Recently, we announced a partnership with Syracuse University to create a connector between the Blackboard and Sakai course management offerings. The goal of the connector is to allow for greater choice and flexibility in teaching and learning systems, and to provide greater integration between them.
Now, I’m pleased to announce we are in the process of extending this solution to another popular open source system. In partnership with Iowa State University, we are working on creating a connector between the Blackboard and Moodle platforms. Just as with our Sakai effort, we are working with the community to develop this solution, and both connectors will be free, open source extensions to Blackboard software.
The idea behind these efforts isn’t ours alone – our clients have asked us to help bridge the gap between departmental and individual instructor implementations of Moodle and their institution-wide Blackboard system deployments.
With the Learning Environment Connector for Moodle, they will be able to use their Blackboard and open source systems in concert. Instructors who can create content in the Blackboard system will able to share it with peers who are teaching with Moodle. At the same time students will be able to access their classes online from a single location, whether its offered through Blackboard or open source software. Through this technology we hope to simplify the student experience and improve the sharing of ideas throughout the institution.
Last week in the United States, we celebrated National Customer Service Week. While many of you have probably never heard of this, it is meant to recognize a commitment to service and customer loyalty while recognizing the importance of customer service throughout any organization.
Coincidentally, last week Blackboard announced the launch of our annual client satisfaction survey. We view this annual survey as our most important tool for gathering feedback from our clients. Your feedback gives us crucial information related to our performance over the past year and compares that performance to previous years. More importantly, the survey gives our clients a say in the future plans for our business.
I hope that you can take the time to fill this survey out when you receive it by email. If you have filled it out already, thank you for participating. If you haven’t yet, a reminder message will be sent to you this week. While we hope all our clients view their relationship with us positively, we realize there is always room for improvement. I hope you will take a few minutes now and share your candid views about your experience working with Blackboard.
The survey will be available until Friday, October 24.
Even as instructors create increasingly rich, deep and comprehensive learning experiences in their online environments, there is a growing challenge to keep students focused on the information and activities key to ensuring their success. With the distractions and noise surrounding their busy off- and online lives bombarding them from all angles, educators are facing a crisis in student engagement. Blackboard is working to help meet this challenge and simplify access to information through Project NG.
Through Project NG we are working on providing students (and instructors, too) an aggregated view of the important activities and deadlines across all the courses they are involved in, making their Blackboard experience more efficient and helping users to be more successful.
Further, this information should be available to students and instructors in channels beyond the Backboard application. Students may check Blackboard once or twice per day, but they may check their smartphones every few minutes and their Facebook pages every hour.
Project NG is about bringing the best of Blackboard and WebCT together—in products and in service—and about making the experience better than ever. As we work through multiple application packs to bring NG to life, we must consider the diversity of the features across the existing versions of Blackboard Learning System software. In some cases, one or two versions have a feature that the others do not have. In other cases, all of the products offer a feature, but the experience of using it and the overall set of solutions that are provided vary. How do we bring all of this together?
One approach is to just keep everything, smash it together and cover it in a unified look and feel. Another approach is to consider each of the similar features, pick the most loved variety and just add them to new releases under NG. These approaches are, in a word, unappealing. A better approach is to work with users across all product lines to discover answers to these questions:
What is working well? What is missing? What are the related problems? What other ideas are out there about this feature? And, most interestingly, what is the user trying to accomplish?
When we look at product features in this light, we get innovation. We have already started this type of work in many areas of the product. One result is already available to see: the Grade Center of Release 8.
As one of more than 100 full-time professionals on the Blackboard Managed Hosting team, I’m proud of the fact that we are supporting educational successes everywhere in truly remarkable ways. Our team provides services and technology that ensure the overall stability, reliability, availability and scalability of the Blackboard application platforms so that millions of users around the world don’t have to worry about whether or not their Blackboard software will be available and ready, wherever they happen to be. But we’re always pushing ourselves to do more.
In simple terms, Blackboard Managed Hosting is now hosting more clients in our datacenters than ever before—over 500 and counting. As a result, not a day goes by that we don’t remind ourselves that students are accessing online learning tools through at least one Blackboard Managed Hosting datacenter every hour of every day. Whether studying the latest advancements in vocational procedures in South America, collaborating with classmates in Japan, downloading lecture notes in North America or taking an online exam in Europe, learners expect and deserve the best software and support, and we are keenly aware of this.
Our clients are also doing more with their Blackboard implementations; and they’re setting peak records in terms of data transfer rates, numbers of users, and sizes of their databases and content storage, among other things. We now have datacenters in five locations on three continents. And we’ve spent more time and resources preparing for this busy back-to-school period in August and now September than ever. As a result, the majority of our hosted clients have told us that they’ve had one of the smoothest beginnings of the semester experiences than ever before. To me, that’s the most satisfying feedback we can receive.
We’re also doing more to communicate with our hosting clients and provide easy access to updates and further information. Let me tell you about just four ways we’re doing that: