Advancing Learning through Innovation



We’re on a mission to advance learning for all. Read unique perspectives from Blackboard leaders on how this guides everything we do—from driving innovation in EdTech to improving accessibility and increasing student engagement. Part II.

As an EdTech company with a mission to advance learning, we are propelled by a deep commitment to help our partners continuously improve student success through innovative technologies and services. Today, the education community is experiencing a sea change of unprecedented magnitude. We continue to be inspired by the resiliency and nimbleness of K-12 districts, higher education institutions, governments, businesses, and associations around the globe as they evolve their remote and blended learning models and accelerate their digital transformation plans due to the global pandemic. While there are still many unknowns regarding the upcoming academic year, we can say with conviction that now more than ever, our community has come together to push the boundaries of innovation and advance learning for all.  

Below are some of the most exciting ways that we are advancing learning by anticipating the needs of tomorrow and transforming education through innovation:  

Creating a connected and holistic online learning environment 

With the rapid shift to remote instruction, the education community quickly discovered that adopting a holistic approach to online learning made the biggest impact on student success. Looking ahead, this means implementing a learning ecosystem that encompasses an interconnected set of tools and services that work together to drive student success.  

To help make this connected ecosystem a reality for our higher education clients, we launched Blackboard One earlier this year. With the understanding that a one-size-fits-all approach simply doesn’t work, Blackboard One is a customizable offering that brings together our teaching and learning technologies and student success service solutions to effectively manage every stage of the student lifecycle. This allows us to assess institutions’ unique needs and curate the right combination of tools and services—drawing from our LMS, data and analytics, student services, and consulting technologies—to drive student, institutional and academic success.  

With the same concept in mind, we launched Blackboard Unite for K-12 to support districts and schools as they move beyond a stop-gap solution and develop a nimble remote or blended learning model to ensure learning continues regardless of what the future may hold. Blackboard Unite brings together the power of the district-branded mobile app, school-to-home messaging, virtual classroom, learning management system, accessibility tool, and teaching training and onboarding services to help districts successfully utilize and mature their distance learning efforts. It’s well-understood that the connections between a teacher and a parent are essential to a student’s progress and success, especially in a remote environment. So, in the fall we’ll be launching our newest addition to Blackboard Unite, a safe and secure two-way mobile messaging tool called Blackboard Reach that will allow teachers and parents to engage in direct two-way dialogue using their mobile device, framed by the district’s brand. 

Meanwhile, the SaaS delivery model for Blackboard Learn is allowing us to rapidly innovate across a range of capabilities for a better teaching and learning experience. We will be integrating the Learn Chatbot as an automated way for faculty and students to ask questions about how to use the LMS, driving better usage and adoption, while also allowing support staff to focus on mission-driven work by reducing help desk inquiries. We’re also in the process of developing Blackboard Assist, a new offering that connects students with important institutional and external partner resources for academic and general wellness support. And, finally, in response to the need to facilitate more student interactions online, we are planning to integrate additional video feeds into the Blackboard Collaborate  video gallery, enhancing the video pinning options and allowing instructors to more easily share and monitor content for their class.    

Adopting a data-driven approach 

We see data as the driving force behind the next wave of EdTech innovation. In fact, we’re committed to applying a dynamic, data-driven approach to continuously enhancing the user experience. Because the Blackboard Data platform serves as the foundation for our integrated teaching and learning environment, we are uniquely positioned to help institutions advance their digital learning strategies based on the consolidated insights we gather from across their education ecosystem.  

This year, we’re expanding the Blackboard Reporting Stack with new reporting capabilities available through the new Blackboard Reporting Tier, powered by Blackboard Data. These new, free reports gather robust usage and adoption data from Learn and other licensed Blackboard SaaS products, providing institutions with important insights into how learning is happening across their digital ecosystem. The first available report offers an analysis of Blackboard Collaborate virtual classroom solution usage, with additional reports for other products to follow.  

We recognize there is still considerable uncertainty regarding plans for the upcoming academic year, and that last-minute implementation of blended or fully online courses has the potential to negatively impact at-risk populations. To mitigate these potential challenges, we’re launching a solution that leverages data from the LMS in combination with our retention coaching solutions to enable targeted outreach to at-risk students and early interventions to course correct and drive student success.  

Prioritizing accessibility within the entire learning ecosystem 

Over the past several years, we have focused on expanding access to education by helping institutions establish a culture of accessibility and building innovative technologies that apply the principles of Universal Design for Learning. As learning environments become increasingly more digital, we believe a more personalized approach to instruction and content delivery is paramount. Today, connecting all types of students to opportunities for learning requires a mobile strategy. Because learners, instructors, and administrators are now increasingly reliant on their mobile devices, we recently made the alternative formats feature within Blackboard Ally—Blackboard’s accessibility tool—available on our app for students. This integration grants students access to learning materials in a variety of modalities that align to their preferences and needs.  

We also believe that accessible content should permeate all touchpoints within a learner’s education environment—from the LMS to external resources. To help make this a reality, earlier this month we launched Ally as a Service, which allows Ally’s functionality to be embedded in other contexts. For example, it can be applied to content in library systems to provide alternative formats for content housed outside the LMS and public-facing websites.  

Together, we can create a smarter, more holistic online learning environment–we’re excited for what the future holds! Join us virtually at BbWorld20 today and tomorrow and tune into our product roadmap sessions to learn more about additional innovations on the horizon that are bound to advance learning for all.