How to Get Started
Wichita State transitioned from the "old" Blackboard interface to the Ultra Base Navigation interface in May, 2021. The change in the Blackboard interface impacted the way instructors and students login and find their courses, but for the most part, courses were unchanged at that time. That is because Wichita State currently supports both the "old" Blackboard course view and the Ultra course view. Although there is no date yet set by which all courses at WSU will need to transition from the "old" course view to the Ultra course view, eventually that will happen. This page is a comprehensive guide to help instructors get started with Ultra Course View in one or more of their courses.
NOTE: This guide is heavily hyperlinked to supporting webpages, webinars, videos, and other materials. OIR recommends instructors read through the guide as written at least one time before going back and following hyperlinks.
Step 1: Understand how your course will be created:
There are four possible ways for instructors to get an Ultra Course:
- Some courses are provided to the instructor by the department. This is more common for courses taught by GTAs or part-time instructors or for courses that are strictly controlled by the department. If you do not know if your department makes a version of your course available to you, you should contact your department chair.
- Most instructors who have been teaching at Wichita State for at least a year should have most or all of their courses converted for them by a vendor working for the university. If you do not know if you already have a converted course, you can check by looking in Blackboard in the "Development/Sandbox Course Shells" area, found under the drop-down menu next to the "Current Courses" heading in the Courses area of Blackboard. All vendor-created Ultra courses have a title that ends in the letter U.
- Some instructors may want to work to convert their own classic/"old" Blackboard courses to the Ultra Course format. While this is simple to do, inevitably some of the design and possibly some of the content will be lost in this process.
- Some instructors may want or need to create their courses from scratch directly in the Ultra Course interface.
Step 2: Sign up for Blackboard's Ultra Course Seminar. If you are unable to attend the Ultra Course Seminar at a time that works for you or if you would like to augment that training, you will need to seek out training on the WSU website.
- Blackboard Ultra main training page (find topics under "In this Section).
- Check upcoming or recorded versions of Ultra training from the Academic Resources Conferences
- Bring questions to the open (online) faculty lab times run by the Office of Instructional Resources
The Office of Instructional Resources strongly urges all instructors to work with a single Ultra Course for the first semester or term and convert or recreate the rest of their courses in a later semester. NOTE: While we don't yet have a firm date for requiring the use of Ultra, we will eventually, so it is a good idea to begin using it as soon as possible.
Even those instructors who are given a course by the department will find there are important "building" steps that can or should be done to improve their course. Notice some of the steps below are hyperlinks to additional instructions.
|Course Build Type||Step 1||Step 2||Step 3||Step 4||Step 5||Step 6|
|Provided by the department||Review the Ultra course, noting necessary changes||If the provided course is not in a "live" course shell, first, convert your "live" shell to Ultra and then copy in the provided course.||Review submission settings and dates, turn on "track progress," create welcome announcement||If you don't want your course to show to students until the first day, make the course "private", but remember to show it no later than the first day of the semester.|
|Provided by WSU (Vendor)||Review original ("old" Bb course), noting all features used.||Compare Ultra course's content and functionality to "old" Bb course, noting any missing features that should be replaced.||Customize/modify Ultra course's content as necessary. Refer to OIR's Ultra pages for help.||Convert "live" course shell to Ultra format and roll completed course content to "live" course shell||Review submission settings and dates, turn on "track progress," create welcome announcement||If you don't want your course to show to students until the first day, make the course "private", but remember to show it no later than the first day of the semester.|
|Converted by instructor||Request an original ("old" Blackboard) course format "development shell" from OIR.||Copy your previously-used ("old" format) course into your development shell and then "convert" your development shell to Ultra Coruse format. NOTE: you will initially see your course in "preview." You should click "Use the Ultra Course" button before making modifications.||Check the "conversion exceptions" list for issues and make a plan to Customize/modify Ultra course's content as necessary. Refer to OIR's Ultra pages for help.||Convert "live" course shell to Ultra format and roll completed course content to "live" course shell||Review submission settings and dates, turn on "track progress," create welcome announcement||If you don't want your course to show to students until the first day, make the course "private", but remember to show it no later than the first day of the semester.|
|Created from scratch||Request an Ultra Course format "development shell" from OIR.||Work directly in the Ultra Course development shell uploading/creating content, assignments, and tests.||Convert "live" course shell to Ultra format and roll completed course content to "live" course shell||Review submission settings and dates, turn on "track progress," create welcome announcement|
Step 1: Know where to go to get help:
- If you need general training:
- If you never took the Blackboard Ultra Course Seminar, joined the Blackboard Community, or joined OIR's Facebook Group, make sure to do those things if you can.
- Make time to attend the Academic Resources Conference during January, May, and August. There are always sessions on Ultra Courses and related topics at the ARC.
- Review the Blackboard Ultra training pages that OIR provides. Remember to check "In This Section" for the full listing.
- If you need emergency technical support:
- If you need non-emergency technical support:
- Come to come-and-go, "open" Blackboard and accessibility labs online via Zoom. OIR runs these from 1:00-3:00pm every Tuesday and Wednesday and occasionally at other times as well. Find all lab times and grab the Zooom link here.
- You can email the Office of Instructional Resources directly at OIR@wichita.edu. You can expect same-day responses during the week. The email box is checked once a day on weekends.
- If you need help with a computer issue:
- Contact WSU ITS with questions associated with your computer, software, or password issues. You can email them directly at Helpdesk@wichita.edu or call (316) 978-HELP
Step 2: Take time to learn about the grading interface and the gradebook:
- Ultra Course gradebooks are very different from what you may have used before. Please watch this "gradebook overview" video and this "grading assignments in Ultra" video before you start grading. Consider providing a video about how to check Ultra grades to your students.
- If you have questions about how to grade, please send an email to OIR@wichita.edu.
Step 3: Pay attention to Blackboard data and analytics:
- If you use discussion boards, you will find several analytics in the grading interface.
- If you use quizzes/tests, you can click the "..." to the right of the quiz title in the content area of your course. There you will find both question analysis and information about student activity. You can send a course message to individual students from that interface if you want to offer extra support, reminders, or kudos.
- Under the "Analytics" tab at the top of the course screen, you will be able to run several different reports including reports that give you indepth analysis of assignment questions and student behavior in the course.
Step 4: Keep track of features you would like to see added or changed:
- Blackboard Ultra Courses are still in the development stage and Blackboard is very open to suggestions for new features, for bug fixes, and for redesign. Wichita State sends our Blackboard Administer to three Ultra meetings each week, and this is an opportunity for the university to bring up feature requests. Please send your feature requests to OIR@wichita.edu, and we can bring your ideas to these meetings.
- You can also make feature requests directly in the discussion boards associated with the Blackboard Community.
If you would like to reach out to a peer for help, the following faculty members have taught in Ultra Course Format and have agreed to help others:
- Jolynn Dowling
- Rhonda Williams
- Stephanie Nicks
- Lisa Garcia
- Jill Wood
- Julie Thiele
- Mike Ross
- Carrie Dickison
- Jacie Green
- David Macdonald
- Angie Paul