As UMBC finalizes its migration to Ultra, more faculty opted to use the new course experience during FA2023. Specifically, of 1588 total available Blackboard shells, faculty have enabled 991 using Ultra, or ~62%, -- a ten point jump from last year. Although a broad spectrum of disciplines including seven departments and eight languages opted to use Ultra by default, more than half of active Ultra courses were converted from Original to the new format by faculty this semester.
Since instructors must choose to make a course available to students every semester, FA2023 also represents a notable increase in faculty use of Ultra courses at a much higher rate than their use of Original courses -- 89% of Ultra courses are available to students compared to 51% of Original courses. Additionally, Ultra adoption rose in STEM disciplines during FA2023. The College of Natural and Mathematical Sciences saw a 139% increase in Ultra courses from last fall while the College of Engineering and Information Technology increased by 55%.
Image 1: Comparison of active Original and Ultra courses over time (click to enlarge). For more information about Ultra adoption and course usage, please visit our Ultra course tracker.
With more than 200 enhancements and new features in the last year, Ultra courses offer more than 95% feature parity with Original including extensive updates to grading and assessment, content management, and course design functionality. Improvements to the gradebook, question banks, and groups management are key functional areas raised by UMBC faculty and addressed by Anthology. Ultra also provides exclusive progress tracking reports for learner engagement and new AI Course Design Assistant tools.
Next Steps for Ultra at UMBC
The growth in Ultra course creation and faculty adoption fulfills a longstanding promise to the UMBC community to provide a consistent learning experience for students and support Blackboard innovation, beginning in SP2018 when four faculty piloted Ultra. Since that initial exploration, Ultra adoption grew slowly and steadily as faculty opted in to the new version of Blackboard when they felt ready. The pandemic also provided many faculty with an opportunity to try Ultra and move their courses.
We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition for all departments and faculties.
Following this semester, two full terms remain (SP2024 and FA2024) before we finalize the Ultra migration at UMBC. All courses for CAHSS will be automatically created in Ultra for FA2024 and the entire campus will be on Ultra by WT/SP2025.
For departments or disciplines that want to adopt Ultra by default, Blackboard course shells can be designated as Ultra when courses are created. Please open an RT ticket to coordinate your request with Instructional Technology by November 1, 2023 for WT/SP2024 courses and by June 1, 2024 for SU/FA2024 courses.
In mid October, faculty who have not yet migrated to Ultra will automatically receive a development shell with a copy of their FA2023 course that is converted to Ultra. This copy will not have any student enrollments and will not impact the current term. Faculty are encouraged to review the copy and modify the course. If the course conversion is not the best path to Ultra, there are ample Blackboard resources at umbc.edu/go/ultra as well as Instructional Technology support over the next 15 months to build a new course.
Instructional Technology will also work with departments to customize Ultra workshops and provide dedicated support sessions according to faculty schedules or specific use cases for teaching with Ultra. Please open an RT ticket to schedule a training session or request a consultation appointment.
The campus community continues to play a vital role in championing change throughout our Ultra migration. Faculty and student feedback helps shape the ongoing development of Ultra and contributes to the dynamic platform students experience during their education at UMBC.
Connect with Instructional Technology
As always, if you have any questions about teaching, learning, and technology at UMBC, please consider the following options:
- Check our extensive FAQ collection
- Open a ticket via RT
- Follow the Instructional Technology & DoIT myUMBC groups
- Request a consult with instructional technology staff
- PIVOT | Academic Continuity | Keep On Teaching | Student Technology Resources
UMBC is committed to providing a consistent learning experience for everyone. The last day we will support Blackboard Original is December 31, 2024. Please check out our training and support: umbc.edu/go/ultra