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About the Learn Ultra Upgrade

Drake is updating the look and feel of our Learning Management System (LMS) prior to Fall 2020. We are upgrading to the new version, called Learn Ultra. See below for answers to questions you may have as well as information about the upgrade process.

What is an LMS?

A Learning Management System, or LMS, is a secure web-based tool used to organize and deliver materials and engage learners. It provides tools and functionality for file sharing, grading, discussion, and collaboration in face-to-face, blended, and online course environments. Drake currently uses Blackboard as its LMS and is upgrading to the new version of Blackboard, Learn Ultra.

Why are we updating to Learn Ultra?

In the fall of 2019, faculty, staff, and students completed a thorough review of our LMS and drafted a report to the Provost and Chief Information Technology Officer that indicated our LMS needed an upgrade.

The upgrade needed to include the following criteria:

  • quality tools to provide a student-centered solution
  • improved workflows and usability for all users and platforms
  • accessibility for all users
  • quality assessment tools and reporting capabilities

As a modern solution that meets industry standards, Learn Ultra will allow Drake to meet all these criteria.

What are the key features of Learn Ultra?

With the Learn Ultra Base Navigation (UBN) update, the landing page for Learn Ultra will undergo a major change. System navigation will be accessible on multiple devices and the clean and contemporary look and feel is much more user-friendly. Learn more at Getting Started with Ultra Base Navigation in Learn Ultra (How-to).

Learn Ultra is designed to be fully responsive and you will have a better experience on mobile devices and tablets. NOTE: At Drake, we will continue using the Original Course View until the next upgrade in 2021. Courses using the Original Course View may be only partly mobile-responsive, and we recommend using a computer for submitting assignments or tests in Original Course View classes until 2021.

What is the upgrade timeline?

August 9, 2020: Ultra Base Navigation launch

The new Ultra Base Navigation (UBN) launched in Fall 2020 is a completely redesigned interface with simplified, intuitive workflows, a modern look and feel, and an improved experience on all platforms. Learn more at Getting Started with Ultra Base Navigation in Learn Ultra (How-to).

Spring 2021: Ultra courses become available

The Ultra Course View extends the benefits of the UBN to courses with a cleaner, more modern design, easy-to-use workflows, and powerful new tools. All courses will continue to use the Original view by default for Spring 2021 and Summer 2021.

We suggest that faculty do not switch to Ultra courses for courses with active students until they have had a chance to redesign their courses to match the Learn Ultra experience. Though content can be transitioned, instructions and some functionality will change. These changes need to be reviewed prior to the release to environments engaging in active learning. Learn more about Ultra at About Courses in the Ultra Experience from the Blackboard support site.

Tentatively Fall 2021: Original Course View will no longer be used for any new courses

All new courses will be Ultra courses by default and will need to be redesigned for the Ultra Course View before being used with students.

When is training available?

As we move towards switching from our current Blackboard courses to Blackboard Learn Ultra courses, we are rolling out faculty development and training.

There will be four training modules released over three weeks in Fall 2020 with additional training modules to be released in Spring 2021. Additionally, faculty will have access to sandbox courses (empty course sites with no student enrollments) to explore the new features’ capabilities.

Where can I get project updates?

The project team will meet regularly and will provide regular updates via Blackboard instructor emails, OnCampus articles, CTE emails, ITS project calls, your area’s LMS Advisory Board member, and on this page.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

Your representative on the LMS Advisory Board will either be able to answer your questions or reach out for additional information if further clarification is needed.

Who are the members of the LMS Advisory Board?

If you have questions at any time during the process, please feel free to reach out to the representative in your area in listed below.

Faculty Representatives
  • College of Arts & Sciences: Maria Bohorquez
  • College of Business & Public Administration: Lynn McCool
  • College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences: Andy Miesner
  • Cowles Library: Marcia Keyser (Jill Gremmels for Fall 2020)
  • Law School: Julia Steggerda-Corey
  • School of Journalism & Mass Communication: Kathleen Richardson (Interim)
  • School of Education: Jean Hansen
Student Representatives
  • Nick Mitchell
Departmental Representatives
  • Academic Excellence & Student Success: Melissa Sturm-Smith
  • Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE): Craig Owens
  • Continuing Education & Professional Development (CEPD): Jean Hansen
  • Drake Online & Continuing Education (DOCE): Christina Trombley
  • Information Technology Services (ITS): Karly Good, Jerome Hilscher, Clayton Mitchell
  • Office of the Registrar: Jenny Tran-Johnson
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