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Blackboard [NASDAQ:BBBB]: The Learning Technologists

CIO VendorDr. Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, President & CEO “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” —Benjamin Franklin

Franklin’s words accurately capture the relevance of employee engagement and its catalytic effect on a continual learning environment. A truly engaging learning culture is one of the pivotal ingredients in the recipe for organizational success, as a continually upskilled workforce contributes effectively to business goals. With futuristic approaches like microlearning, analytics, gamification, augmented reality, and adaptive learning finding a spot in the itinerary for advanced corporate training, the entire learning experience is being designed around transforming “high-potential employees” into “high-performing teams.” As a result, there has been an unprecedented surge in the adoption of technology-enabled learning solutions that deliver tangible financial business impact and enable enterprises to gain a competitive advantage in a marketplace prone to talent shortages. With an impressive array of integrated learning environments and online learning solutions, Washington, DC-based Blackboard [NASDAQ:BBBB] enables educational institutions and corporations to blend traditional learning management with social interaction capabilities and deliver high-quality learning programs. “The company is changing the way the education community thinks about technology and the next generation of teaching and learning tools,” says Dr. Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, CEO, and President of Blackboard.

At the core of Blackboard’s learning solutions is the fundamental premise of “lifelong learning”; as it is built to address the challenges associated with engagement, collaboration, and continued learning for K-12, higher education, business, and government agencies. Blackboard’s corporate Learning Management Systems (LMS) are capable of enabling a diverse range of learning styles for training, development, and employee engagement and further an enterprise’s ongoing learning initiative.

Envisaged by the education advisors, Matthew Pittinsky and Michael Chasen, the origin of Blackboard can be traced back to their stint in the consulting arena where they offered technical standards for online learning applications. Contracted first by the IMS Global Learning Consortium, a worldwide non-profit organization within the purview of the National Learning Infrastructure Initiative (Educause), Blackboard’s initial vision included providing college professors with a convenient medium for communicating course-related information on the web. What began as an initiative to intersperse technology with teaching, learning, and student engagement has gradually burgeoned into a dedicated “Blackboard Global Community of Practice” that enables millions of educators and learners across the globe to redefine the scope of technology in education.

Under the stewardship of Ballhaus, Blackboard has set new benchmarks in enhancing the processes associated with teaching, learning, and student engagement. Having been profiled in the Forbes’ lists of “Most Powerful CEOs 40 and Under” as well as “21 Youngest CEOs At The Nation’s Biggest Companies”, Dr. Ballhaus today spearheads Blackboard’s mission to revolutionize the corporate and education landscape with learning and organizational development-centric products and professional services. “The entire Blackboard team has deep technology and industry experience as well as a sophisticated understanding of the systems that serve learners,”says Dr. Ballhaus.

The company is changing the way the education community thinks about technology and the next generation of teaching and learning tools


Incorporating Innovative Pedagogical Approaches

Propelled by a conviction in their abilities to solve the digital learning challenges faced by enterprises and learning institutions, Blackboard bundles together a wide range of interactive professional development programs as a part of their learning solutions for business. The firm’s extensive expertise in powering a collaborative learning environment reflects in their robust and easy-to-use eLearning systems that have been instrumental in enhancing the employee performance by leaps and bounds, while substantially improving the retention rates as well. By offering linguistic support for more than 15 languages, Blackboard supports the delivery of futuristic online learning solutions that give organizations the ability to establish standardized learning experiences, conduct assessments, and enable social learning across various time zones and geographies.

Furthermore, the firm offers a seamless, integrated learning environment that incorporates mobile apps, online conferencing, and virtual classrooms, and also talent and recruiting tools. Blackboard’s all-embracing solution is a combination of their LMS and diverse technologies that can readily integrate with any third-party LMS products to architect a well-organized learning environment.

Complementing the Learning Continuum

In addition to offering virtual, instructor-led and self-paced training, collaboration and social tools, Blackboard offers extended enterprise learning solutions to allow seamless interactions between employees and their colleagues, mentors, or trainers. These learning solutions also allow the employees to source material via web-conferencing, structured discussions, and moderator-led training. The firm’s training and collaboration platform—Blackboard Collaborate—has been designed to help enterprises with enabling their customers and partners to improve their product knowledge, which in turn would contribute to the revenue streams. The collaboration tool also serves as an open platform that supports an elaborate spectrum of collaboration by facilitating communication, interaction, and a whole new level of engagement within an organization.

Web-conferencing is a value-added feature of Blackboard Collaborate, as it promotes active learner engagement through virtual classroom training, seminars, and group meetings with a personal touch to the interactions between individuals, irrespective of their learning styles. Blackboard’s web-conferencing solution equips a modern workplace with two-way VoIP, multi-point video, built-in phone conferencing, interactive whiteboard, desktop sharing, for harmonious online collaboration. Apart from streamlining the training processes, Blackboard Collaborate effectuates an overall increase in the levels of knowledge transfer and employee productivity, allowing enterprises to focus on organizational accountability.

Furthermore, to facilitate seamless interaction and engagement amongst employees, Blackboard offers enterprises a mass notification system—Blackboard Mass Notifications—that incorporates data management tools and customer service to deliver emergency notifications in real-time.
In addition to facilitating the instant delivery of calls, emails and text messages, Blackboard Mass Notifications offers options to send targeted messages for accounts receivables, facilities management, employee communications, and more.

Adaptive eLearning for Corporate Environments

For enterprises keen on developing a training ecosystem that furthers their goal of expanding and integrating their business networks, it is a boon to have Blackboard’s ability to create a flexible learning environment and deliver robust online training programs and educational content. The firm prides itself on their solution-oriented approach toward enhancing the learning experiences of modern-day learners and reimagining the delivery of personalized learning solutions in the corporate arena.

"The entire Blackboard team has deep technology and industry experience as well as a sophisticated understanding of the systems that serve learners"

Along with dedicated cloud services to ensure 24/7 operability of an online training environment, Blackboard also offers top-tier data centers built with redundant infrastructure for enterprise-grade scalability and security. In one instance, the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), a learning solutions provider for mortgage professionals, chose Blackboard to expand their educational offerings beyond the classroom environment. MBA caters to real estate finance professionals who seek self-paced or instructor-guided online courses on managing risk, increasing profitability, and improving productivity. Blackboard LMS’ intuitive and easy-touse interface played a crucial role in enabling MBA to offer 154 instructor-led online courses and services; Blackboard’s products accounted for 74 percent of MBA’s education revenue.

The inspiration behind Blackboard’s open source learning solutions for business comes from the core belief that “lifelong learning” is the mantra for professional success. Having acquired Moodlerooms in 2012, Blackboard has actively participated in the Moodle development process through the contribution of funds and code, and also technological support. Equipped with a combination of flexible interfaces and branding capabilities, Moodlerooms play an instrumental role in increasing recruitment, enhancing engagement, and creating efficient online training experiences. Organizations can add synchronous online learning and collaboration to their online training platform to facilitate online meetings, webinars, and virtual classrooms. With powerful enhancements such as personalized learning, easy course building, and advanced reports, the firm has broadened the scope of Moodlerooms.

To enable enterprises that are keen on taking their organization to the next level, the firm offers a unique hosted open source tool—Learning basics for Moodle—that also delivers engaging content while helping them decide on training programs that would enhance employee productivity. Available as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, Moodlerooms allows enterprises to connect, track, integrate, and foster a collaborative environment in their workplaces.

Blackboard’s learner-centric approach and technological prowess in promoting engagement and interactivity within organizations have been recognized and lauded by the global education community. The firm also partners with the best-of-breed content providers, media and technology firms, and system integrators to white-label popular eLearning systems and to help their clients deliver exemplary educational experiences. With a vision to engage more learners and deliver positive outcomes, Blackboard continues delivering unparalleled flexibility in terms of turnkey solutions that enable their corporate clients to unleash their employee potential.