Blackboard product teams works closely with clients to build and introduce new versions of our platforms, including Blackboard Learn(™), Blackboard Collaborate(™), and Blackboard Mobile(™). We independently launched major versions that offered improved user experiences and brought us closer to customers in the process. Recently, we came together to discuss what Blackboard offers as a whole – across all of our platforms and services – to address the problem of student engagement that can result in dropouts, poor test scores, and transfers to other institutions. We put aside talking about cool new features and instead talked about how to effectively break through to today’s “always on” students. We identified how Blackboard’s entire portfolio can help students get engaged and personally invested in their learning for solid outcomes, college readiness, and career success. We are convinced that Blackboard offers the widest variety of tools to connect and engage learners in a way that each prefers – regardless of time, place, device or learning style. It’s no surprise that this results in increased learning, retention, and institutional growth. One client, Ivy Tech Community College, an educator of over 120,000 students across in 75 locations across Indiana, solved their growing requirement for more robust and resourceful engagement tools by deploying Blackboard Collaborate and Blackboard Mobile after attaining a solid foundation with Blackboard Learn. Among the benefits of the combined solution are 24×7 service to students, onboarding of 25,000 new students each year, and steady growth in enrollment with a goal of 200,000 students by 2020. What exactly does Blackboard offer to engage students? First of all, a plethora of learning-focused features – customized online courses and vibrant communities in Blackboard Learn, access to coursework virtually anywhere with Blackboard Mobile, and live classes with breakouts and multi-user whiteboards in Blackboard Collaborate. We also have capabilities that reach these students 24/7 on their own terms, enticing responses and interaction – “anywhere” courses with Blackboard Mobile Learn, faculty messages to mobile devices with Blackboard Connect for Learn(™), and presence and instant messaging in Blackboard Collaborate. There are features for measuring engagement with Blackboard Analytics(™) and taking corrective action. And finally, we work with our clients to help ensure a seamless user experience and optimization for teaching and learning. As a company, we are quickly realizing that the sum is greater than the parts. That is, with a broad set of integrated platforms, professional services, and education expertise, Blackboard enables institutions to tailor learning to each individual student while reaching and growing the entire academic enterprise. That’s what enables institutions to excel and stay relevant in today’s changing education environment.
As a Blackboard marketing professional, I often communicate the virtues of virtual collaboration. What resonates most these days as it relates to virtual collaboration are the cost savings that can be achieved from travel avoidance. You can save a lot of money by shifting learning and working online using real-time communication tools like web conferencing, IM, and Skype. Some of our Blackboard Collaborate customers have measured it as $2,000 per meeting. The annualized savings is quite impressive. Based on our customer stories and my own experience as a remote, home-based worker, I am convinced that live online collaboration can result in solid outcomes – more learning, increased productivity, improved focus, and solid relationships with people in your virtual community, whether colleagues, bosses, or like-minded professionals. So why would you work or learn any other way?
If you’re reading this blog post, there’s about 99.99% certainty that you’re also someone who’s using (or about to start using) a learning management system (LMS). With the wide and varied range of tools and capabilities that an LMS can provide, it’s no wonder they they’ve become an instructor’s standard platform for course creation, course management, and course information. Your students are likely using this LMS, as well, logging in to check on schedules, assignments, and grades. Whether the education you’re providing is virtual, traditional, or blended, an LMS is likely its lifeblood.
A question I occasionally hear is “why can’t we just use our web conferencing service for live online learning?” The question is certainly a reasonable one. After all, web conferencing services that were little more than teleconferencing with slide push have improved. The good ones even support video, chat, and slide annotation. But the focus of general-purpose web conferencing is not on learning outcomes. These low cost/no cost on-demand meeting services are built for quick, informal get-togethers. Enterprise-level meeting systems are designed primarily to cost-effectively sell products and services. An educational mission is different. While universities and K-12 schools do have to watch the bottom line, their needs differ from those of commercial sales. Just ask anyone who has both given a sales presentation and stood in front of a classroom. So just what will make web conferencing work for online learning?
I recently learned what the word potable means, as did many high schoolers who attend Lucy Hammel’s virtual English class. Hammel, a teacher for K12, Inc. who blogged about So What Does a Virtual Classroom Look Like, explained how she uses Blackboard Collaborate to connect with her kids on a more powerful, personal level, which helps them succeed via high-touch interaction. In this particular instance, she explained that most students are not familiar with the word “potable” and they think it is difficult to remember. So, by engaging with them via Blackboard Collaborate, she was able to tell them a funny story about how her daughters learned the meaning of the word when they visited her parents in Florida last summer – and the definition stuck.