Blackboard Ultra Navigation Comes May 29

On Saturday, May 29, Blackboard's login page and "landing page" (the place you come to first when you login) will change significantly. This is a cosmetic change and will not impact Blackboard's functionality. The change will be triggered at 8:00am and by 9:00am it will be complete.

What will happen on May 29: Our login area will become streamlined with a photo of campus on the left side of the page, and a login box on the right. You will access the login area the same way you do now, and your same credentials will work. Once you login, you will access your "my courses" area by clicking the "courses" link in the left-hand menu. 

What will not change: Once you enter your course, it will look very similar to how it looks now. There will be some color changes as all courses will be standardized in terms of color. Everything should be in the same place, however. And tool availability will be the same. Your courses will still be in "old familiar Blackboard" and will not be in the "Ultra course format." Your gradebook will remain unchanged.

Why this change is happening on May 29: This date allows spring term grades to be turned in and for summer pre-session classes to be complete before the cosmetic changes to the login and landing pages happen.

How students will be notified: We will begin notifying the student body through Shocker Blast, notifications to advisors, and notifications to Student Success soon. 

Have a look at the new Ultra landing page and login:



Get to Know the Ultra Support Pages

The full transition to Ultra is a two-step process. Once we get used to the new look-and-feel of our Ultra Navigation changes (those are the ones taking place on May 29), instructors will be able to start transitioning their "old" Blackboard classes to the new "Ultra class" interface. This will be a big change that instructors will want to undertake on a slow and deliberate pace. Lots of support is already available to you on the Wichita State website, and more will be coming soon. If you are interested, have a look at the Ultra support pages now.

Ultra FAQ

You have questions about Ultra, and we have answers on our new FAQ page. Have a question that isn't covered? No problem, we'll get it added right away. Just let us know at  In the meantime, here is a preview:

  • What is Ultra? "Ultra" is the premium learning management system product offered by Blackboard.  It has two components, the "Ultra navigation," which WSU will adopt on May 29, 2021, and "Ultra classes," which individual instructors will adopt on their own schedule between June, 2021 and December, 2022. The Ultra class interface brings with it a streamlined design and many upgraded tools and functionalities.
  • Can I use the new Ultra tools in my "old" Blackboard class? No. The shift from an old Blackboard class to a new Ultra class brings with it all the new tools and functionalities.  These are not part of the code that creates the original Blackboard class view and therefore are not available in those classes.
  • Can I teach in in both "old" Blackboard and Ultra at the same time? Yes. You can have some of your classes in old Blackboard and some in Ultra at the same time. In fact, the Office of Instructional Resources urges you to transition only one class for your first term teaching in Ultra. Some tools (especially grading) are very different in Ultra, and you will want time to get used to them before you transition all of your courses to this new interface.


May ARC Focuses on Advanced Topics

The May ARC will take place May 17-20 via Zoom. Access the full schedule here

We are excited about this ARC week because it is filled with new and more advanced topics than usual. Becaue we are not on-boarding many new instructors yet, we were able to focus the full conference on the needs and interests of more experienced instructors.  We've also worked to make the conference even more user friendly for you by adopting the following:

  • Predictable scheduling: Each day at 9:00am we will offer a "vendor hour" where one of our vendors will present on an aspect of the technology they provide to us. This will be followed by a 10:00 "rapid session" hour where you will hear about three related topics in one session slot. We are also bringing back noon-time "panel hour" with a very good panel discussion each day. and we end the day with a quick, 30 minute discussion of free things available to all Wichita State instructors from 3:00-3:30. The rest of the time is for regular sessions.
  • Advanced topics: Our topics include two sessions on creating great infographics and ensuring their accessibility, one session where you will go "beyond the discussion board," and Sara Zafar speaking on "advanced issues in Title IX compliance and enforcement." As a bonus, we now have an "add to calendar" feature in our conference schedule so you never miss a session!
  • Alignment with other training: In addition to our live content, we've curated more LinkedIn Learning sessions for both you and your students to enjoy. We are also promoting recorded sessions from the OLC conference from March (not too late to register and view recordings!), and we also provide links to very popular ARC sessions from previous conference weeks.
  • Recordings for new instructors: For those instructors who are new, we have provided curated recordings and other information to help on-board them for summer. These suggestions are organized at the bottom of the schedule page.

Taking Proposals for August ARC

As soon as the ARC21May closes up shop on the 20th, we will begin the planning for ARC21Aug in earnest. If you would like to suggest a proposal topic, you can do so by filling out this form. We will have a heavy focus on Blackboard Ultra training along with topics to help on-board new instructors in August. We are also very interested in panel topics, "rapid sessions" (15 minutes on a single topic of interest), and positive, supportive messages for other instructors.

For Fun

MacDonald Presenting on GoodNotes

We are very excited about David MacDonald's session entitled, "Using GoodNotes on iPad as an infinite, Flexible, Shareable Whiteboard for Remote or In-Person Teaching." GoodNotes is an "editor's choice" iPad app, available for $7.99 in the app store.  If you are an iPad user and would like to hear more about how a peer uses a light-weight app for teaching, this is a great session for you.  David will be presenting at 11:00am on May 19. Add this session to your calendar now!


Recorded Content for New Instructors 

We have not forgotten about those instructors who are new to the university in the summer term. As part of the ARC, the Office of Instructional Resources has curated all kinds of training for these new instructors, and it can be located by topic at the bottom of the ARC21May schedule page.  Please contact us at if we are missing something important and we'll get it added.


Your Quiet Home Away from Home

The first, second, and third floors of Ablah Library are open! We invite you to come visit, browse the stacks, or book a study room. Please share with your students that they should visit us, too. One of the biggest predictors of library use is faculty encouragement.

Whether you need a quiet, cozy chair for reading or a big table to spread your materials out on, we hope that you and your students feel at home here.

Jeopardy decorative

Around Campus

Freedom of Expression Curriculum Available

There is now a freedom of expression curriculum packet available to anyone who would like to use it in their Blackboard class. This packet includes links to the Speaking Freely on Freedom of Expression panel discussion that took place online on March 31, 2021 as well as short written lectures, discussion and activity ideas, and a short quiz.  If you would like to have a look, here is a quick walk-through video that explains the full packet:


Microsoft Tricks to Change Your Life

It's so easy to overlook the power of Microsoft Office products. They are everywhere, and consequently we feel like we know how they work. But scratch the surface and you will find a whole world of functionality you've been wishing for but didn't know how to access. Want proof? Come to Ali Levine's ARC session on May 18 at 1:00-1:50. Add to your calendar now!

Let PowerPoint Coach Help You Out

As the world opens back up and we all start to venture out, you may find yourself planning a presentation out in the world. But after a year of solitude in your home, you might not feel quite ready to step back in front of "real people" just yet. What to do? Let PowerPoint's new feature "Presenter Coach" give you some help getting ready. Learn more about Presenter Coach here.

GTA Corner

Wilks and Speer Present at MAGS

In March, the Midwestern Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) chose Wichita State to provide the services for their annual coference, which was offered online via Zoom. As part of the program, Kerry Wilks, Associate Dean of the Graduate School, and Carolyn Speer, Director of the Office of Instructional Resources presented on Wichita State's evolving GTA training programs.  This was a story that illustrates a "fail forward" approach, and MAGS has generously offered to allow us to share the presentation with the Wichita State audience. So if you are interested in the current state of GTA training and how we got here, here is that session:

First Year Seminar

Thinking During a Pandemic

Once again, Teaching Today is happy to offer you these thoughts from Aaron Rife, the First Year Seminar faculty coordinator:

There is a book I adore called Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Virginia.  He specializes in how the brain works versus how we teach, and this book, now twelve years old, is brilliant. You can check it out right now as an ebook from Wichita State Libraries by using this link (you will need to sign-in with your WSU credentials) Here are a few gems to get you started:

  • People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking (p3).
  • Shallow knowledge is better than no knowledge (p49).
  • We understand new things in the context of things we already know, and most of what we know is concrete (p88).
  • It is virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extended practice (p107).
  • Praise process and effort, not ability (p183).

The book does not read like a bunch of bad motivational posters, I am just throwing quotes out of context.  But Willingham urges us to think about the kinds of things we ask our students to do and how we ask them to think.  I suspect that we tend to not give our students enough practice in a skill or technique before moving on to the next topic (because we have a lot to cover, I get it).  I also suspect that we tend to praise ability more than we do effort.  This one is a biggie, as praising effort leads to growth and helps instill a desire to perform well.  Praising ability tends to boost ego more than skill or knowledge.

Now a poorly executed transition:  teaching and learning this last year has been difficult, and we all know it.  Zoom fatigue is real, documented, and affecting students, faculty, and staff alike.  I have had conversations with students at various levels in their academic career this semester who are burned out, scared of not making it through the semester, and just tired.  The truth is I feel the same way, just from the other side.  We are in the last weeks of our classes with many of our students struggling to pull through.  With thinking as hard as it is for human brains, thinking during an extended pandemic is even harder.  If we can, we should cut our students some slack.  But at the very least, let us make a conscious effort in this last month of the Spring 2021 semester to praise effort and not ability. Particularly as effort is just plain harder to do right now.