The New Blackboard Experience

The New Blackboard Experience

Our upgrades to Blackboard continue with Phase 2 in the Summer 2020 term.  The Ultra experience is being deployed for Graduate Online and EMBA courses. In addition to the more modern look and feel adopted in January of 2020 with the new navigational experiece, the new course experience applies Ultra more deeply.  Extending the new navigation structure and saving instructors and students time with simpler workflows and streamlined access to important information. The rollout will has occured in two phases.

Phase 1 - During phase 1 we changed the way Blackboard looks and how you navigate the system.

Phase 2 - Kicking off for the Summer 2020 term on June 29th, 2020, phase 2 upgrades the way courses function and is being rolled out for a select group of courses.  More and more courses will be converted to the Ultra experience as time passes.

Phase 1

  • A New Mobile Experience - An enhanced and responsive mobile experience that helps align the educational experience in Blackboard with research-supported student behavior patterns.
  • The Activity Stream - This page provides a top-down view of relevant activity in your blackboard courses.
  • Contextual Help - Access to self-help resources specific to the location help is needed.
  • Profiles - Control your personal information and cloud storage integrations.
  • Courses - Navigate your courses quicker with course search, favorites, and terms.
  • OU Communities - This provides all the benefits of the Courses page, but for non-credit purposes.
  • Calendar - Integrate your personal calendars.
  • Messages - Private and secure text-based communications with email functionality.
  • Tools - Access 3rd party integrations from a variety of services.
  • OU Hub - Need assistance?  The OU Hub contains valuable informative resources for your learning needs.

Phase 2

  • Mobile Enhancements in Courses - The enhanced and responsive mobile experience is extended to the course level.
  • Improved Course Organization - All course materials accessible at your fingertips.
  • Ultra Course Calendar - Create events, list office hours, and view due dates.
  • The New Gradebook - A new and improved layout has been deployed along automatic zeroes for unsubmitted work.  A new inline grading tool is coming in August.
  • Enhanced Course Messaging - Course messages now allow for emails to be sent and for users to control whether replies are possible.


On January 6th, 2020 we expect our system will be fully converted to the new navigational experience.

System Upgrade

The upgrade begins on December 23rd, 2019 and continues through January 6th, 2020.  Blackboard will be available throughout this time, but there will be no down time. Please be advised that the system configuration and appearance will be in flux. Functionality may appear or disappear without warning

30 minute info sessions are scheduled as listed below.  If you are interested and have not received an invitation, please contact Matt Fillo for Zoom information.

  • January 4th, 2020, 10 AM CT

Instructor training is required for all SP and SPF 2020 instructors.  You need only attend one session, but multiple session attendance is welcomed and encouraged.  The training will last 90 minutes and will be delivered according to the following schedule:

  • January 6th, 1:00 PM Central Time
  • January 7th, 9:00 AM Central Time
  • January 7th, 6:00 PM Central Time
  • January 8th, 8:00 PM Central Time
  • January 9th, 2:30 PM Central Time

All sessions will take place via Zoom video conferencing.

Please sign up for the orientation through our registration form.

The Activity Stream is an up-to-the-minute tool that allows users access to reminders and grades in a bird's eye view of tasks across courses that can be filtered according to your needs.

Watch a video on the Activity Stream

Jump directly into your courses from the Activity Stream, or straight into an assignment, depending on what item is clicked.  Due dates, past due assignments, and other notifications for courses are shown here.


Recent activity in all your courses is accessible from the Activity Stream.  You can follow student discussions in real time, note the number of gradable submissions, and receive personal reminders with a top-down, filterable view of course activity. 


The Grades page provides access to all grade-related functionality.  The Grades page is organized alphabetically by course.

The overall grade is displayed on the right, while the course name is displayed on the left.  Clicking on the course title, graded item title, or grade pill will navigate to those spaces.


Each course contains a list of assessments that require grading.  The number of gradable items is also visible.  Clicking on the course title or gradable item will take you to that space.


The courses page offers multiple advantages over our current experience:

  • favorite your courses with the star icon
  • courses organized by term
  • course filtering capabilities
  • a course search that includes content
  • future courses displayed on the Upcoming Courses page
  • Instructors may edit the course banner

The list view displays courses in an alphabetical list.  The favorite button is displayed on the right along with additional functionality as permissions define.  Courses may be searched or filtered from this page.  Future courses are displayed through the Upcoming Courses link.


The grid view displays each course in a tile with the a banner image and similar options to the list view.  The course banner may be edited from this page as user permissions define.


Why are we upgrading?

We do our best to provide and maintain a modern and innovative learning experience for our students.  To stay ahead of the curve we are moving to a new interface with a superior mobile and accessible experience.  These improvements will extend to courses within Blackboard as we bring course content into the upgrade.

How do I log in to Blackboard?

Blackboard will remain accessible through My Ottawa and directly through

Can I control where I land once I log in?

The Activity Stream is the default landing page system-wide.  The ability to control our Blackboard landing page is a system-wide feature at this time.

What happened to the colors on the My Courses page?

As part of the accessiblity improvements to our Blackboard system, color customization is limited on the individual level.  In addition to the accessibility improvements, this provides a much cleaner and more attractive interface.

What's in the OU Hub?

The OU Hub is a collection of resources and information meant to keep you informed.  Links to information relevant to your education and experience in Blackboard will be displayed here.

What are OU Communities?

OU Communities take advantage of Blackboard's Organization functionality to provide educational spaces for academic purposes outside of earning course credit.

What will my courses look like after the upgrade?

Phase 1

The course experience in Blackboard with change cosmetically.  Course items will still be displayed on the left, and everything will function as it did prior to the upgrade.  The difference will be the color scheme of the course.


Phase 2

As time goes on, more and more courses will be converted to a new course experience.  Information on that experience will be provided as our first batch of courses adopt the new course format.

AGPS/Online courses are expected to move to the new course experience for the Early Summer 2020 term.  Surprise and the College are expected to move to the new course experience in the Fall of 2020.

Where can I find more information?

Ottawa University Resources

Blackboard Resources