This is a guest blog post by Brad Evans, Blackboard Product Manager.
Last June, our Chief Strategy Officer Katie Blot announced the completion of the Blackboard Community Site beta program. In her blog post entitled How our Community Site is driving real change, she announced that the site was now open to everyone in the Blackboard client community to join. Since going fully live, the Blackboard Community Site has continued to grow and evolve; there are now over 8,700 members representing more than 190 countries.
One of the things Katie highlighted was the story of how we responded to interest in supporting REST APIs for self-hosted and managed hosted clients. While initially intended for SaaS only, interest in REST APIs from self-hosted and managed hosted clients was so high on the Blackboard Community Site that we changed our strategy. REST APIs are now available for everyone. While that dialog was specific to the developer forum, we also have formal mechanisms for interacting with Blackboard on suggestions through Ideas and Voting.
Ideas is short for the Blackboard Idea Exchange. It is the replacement for our product Suggestion Box and it is where anyone can submit a product or other idea for both Blackboard and the community to consider. The beauty of using our Blackboard Community Site to share ideas is that anyone can participate in the discussion, and that dialog is visible to all. It’s just one of the many ways we’ve expanded our transparency with our users. What has been fun to watch is the increase in recent activity. Since the beginning of the year, we are reaching new highs for the number of ideas created. Calendar vs. content item visibility, tests, gradebook, and rubrics were the main themes. How ideas are handled is outlined in the Idea Review Process.
Voting is a partial replacement for our Bug Squad program where users have the opportunity to provide feedback on our development priorities. We held our first Blackboard Community Site voting process last summer where almost 500 votes were cast across over 50 ideas. As a result of that effort, we delivered on the top-voted idea for assignment submission receipts and we’re actively developing on the second-highest voted item, attendance. Solutions for other ideas are also being worked on. We’re gearing up for another round of voting soon and it will be just one of the ways the Blackboard community can influence our development priorities.
Ideas and Voting are much intertwined. Ideas from the community are a primary source of concepts we put forward for voting. And what we put forth is based on a number of factors, including, but not limited to: the number and nature of comments, number of views, additional feedback from users outside of the Blackboard Community Site, and prior voting results. That means your participation can directly affect where we put our focus. And as a follow-up, you could be invited to join our renewed Product Development Partnership. It’s a forum where we dive deeper on a key idea and share designs, workflows, and other factors that bring an idea to life.
The focus and philosophy around our Blackboard Community Site is best explained in our recent E-Learn article Always learning with the Blackboard community. The Blackboard Community Site is now a primary mechanism for how we solicit ideas and feedback from our community. It’s open, transparent, and inclusive. Join and participate today. It’s an opportunity to be heard and to help influence what we’re doing and how we get there.
Brad Evans has nearly a decade of experience in the edtech industry and began his career at ANGEL Learning before joining Blackboard’s Learn Product Management team in 2010. In addition to leading the Ideas space on the Blackboard Community Site, his areas of focus include outcomes assessment, competency-based education, and teaching and learning features in the Blackboard Learn Ultra experience.