Blackboard Academy is Blackboard’s institute of professional development. Its portfolio includes courses on Digital Teaching and Learning, Learning Analytics and Online Tools for educators, teaching support staff and system administrators.
Collaboration comes as Blackboard accelerates Center for Advancing Learning’s mission to expand access
While COVID-19 had a profound impact on the education sector around the globe, developing countries were among those that faced the toughest challenges. Not many educational institutions were prepared to shift to an online learning environment, nor did they have the tools and resources to do so. Teachers were forced to learn online technology solutions to connect with their students and encourage consistent engagement. These challenges showcased the increased need for digital literacy.
In January 2021, Blackboard, in collaboration with UNESCO and Caribbean Centre for Educational Planning (CCEP) at the University of the West Indies, launched the Education response to COVID-19: Distance Learning and Teacher Training Strategies in the Caribbean SIDS. The program aims to train 10,000 teachers on how to effectively engage with students through the use of online education tools and interactive platforms.
“Building an online classroom involves more than just recording lectures or meeting via videoconference. Participants in this course were eager to acquire strategies to make remote learning accessible to, and engaging for, all of their students,” said Melissa Mertz, Sr., trainer at Blackboard Academy. “We had teachers from all levels who not only took on this professional development during a time of immense stress but did so with a positive attitude that demonstrated their commitment to helping their students succeed.”
The program was built on the experiences and successes of the Professional Development for Teachers for Blended Learning and Online Strategies, a 2020 pilot project where Blackboard trained 60 teachers in online skills development such as digital literacy in basic computer skills. Since its inception, the pilot program enrolled over 5,000 teachers among the first two cohorts, with an additional 7,000 scheduled to join this fall. Currently, Blackboard is working to replicate this model in five African countries, integrating all the lessons learned from the original pilot project.
The course provides teachers with strategies for designing and facilitating the online classroom. It covers the most important digital teaching approaches; the fundamentals of developing digital course content; how to use virtual classrooms to facilitate remote sessions; and best practices to communicate online, support online learners and build community. The topics of information literacy, accessibility, and universal design are also key components of the course focused on the needs of K-12 students.
Here are just a couple of examples of how teachers in the region are benefitting from our collaboration with UNESCO and the CCEP.
- Haynese Carlyle, a teacher at John’s Hall Primary School in Jamaica, felt that the program allowed her to connect with students and increase classroom engagement. She states, “I learned many things, and I feel that I am more knowledgeable of different online skills. I can now apply them to get desired results.” She used her knowledge on synchronous and asynchronous approaches, importance of pace and scheduling, and inclusive teaching to motivate her students and build a relationship in an online environment.
- Tinuke Ola-Peters, a French and Spanish teacher from Trinidad and Tobago, also said that the program helped her converse with students with special needs. The training provided her with online strategies that helped keep student focused and engaged. This was exemplified in many ways, including a feedback section, as well as creating four ten-minute videos instead of one 45-minute video.
Blackboard is passionate about expanding access to education around the world. We’re deeply honored and proud to play a role in helping our clients provide online learning to their students during the global pandemic and beyond. Mike Ayala, Blackboard Academy Manager, states, “With this project, a group of teachers are evolving to become leaders in the adoption of digital teaching strategies for the entire region. We are witnessing their confidence growing and their community strengthening. We are part of a true partnership that had immediate impact on the professional development of 10,000 teachers but is also building capability in the region to make projects like this sustainable. I’m very pleased I was able to be part of this project and team.”
The collaboration with UNESCO comes as Blackboard accelerates the launch of its Center for Advancing Learning (CAL), an education thought leadership, policy and corporate social responsibility hub with the mission of supporting student and institutional success. Guided by three underlying aims — increasing access, supporting underserved and at-risk populations and improving outcomes – the CAL’s work aligns with the mission of Blackboard’s UNESCO partnership to expand access to digital learning best practices and ultimately making learning more accessible for students around the globe.
Click here to learn more about the Distance Learning and Teacher Training Strategies in the Caribbean SIDS and read interviews with teachers to get a more detailed glimpse into their stories.