A New Chapter for Blackboard

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Over the past few years at Blackboard we’ve been on a transformation journey focused on delivering a broad portfolio of capabilities and unmatched user experience through a cloud-based, EdTech platform. This approach is enabling our clients to have a more connected experience than they otherwise would have through stand-alone products. And that in turn is enabling us to improve our clients’ success, drive organic growth and lead the market. 

I’m proud of the great progress we’ve made as a team in achieving our goals in such a short period of time:  more than 500 clients moved to Learn SaaS; more than 120 clients are on Learn Ultra; nearly 6 million learners have access to Ally, our accessibility tool; and our Blackboard mobile app now has more than 10 million downloads. We were only able to achieve these goals because of our collective focus and alignment on evolving our portfolio and business to meet our clients’ most pressing challenges.  

Today marks a major milestone in our journey, as we announced that we are selling our Transact business line, which includes the Cashnet suite, to Reverence Capital. This decision will enable Blackboard to accelerate investment in our EdTech platform, providing institutions with an unmatched breadth of capabilities aimed at improving institutional performance and driving student success. 

This decision was very strategic for our business and we didn’t enter into it lightly. As a part of our company strategy, we are continually examining all aspects of our portfolio and looking for ways to provide greater value to our clients and shareholders. For example, within our teaching and learning product line we have been able to deliver a unique experience through deep integrations across Blackboard Learn, Blackboard Collaborate, Safe Assign, and Blackboard Ally. Similarly, within Transact, we have seen strong business benefits in bringing together the Cashnet and Transact capabilities into a unified product line.

Through this process, we determined that the divestiture of Transact will allow the business to continue to grow and flourish as a focused, stand-alone entity. With its clear purpose, stakeholders, and direction, it makes more sense to allow Transact to grow independently rather than within Blackboard’s teaching and learning EdTech platform. 

Transact’s recent innovations, including the mobile credential, are transforming how institutions interact and engage with their students. These changes have created distinct first-mover opportunities for the business, and we look forward to what lies ahead for Transact. 

Enabling simplification and focus

This decision gives us the opportunity to further simplify our business and focus our resources. It enables us to evolve and accelerate development of our teaching and learning EdTech platform in a way that is unique to the market. Our portfolio of solutions will continue to be centered around driving learner engagement, improving academic effectiveness, and providing education insights. 

While Blackboard’s core business will continue to be teaching and learning – as it has been for more than 20 years – we’ll continue to provide multiple products that enhance, support and facilitate better parent and community involvement in education because research shows that engagement directly correlates to student success in the classroom. And we’ll also continue to offer products aimed at improving the business of education, such as growing enrollments and improving retention, and products that alleviate obstacles to teaching and learning, such as IT help desk and one stop services, so institutions, educators and students can focus on their mission – teaching and learning.

Looking into the future for Blackboard

Because of our focus over the past few years on investing in our products, improving performance and meeting our clients’ expectations, we are now at a turning point.  As we move toward a pure SaaS business model, we are greatly simplifying our business, allowing us to increase capacity for innovation and accelerate bringing new capabilities to market. We are now in a position to invest in our business to drive innovation in a way that no one else in the market can.  That investment will go towards continuing to evolve our teaching and learning EdTech platform.  

While the LMS enabled the last wave of innovation, the needs of learners, academics, and institutions have evolved – and our clients are demanding more – specifically, a more engaging and personalized experience, new capabilities to drive better academic outcomes, and critical insights to enable improved institutional performance. 

For us at Blackboard, this means a shift from a product mindset where we think about building individual products like a Learning Management System to a cloud-based platform approach, where we bring together a wide range of educational capabilities, and make them available across multiple modalities, from a web browser, to mobile devices, to APIs called by a marketplace of third-party tool providers and developers. Our platform architecture also includes a comprehensive data and analytics capability through Blackboard Data, serving as the foundation for deriving data-driven insights to help achieve better outcomes.

Looking to the future, our most complex days are behind us. Consolidating our data centers around the globe into the cloud, reducing the number of software versions we need to support, and more tightly integrating our teams that were originally brought together via acquisitions, allows us to increase investments enabling rapid deployment of innovation in areas like Ultra, mobile and additional data and analytics capabilities we are bringing to market this year. I’m looking forward to what lies ahead for us and our clients.