Blackboard Inc. unveiled a major new release for its flagship LMS Blackboard Learn, marking a significant milestone in the company’s effort to bring new innovation to its core teaching and learning products.
The release brings a fresh approach to the user interface, an emphasis on social learning and significantly improved value for institutions and educators working to improve student retention.
Backed by a substantial amount of user testing and research, the release offers an enhanced approach to system usability that is consistent with the experience that teachers and learners have come to expect from current technology.
One of the biggest changes, “My Blackboard,” offers users a new, simpler way to access information that’s most important to them with a centralized view of updates from all of the courses and organizations they participate in. Using the same feature, instructors can check activity across their courses and quickly engage students as needed.
The release also lets users create profiles and, through an additional update planned for later this year, follow and message other users with similar interests, post to their profile pages, and make their profiles discoverable by people at other institutions using Blackboard Learn. A planned feature called “Spaces” would let students set up their own study and work group pages to collaborate at their own institution and others using Blackboard Learn, without requiring instructor or administrator approval.
“We’ve taken inspiration from the social aspect of students’ lives to create a more dynamic and collaborative learning experience,” said Jessica Finnefrock, Senior Vice President of Product Strategy and Product Development for Blackboard Learn. “It’s a new way of thinking about the LMS that’s less course-centric, and more learner-centric. We’ve borrowed key elements from social networking but recreated them in a way that’s easier to manage and more relevant to the academic environment.”
Focus on Student Retention, Instructor Workflow
In addition to a new experience for students, the release also brings a set of new capabilities that ease workflows for educators and improve the ability for educators and institutions to leverage the LMS to support student retention efforts.
At the institutional level, the release includes enterprise surveys that allow clients to collect feedback on courses, departments, institutions and external audiences, and gain greater visibility into performance by disaggregating data and analyzing outcomes by term or by year. Similar survey tools often can cost institutions tens of thousands extra per year and aren’t as tightly integrated with the LMS.
For instructors, the release brings enhanced communication through two-way text messaging and text-to-voice notifications from Blackboard Connect for Learn, allowing them to interact more easily with students. The release also includes a completely redesigned content editor that makes it far easier to deploy rich content throughout the course environment, including wide use of video with a planned update to come later this year.
The release also includes a new item analysis feature that helps instructors improve the validity and effectiveness of test questions, and a completely overhauled calendar, planned for release in December, marking a vast improvement over the current version with new capabilities and customization options.
More than 640 institutions participated in the development of the release. More than 1,800 individuals participated in user research, including roughly 600 students and 600 educators, by providing feedback on how they behave and interact with learning technology.
“My Blackboard is my favorite feature,” said Mark Radcliffe, Director of Professional Development at blendedschools.net. “The first time I logged in as a teacher and saw that little red “1” in the top right hand corner of the screen, my interest was piqued. I found that without even making a click, Blackboard Learn had told me that one of my students had submitted something. Within two clicks I was grading that assessment. This same speed improvement affects students and is all achieved through a very contemporary look.”
For more information about Blackboard Learn, please visit http://www.blackboardlearn.com/new.