Blackboard: The Digital Learning Specialists

Dr. Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, President & CEO The reverberations of digital transformation have been felt across multiple industries of late, with the learning space being one of the last ones to adopt and experience it. Cutting across different pedagogical models that range from a typical departmental model to small learning communities, digital transformation is rapidly replacing antiquated learning methods and practices with education technology and blended learning approaches to make learning more collaborative and interactive. Equipped with a comprehensive range of integrated learning environments, Washington, DC-based Blackboard Inc. [NASDAQ:BBBB] blends traditional learning management with social interaction capabilities to deliver branded learning solutions that help education providers, corporations, and government organizations achieve their learning goals without spending inordinate amounts of money on their “digital initiatives." Blackboard’s wide array of exceptionally flexible online education systems allow enterprises to cost-effectively engage and improve the productivity levels of their talent while aiding in their retention efforts.

"Built on the precepts of engaging learners in an all-engrossing way, the Blackboard Learn LMS is a comprehensive learning solution for both businesses and non-corporate organizations"

The genesis of Blackboard can be traced back to the late 90’s when the quartet of Stephen Gilfus, Daniel Cane, Michael Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky joined forces through a business combination to merge CourseInfo (a course management software provider) with Blackboard. Having forayed into the higher education market with learning platform for course management that catered specifically to U.S. college campuses, the firm ventured into the corporate space with their "Learning Management Systems" category. The firm’s acquisition of their arch-rival WebCT established their dominance in the e-learning space and since then Blackboard has enabled enterprises to create customized and competency-based learning programs. With a fundamental premise of “lifelong learning” at its core, Blackboard’s learning solutions for business have been built to further an enterprise’s ongoing learning initiative. Today, under the stewardship of Chairman, CEO and President, Dr.Bill Ballhaus, Blackboard continues to achieve new milestones with their innovative student-success solutions aimed at enhancing processes associated with teaching, learning, and improving student engagement.

Enabling Personalized Blended Learning

With a focus on delivering new learning experiences, Blackboard taps innovative technologies to help their educational partners enable student and institutional success. Designed to reinforce the learning needs of students, faculty, and the educational institutions, Blackboard’s learning solutions are a comprehensive mix of strategically blended products and services.

The firm specializes in delivering wholesome online learning environments that enable K-12 and higher education institutions to transform the delivery of overall learning experiences.

For educational institutions keen on designing, developing and teaching courses in classroom-based, web-enhanced, hybrid, and fully online delivery formats, Blackboard provides them with the right tools to create a blended classroom. These personalized, blended learning tools enable the institutions to boost their students' skill sets and create more adaptable learners. With technology enabling the differentiation of instruction for each individual student, Blackboard's partnership with K-12 districts and higher education institutions enables their teachers to create a customized mix of face-to-face and digital learning experiences for every student to improve student achievement. For instance, with a robust digital learning environment such as Blackboard Classroom, educational institutions can simplify digital transformation and inspire student engagement in the classrooms. Crafted to eliminate all the barriers to learning and drive student success, Blackboard Classroom plays an instrumental role in helping teachers, district leaders, and parents with instilling collaboration skills within the students while efficiently contributing to the digital literacy initiative. Also, the platform also personalizes learning, increases student engagement, and substantially enhances teacher productivity. Equipped with a Personalized Learning Designer (PLD), Blackboard Classroom allows teachers to create specific learning paths for a personalized online learning experience which is based on their performance.

Additionally, Blackboard has made concerted efforts to expand their product base of education-related services and software by acquiring and merging with prominent providers of the latest online and mobile collaboration tools for education.

Mobility to Transform Learning Initiatives

To enable instant mobile access to Blackboard learning solutions and give the end users an optimal learning experience, the firm has invested substantial resources that extend the web functionality through a native mobile app. After conducting a reconnaissance of how the learners, educators, and the parents can benefit from instant mobile access, the firm has successfully designed a tailor-made application to deliver a digital educational experience. By providing the learners and educators with multiple options to engage and interact with mobile devices of their choosing, Blackboard's "mobile mindset" has made learning a flexible experience. For example, the instant connectivity offered by the firm's mobile application designed especially for instructors— Blackboard Instructor--allows teachers to grade assignments on the go, simplify workflows, preview course content, improve student engagement, or simply post grades.

Meanwhile, Blackboard's student-specific mobile app Bb Student allows the students to access and submit assignments, check their grades, view educational content, connect with peers, and even join the virtual classes on the go. Also, Bb Student has been aesthetically designed to give the students an overview of their own academic performance through a highly convenient and real-time access to academic results.
The students can also use their cloud-connected accounts such as Dropbox or Google Drive to submit cloud content for class assignments effortlessly. Also, the app provides the students with a concise timeline of their course through a visual representation of the course details that include instructor name, course title, location and hours. Having achieved the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Education Competency status, Blackboard is all set to revolutionize teaching, learning and student engagement with cloud-hosted educational solutions for their clients. "Our teams are dedicated to helping educational institutions achieve their goals by leveraging the agility of the AWS Cloud. Working with AWS to manage the infrastructure piece will enable us to focus on continuing to develop and deliver world-class products," says Blackboard Chairman, CEO and President Bill Ballhaus.

Reinforcing the Enterprise Training Ecosystem

To help enterprises with developing a training ecosystem, Blackboard offers extended enterprise solutions that also foster collaboration and social learning across business networks by connecting customers, suppliers, partners, distributors, and contractors. Blackboard's learning solutions have been designed with the objective of supporting enterprises with the technology, expertise, and training they need to succeed as they are flexible enough to align well with their overall business objectives. The firm's comprehensive Learning Management (LMS) solutions have been developed to facilitate training, virtual collaboration, certification and e-commerce and incorporate key enterprise functionalities for both internal and external audiences. Blackboard LMS solutions also enable corporations to generate and safeguard institutional knowledge and create a more engaging learning environment that drives positive business results and retains top talent.

Built on the precepts of engaging learners in an all-engrossing way, the Blackboard Learn LMS is a comprehensive learning solution for both businesses and non-corporate organizations. Blackboard Learn serves as an open platform that allows organizations to create and deliver custom content, engage employees and assess learning outcomes. The platform features collaboration tools that merge formal instruction with structured social interaction to facilitate a continuous learning environment. Blackboard Learn also leverages a community engagement technology which allows enterprises to engage online communities by delivering exceptional beyond-the-class learning experiences. To complement their scalable learning solutions, Blackboard offers implementation, training, and support services that help enterprises leverage the solutions more effectively. Also, Blackboard's assortment of course design, development and review services allow clients to scale their online training programs and focus on bridging the gaps within their content and technology as and when the organizational changes are effectuated.

In recognition for their exceptional contribution to the educational arena, Blackboard has been honored with the Global Education Award from the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC (WAC-DC). The firm itself has instituted the Blackboard Catalyst Awards to acknowledge the commitment of educators and learners toward the adoption of technology to augment their educational experience. “At Blackboard, we are passionate about education and understand the profound difference it can make in individuals' lives and in society as a whole,” says Dr. Ballhaus. “That's why we are committed to partnering with the global education community to drive student success."