Updating Your Online Learning Strategy



Just eight weeks ago, none of us could have foreseen how our daily lives would be turned upside down by a rapid-traveling, worldwide virus. Similarly, in the global education community, none of us could have anticipated the seismic shift and massive digital transformation we are now undertaking as schools and institutions move to remote instruction. 

In the month of March alone, Blackboard saw a 3600 percent increase in usage of our virtual classroom tool, Blackboard Collaborate. Our flagship Learning Management System, Blackboard Learn, experienced a 400 percent jump in global daily logins. Our accessibility tool, Blackboard Ally, saw a 400 percent increase in the number of documents downloaded in an alternate format. And we are seeing signs these trends will continue through April and potentially longer as uncertainty persists.

We applaud the education community for all that’s been accomplished in such a short period of time to transition to remote instruction. We’re proud to be working side-by-side with our institutions to help them work through today’s challenges. And while we continue to do our best to support our client’s needs today, our thinking has also shifted toward preparing for tomorrow.

Even as we’ve been working at lightning speed to increase our capacity and provide our clients with the service they expect in this trying time, we’ve been thinking about and planning for the next phase of education’s digital transformation.  While day-to-day life will return to “normal” at some point, we believe that for education there will be a new “normal.” Students will expect institutions to be able to seamlessly switch between face-to-face and virtual formats. And they will continue to expect the quality education they’ve paid for – one that will prepare them for the next stage of their lives.

Even in the midst of daily crisis management, now is the time for institutions to re-evaluate their strategic plans for online education. Are you ready to meet the needs and expectations of students in this changing environment? Questions that your institution should consider include:

Online strategy and vision

  • What is our growth expectation?
  • How do we select programs to build online?
  • What is our target student population, and how has that changed in 2020?
  • Do my technologies, policies and processes support my strategic vision?
  • How should we measure our progress and success in this new environment? Do we have a grasp on our data to help us make the right decisions?

Strategic student engagement

  • Have I updated my student orientation to support a more broad range of online students, including those who never intended to be online learners?
  • Do I have a retention strategy to keep students engaged in courses? What about  between terms?
  • Who is our primary audience going forward?  Our current students or those who we may attract in the future?

Faculty development

  • What have we learned about our current faculty development process during this crisis?  How do we ensure faculty understand the use of technology and the pedagogy of teaching online?
  • What changes do we need in our faculty development for online instruction?  Should all faculty participate?
  • Do we have a central repository of online teaches best practices for faculty?
  • Where will faculty turn for ongoing support?

Program and course refinement

  • How do we remediate courses that were “built” quickly? 
  • How do we bring courses up to our institutional quality standards?
  • How do we ensure all courses are accessible and following ADA guidelines?  What are our policies?
  • What changes do we need to make about synchronous and asynchronous learning? 
  • How do we ensure our students are receiving the best support services, regardless of geographic location and/or time zone?

We understand these questions can be challenging during this unprecedented time in education, and we are here to help. Our team has pulled together an Online Education Strategy Checklist to help you think through these questions. Click here to download it.

The Blackboard team has been deeply embedded in education for more than two decades – in fact we collectively bring significant direct experience from working in schools, colleges and universities. Many of us have directed or worked in online learning organizations. We work in this business because we are passionate about education and are committed for the long haul. Through the breadth of our relationships around the globe, we bring knowledge and best practices we’d love to share with you.

Online learning will never be the same as it was before COVID-19. It will be an even more important element of every institution’s strategy, and we want to help you as needed.  Our goal is to support you through this crisis, while at the same time helping you think about the future. Our Blackboard One solution is uniquely suited to help you lead through this change. Click here to learn more.

Whether it’s software or services, conversations or meetings, the Blackboard team is prepared as both a company and as individuals to provide you with the resources and expertise you need.