2017 was a special year for the Blackboard team. It marked our 20th anniversary as a company, giving us many opportunities to reflect on the journey we’ve taken with our clients over the past two decades and to also think hard about how we can continue to evolve and innovate for our partners.
With 2017 behind us, I’ve been reflecting on how we’ve delivered on our promises to Blackboard community members in the past year, and also how we can continue to help our clients reach their goals in the future. With that in mind, I am excited to recap some of our key achievements in 2017:
1. We Helped Institutions Build More Inclusive Digital Learning Environments
Accessibility of course content is an important priority at many institutions today, and it also poses significant challenges. Blackboard is committed to helping our partners overcome those challenges by providing more accessible, higher quality and more usable content that will benefit all learners. Since we made our accessibility solution Blackboard Ally available in May, more than 250 institutions worldwide have partnered with us to provide support for teaching students of all learning styles and abilities. We continue to expand Ally’s support to a growing list of languages that now includes English, French, Danish, Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish and Welsh.
2. We Delivered Continued Innovation Across Our Teaching & Learning Suite
Over the past 12 months we’ve added a number of new features and enhancements across our teaching and learning portfolio, helping learners, teachers and administrators achieve better outcomes through a seamless and unified user experience.
Thanks to a regular release schedule, Blackboard Learn is the most complete and robust LMS available on the market today. Recently added features include a Blackboard Ally integration, enhanced responsiveness and mobile optimization, additional drag and drop options and workflow enhancements, and certification for IMS LTI 2.0.
And we’re thrilled to see that clients are taking note of these regular enhancements. As of this month, we have over 300 clients that have made the move to Blackboard Learn SaaS, giving them access to the latest and greatest features without having to wait longer periods of time. In addition, we’re seeing continued momentum with clients implementing Blackboard Learn Ultra. We’re encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve received from multiple participants in our Ultra Pilot Program (UPP), which offers customers the opportunity to partner closely with us as they prepare for the Ultra experience.
With two new releases for Blackboard Open LMS, we added unique features including a Blackboard Ally integration, new media player with improved accessibility, Learning Tools Interoperability 2 (LTI 2) compliance, and support for SmartEvidence (preview) and IntelliBoard 4.7.
Our web conferencing solution, Blackboard Collaborate, has also been further enriched in past months with new capabilities including polling, breakout groups, persistent content for multiple sessions use, private chat, and the ability to host sessions with up to 500 participants.
3. We Enhanced the Learning Experience Across Multiple Learning Management Systems—Not Just Our Own
Blackboard’s mission is to partner with the global education community to enable student and institutional success, by leveraging innovative technologies and services. While we successfully serve millions of Blackboard Learn users around the world, we also understand that there are millions of others who use a different LMS. As part of our commitment to having a positive impact on schools, instructors and students, this year we brought several of our LMS-agnostic products to several other systems beyond Blackboard Learn.
Blackboard Ally seamlessly integrates with Blackboard Learn and other LMS providers, enabling more institutions to meet the needs of students with different learning abilities. We recently announced that in early 2018, we will offer our SafeAssign plagiarism prevention tool for Moodle and Blackboard Open LMS, our open-source based LMS.
And our web conferencing solution, Blackboard Collaborate, seamlessly integrates with any LTI-compliant LMS.
4. We Made It Easier Than Ever Before for Developers to Partner With Us, Giving Faculty and Students Access to Even More Rich Integrations
While we provide a full range of solutions, we also recognize that institutions use a wide variety of products to fulfill their educational missions. That’s why we’re committed to interoperability standards and openness, with our products specifically designed to be part of an educational ecosystem. As part of this commitment, we recently launched the Open Innovation Initiative, which enables developers utilizing REST or the IMS Global Learning Tools Interoperability® (LTI®) standard to create integrations and customizations for Blackboard’s solutions without incurring upfront costs. Removing this barrier makes it easier for developers to deploy innovative solutions to address today’s top education problems. For students and faculty, it means they have access to even more integrations, technologies, and features that enrich their learning experiences and make teaching easier.
5. We Made It Easier for Educators to Share Critical Classroom Updates Directly With Families & Students
Blackboard understands that in order for classroom-to-home communication to be successful, districts needs oversight, teachers need an easy-to-use product that meets their needs, and parents/students need a consolidated platform to unite the current fragmentation occurring amongst teacher products. To meet these needs, we launched Teacher Communication, a new tool that helps educators share student-specific information, relevant news and timely updates with families to create a positive and supportive environment for every learner.
It has been quite a busy year here at Blackboard and while I’m pleased with what we’ve accomplished, we’re never finished with our efforts to improve. This year, we ask that you continue to push us. Our company is only successful when you are successful in serving your learners. That’s why we’re dedicated to listening and learning more about the challenges you are facing today, and your concerns and hopes for the future.
In 2018, we plan to continue to innovate on your behalf and develop the highest quality products focused on enabling student success, while being the best partner that we can be to you.
From all of us at Blackboard, we look forward to continuing to be your partner in change in 2018.