Notes from Blackboard Learning Solutions Roadmap #slate14

Notes from “Blackboard Learning Solutions Roadmap” presented by Brad Koch, VP Higher Ed Industry Management for Blackboard, at the 2014 SLATE Conference. Naturally, these are forward-looking statements that may change at any time.

Brad starts by reminding us that they are taking a holistic, learner-centered approach including services, technology, and data. They are also simplifying the licensing process (see my notes from the keynote by Val Schreiner for details on the licenses).


  • Student-centric – meet evolving student demands
  • Simple – simplify experience to focus on teaching and learning
  • Mobile – learning on the go, any place, any device
  • SaaS – flexible deployment solutions for your needs

Bb Grader

  • Grading app for faculty on iPad (Android to follow)
  • View Assignments (other tools on the roadmap)
  • View the assignment as submitted
  • Add feedback, notes for yourself
  • Integrated audio & video feedback
  • Use a Rubric for grading or just for evaluation (for assessment data)
  • Send grades for students individually or wait and send to the Grade Center as a batch
  • Tied to Retention Center data from the list of students, and contact

Bb Collaborate Mobile App (coming soon)

  • New mobile app coming
  • Adds private chat, live video, broadcast video, Web Tour, and Multimedia

Offline Student Access (in development)

  • Offline access to course files for students
  • Set up on their device, synchronize files to their own computer so they can continue access without internet
  • Coming to Bb Labs soon

Saas (Software as a service)

  • Bb hosted in the cloud
  • Flexible for your needs & security requirements
  • Scalability –
    • expand to meet demands of peak periods within minutes
    • localized servers based on the location of increased use
    • Leverages content delivery networks to reduce latency
  • Reliability
    • Zero downtime updates
    • Self-healing environment
  • Innovation
    • Rapid delivery of updates
    • Incremental features available at your own pace
    • Platform innovation provides centralized log analysis & Always-on performance monitoring

Blackboard Ultra


  • Simplified down to a single navigation control
  • Stream-level activity focused on what is new for the student
    • Recent Activity feed provides immediate access to content that might be deeply embedded within the course structure
  • Responsively designed interface resizes and restructures based on screensize to provide a great experience regardless of the device, browser, and screensize
    • RWD does not replace native app development, because the app can tie into other device features more easily (such as GPS for automatic attendance, which is currently in the labs)
  • Course interface is clean and simplified with focus on content in an outline view & course-level tools (calendar, messages, grades)
  • New content-level search (currently based on titles & descriptions, working on searching within content like files in the future)
  • Pop-up announcements when you enter a course
  • Photo roster to show students & instructor
  • Assignments
    • Ability to attach a discussion to any interactive element or content item posted to the course, opportunity to increase interaction & engage students in discussion
    • Simpler assignment submission by typing in a content editor or file upload. Uploaded file rendered after upload (before submission) to confirm the correct assignment is attached
    • Spinning progress monitor and visual confirmation that the assignment is submitted
    • Creation uses a simple set of options initially but can be expanded to show all options
  • Tests scroll question-to-question in a smart way
    • Visual confirmation at the bottom of the screen for test question completion
  • Student profile
    • Profile is visible within the institution, including GPA, experience, aspirations
    • Tied to Mozilla Open Badge framework (enables competency-based learning)
    • She can CHOOSE to push the data out to MyEDU to be publicly visible & incorporate data from other sources
  • Opening course to students is beyond easy – a big lock button on the main screen of the course
  • Reducing the number of messaging systems to ONE
    • In-course messages connect out to email (if students change their communication settings)
    • Replies can go into the system, too
    • Audience gave ADAMANT feedback that messages must be sent to email
  • New Mobile User Experience
    • Focusing on iOS, Android, and Windows now

Emphasis on Change management

  • Ease of use
    • Overlay with help text the first time instructors access a course
    • Simplifies process of adding content with prompts for adding syllabus
    • + sign for adding any time of content (uploading files, creating assessments, copying content from other courses
  • Existing courses can use current structure without adopting the new UI (and it actually looks really good!)
  • Easy conversion of existing structure into the new UI without rebuilding (because it is built on the same types of structure with a new UI)
    • GREAT conversion tool includes a compatibility checker, a preview of conversion, and a confirmation that you REALLY want to do it
    • Conversion tool also emails instructor a backup file in case they want to switch back to the old version!!!!!!!!

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