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Educational Design and Engagement

Educational Design and Engagement

Enriching the student learning experience & supporting development of on campus and online courses.

Learn Ultra Base Navigation: accessibility & inclusion

Learn Ultra Base Navigation (UBN) a system menu giving access to information across Blackboard Learn courses, is due to be rolled out by the end of June 2022. It is the first phase of our upgrade to Learn Ultra and provides improved navigation, as well as easier UX when accessing key information, without changing courses themselves.

As Blackboard Learn acts as the online hub for the overwhelming majority of our students, it is important that it supports accessible and inclusive practice. Our Accessible and Inclusive Learning Policy outlines how we support disabled students by anticipating needs, but also encourages us to practice accessibly in a wider sense by mainstreaming adjustments beyond where need is identified.

Universal Design is an approach which, when applied, can lead you to increase the accessibility of your practice, whatever your role. So let us consider some of the key features of Ultra Base Navigation from the point of view of a student, against the 7 Principles of Universal Design:

  • Principle 1: Equitable Use.
  • Principle 2: Flexibility in Use.
  • Principle 3: Simple and Intuitive Use.
  • Principle 4: Perceptible Information.
  • Principle 5: Tolerance for Error.
  • Principle 6: Low Physical Effort.
  • Principle 7: Size and Space for Approach and Use.


Ultra Base Navigation is designed mobile-first. Its responsive design means that whether you are using your PC, tablet or mobile, you will always find the layout automatically optimised, supporting principle 2 (flexibility in use).

Ultra Base Navigation menu

This simple menu brings together information from across your courses making it easier to access. Plus, you can personalise your experience.


You can record the pronunciation of your name, share its phonetic spelling and give your pronouns. These features, as well as being more inclusive, support Principle 5 (tolerance of error). They anticipate that names may be unfamiliar and the correct pronunciation hard to predict. This reduces the opportunity for error, increases confidence and reduces potential embarrassment. And ultimately, this helps people to be addressed in the way they wish to be.

Activity Stream

The activity stream is a new feature that brings together the most recent notifications across all of your courses in a single place which is aligned to Principle 6 (low physical effort). For teachers this might include assessments due to be marked. For students this could be course announcements and updates, assessment deadlines and calendar events.

All of this will make keeping up with course activity quicker and simpler. You can also personalise this page, allowing you to receive only the kind of notifications you want to see.


There are two views of courses available, as tiles and as a list which you can simply toggle between. You can also select some courses as your favourites, making them quicker and easier to find. Additionally, you can search for your courses using a filter or via the dynamic search box. This is all aligned with Principles 2 (flexibility in use), 5 (tolerance for error) and 6 (low physical effort).


The calendar gathers everything from your course into one place which can then be pulled into an external calendar (e.g., Outlook). This allows you to view all your commitments in one place Principle 3 (simple and intuitive use) and Principle 6 (low physical effort).


This gathers information together from all your courses, thereby making it easier to gain an overall picture of your progress, without having to visit each individual course.

So… will Ultra Base Navigation make Blackboard Learn more accessible and inclusive?

Technology alone cannot deliver accessibility and inclusion; the best it can do is help support it.

UBN offers a range of features which have the potential to increase accessibility and inclusion, but it will depend on if and how they are used. The calendar feature, for instance, will rely on what information is shared through the course calendars: its accuracy, clarity, and completeness. New or unfamiliar features, like sharing the pronunciation of your name or your pronouns, may need to be highlighted to students or modelled by staff before they gain acceptance.

Students have always had access to much of this course information in Blackboard Learn. Ultra Base Navigation simply helps to lower the barriers of access.


2 replies to “Learn Ultra Base Navigation: accessibility & inclusion”

  1. Renée Marx says:

    Thanks for setting this out so clearly, Tracey. Would it be possible to include some sample images of the different components?

  2. Tracey Madden says:

    Hi Renée, There are some sample images in the SharePoint site which I think could give you an idea about how this could look: Hope that helps.

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