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. 

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?

timeline

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 Proof of Concept 

Functionality will be tested and documented, a transition approach and change management plan will be developed, Proof of Concept 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 Proof of Concept (6 courses)

A six course Proof of Concept 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.

Updates

  • The six course Proof of Concept has now been completed
  • A range of setting recommendations have been made based on feedback
  • The conversion, support and change management processes for the Semester 1 proof of concept have been updated based on lessons learnt

Read more about Stage 2

Stage 3

January - June 2024: Semester 1, 2024 Proof of Concept (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.

Updates

  • All courses have been successfully converted to Ultra and updated based on the adapted template
  • The project team has supported staff in setting up their assessment and Gradebook, with check-ins booked for early in the semester.
  • Course Coordinators have been provided with a change management pack which is being used to communicate the purpose and benefits of the Ultra proof of concept to students
  • Professional staff in schools have been contacted and consultations will occur mid-semester to discuss the impact of Ultra on grade finalisation processes.​

Read more about Stage 3

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

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 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 Proof of Concept ?

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 Proof of Concept courses
  • urgent support + after hours.

View all FAQs 

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 Courses Activation Project is expected to deliver an updated experience and improved functionality with minimal cost and impact on teaching staff, without risking student satisfaction.

Project Feedback

The following low impact changes have been made to the Ultra courses interface to improve the user experience based on feedback from participants in the Proof of Concept:

  • March 2024: New central Learning Pathway tool is working Ultra courses but does not auto-launch on the homepage. The original eLIPSE Learning Pathway tool is unable to work in Ultra courses.
  • March 2024: The final grades upload process for Summer Proof of Concept courses was done by manually merging the SI-net course list and Blackboard Grade Centre spreadsheets prior to uploading to SI-net. The SI-net merge tool and Upload grades to SI-net (Direct) tool are currently being updated by ITS and are planned to be available for Semester 1 Proof of Concept participants before the end of semester.
  • February 2024: Students were surveyed to gather their feedback and focus groups were held. The student feedback on Ultra reflects a mixture of positive responses and what can be considered resistance to change as summarised by this student quote: "I think it takes a while to get used to anything new. I think if it is implemented, people will be able to adjust pretty easily."
  • January 2024: Based on feedback, the following changes have been made to Ultra course settings.
    • AI design assistant: This has been turned on for evaluation.
    • Class register: This has been made only viewable to staff, not to students.
    • Gradebook “pill colours”: The colour coding of marks (red to green) has been turned off.
    • Messages: This tool can now be turned off in individual courses. Changes can be made via Course Settings.
    • Attendance: This tool can only be turned on/off for all courses. As the tool is being evaluated by one of the courses in the proof of concept, the tool has been left on.
  • January 2024: Business case to continue deployment after June 2024 prepared.

Staff Communications

Completed and continuing

  • faciliated a range of workshops for key staff

  • met with faculty Associate Deans (academic) to brief them on the project and identify Summer Semester, 2023 and Semester 1, 2024 Proof of Concept courses

  • briefings and consultations with key support stakeholders across UQ

  • regular presentations to the Learning Design and eLearning Update forum

  • regular updates to the Learning Design and eLearning community through Microsoft Team

  • regular Teaching and eLearning News article

  • monthly project progress reports to DLSC and DLPSC

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

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

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

Planned

  • presentations on the project to faculty Teaching and Learning committees

  • presentations on the project to school Teaching and Learning committees

  • presentation to the Academic Service Managers Committees.

View a detailed list of all communications

Project team

Role
Member
Organisational Unit / team

Project Manager

 

Ailsa Dickie

Manager, eLearning Designers and Advisers

ITaLI, eLearning Systems and Support team

Change Manager

Iliria Stenning

Senior eLearning Designer and Adviser

ITaLI, eLearning Systems and Support team

Educational Technology Lead

Nathan La Burniy

Senior eLearning Designer and Adviser

ITaLI, eLearning Systems and Support team
Technical Lead

Lucinda Ramsay

Applications Specialist

ITaLI, eLearning Systems and Support team

eLearning Support Lead

Paul Dutton

Manager, eLearning Support

ITaLI, eLearning Systems and Support team

Contact

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