At the start of this month, we launched an integrated MyEdu/Blackboard Learn solution. Jay Bhatt posted his thoughts about the launch, and noted that this indicates a significant shift in the rapid evolution of the LMS. I wanted to build on this to offer my perspective on the relevance of this launch, both for our products as well as for the industry at large.
The MyEdu Profile Integration represents one of the biggest steps Blackboard has taken to advocate specifically for students. The primary value proposition of the MyEdu Profile is to support students in landing jobs and internships. This value proposition is derived from empathy: we spent an unusually large amount of time with students in order to identify and relate to the emotional challenges they face as they experience higher education. Building a product on an emotional scaffold is different than building a product focused on utility. Rather than implementing features and checking them off a list, our process indicates a shift in how Blackboard is thinking about value. The product capabilities, aesthetic, emotional tone, and value are all interconnected, and that means the product needs to be usable, useful, and desirable – it needs to start with people, rather than technology or market trends. You’ll see this reflected in the visual choices we’ve made in the product; for example, the tiles in MyEdu were designed to help even early students feel proud of their accomplishments. Because we recognize the anxiety students face about making decisions that impact the “rest of their lives”, we’ve tried to reinforce the flexibility of academic decisions by making the profile extraordinarily easy to update and change. We’ve used colors that indicate a lightheartedness, and we’ve tried to “sweat the details” on educational qualities that have historically seemed staid.
This is a shift not only in user interface, but also in Blackboard’s product strategy, as well. Blackboard has historically offered products that try to solve specific problems, and offered these products in relative isolation from one-another. But the educational experience is interconnected, and our products need to tie together to support the challenges of education. Students don’t experience “social” separately from “content” separately from “video”, and to meet their needs, our products need to be integrated into more cohesive solutions. The MyEdu integration into Learn represents a step in this direction, and points to a future of a more integrated suite of capabilities that ties closer to how students actually experience their educational journey.
This integration also recognizes, and starts to address, the challenges hybrid and online learners have in building a community of support. The importance of a peer community in education can’t be overstated, yet online ed-tech solutions have typically treated student to student interactions as incidental to things like content sharing or assessment. In the future, our products need to recognize how isolated and lonely students feel when taking online classes, and we need to foster connections between students, alumni, and professors. The MyEdu Profile is a step in the direction of building a supportive community for learners, so they can benefit from the emotional support of collaborative learning. This is not “separate from” education: this is fundamental to education.