 

The university gradually shifting to Blackboard Ultra, a revamped version of the current system. Ultra, which all classes will be taught on starting in Spring of 2023, has a more minimalist design and easier to access tabs as compared to the current version.

“It’s very similar to the look and feel of Canvas,” Director of Office of Instructional Resources Carolyn Speer said. “It’s a 21st century premium interface.”

Blackboard Ultra class page (Screenshot)

Not only does the appearance of the Ultra look different but it is more reliable as well, John Jones said. 

“This is a more modern cloud based sort of model that Blackboard and Canvas and other companies that do this sort of work provide,” Director of the Media Resources Center John Jones said. “It’s a single massive server farm that serves all their customers … on lots and lots of servers. So we’re not going to be dependent on one server.”

“That doesn’t mean we won’t have hiccups and we won’t have problems, but we’re going to stop needing to take Blackboard down to run updates.”

Here is a breakdown of all the changes faculty and students should expect in the coming semesters. 

Ultra navigation page

Blackboard Ultra’s log in page (Screenshot)

Starting May 29, 2021 Blackboard’s home page will change from Learn to Ultra. However, not all classes will be taught completely on Ultra. 

“The navigation environment is one thing, then we have the classes themselves between Ultra and Blackboard Learn are really different, but both of those classes will live inside the Ultra environment starting May 29,” Speer said.

“It is just the environment that’s changing on May 29.”

Even though the navigation page will look different, students will go to that page the way they have always gone to Blackboard.

“They’re going to go to Blackboard the way they go to Blackboard right now, it’s just that we’re going to change Blackboard,” Speer said. “All the links will remain the same.”

Ultra also has a place where students can add a nickname they prefer to go by. This way instructors can see students’ preferred names ahead of time.

The majority of the courses will be taught on the original Blackboard, but will be accessed through the Ultra homepage.

The transition from the normal login and landing page will happen from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Mobile experience

Students will see a significant difference in classes taught on Ultra and classes taught on Learn. One of the key differences is the mobile experience, Jones said.

The current Blackboard app has received a lot of negative feedback from multiple universities. This is why the university doesn’t promote the app much, Jones said. But once the university switches all classes to Ultra, that will change. 

“If you open to the Ultra version, you’re going to see something that’s really designed in a mobile first way,” Jones said. “It feels like a much better, more dedicated mobile experience.”

The transition

The university has a lot of transitional steps in place to help the transition to Ultra run smoothly. The transition will not be fully complete until Spring of 2023. Here is the full schedule posted on Wichita.edu:

  • May 2021: move to “ultra base navigation”
  • Fall 2021: Ultra Pilot participants deliver classes in Ultra when possible
  • Fall 2021: Weekly Zoom-based Ultra trainings available, with online resources available on demand
  • Spring 2022: University community invited to adopt the Ultra experience for their classes, on their own timetable
  • Throughout 2022: Ultra training ongoing, both through Zoom and online, and in-person if possible
  • Fall 2022: Last semester with Blackboard Learn classes available
  • Spring 2023: All course shells will be created in the Ultra experience