An Overview of Grand Valley's LMS Migration

In Winter 2021, Grand Valley began a process of selecting a new learning management system (LMS). After extensive vendor demos, multiple faculty surveys, topic-specific working groups, and conversations with campus stakeholders, a decision was made to select Blackboard's Learn Ultra product. The University believes that Ultra will best support instruction, increase student engagement, and meet future strategic online demands.

GVSU is moving from Blackboard Classic to Blackboard Ultra

simple illustration of a person asking a question

Faculty—Have Questions?

This page is intended to be an overview of Grand Valley's migration to Blackboard Ultra. We know you'll have additional questions about the migration process and how it will affect you. Visit our Faculty Frequently Asked Questions page, which we've designed to help you find the answers you need.

Get Answers!

Students—Have Questions?

Students have questions too. Check out our Student Frequently Asked Questions page for more details on how the move to Blackboard Ultra will affect your digital learning.

Get Answers!

A Three Step Transition

line drawing of a cloud

Moving to the Cloud

The first step in our migration process is moving all the information in our current system to Blackboard's "cloud" (also known as"software as a service," or SaaS). This move will take place after the Winter 2022 semester ends, and needs to happen before we can fully move to Blackboard Ultra.

This migration will take place from May 3, 2022 at 3pm until the morning of May 8, 2022.

For this step of the process, no action is needed on your part. GVSU and Blackboard staff will work to complete the move. Once it has finished, your Blackboard courses will look exactly the same (we call this Blackboard Classic). 

Faculty who would like to try out Blackboard Ultra can do so starting in Fall 2022.

simple line drawing of a directional sign

Ultra Navigation

The first visible change you'll notice in our Blackboard system will take place in Spring/Summer 2022. The look and feel of the old "MyBb" page will be updated to a new, re-designed "portal" page. This will affect how and where you find your course sites, but it will not change what your courses themselves will look like.  

Watch this video for a quick overview of Ultra Base Navigation after the May 2022 migration. 

Faculty interested in getting a deeper understanding of Ultra Base Navigation and some of the new functionality available, we have scheduled several UBN training sessions in Sprout.

simple line drawing of an open book

Ultra Course View

You will see the most significant changes when the University moves to the Ultra Course View. This will change the way your Blackboard courses look as well as how they are organized. Because this will be a truly significant change, there will be a year-long training period for faculty, staff, and students to get acquainted with the new look and feel.

The Ultra Course View will become standard during the Spring/Summer 2023 semester, but faculty who would like to may start using this view in Fall 2022.

Migration Timeline

Illustration of a timeline

Winter 2022. Courses use Blackboard Classic and are self-hosted by GVSU.

  • March 1. Spring/Summer courses are made available to faculty beginning for early course development.
  • May 3 at 3pm. Blackboard will become unavailable until the morning of May 8, 2022 as all the information in GVSU's Blackboard system is migrated to Blackboard's cloud system.
    • This is an approximate date that may change once Blackboard starts receiving our migration timeline information.
    • This scheduled downtime will also happen at least 3 hours after grades are due. 
    • A definite timeline will be published and communicated to the GVSU community well before the scheduled migration.  
    • Courses that run past the Winter 2022 semester end will work with eLearning Technologies to get access to offline content for grading purposes.
  • Once the move is complete, all courses will be available using the original Blackboard Classic view.

Spring/Summer 2022. Courses continue to use Blackboard Classic.

  • Blackboard Ultra training begins for faculty, staff, and students.
  • The old MyBb portal is replaced with a new portal using Ultra Base Navigation.
  • Faculty who use Blackboard Collaborate should take advantage of eLearning's many Zoom training options.

Fall 2022. Courses continue to use Blackboard Classic.

  • A selection of pilot courses begin using the new Blackboard Ultra Course View.
  • Blackboard Collaborate is no longer available. Faculty should use Zoom for webinars, collaboration, and synchronous meetings.
  • Blackboard Ultra training continues.

Winter 2023. Courses continue to use Blackboard Classic.

  • Additional courses pilot the new Blackboard Ultra Course View.
  • Blackboard Ultra training continues.
  • Courses for the Spring/Summer semester are created using the new Ultra Course View.

Spring/Summer 2023. Courses begin using the new Ultra Course View.

  • Blackboard Ultra training continues.
  • Blackboard Classic will no longer be available for new courses.

Fall 2023. All courses at GVSU use the Ultra Course View.

  • Blackboard Ultra training continues.



  • Learning Management System. Also known as an LMS. Blackboard Classic and Ultra are both learning management systems.
  • Blackboard Learn. This is the name that Blackboard, the company, uses for its learning management system (they also make other products). Classic and Ultra are different versions of this LMS.
  • Blackboard Classic. This is the original version of Blackboard Learn that GVSU has been using since 2001.
  • Blackboard Ultra. In 2015, Blackboard began working on a next generation version of Blackboard Learn. Ultra will become the official LMS for GVSU in Fall 2023.
  • Ultra Navigation. Blackboard Learn Ultra is composed of two parts. The first is its "base navigation," which controls how you find courses and navigate throughout the Blackboard system.
  • Ultra Course View. The second part of Learn Ultra is a dramatically updated experience for course sites themselves. Ultra courses feature a different way of organizing content as well as a new look and feel.
  • MyBb. Grand Valley has used the term "MyBb" to refer to its Blackboard Learn system. In particular, the term refers to the page where faculty, staff, and students find their list of courses.
  • Self-Hosted. Many computer applications are designed so that companies and institutions buy and run their own copy of the program. For many years now, Grand Valley's Blackboard system has been running on server computers physically located on our campus.
  • Software as a Service. Also known as SaaS, this term refers to computer applications that live and run on shared server computers "in the cloud." Blackboard's cloud servers provide Blackboard Ultra access to institutions around the world.

The Benefits of Moving to Blackboard Ultra

Benefits of Ultra Base Navigation

  • Ultra Navigation provides new ways to for faculty and students to see across their courses all at once. Instructors, for example, will have one view that shows items that need to be graded for all the courses that they teach.
  • Students can get a big picture view of what's happening across their courses through the new Activity Stream and global calendar.
  • Blackboard no longer reloads every time you click something or opens extra windows. Instead, as you move through courses—viewing and editing items—each new click adds a "layer" on top of what you were already looking at. Going back to a previous step is as easy as clicking the correct layer.
  • Faculty interested in getting a deeper understanding of Ultra Base Navigation and some of the new functionality available, we have scheduled several UBN training sessions in Sprout.


VIdeo tour of Blackboard Ultra Base Navigation

Watch this video for a quick overview of Ultra Base Navigation.
Ultra Base Navigation will be available after the May 2022 migration.

Illustration of a cloud over a Blackboard login page

Benefits of the Cloud

Moving to the "software as a service" version of Blackboard brings many benefits behind the scenes. However, there are some benefits that everyone will notice.

  • Right now, fixing or upgrading Blackboard requires making it entirely unavailable. That's really challenging, considering that classes take place nearly year-round. The cloud version of Blackboard can be upgraded while faculty and students keep using it.
  • Currently, we can only upgrade Blackboard once or twice a year. Since it doesn't require downtime, small updates to the cloud version of Blackboard can be made more frequently. That means when problems appear, or new enhancements become available, they can be applied immediately.

Benefits of Ultra Course View

  • The new Ultra Course View has a cleaner design, makes it easier for students to find their courses, and reduces the number of clicks that faculty need to make when adding and editing content.
  • Ultra gives instructors control over when students are able to see newly entered grades. Instructors can post individual grades, or wait and post all the grades for a particular assignment at once.
  • Instructors can set accommodations for a student once and have them applied to all assessments in their course.
  • Ultra gives users greater control over their personal settings, including their preferred personal pronouns.
  • Blackboard Ultra includes progress tracking for students, giving them an easy way to keep track of what they have done in each of their courses. Students can easily identify tasks they have started, completed, or haven't yet begun.
  • Discussion Boards in Ultra have received a massive upgrade. Instead of living in a separate area, discussions can be added anywhere within a course site. When faculty grade discussions they also have access to a detailed discussion analysis that provides insight on the level of complexity and critical thinking in a student's posts compared to their classmates.
screenshot of Ultra navigation features

Blackboard Collaborate

Blackboard Collaborate logo followed by an arrow pointing to a Zoom logo

In addition to the LMS migration from Blackboard Classic to Ultra, Grand Valley will also be transitioning away from the use of Collaborate for webinars and synchronous meetings. As of Fall 2022, faculty will be asked to use Zoom instead of Collaborate.

Explore a comparison of Zoom and Collaborate

Download the comparison as an Acrobat PDF

Want to Learn More?

Visit Grand Valley's Zoom website

Cloud by Agnieszka Olszewska from / Navigation by Icon Lauk from / Learning by Mrfa Studio from / Pioneer by Phạm Thanh Lộc from

Page last modified May 6, 2022