Blackboard Expands Support for Retention with Early Warning Analytics

Lauren Williams's picture
Monday, April 29, 2013

Blackboard Inc. has unveiled a new release of its flagship learning management system (LMS) that includes a tool to help instructors identify and engage at-risk students based on course activity patterns that correlate with student success. The feature makes it easier for instructors with limited time to find effective ways to improve student retention and outcomes.

The Retention Center, a new, standard feature in Blackboard Learn™, offers instructors an automatic view of student performance and engagement risk factors such as missed deadlines, logins, and poor grades. The information is delivered from within the platform to help instructors determine which students may be falling behind and to give them the ability to engage before it is too late.

Previously, it may have been difficult for instructors to find or make use of this kind of critical information. With the Retention Center, risk factors closely associated with student success are pre-loaded, but instructors can also customize and create new ones to best suit specific approaches and use cases. Instructors can also discover information about their own performance so they can assess how their own behavior affects student success.

“Effectively tracking student performance and proactively taking action on at-risk students are challenges for instructors," said Eric Kunnen, director of distance learning and instructional technologies at Grand Rapids Community College. "Improving student retention is an institutional priority and tools like the Retention Center empower faculty to easily identify and intervene to support student success.”

Blackboard has also delivered major updates to a number of heavy-use items within the course platform. The updates include an overhauled calendar, rebuilt discussion boards and a new inline grading feature.

The Inline Assignment Grading functionality allows instructors to view, edit and grade assignments directly within the LMS. Instructors have a much simpler workflow across all types of student work, as they can edit assignments without having to download documents, work outside of the system and then re-upload to Blackboard Learn.

The updated calendar includes features like drag-and-drop capability to easily change due dates and appointments, and the ability to export items to third-party calendars like Google and Microsoft Outlook. Assignment due dates are now automatically populated and simultaneously updated into student calendars.

Discussion boards with enhanced usability make it easier to foster engagement and encourage interaction, adding to core platform elements that support social learning. A new “Post First” feature requires students to write their own posts before seeing what their classmates have written, which instructors can enable to encourage critical and original thinking.

Expanded flexibility and choices over the design and delivery of assessments give users more options for constructing tests, providing feedback, creating exceptions for text deployments, and handling late submissions.

Building on the company’s longstanding commitment to accessibility, the updated platform also includes improved features that work with assistive technologies. These include improved navigation for sighted keyboard-only users and those that use screen readers, helping ensure all students have access to course content.

“Input from faculty members, students, instructional designers and system administrators helped develop and shape this latest step in the evolution of Blackboard Learn, and we are excited about the difference these changes will make at all levels of the educational experience,” said Jessica Finnefrock, senior vice president of product strategy and product development for Blackboard Learn. “These new features are part of our ongoing commitment to meet and exceed the expectations of today’s educators and students.”

For more information about Blackboard Learn, please visit http://www.blackboardlearn.com/new or follow @Blackboard and #BbLearn on Twitter.

About Blackboard Inc.

Blackboard Inc. is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboard’s solutions allow thousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate, and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online, facilitate campus commerce and security, and communicate more effectively with their communities. Founded in 1997, Blackboard is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.