It’s been two weeks since our latest updates to Blackboard Learn have been used in customer test environments and we have received fantastic feedback in terms of both substance and quality. I wanted to provide some details on these improvements to show how we are heavily investing in our products and making updates in direct response to what our customers need.

These latest updates can be grouped into three different focus categories that are helping drive our product strategy: Integration and Value, the Business of Education and the Learner Experience.

Integration and Value
The long-awaited redesign and seamless integration of Portfolios adds significant value to our content management capabilities. In addition to helping students demonstrate to their peers, instructors and future employers that they’ve met learning goals and achievements, it also saves schools money as they will no longer have to invest in a separate “showcase” tool. It is now built-in as part of the core student and instructor workflow. The same concept applies to our deeper integration of SafeAssign: no more separate assignment types to manage or leaving the core Assignment workflow to leverage the SafeAssign tool. And no more spending money on a separate plagiarism prevention tool that sits outside of the learning environment. No other LMS can offer this.

Additionally, Blackboard Learn is now conformant to the LIS 2.0 final specification, which enables the platform to easily integrate into the most recent releases of student information systems. This allows for a standards-based way to retrieve final grade data from Blackboard Learn to populate SISs.

Business of Education
Blackboard is now the only LMS provider that properly supports anonymous grading and delegated marking workflows that are required in the United Kingdom and Ireland (UKI). Our updated Anonymous and Delegated Grading supports the business practices many European institutions have for high-stakes assignments where student work is graded anonymously and by multiple graders, like assistants, teaching assistants, or reviewers,  to promote reliability.

With increased scrutiny in the awarding of U.S. federal financial aid monies to students enrolled in hybrid and online courses, there is a need to demonstrate a student’s substantive academic contributions to a course as a justification for the award of such monies. We now offer Financial Aid Reports to provide institutions with greater data-driven insights into student activity to help illustrate these contributions.  While designed to meet a specific need for U.S. higher education institutions, these reports can benefit all institutions in all markets in helping them identify potentially at-risk students.

The Learner Experience
Ultimately, we recognize the learner experience as the driving force behind all of our innovations and improvements. Student engagement is our highest priority, whether through more efficient workflows for instructors to provide feedback or through a simpler course design. Portfolios, which are used both by institutions as a method of assessment and by students as a way to showcase their work, provide a user interface that is much cleaner, simpler, and effective. The updated Student Preview feature allows instructors to experience their course design and instructional materials just as a student would, providing assurance that the course design supports the learning experience vs. creates a hindrance. The focus is on teaching and learning, not the technology.

The bottom line is that the good work continues. Thank you to everyone here at Blackboard that writes a line of code or designs a single interaction and to all the customers that have provided their input into how we can make better products – this latest release is our strongest yet and the innovations are only going to keep on coming. But enough about that from me, hear it directly from our customers:

“This is the best release I can remember from Learn.  It’s better than the last release, and the release before that, and the release before that one.”
— KU Leuven University
“The commitment to getting already-existing tools functioning to fit the users’ needs is also assuring.”
— Central Oregon Community College
“I’m really excited about this.  I was involved in the November product road shows and now I can see the results of that input.  I’m really looking forward to getting involved in more things with Blackboard.”
— University of Sheffield
“The student preview is of high importance to us as an ANGEL institution. Instructors have been asking for this functionality during training as we convert to Blackboard Learn.”
— Beta Program Survey Response
“Oh my gosh. Finally. Thank you.”
— VCCS roadmap attendee

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  • Ernest Lehmann

    Mark, as a K12 school, I’d love to see attendance tracking and access to attendance stats for all students and observers. Parents and students deserve to see and be alerted when attendance falls below minimum thresholds, it’s probably a good feature for the college crowd too.