Blackboard’s Vision for Teaching & Learning – Session Notes #BbWorld17

blackboard's vision for teaching and learning with phill miller, vice president of teaching and learning at blackboard

This session provides an overview of Blackboard’s overall Teaching and Learning strategy and vision for the future. Come and learn where we’re headed directionally for Blackboard Learn, Collaborate, Ally, Moodlerooms, and related services. This session is not a product roadmap session, but rather a view of our vision for our Teaching & Learning portfolio over the long term. 

Phill Miller, Vice President of Teaching & Learning has been in educational technology for 15+ years, at Angel, Moodlerooms, and Blackboard.

Four goals for the session

  1. Provide an honest assessment about what we’ve delivered
  2. Tell you where we are going and why it matters
  3. Demo some software as proof points
  4. Provide a framework by which to grade us

Remember this?

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 Report Card presented at BbWorld in 2012

New grading scheme

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New Rating scale with LEGO faces – from Grin to Grimace

Blackboard Learn

Commitments from BbWorld 2016

  • Continue to invest and innovate on Learn Original
    • Q4’16 and Q2’17 Releases, CUs, quality improvements, updated technologies, new features, Ally
    • Assessment: Smirk :-/ – Bb has done a lot, but needs to do more
  • Continue to support self-hosted and managed-hosted deployments
    • Faster and smaller installer, IBM partnership, new services
    • Had some issues with installer, so it took longer, but that has been addressed
    • Assessment: Smile 🙂 – While they had some hiccups, installer has made a big difference & IBM partnership a big win for managed-hosting
  • Critical momentum on clients moving to SaaS
    • 203 clients using SaaS, 68 additional transitions underway, AWS Education Competency status (one of the only vendors who has this)
    • Assessment: Initially a Frown 😦 , now a Smile – had some hiccups, but made a lot of progress and transitions are much smoother now
  • Ultra progress
    • Learn Ultra, Collaborate, Blackboard (a.k.a. Bb Student), Blackboard Instructor
    • Assessment: Smirk – Ultra is gaining features quickly, but not quickly enough. Now a Smile because they are updating much faster, also released frequent updates for Collab Ultra & new Blackboard Instructor app
  • Additional support for our clients
    • Cohorts and Ultra Partnership Program, international SaaS, AWS GovCloud, longer term roadmaps
    • Beginning to offer longer term roadmaps (no longer limited to ~3 months out)
    • Assessment: Smile – lots of new programs & support for those moving to SaaS or Ultra

Visualization of the Blackboard Teaching & Learning portfolio


Interesting fact: SafeAssign submissions have increased 400% since 2014, when SafeAssign was merged with the regular Assignment tool


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Embedded Insights & Analytics

Big-A Analytics – bringing all of the data together, lots of time and effort to gather insights

Little-a analytics – bring little bits of data to all faculty and students at the point in the workflow where they need to make a decision

Bb focusing on Little-a analytics for broader applicability

Example: Building algorithms into discussion boards in Ultra to provide instructor with data to help with grading, including # of words, readability score, and critical thinking index which leads to a recommended score

Deeply Integrated Workflows

Integrating 20 years of experience to bring workflows together, like the Grade Center or bringing the experience across different devices

ExampleIntegrating Bb Collab within groups, so that groups can easily launch into Collab at the point of need so that it is more natural


Challenges exist at the institution, instructor, and student level. Blackboard wants to support accessibility before it has to become an accommodation through Blackboard Ally

Example: Ally, which provides information on accessibility issues with course content by providing a score and info on the problem for instructors. For students, allows them to use alternative versions of a document (like html, ePub, electronic braille, and audio)


Blackboard has 200 partners and 3000+ customizations

Certified for IMS Global standards, working on Common Cartridge, LTI, more…

Publishing results from their research on learning analytics, such as Moving the Heart and Head: Implications for Learning Analytics Research by John Fritz & John Whitmer in the Educause Review

Encouraging interaction and voting on priorities on the Bb Community site

eLearn magazine is bringing stories from clients to clients

Strategic Services

There are problems that products alone can’t solve, so Blackboard has built the capacity to solve problems for their clients

Example: Lewis & Clark Community College worked with Bb Strategic Services to increase retention rate, and saved $700,000 over 3 semesters, with a 17% retention retention improvement



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