Adopting ‘Ultra’ Early: Leading the way with Learn

Image credit: Copyright University of Edinburgh

In this Spotlight on Learn Ultra post, Stuart Nicol provides an update on the early adoption of Learn Ultra. Stuart is the Head of the Educational Design and Engagement (EDE) section in Information Services Group.

Hopefully it will not come as a surprise to hear that Learn, our institutional virtual learning environment (VLE), is in the process of being upgraded to the most up-to-date version, Learn Ultra. We’re currently in year two of the three-year upgrade project, and you should already be familiar with the new landing page. Courses in Learn have, for the vast majority, not changed this year and we are working closely with all Schools and Deaneries to plan the upgrade to Ultra Course View for next academic year. See our project updates for more information.

What you may not be aware of is that a sizable number of courses have already moved to Ultra Course View this academic year, with content successfully migrated over summer 2022 and students and teachers actively engaging in these new online teaching spaces. Initially we had planned for a limited test to take place this year, with a couple of courses in each College moving to Ultra Course View. However, due to popular demand to engage early with the new course interface, we currently have 138 (and counting) courses taking part in our Early Adopter Programme. The majority of these courses have already launched, with the rest starting in semester 2.

This has been a fantastic opportunity for the project team to work closely with teaching and teaching support staff from a range of disciplines to get a much better understanding of the process of migrating to Learn Ultra. The lessons we are learning are going to help us to be much better informed for the support we will provide the wider university next year. Our team of learning technologists and instructional designers have been working in close collaboration with the early adopter teams adapting solutions to particular contexts. The collaboration runs both ways, and we have a number of local learning technologists as part of the central project team. Additional temporary support channels were set up to make sure that we could react quickly to any issues. This has proved to be a valuable source of information for Frequently Asked Questions that we are now starting to make available to the wider community.

The early adopter programme has also offered us a fantastic opportunity to test out our training. Our approach has included:

  • ‘A Day In The Life’ webinars to show the possible;
  • Experiential learning opportunities through moderated ‘An Edinburgh Model for Teaching Online’ courses;
  • Hands-on ’10 Things To Try’ in Learn Ultra sessions.

We ran 42 of these sessions in total over the summer. Our experience with these courses will enable us to distil the support into very focussed sessions and resources for the full upgrade next year.

A particularly useful resource is our Good Practice Guidance. These guides have resulted from the combined experience of our team and the early adopters; rather than mere help documentation this is a more focussed set of advice on good ways to work with Learn Ultra from a teaching and learning perspective. This also includes a growing repository of openly licenced images taken from our library collections and pre-prepared to work as course and page headings. The Image Bank includes instructions on how to use and attribute these images correctly in your courses.

We continue to engage widely with all Schools and Deaneries as we prepare for the upgrade, so don’t worry if you have not had the early adopter experience yourself as we are feeding in all of these wider requirements to the project. Please do visit our Learn Ultra SharePoint site and Blog to find out more about the project; we will be posting more as we progress. We will be communicating widely about the project in the coming weeks and months, so expect to hear more from us soon.

photograph of the authorStuart Nicol

Stuart is the Head of the Educational Design and Engagement (EDE) section in Information Services Group. EDE are responsible for delivering a number of services to the University, including: advice, consultancy, and training for learning technologies; Learning Design (ELDeR); support for online learning, including MOOCs; and support for open education resources. Stuart joined The University of Edinburgh in 2007, initially in the School of History, Classics, and Archaeology, moving to what is now EDE in 2011. He has a master’s degree in Digital Education from The University of Edinburgh, and continues to have an interest in critical approaches to open education and practice.


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