Best Practices for Ultra Course Conversion

The Ultra course view provides a streamlined design, allowing students to access content on mobile devices with fewer clicks. But faculty who used the original version of Blackboard extensively may ask, “Where should I start with course conversion?” Or perhaps, you’ve never used Blackboard. Either way, we’ve got answers.

Course Building Basics

The Design Team is happy to create a Course Shell for Ultra Course Development. It is strongly recommended so you don’t lose any valuable course content that may not copy over smoothly during the conversion process.

Request an Ultra shell, allowing you to transfer content incrementally. Best option if your existing courses have complex structures with deeply “nested folders” – folders inside of folders. This option gives you the opportunity to streamline your course as you rebuild.

*Under no circumstances should you attempt to convert Blackboard Original Courses to Ultra View once a course has begun. It is possible to lose data, particularly student submissions, during the conversion process.

Request a Development Shell

When transitioning from the Original Course View to the Ultra Course View, building content within Ultra will produce better results than simply converting. The most efficient means of rebuilding is copying content in chunks. We call this approach: “little copy.” In Ultra, this means pulling content inward.

Consider starting your build with one module. Fill that module with basic building blocks – (A) Unit Overview Document, (B) Folders and Subfolders containing Readings, Videos, Powerpoints, Lectures and Assessments, (C) Discussion Placeholders. Then, simply duplicate that module for each unit of your course.

Effective curriculum design works to reduce (extraneous) cognitive load – the processing required to navigate sensory data that is peripheral to the actual learning task. Too often, students navigating courses online spend more energy searching for content than processing it. Providing a simple, consistent structure organized into modular units will allow students to focus on course content. The most common choices for module structures are: (A) Chronological/Sequential  (B) Topic or Concept (C) Content Type, (e.g. lectures, tests, assignments).

Take this opportunity to streamline your content. How can you reduce or eliminate documents? How can you combine folders?

The Ultra View promotes a streamlined design with its “Two-Deep” nesting structure. Whereas the Original Blackboard design allowed unlimited folders, subfolders, and floating documents, Ultra uses ONLY modules and folders as organizational units. Think of modules as “buckets” or “umbrellas” that provide an overarching structure. Within each module, folders provide another layer of organization, with contents that might include documents, links, or assessments.

Two-Deep Structure in Ultra

At Marshall, we are committed to providing a sense of belongingness to our students. This starts with a warm welcome to the classroom – including our online classrooms!

An Introductory Module is a great way to engage students, even if the course meets in person. Being enrolled in a course is much like riding on a tour bus in which the instructor is acting as the driver. You know what’s coming around every curve on the journey. Just as traveling without guidance would produce anxiety, our students become frustrated when they navigate courses with poor signposts. Be a good tour guide.

In addition, you might consider including a community building activity in your introductory module.  Having students post a short introduction starts to build connectedness and a sense of belonging, which promotes student success. It will also ensure they know how to access Blackboard from the beginning of the course.


You can post content from storage spaces (like MU OneDrive or Google Drive) to Blackboard without downloading content to your local computer or mobile device. This allows you to work entirely in the cloud.

Simply select “Add Content” to open the editor and select “Insert from Cloud Storage.”


Make It Personal

Your profile lets you add a photo, adjust your notification settings, and link a cloud storage account.

Once you have added a profile photo, it will be visible on your Course Content page and your interactions in Messages, Discussions, and Conversations. This will help your students connect with you.

Where Your Profile Appears

Adding a Profile Photo

  1. Click your name in the left navigation menu (prior to entering a course)
  2. Move your mouse over the profile photo (it will initially appear as  a grey silhouette)
  3. Click the pencil icon
  4. Click the Upload a New Profile Picture button
  5. Find the photo you want to use on your computer and click Open

You can create a personalized course banner that will help students to readily identify themes associated with your course. Choose an image that has the important content in the center of the image, because the edges will be cropped – especially on mobile devices.  Banners must be at least 1200 x 240 pixels. We recommend 4800 x 960 to ensure your image is crisp.

To manage your banner image, you can either go to the left Details and Actions menu or the “Three-Dot” menu on your course tile in your Base Navigation course listings.

Banner in Details and Actions Menu


Banner in Three-Dot Menu

Adding thumbnail images to your modules helps students to make connections regarding major themes in course content. It’s also a simple way to provide visual signposts that help to break up content into more manageable chunks.

To add, go to the three-dot menu in the upper-right corner of the module. Click “edit” and then click “image.”

Creating and Managing Assessments

You have the option of creating two types of rubrics in a course:

  • Percentage/ Percentage-Range Rubrics
  • Point/ Point-Range Rubrics

The Settings panel will appear when you create or edit an item such as an assignment, test, or discussion. Only one rubric can be associated with an item. However, you can easily view all of your course rubrics in Gradebook settings.  From the Settings panel, you can also change out the associated rubric for any other rubric you have created in the course.


















Tagging your assessments to University and Program outcomes not only helps your institution to maintain its standards, but also helps your students understand how each component in your course is a building block toward larger goals.

Easily tag items by going to Assignment settings and clicking on Goals and Standards.











Providing feedback has never been simpler. Options include:

  • comment boxes: allowing you to post comments directly within the document.
  • sidebar feedback box: providing you text editor capability and even quick video feedback.
  • sidebar rubric: with collapsible criteria descriptions.
  • content library: allowing you to store and reuse frequent comments.
Store and Reuse Comments




Setting up Overall Grading helps you and your students track progress. Blackboard provides a report that shows student activity in relation to grade as well as a report showing activity and grade over time in comparison to classmates.

If you don’t have the overall grade configured yet, you’ll see this banner prompting you to set it up.  On the page that appears, you can configure how the overall grade is calculated.


Don’t want to use the overall grade? Select “Hide” this message to remove this prompt from your screen. If you change your mind, you can always add the overall grade via the Gradebook Settings.

Already have overall grade, and need to edit? Select the gear icon to display the Gradebook Settings and then select “Manage overall grade settings.”

There are three options for the Overall Grade Calculation:

  • Points. A points-based grade calculation may aid transparency as it makes clear to students what’s worth more in a course and what’s worth less. You can select which categories and items you want to include in the calculation. The max total points available in the course will be decided by the items and categories you include in the calculation.
  • Weighted. The weighted overall calculates grade items as a percentage of a final grade worth 100%. You can assign percentage values to any course items and categories you prefer. Note that any weighting applied to a category applies to the category as a whole. The items within the category will be proportionally weighted based on their underlying max points values. If you want the assessments within the category to be equally weighted, they need to have the same max points value.
  • Advanced. Use a custom formula to calculate the overall grade.

Choose how you want the overall grade to display in Overall Grade Settings. You can display the overall grade as a letter grade, percentage, points or any grading schema created in the course.

Select “Save” when you’re finished.  The overall grade column appears in the gradebook next to the student’s names so you can quickly see how each student is performing.

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