By Michael Chasen

Globally, education is grappling with the need to put learners at the center, to engage them in and beyond the classroom.  All while doing more with less, increasing accountability and finding new funding streams.  Technology has an ever-growing role to play at the heart of education – if you can trust it, manage it, and make it your own.  The challenges are real, but so are the solutions.

Since the merger of Blackboard and WebCT, I’ve watched with pride the synergy created by two education companies coming together to do something bigger and better, to improve learning outcomes and enable education providers to make a true difference in their work, in the lives of their students.  Today, I’m excited to see the endeavors of the Blackboard community’s labors come to fruition with the launch of Blackboard Learn, Release 9.

Driven by the demands of educators and technology professionals across and beyond the Blackboard community, Blackboard Learn, Release 9 re-imagines the use of technology to drive student achievement.  Engagement and openness are the design principles of Blackboard Learn, Release 9.

Learners need to be engaged – no matter who they are or how they learn.  The all-new Web 2.0 experience in Release 9 makes it easy to meaningfully combine information from different sources.  The addition of blogs and journals brings reflective learning to the forefront; and by integrating with the Facebook platform, we can take the learning process to students where they are – meeting their expectations.

When Blackboard and WebCT started working with developers out of Cornell University and the University of British Columbia back in the late ’90s, we wanted to bring new paradigms for openness in education using the Internet.  We succeeded with our early versions of our Learning Systems, but I continually am amazed by the potential – specifically, the untapped potential – for the support of technology to impact learning for the better.

The next generation of openness is now real, with the ability to connect to other learning systems, such as Moodle and Sakai, making it easy for institutions to bring all their learning into one place.  And openness is also all about feedback: the more data students get about their performance, the better they perform.  The more feedback educators get about their performance, the better they perform.  It’s a simple equation.  Blackboard Learn, Release 9 makes personal expression, group collaboration, and feedback easy, real and timely:

  • The Grade Center brings teacher and student into closer dialogue
  • The Notifications Dashboard gets students and educators the feedback they need, when they need it
  • SafeAssign holds a mirror up to a student’s citation skills, improving the art of referencing in the information age
  • Students can now deepen their collaboration with the improved group tools, which bring a host of learning activities into one place

And whether you seek to collaborate in Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Brazilian-Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese or a host of other languages, or need assistance with content re-ordering through a screen-reader, Blackboard Learn, Release 9 opens those doors, as well.

While the challenges are real, so are the solutions!  Even better news?  This is just the beginning: I have an education-focused team that already has the next set of platform innovations in the pipeline for 2009, delivering yet more freedom of choice for students and education providers alike.  I can’t wait to jump that curve.

Happy learning!

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