Blackboard is the global leader in educational technology, and is reinventing itself to serve educators and learners like no other company can. While we both entered the company in its 3.0 phase, Blackboard has a rich history of innovation and reinvention. Being a couple of “product guys,” we see Blackboard as entering its 4th version.

Blackboard 1.0: LMS pioneer

Michael Chasen and the founding Blackboard team were prescient in their vision to pioneer and popularize the LMS, and established the company as the leading LMS provider. They brought the company public, served almost half of U.S. higher education institutions, and became the world’s leading educational technology provider.

Blackboard 2.0: Rapid portfolio growth and acquisition

Blackboard extended its product portfolio and market leadership through both organic development and through aggressive acquisition. Not only did it acquire other LMS companies, including WebCT, Angel, and Moodlerooms, but it also extended its solution set beyond the LMS with other educational technology offerings, including Connect, Mobile, Collaborate, and Analytics. Under new ownership by Providence Equity Partners, Blackboard also extended its K-12 offerings with Edline/Engage CMS. Blackboard was a company with best-of-breed educational technology products, across multiple independent business lines.

Blackboard 3.0: Integration, cloud transformation, learner-focus

In 2012, Jay Bhatt joined Blackboard and moved quickly to transform the company from a collection of product silos to a more integrated, solutions-focused entity. Organizationally, the company moved from semi-autonomous product business units to central development and marketing, serving market-focused organizations.

  • Its flagship Learn LMS offering, underwent significant reinvention, adding a SaaS version that now has over 100 instances; adding a new, simplified “Ultra” set of workflows; shipping bi-yearly, quality-focused 9.1 releases; and instead of being offered as several dozen components, being rationalized into 4 solutions bundles.
  • Moodlerooms extended it market and technology reach with Remote Learner UK and Nivel Siete acquisitions, and added innovations such as the responsive SNAP interface.
  • Collaborate moved away from a Java Client, and embraced WebRTC technology with the new Collaborate Ultra.
  • Instead of having dozens of mobile apps, Blackboard introduced its new persona-based app strategy, starting with Bb Student – a modern, delightful and intuitive mobile app for students that serves as the mobile client for Collaborate and Learn (both 9.1 and Learn SaaS).
  • Analytics offerings moved forward significantly with the acquisition and integration of X-Ray Learning Analytics for Moodlerooms and the Blue Canary retention solution. With over 100 million users using Blackboard solutions every year, we can now turn their data into predictive insights, allowing institutions to take action to retain students and make them successful.
  • International has become a huge focus for Blackboard, offering region-specific functionality across over 20 languages, to meet local teaching styles and educational pedagogies. Of the many advancements we have made to be a global company, we formed a strategic partnership with Grupo Positivo, to offer Blackboard teaching and learning solutions to thousands of Brazilian students in nearly 40 higher education institutions.
  • With the acquisition of Parentlink and Schoolwires, Blackboard combined its K-12 solutions, creating a new, integrated K-12 Community and Parent Engagement solution category.

Blackboard 4.0: Delivering best-in-class products, and meeting customer commitments

Bill Ballhaus has a history and track record of fostering innovation, meeting customer needs, and delivering quality products, on time. Bill is the right leader to bring Blackboard out of its intense period of transformation, to a reliable and performing company that delights and exceeds the expectations of the educational community it serves. Under his leadership, we are focusing our product delivery around the following 4 themes:

Delight customers

With thousands of institutions on Learn 9.1, we are doubling our efforts to move that product forward, in its quality, its feature set, and its user experience. The Q4 2015 release is the highest quality Learn release to date, and added innovations such as competency-based education dashboards. Learn 9.1 also natively supports the industry-leading Bb Student mobile app. And that’s just the beginning for Learn 9.1 and our other products. Expect Blackboard under Bill Ballhaus to support customers like never before.

Deliver innovation without migration

While we have been working hard on new SaaS platforms and user experiences, they have seemed out of reach to users of our current products. Moving forward, we will offer our innovations to our customers with no migrations, and as little disruption as possible.

Be a model citizen of the educational community

The education community is unique. It demands open platforms, open API’s, and deep community involvement. Blackboard has long been the largest contributor to the Moodle code base, is an active IMS contributor (recently being the first LMS to support the Caliper standard), has the largest LMS development community with its Building Block platform, and is introducing a new, open REST API for Learn SaaS. Bill and his leadership team is committed to such openness, and you will be seeing much more of it going forward.

Reliable and transparent delivery

Most of all, Blackboard will deliver on its promises to our customers. We are so excited about all the innovation and transformation, but it must be available, easily adopted, and of the highest quality.

We could not be more proud of Blackboard’s evolution, and we are more excited than ever to move on to Blackboard 4.0 under Bill’s leadership. It will be a time of innovation, reliable delivery, and customer focus. We warmly welcome Bill to the Blackboard team.

Learn more about Blackboard’s mission and how we stay at the forefront of the education technology industry.

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  • Justin Lokitz

    What if you boiled down Blackboard 4.0 as “Focusing on the Customer”? In other words, what I am reading here is that Blackboard is designing, developing and delivering the best experience for its customers.