Illustration Driving Continuous Improvement with Education Insight

Driving Continuous Improvement with Education Insight


Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on Jul 19, 2018 – Click here for the Spanish version

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” – Peter Drucker 

Just over 20 years ago, Blackboard set out to solve the most critical challenges of education institutions. Blackboard founders recognized the impact that the Internet could have on education around the globe and introduced a new technology into the marketplace- the learning management system (LMS).  For the past two decades, Blackboard has helped education institutions around the globe take teaching and learning online, define and shape best practices for digital learning, and support the entire student journey. 

Twenty years ago, the greatest challenge on the horizon was taking teaching and learning online.  Today, the LMS is simply not enough to solve the most critical challenges of education institutions.  As we look to the future, we are focused on developing a comprehensive, digital learning environment aimed at helping institutions to solve the core challenges faced today. To achieve this goal, instead of building our products separately and integrating them into the LMS, we are taking a much more holistic approach.  Across Blackboard’s portfolio, we are striving to empower and help educators improve student success, increase retention rates, create inclusive and accessible learning experiences, and ensure educational integrity. 

At Blackboard, we have explored how our solutions can help solve these challenges through academic effectiveness and learner engagement. Now we will shift our focus to how Blackboard enables continuous improvement by providing an accurate and deep understanding of the teaching and learning process. 

Through education insight, Blackboard helps education institutions boost student retention rates, create inclusive and accessible learning for all students, increase student success, and promote educational integrity.  To demonstrate how Blackboard helps institutions tackle their most critical challenges, let’s explore some real-world examples.

Boosting Student Retention Rates

Lewis & Clark Community College, a midsized community college in Godfrey, Illinois, has achieved remarkable results from their data-driven retention initiatives. Using Blackboard Analytics to identify student risk levels and informing the most effective strategies for supporting them, Lewis & Clark has pioneered an approach to student retention – an approach that has empowered the school to be more efficient, and helped students achieve their goals. As a result of these efforts, retention increased 14.8 percentage points from 58.7% to 72.5%.  With this increased student retention rate, Lewis & Clark saved $700,000 in tuition revenue. This effort has helped create a more data-drive culture throughout the college.  If you’d like to learn more about Lewis & Clark’s achievements, you can access the full case study here

Like Lewis & Clark, Concordia University – Wisconsin achieved stronger student retention with Blackboard Intelligence. In 2015, Concordia University – Wisconsin experienced a five percent drop in student retention with a retention rate of 71.6%.  By providing academic advisors with dashboards that allow them to identify struggling students according to a large number of different factors, advisors were able to reach out with personalized interventions and direct students to the right support services on campus.  As a result, Concordia achieved a 10% increase in student retention to hit an institutional record of nearly 82%. Assistant Vice President for Academics for Student Success, Elizabeth Polzin, explained, “With the Blackboard learning analytics tools, this year has been a bit of an explosion for us. I think it’s one of the reasons we saw a big jump on our retention rate: we had the opportunity to provide personalized outreach before the semester was over. It’s a better use of time and human resources in general. As a supervisor, I prefer to not have my team spinning their wheels in a direction where they end up in a dead end. Using analytics gives us focus and direction as to the best way to serve our students.”  To learn more about Concordia University – Wisconsin’s successes, read the full report here

And, finally, Central Piedmont Community College (CPCC) accomplished improved student retention rates as well.  As the largest community college in the North Carolina Community College system, Central Piedmont serves over 70,000 students across six campuses.  CPCC found it difficult to improve retention and completion rates and assemble and understand its data. It was a challenge to understand the dynamics of such a large, diverse student population.  More than 50% of incoming students at CPCC needed academic remediation before even starting their programs: students are often the first in their families to go to college, and many must manage work and parenting, finding it difficult to balance these demands while studying at college level. CPCC wanted a way to make data-driven decisions and to use the data to take actions. The college implemented Blackboard Analytics with the goal of gaining better access to information and using that information to drive new initiatives to improve student success and retention. Through their work, Central Piedmont Community College was awarded the “Leader College” distinction by Achieving the Dream; increased course completion rates from 65% to 72%; and increased term-to-term retention rate from 69% to 83%. This retention and analytics strategy is important because it helped the college to enroll and retain students and enable more of them to enter the workforce, as well as boost its financial position.  To learn more about Central Piedmont’s retention and analytics strategy, download the full report. 

Creating Inclusive and Accessible Learning for All Students 

In 2004, California State University – Chico, often known as Chico State, began tackling the challenge of accessibility after the university released an executive order that established a policy on disability support and accommodations.​  Providing universal and accessible digital content was of the main challenges, as the volume of content being created by many different educators made it nearly impossible for the university to evaluate the accessibility of course content across the institution and to determine where improvements needed to be made.​  With six years of digital course data and 44 thousand digital courses, a manual solution to this problem was not scalable. Through technology, collaboration, manageable goals, strategic partnerships and executive level support, Chico State is overcoming those barriers to creating inclusive learning experiences and leading the way for the greater CSU system, the largest public university system in the United States. Chico State created a pilot program for Blackboard Ally with 11 faculty members. These faculty members used Ally to automatically check their course content for accessibility issues, create more accessible alternative versions of course content for students, obtain feedback on course content accessibility at the course level for instructors and at the institutional level for administrators to help track and improve accessibility across the institution. As a result of the pilot, Chico State faculty are empowered to deliver a more inclusive learning experience and increased Ally accessibility scores by 30%.  David Rowe, manager of Distributed Learning Technologies at California State University- Chico reflected, “We have done this within budget, under time, and ahead of expectations demonstrating that big projects and big goals can be accomplished.” To learn more, read here

While Chico State has completed their pilot, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) is just getting started addressing accessibility and inclusive learning.  At the start of this summer semester, Blackboard Ally will become available to all 1,800 faculty and 25,000 students.  Through integration with GVSU’s Blackboard learning management system, Ally automatically scans course content that has been uploaded by faculty. A report is provided to faculty as well as guidance to resolve common accessibility issues. In addition, Ally automatically creates alternative files types for students, including: Enhanced Version, HTML Version, Audio Version, Electronic Braille, and ePub.  “GVSU is committed to inclusive education, and I am focused on ensuring my courses are accessible,” said Cheryl Kautz, affiliate instructor in the School of Computing and Information Systems and 1st Place Award Winner of the Most Inclusive Classrooms in the United States. “Blackboard Ally will help me ensure that my courses are as accessible as possible for my students, save me time, and most importantly help faculty at GVSU to focus on improving student success.”  To learn more about GVSU’s plans, check out their eLearning and Emerging Technologies blog

Maximizing Student Success and Educational Integrity

Between 2014 and 2016, online program enrollments at Indian River State College grew by 56% and yet student success rates lagged behind those of students taking the same courses in the face-to-face setting (with a difference of 7.5 percentage points in average grade). To solve this challenge, Indian River created a taskforce to study ways to better serve online students and to standardize instructional design across all sections of the same course.  To do this, the team leveraged insights from Blackboard Analytics for Learn to discover ‘bright spots,’ high impact practices that could be scaled more broadly, and to identify at-risk students early in the semester and target interventions by professional advisors.  As a result, Indian River increased online baccalaureate success rates by 11%.  Additionally, they eliminated the achievement gap based on course modality (online vs. face-to-face).   To take their efforts further, Indian River is now piloting Blackboard Predict to further enhance their ability to identify and intervene with at-risk students earlier in the semester.  To learn more about boosting student success and educational integrity at Indian River, access your white paper here

In addition to Indian River, Coppin State University boosted student success with Blackboard Intelligence. By putting student success data into the hands of everyone on campus, Coppin State University established a culture in which everyone from grounds keepers to the president’s office were aligned toward a common goal: serving the community by growing their freshman class.  Coppin State University’s president became a catalyst for change and was the greatest advocate of data democratization and the use of Blackboard Intelligence at the institution. The president successfully instilled a culture at Coppin State University that enforced that institutional decisions could not be made unless they are supported by data, especially when it comes to student success. Faculty and staff are now leveraging Blackboard Intelligence because they have confidence that the data is accurate and has been provided by the entire institution. As a result of these efforts partnering with Blackboard, there was a 50% uplift in freshman enrollment following years of decline. By 2017, Coppin State saw a 20% increase in their graduation rate and is on track to see a similar increase this year.  To learn more about the success at Coppin State, read the full report here

As you can see, Blackboard successfully partners with education institutions to boost student retention rates, create inclusive and accessible learning for all students, increase student success, and promote educational integrity by providing powerful education insight. 


1 Lewis & Clark Community College 

2 Blackboard Blog. Concordia University Wisconsin: How to Achieve a Record Retention Rate  

3 Central Piedmont Community College 

4Blackboard Blog. How Technology Helped Chico State Automate Its Way to Accessibility 

5 Grand Valley State University (GVSU) 

6 Indian River State College 

7Coppin State University 

Illustration: Triibu Studio