Skip navigation
All People > Mariann Hawken > Mariann's Blackboard Musings
Mariann Hawken

Show Us Your Badges

Posted by Mariann Hawken Jun 28, 2019

Our campus has a growing badging program as part of an overall University System of Maryland digital credentialing initiative. Many of our badges focus on co-curricular topics like financial literacy or introduction to research while others fall under professional development topics such as leadership.


As part of our ongoing transition to Ultra, we've created two badges to support our outreach efforts. The badges feature the "Ultra purple" as its signature color and our "Beebee" mascot. (More on her creation in another post.)


The first badge is given to our Ultra Faculty Ambassadors.


UMBC Ultra Faculty Ambassador Badge


The second badge is given to our Ultra Early Adopters -- these are faculty who redesigned courses using the Ultra Course View over the last academic year, ahead of their college transition schedule.


UMBC Ultra Early Adopter Badge

Mariann Hawken

Ultra Course Template

Posted by Mariann Hawken Jun 24, 2019

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned our Ultra course template to the SaaS Virtual Group. The template contains a bit of pre-populated content for faculty to use or reference. Here are a few screenshots  of what our template looks like and how we push it out to courses.


We have 2 folders in the master template for an Ultra course:

  • Start Here, which contains a link to our e-learning resources
  • Syllabus & Course Information, which contains an instructor page to fill out & the academic integrity statement



The instructor can replace the image placeholder and fill out the recommended pieces of the profile:



We use CourseArc for our e-learning resources.



Our template also includes an Ask the Professor discussion board, which the instructor can choose to enable.



Finally, our template includes a Total Points Earned column using calculations, which can be customized by the instructor.



Copying the template:




  1. Select the template -- we distinguish our Ultra template from the regular template with _ux at the end (e.g., MT_term_ux)
  2. Click the action arrow for the template’s menu and choose COPY
  3. Select Copy into New Course
  4. Apply the new courseID and select all content
  5. After the course is created, rename and enroll the instructor




  1. Create flat file with new field “template_course_key” -- for example:


HGWT101_1001_SU2019|HGWT101_1001_SU2019|History of Magic (01.1001) SU2019|MT_SU2019_ux

  1. Run flat file via SIS integration

My campus started planning its Ultra migration more than a year ago, even before we moved to SaaS. Most of these plans were internal discussions to determine if/when we were ready for Ultra. We recognized that SaaS was a critical component of the transition so last summer, we made the switch. This pre-requisite step put us in position for Ultra -- when we were ready.


After we migrated to SaaS, we began to scaffold our Ultra migration plan, which consisted of several key steps:


1. Coordinating an Ultra pilot with 3-5 faculty

At Bb World 2017, I had an opportunity to chat with Misty Cobb about the Blackboard Ultra Partnership Program, which offers several tiers within this program to support an institutional pilot of the Ultra Experience. We knew we wanted a measured approach and Misty was a great help in identifying the best solution for our campus and timeframe. We opted for the spring and recruited four faculty from our Blackboard advisory group.


2. Identifying feature parity including tools we feel are dealbreakers for adopting Ultra

We look at both high level tools and granular workflows, classifying some as dealbreakers if not in Ultra. For example, we knew a test engine was essential, and Ultra had it. However, Ultra did yet not have all question types currently in the original course view.  we needed to get a sense of which question types would be a barrier to adoption if they were not available to our faculty. We don't have many faculty using Quiz Bowl or Hot Spot, but we would want to see matching and ordering at some point. Were these dealbreakers? I suppose it depended on who you talked to and how dependent the course and pedagogy was on those question formats.


3. Preparing for training, support, and outreach for the overall migration

As easy as it is to use, Ultra can be a bit of a shock when you first log in and we'd like to make sure our late adopters and laggards do not abandon or reject Bb outright because of perceived barriers. The TSO plan covers extensive details for training solutions, types of support, and overall engagement. We looked at traditional workshops, lunch & learn sessions, boot camps, licensed materials, hybrid and online, and multi-day options. For support, we knew our extensive FAQ collection would need to be updated so rather than rewrite everything, we would focus on institutional customizations and workflows and reference Blackboard's help site to identify resources and videos. Outreach, marketing, and communication are, by far, the biggest component of our plan since we want to make sure everyone -- especially faculty -- is prepared for the change.


4. Hosting roadmap sessions and demos to engage the campus community and shared governance

Our version of the roadmap focuses more on the timeline and benefits, with a review of basic workflows, and less on what tools are in development. Although much of the content is essentially the same, we prepared three versions for different stakeholder groups -- students, faculty, and managers -- to hone in on specific messages.


5. Sharing a timeline

Including our pilot, we're allowing about 18 months to transition to Ultra. Not only does this give plenty of time to our faculty to explore the new interface and adapt their courses, but it also builds in the necessary development padding for tools and features to be released. We opted not to go-live in the middle of an academic year, which would require more aggressive outreach to make sure everyone was aware of the change and mostly prepared for the interface by the start of summer.


Our initial timeline is currently:

  • SP2018 - Ultra pilot / roadmaps & demos for end users
  • SU2018 - Enable Ultra base navigation on production / sandbox access for early adopters
  • FA2018 - Training & outreach / sandbox access / course redesign
  • WT2019 - Ultra boot camp / Ultra course redesign workshop
  • SP2019 - Training & outreach / course redesign
  • SU2019 - Soft launch / Ultra boot camp / Ultra course redesign workshop / course redesign
  • FA2019 - Official go-live / courses are created by default with UX


Now, this timeline may evolve based on feedback from our pilot participants (both faculty and students) and the ongoing feature parity list, but the overall distribution and pacing seem like it will work well. As we approach the end of the spring semester, and collecting that feedback, it's time to assess where we are.


Since Ultra is so new and different, but still Blackboard, expectations will be high... this migration plan was designed to  think through potential challenges and barriers to adoption, identify early adopters and champions, allow plenty of time for users to explore and redesign, and engage the campus community and Bb developers.