Education Services – at Blackboard?  You must mean product training, right?  Up until a few years ago, you wouldn’t be far off.  You would be right to know us as Blackboard Consulting and Managed Hosting – providing product training and services to integrate and extend your Blackboard learning management system (LMS) and providing 24x7x365 hosting services for the same.

Today, I am here to tell you that we continue to do all that but we have evolved into so much more…

First, A Bit About Me


I joined Blackboard four and half years ago from the US Department of Education because I feel very strongly that technology, appropriately used, can break down access barriers in education and that, in the world of near ubiquitous access to technology, there is no reason for a quality education to be out of reach for anyone – regardless of their location, background or economic means.  So joining a company focused on bringing technology to education institutions across the world just made sense, especially since I am one of those people who wants my career to be rooted in a personal passion…for me, that’s education.   I’m proud to have been a part of the leadership team at Blackboard that has led a transformation of the client experience we bring to our Learn clients and our expansion beyond a single LMS to a multi-platform provider.

Although the power of technology brought me to Blackboard, I came (as an ex-CIO) with the knowledge that technology alone does not accomplish anything; that it takes the right people and the right processes to make technology an enabler of great things.  So I was excited to lead a team of people focused on helping institutions, faculty and students make the most of the Blackboard learning technologies.  But what excited me the most was the idea that, given the knowledge and experience we have with our team members and such a broad client base, we could do so much more than help clients with our technology – that we could help clients make the most of technology-enabled learning regardless of which products they used.

But that wasn’t enough – because I also know that there is more to producing learning outcomes than what happens in the classroom.  Your mission, educating student and producing  graduates is directly linked to whether the students are ready to engage in the learning process, which depends on your ability to serve them outside the classroom as well – ensuring they are able to register, get their financial aid in a timely fashion and have support all along the way.

So we set our sights beyond simply enabling and maximizing the learning technology you choose, but also in helping tackle challenges along the student lifecycle – in a time when student expectations for these services is rising.  And, that is exactly what we have done.

Introducing “Blackboard Education Services”

Our new moniker reflects the expansiveness of the services we provide to our clients.  We have evolved from a small technical services group into a full service, technology-agnostic, education services practice.  We are now a group 1,000 strong, the largest and most experienced education services team in the industry.  One providing services from overall eLearning ecosystem assessments, to student services in high-need areas, to supporting the plan and launch of online programs.  Simply put, Blackboard Education Services empowers institutions to envision, prepare for and realize the future of education.

This expansion of capabilities is in direct response to market demands. The growth in online education, both fully online and hybrid, has been tremendous and many institutions are struggling to keep up and make sure that their technology, business processes and human resources line up with their institutional goals.  Numerous recent studies agree that the growth in demand for online learning will continue unabated.

As many institutions are coming to understand, overcoming these challenges isn’t something that can be accomplished flying solo.  That is why partnering with the right Education Service provider is critical – the fact is – we providers are not all created equal!

So what characteristics are important in choosing an Education Service Provider?

Experience & Expertise: I would argue that there is nothing more important.  The online learning space is on fire with innovation.  What was once a limited number of vendors serving this space is now a growing arena of choice.  It’s important to choose an education services provider with deep expertise in the business of education.  That is why we have assembled a team of people who have “been there, done that” from education and industry with extensive experience in educational technology, IT leadership, on-line programs and change management.

Blackboard’s Education Services team includes a previous Vice Provost for Education Technology who is the current sitting President of the US Distance Learning Association; an Education Administrator and Director of Institutional Assessment who has served 22 years as an administrator and served on numerous accreditation teams.; a director of financial aid who led more than 30 percent aid utilization increases at a community college, a private non-profit and a for-profit institution.; and an Assistant Chief Information Technology Officer and Executive Director for Campus & Academic Services who transformed the delivery and support of teaching and learning with technology at a leading research institution and developed accredited international learning technology standards as a member and vice-chair of the IEEE Learning Technology Standards Committee.

And, that is just a small sampling of our bench directly from education.   These industry experts are complemented with teams of individuals with deep experience in large-scale program management, change management and business analysis.

Leadership: Leadership is critical in a partner.  The education industry continues to evolve and change.  Each day brings new demands to institutions.  Whether it’s the need to meet greater expectations of users in an increasingly connected world, an emphasis on attracting and retaining the best-fit students or pressure to increase ROI by doing things more efficiently with flat or reduced budgets, only those providers that are well versed in where education has been can help you keep up with where it’s going.  Blackboard has been a pioneer in the industry from our start, often leading the way in product innovation and now even more so providing services along the student lifecycle.  We have evolved our offering to meet the increased demands institutions face today including enrollment management, financial aid management, student retention, and online program management.

Flexibility: Finally, just as not all Education Services Providers are the same, neither is every institution.  It is imperative that you find a partner that offers flexibility.  This flexibility should come in the form of offerings, support services, pricing options and customizations.  At Blackboard we understand that each institution has a unique set of needs.  And while there are lessons to be learned from a large community of practice, these need to be thoughtfully applied in different scenarios.  Having served over 1,800 clients with more than 6,000 engagements, Blackboard Education Services’ ability to serve a wide range of client needs is unmatched in the industry.

I’m very excited about the new capabilities that our Education Services organization is providing to clients – and what that can mean for helping institutions meet the needs of their learners today and tomorrow.

There is so much more to tell, so please stay tuned.

Ray Henderson and I will be presenting “The Road Ahead” on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 11:40 in the Mile High Ballroom at EDUCAUSE 2012.  Please stop by to hear more about the NEW Blackboard.

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