Blackboard serves over 16,000 clients in 90 countries. When our customers come together for BbWorld each year, this means they have access to some of the highest quality and most diverse perspectives on education anywhere in the world.

The presentation abstracts submitted by customers from all over the world paint a rich and representative picture of the issues facing higher education today. An important trend in recent years has been an interest in analytics. In fact, the number of sessions under the theme of “Using Analytics to Drive Student Success” account for more than one fifth of all accepted sessions for BbWorld 2017.

The use of educational data to improve teaching, learning, and student success is obviously a very important topic for our customers. With dedicated analytics tracks at both BbWorld and DevCon this year, our annual conference is certain to provide high value both to experienced experts and curious novices alike.

What are the most important educational data issues facing our customers, and by extension the higher education community at large? Based on accepted presentations for the analytics track at BbWorld, four major themes emerge:

1. Learning analytics & research

Each year, interest in analytics at our DevCon pre-conference continues to grow. DevCon 2017 will feature presentations on cutting edge data storage technologies, numerous sessions on different ways of extracting learning data from Blackboard Learn, and presentations on the results of research conducted on LMS data extracts.

Learning analytics has been a buzz word in higher education since 2011. In spite of that fact, many still struggle with understanding exactly what it is. Mindy Menn, Assistant Professor at Texas Woman’s University, will provide attendees with a foundational overview so that they can get the most out of more advanced presentations of specific research findings, like working with big data and what happens when you put data into the hands of students.


  1. Starting at square one: A learning analytics primer (Mindy Menn, Asst. Professor, Texas Woman’s University)
  2. Large-scale learning analytics research in LMS course design (John Fritz, Asst. Vice President for Instructional Technology & New Media at University of Maryland Baltimore County | John Whitmer, Director of Analytics and Research at Blackboard)
  3. Surprises and confirmations in learning analytics research at Blackboard (John Whitmer, Director of Analytics and Research at Blackboard)
  4. Learning analytics to increase student success using Blackboard Solutions (Marlen Rattiner, Sr. Director for Product Management at Blackboard | Rachel Scherer, Sr. Product Manager at Blackboard | Terianne souse, Principal Strategist at Blackboard | John Whitmer, Director of Analytics and Research at Blackboard)
  5. A ‘fitbit’ for education? What we know about student-facing dashboards (Dionne Curbeam, Director for Instructional Technology at Coppin State University | John Fritz, Asst. Vice President for Instructional Technology & New Media at University of Maryland Baltimore County | Molly Mead, Instructional Designer at University of Missouri – Kansas City)

2. Predictive analytics & student success

There is a massive amount of interest in the power of using data and predictive analytics to support proactive advisement. By identifying students at risk of non-persistence at scale, and putting this information into the hands of professional advisors, institutions can reach those students who are otherwise least likely to graduate, and least likely to seek out academic and social support for themselves. The number of sessions dedicated to the use of analytics in support of student success at BbWorld this year speaks to how much faith institutions are placing in tools like Analytics for Learn, Blackboard Predict, and X-Ray Learning Analytics to support efforts to keep students on track to graduate with high quality post-secondary credentials. They underline the fact that we are only just scratching the surface of what is possible, and also that a successful initiative is as much about people and practices as it is about investing in the right technology.


  1. Riding the data wave: Using predictive analytics and LMS data to support student success in the California State University (Geoffrey Cirullo, Chief Technology Officer and Director of Academic Technology at Sonoma State University | Kathy Fernandes, Sr. Dir Learning Design and Technologies at Calif State University, Chancellor’s Office | Maureen Guarcello, Instructional Designer, Instructional Technology Services at San Diego State University | Timothy Harfield, Sr. Product Marketing Manager at Blackboard | Leomarc Pastor, Associate Director, Instructional Technology Services at San Diego State University | David Rowe Director of Digital Learning Technologies at California State University, Chico)
  2. What it really takes: Using analytics to drive student success (Corrie Bergeron, Instructional Designer/Blackboard System Administrator at Lakeland Community College | Kristen Huff, Instructional Designer at Marshall University | Paula Kaplan, Instructional Designer at Marshall University | Terry Patterson, Arkansas at University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College)
  3. Rolling-out predictive analytics as easy as 1, 2, 3 (Edward Evans, Associate Vice President for Information Technology & CIO at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi | Chad Kainz, Solutions Director at Blackboard Inc | Marlen Rattiner, Senior Director, Product Management at Blackboard)
  4. Leveraging the power of analytics: from idea to implementation (Paul O’Brien, Vice President of Institutional Technology/CIO at Indian River State College | Kendall St Hilaire, Administrative Director, Virtual Campus at Indian River State College)
  5. Data democratization: A key strategy for creating a campus culture of data informed decision-making (Maria Thompson, President at Coppin State University | Dionne Curbeam, Maryland at Coppin State University | Prasad Doddanna, Director for Information Systems at Coppin State University | Ahmed El-Haggan, Vice-President of Information Technology & Chief Information Officer at Coppin State University)

3. Faculty development & program assessment

The EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative just released its list of key issues in teaching and learning for 2017. Topping the list is faculty development. As we look at the number and quality of sessions on using analytics to support faculty development at BbWorld this year, this is clearly an important issue for our customers as well. How are institutions to use analytics to promote the effective and widespread use of their educational technology investments? How can departments use learning data to assess and optimize the quality of their programs? How do faculty use the LMS anyway? And, how can we use that information to inform professional development and scale practices that strike a balance between learning objectives, student need, and instructor teaching style?

Faculty are on the front line. For years, institutions have been hesitant to use data to assess instructional quality. As analytics become more ubiquitous, and student success becomes a greater priority, it is refreshing to see campuses become more open to the use of data to improve instructional design and teaching impact.


  1. Leveraging Blackboard solutions for program assessment: Four perspectives (Corrie Bergeron, Instructional Designer/Blackboard System Administrator at Lakeland Community College | Jenna Dulak, Director of Web Services and Online Technology Information Services at Hilbert College | Terry Patterson, Arkansas at University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College | Stephanie Richter, Assistant Director, Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University)
  2. X-Ray Learning Analytics to Quality Assurance (Lisa Clark, Dean of Online Programs at University of Northwestern Ohio)
  3. Tweeting teachers, Facebook faculty, and Pinterest professors: Personalized, goal-centered, and data-driven strategies to find, use, track, and evaluate (Teresa Marie Kelly, Professor at Kaplan University)
  4. Digging deeper: Discovering how and why faculty use Blackboard Learn (Peter Gowen, Online Analytics Coordinator at Northern Illinois University | Jason Rhode, Director of Faculty Development at Northern Illinois University | Stephanie Richter, Assistant Director for Faculty Development and Instructional Design Center at Northern Illinois University)
  5. Humanized analytics: Visualizing student progress with data-driven Roadmap™ (Peter Hanley, Manager of Tech Support at Temple University | Christine Kiely, Associate Vice Dean – MBA, MS and International Programs at Temple University, Fox School of Business | Matthew Palladinetti, Director of Information Systems at Temple University | Cliff Tironi, Manager for Performance Analytics at Temple University)

4. Implementation and campus adoption

It doesn’t matter how much data you have, how sophisticated your data science is, or how fancy your visualizations are. If no one is using your data to inform decisions, you’re better off saving your IT budget and not having analytics at all.

The biggest problem facing analytics in higher education today has very little to do with data. It has to do with adoption. How do you change a campus culture, and promote the use of analytics as part of an evidence-based approach to decision-making? This is an area in which Blackboard Analytics customers shine. Presentations from Kara Bosch, President Maria Thompson, Christopher Brandt, Robert Carpenter, and Jack Suess come together to create an engaging and actionable series on how to use data to mobilize a campus, catalyze change, and foster student success. Together, these sessions form a kind of intensive course on how to ensure your institution makes the most of its analytics investments.


  1. Helping student development get in on student success (Rachel Serrano, Director of Information Analytics at Appalachian State University)
  2. Nobody’s looking at your student success dashboards? Try switching the message from evil to good! (Kara Bosch, Director of Financial Information Systems and Business Intelligence Solutions at Central Piedmont Community College)
  3. “And as we wind on down the road:” An analytics journey (Martin Carroll, Pro Vice Chancellor for Education and Student Success at Charles Darwin University | Bill Searle, Manager of Learning Technologies at Charles Darwin University | Deborah West, Director of the Office of Learning & Teaching at Charles Darwin University)
  4. Technical tactics to tackle analytics adoption (Christopher Brandt, Strategic Information Analyst at Concordia University Wisconsin | Ann Arbor)
  5. Organizational strategies for student success: Decisions, decisions… (Robert Carpenter, Associate Provost for Analytics and Institutional Assessment at University of Maryland Baltimore County | Jack Suess, Vice President of Information Technology at University of Maryland Baltimore County)

As we look to the higher education landscape more generally, these four major themes do accurately reflect the most significant issues facing the use of data in higher education today. As you plan to attend #BbWorld17, be prepared to dive deep into one theme, or sample from each. Taken together, sessions from each of these four themes (what I have called pathways) form the strongest analytics track that BbWorld has ever seen, and I can say without hyperbole that it is among the strongest you’ll see at any higher education conference this year.

If you haven’t yet registered for BbWorld 2017, it’s not too late! Visit for more information. Want to talk nerdy to us? Don’t forget to check out the analytics track for DevCon as well.

Register today for BbWorld

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