Ultra Courses Activation Project

July 2023December 2026

What are Ultra Courses?

Ultra courses are Blackboard's most recent look and functionality for course sites. Ultra offers a new clean modern look with enhanced functionality.  The University of Queensland (UQ) has previously run courses in 'Original' mode. 

Screenshot of Ultra Course

Ultra is simpler to use with intuitive navigation and a mobile-friendly design. Tools are contextual to reduce clicks and content appears in the course using peek layers that slide from the right. Anthology (Blackboard's parent company) is investing heavily in Ultra courses, delivering new functionality and improvements monthly. 

Ultra courses are an upgrade feature available to UQ since our move to Ultra Base Navigation in November 2022. After preparations are complete, and subject to satisfaction from the teaching community, courses in 'Original' (UQ's current format) may be switched to 'Ultra' according to an agreed protocol. 

What is happening?

UQ has decided to test Ultra courses through a staged proof of concept (POC) project. The project will be carried out in stages with a decision to proceed further at the end of each stage. 

When is it happening?


The project will be carried out in six stages with evaluations carried out after each stage to decide whether to continue, as follows:

Stage 1

July - November 2023: Preparation for POC

Functionality will be tested and documented, a transition approach and change management plan will be developed, POC courses will be identified and reporting to DLPMSC will occur. The decision of whether to proceed to Stage 2 will occur at the end of this stage.

Stage 2

August 2023 - February 2024: Summer Semester POC (6 courses)

A six course POC trial will take place, processes/communications/support/resources will be tested, workshops and guides will be developed, a 'sandpit' sample Ultra course will be created, feedback will be collected and reporting to DLPMSC will occur. The decision of whether to proceed to Stage 3 will occur at the end of this stage.

Stage 3

January - June 2024: Semester 1, 2024 POC (50 courses)

Fallback tasks will be completed if not proceeding to next stage. If proceeding, a 50-course trial will occur, faculties/schools will be consulted on their adoption approach, all Semester 2 courses will be reviewed to readiness, feedback will be collected and reporting to DLPMSC will occur. The decision of whether to proceed to Stages 4 will occur at the end of this stage.

Stage 4

June — December 2024: Enabling Phase

Change management projects to transition courses off legacy tools and engagement with stakeholders responsible for faculty and school support tools regarding testing on Ultra courses. Course identification for enabling projects, treatment testing and an adoption approach to be determined. The decision of whether to proceed to Stages 5 will occur at the end of this stage.

Stage 5

January 2025 — December 2026: Main Deployment

Transition courses to Ultra progressively over five semesters (depending on resources) and standard eLearning Support services (workshops, consults, guides, and technical support) will be delivered. The decision of whether to proceed to Stages 6 will occur at the end of this stage.

Stage 6

July — December 2026: Project Closure

Technical support and resources, as well as the decommission of project resources and original resources.

View detailed project timeline


View all FAQs 

Do Ultra courses have the same features as 'Original' courses?

Ultra courses provide several enhancements and new features that are not available in 'Original' courses. They include the ability to add stimulus material to test questions, progress tracking, and 'Conversations' that can be enabled for each content item, along with inline Discussions. Certain features have been revamped to increase accessibility and improve workflows. Some features, such as Wikis and Glossary, have been discontinued. Other features, like Blogs, are planned for future vendor releases.

Will there be an outage?

No. Courses will be individually converted to Ultra.

Will there be a lot of work involved in updating my course from Original to Ultra?

Courses will be converted to Ultra and 'tidied up' by the eLearning team. The effort required to update a course by teaching staff for the new semester will be minimal (i.e. comparable to what staff have previously experienced). However, teaching staff will need to familiarise themselves with the new modern interface and content creation features. Once staff are familiar, we anticipate even less time required to update course content moving forward due to more efficient workflows.

What support will be available during the POC?

The following services will be available to teaching staff as part of the Proof of Concept: 

  • dedicated Microsoft Teams channel to ask questions and share insights about functionality
  • email support for questions and to report any issues
  • consultation booking system dedicated to POC courses
  • urgent support + after hours.

What support will be available after the POC?

Standard eLearning services will be available for Ultra courses such as online workshops, in-person workshops, self-paced workshops, one-on-one eLearning Adviser consultations, and technical eLearning support.

What resources will be available to support staff?

  • a staff communications pack for schools and faculties to disseminate information through local channels 
  • a student communications pack for coordinators of proof of concept (POC) courses 
  • staff guides – a curated vendor list and UQ contextual guide 
  • student guides - UQ contextual guides 
  • Exemplar Ultra course - staff will be able to self-enrol as students 
  • 'Sandpit' Ultra courses – this will enable staff to explore an Ultra Course when requested. 

How was the project initiated?

The Deputy-Vice Chancellor (Academic) requested ITaLI develop a proposal to update UQ's Learning Management System (LMS) with the least amount of impact and maximum benefit. The proposal was approved by the Digital Learning Subcommittee on 6 June 2023 and the Digital Learning Program Management Steering Committee on 22 June 2023.

Consideration had previously been given to whether UQ should change to an alternative leading LMS platform. UQ's Online Learning Platform has been consistently highly ranked by UQ students in the National QILT student experience surveys. A change to the platform represents a risk and an investment in the order of $10-$15M along with work and disruption for teaching staff. The Ultra course activation project is expected to deliver an updated experience and improved functionality with minimal cost and impact on teaching staff, without risking student satisfaction.

Staff Communications

Semester 2 2023


  • plan approved by Digital Learning Sub Committee (DLSC) - 6 June 2023

  • plan approved by Digital Learning Program Steering Committee and DVCA (DLPSC) - 22 June 2023

  • plan presented to eLearning Operation Forum members including ITaLI managers, Library, ITS, and faculty leaders.

  • met with key support stakeholders across UQ to brief them on the project (ITaLI, BEL, EAIT, Medicine, HASS, Science, HABS, ELIPSE, Library, UQ College, Examinations) 17 July - 10 August 2023

  • liaised with Library AskUs Tier 2 Support in regards to training - 28 August 2023

  • invited key learning design staff to 3 x Getting Started with Ultra Courses workshops (30 August 2023)


  • monthly progress reports to DLSC and DLPSC

  • 17 July - 4 August briefings for faculty and school learning designers

  • presentations on the project to faculty Teaching and Learning committees to assist with course identification process

  • presentations on the project to school Teaching and Learning committees to help with course identification process

  • presentation to the Academic Service Managers Committee

  • regular Teaching and eLearning news articles

  • regular update presentations to the Learning Design and eLearning Update forums

  • student communications to be delivered by coordinators of POC courses.

Project team

Organisational Unit / team

Project Manager


Ailsa Dickie

Manager, eLearning Designers and Advisers

ITaLI, eLearning Systems and Support team

Technical Lead

Michael Luyten

Application Specialist

ITaLI, eLearning Systems and Support team

Change Manager

Iliria Stenning

Senior eLearning Designer and Adviser

ITaLI, eLearning Systems and Support team


If you have any questions regarding the Ultra Course Activation Project or a related support unit, please contact the project team: projects@elearning.uq.edu.au