Dev Diaries #3: A new look for the Future

Welcome to our third dev. diary post. This week we’re going to have a look at Blackboard’s Ultra Experience that will, once enabled, bring a brand new user experience to My Dundee for both instructors and students. We’ve also got a final reminder to notify us of any planned learning and teaching activities requiring access to My Dundee during the migration week.

The Ultra Experience

A big reason for migrating our provision of My Dundee to the cloud from the user’s perspective, is that it gives access to the Ultra Experience. Ultra is a complete redesign of the Blackboard user interface and will allow us to answer a major concern raised in the 2017 VLE review: the ageing and clunky user interface of My Dundee. The Ultra Experience is not specifically part of the move to SaaS, rather it is an option that becomes available once we have migrated. Here’s an introduction video to give you an idea of what Ultra is all about:

We’re not going to dive into Ultra in any depth here but I do want to talk a little about the benefits and about how we plan to implement the new interface. The main thing to understand is that it can be rolled out in two distinct stages:

Step 1: Switch on the Ultra Base Navigation

Step 2: Enable the Ultra Course View as an option

These separated steps allow us to push forward with a new look and feel for My Dundee on an institutional level, while allowing schools  control over how and when they adopt the new interface on their modules.

1. Ultra Base Navigation

The first step is to enable Ultra for the top level user interface (UI) providing a modern, intuitive navigation experience that lives outside of modules and organisations – this is referred to as switching on the Ultra Base Navigation. It includes links to new pages such as the Activity Stream, Calendar, Messages, etc. that provide quick access to the most critical information consolidated from all your modules.

Fresh user interface for My Dundee
Mock up of My Dundee with the Ultra Base Navigation switched on


  • Modern, intuitive user experience. You and your students are going to enjoy this simple, intuitive, engaging user experience.
  • Works well on mobile devices. This navigation is designed to work well regardless of which device you’re using.
  • Aggregates important information. All your course and organisation information – like calendar, messages and grades – is now consolidated into one global view, minimising the time spent navigating into each individual course.
  • Only one click away. See something that needs your attention? Just click on it and you will be taken directly there, minimising clicks and saving time.
  • Optional Ultra Course View. With the Ultra Base Navigation, interested schools will be able to pilot Blackboard’s new course interface, the Ultra Course View (see below).

This step would only change the areas users navigate through to get to their modules. The modules themselves will remain exactly as they were (the Original Course View). After enabling the Ultra Base Experience, Schools would then be able to choose a road-map for adopting Ultra at the module level (called the Ultra Course View) according to their own road map.

New UI showing the Original Course View
Blackboard with Ultra Base Navigation switched on, but showing a module retaining the Original Course View

Learn more about the Ultra Base Navigation:

2. Ultra Course View

The revamped module experience is called the Ultra Course View (FYI: what Blackboard call Courses, we call Modules). This is a more fundamental change than moving to the Ultra Base Navigation because it changes the most important part of the My Dundee experience for instructors and students – the modules themselves.

Screenshot of new Ultra UI showing Ultra Course View
Example of a Module with the Ultra Course View enabled

We won’t be switching on the Ultra Course View centrally because it changes how modules look and how they function (this change would need to be controlled by schools, disciplines and module leaders, supported and advised by CTIL). There are still gaps in functionality between the Original and Ultra course views, with some features still being redesigned for Ultra and some legacy functionality being let behind with the old interface. However, now that we are on the SaaS platform, we will be constantly receiving the latest updates as Blackboard continues it’s overhaul of how modules look, feel and function.

Once we have switched on the Base Experience, CTIL will release information and offer support programmes to Schools interested in developing an adoption plan for the new Ultra Course View.

Learn more about the Ultra Course View:

Road-map for adopting ‘Ultra’

So we haven’t made a decision about an adoption date for Ultra yet as we are currently focused on the smooth migration to SaaS. However, we are keen to move forward with adopting the step 1, Ultra Base Navigation as soon as possible and will begin testing the change in the coming weeks with an eye to moving in the new year. Moving quickly with this first step is realistic because it will not change the current functionality or experience of individual modules or organisations in any way, only the ‘surrounding area’. If we can make this move early, it will allow early adopters to begin testing the Ultra Course View ready for the academic year 2019/20. It’s worth noting that the University of Aberdeen, along with a large number of other institutions around the world have made this move successfully.

Look out for more announcements about the Ultra Base Experience in the coming weeks along with more updates about the migration of My Dundee to SaaS.

Migration Impact Forms – Final Remainder

We’ve sent out various reminders and appeals for any instructors or administrators who may be impacted by the migration to fill in a migration impact form. If you haven’t filled one in, but do have learning and teaching related activities requiring access to My Dundee, please do so by the end of today (if you’re not sure if somebody might already have done so for a module, you can fill in the form anyway – we don’t mind replication). We will review the forms with our colleagues in UOD IT and be in touch soon with details of what provision will be possible during the migration window.

We will make every effort to provide access to the essential services, however our default advice remains to avoid all non-essential activities during the migration week.


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