Blackboard Inc. [NASDAQ:BBBB]: The Digital Learning Champions

Dr. Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, CEO & President A sharp left turn on the main street NW in downtown Washington and you will run into Blackboard Inc.’s [NASDAQ:BBBB] world-class office. Take an elevator lift to the sixth floor and you will be welcomed by an office compound with white chalk-like waves mimic lines on a chalkboard as architectural forms, and functional chalkboard sidelights and the monochrome color palette— designed to facilitate collaboration and communication while reflecting the brand identity. An inside view reveals a centralized interconnected stairs and common spaces arranged around this vertical element with all employees working towards a common goal— enable educational institutions and corporations to blend traditional learning management with social interaction capabilities and deliver high-quality learning programs. Founded in 2008, Blackboard has made a tremendous splash in the online learning market. Over the years, the digital learning champions have infiltrated most of the nation’s colleges and about half its schools. “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.

Being founded by two 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. With an unmatched understanding of the world of the learner, a comprehensive student-success solution portfolio, and the capacity for innovation, Blackboard has become the education’s partner in change—driving the industry to new destinations.

Building the Premise of “Lifelong Learning”

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.

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 System (LMS)—Blackboard Learn—is capable of enabling a diverse range of learning styles for training, development, and employee engagement and further an enterprise’s ongoing learning initiative.

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

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, Blackboard offers a seamless, integrated learning environment that incorporates mobile apps, online conferencing, and virtual classrooms, and also talent and recruiting tools. Blackboard Learn 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.

Breaking the e-learning Status-quo

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. By implementing Blackboard Learn, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the leading U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system recently supported the growth and development of its employees. “Blackboard is proud to be a part of NASA JPL’s efforts to create a dynamic online learning environment that helps their employees share knowledge and learn from one other,” said Alex Kissal, Vice President of Blackboard Government Solutions. “We look forward to continuing to work with their talented team to provide valuable and engaging online learning experiences for all JPL employees.”

Blackboard’s ability to create a flexible learning environment and deliver robust online training programs and educational content assists enterprises keen to develop training ecosystem that furthers their goal of expanding and integrating their business networks. The firm undertakes a solution-oriented approach toward enhancing the learning experiences of modern-day learners and reimagining the delivery of personalized learning solutions in the corporate arena.
Blackboard Collaborate’s value-added web-conferencing feature 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. It 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. The firm also offers a mass notification system— Blackboard Mass Notifications—to facilitate seamless interaction and engagement amongst employees. The system incorporates data management tools and customer service to deliver emergency notifications in real-time and offers options to send targeted messages for accounts receivables, facilities management, and employee communications.

Creating a Motivational Learning Environment

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. Available as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, Moodlerooms allows enterprises to connect, track, integrate, and foster a collaborative environment in their workplaces. The firm also recently launched their brand new mobile application, Blackboard Instructor hat gives instructors a quick and easy way to manage courses, interact with students, and view content.

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

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. Under the stewardship of Ballhaus, Blackboard has set new benchmarks in enhancing the processes associated with teaching, learning, and student engagement. 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,” opines Dr. Ballhaus.

The Blackboard Learning System has found a home in distance learning with university and college courses taken totally online, but also as a complement to more traditional instruction in hybrid courses and courses in which other digital environment learning systems may be the primary means of instruction. With learning systems constantly evolving to allow students progress at their own rates with instructors, Blackboard is a creating a skilled and knowledgeable society which can motivate students in the online learning environment.

Blackboard Inc. [NASDAQ:BBBB]

Washington, DC

Dr. Bill Ballhaus, Chairman, CEO & President

Blackboard is education’s partner in change, helping learners, educators, institutions, and companies thrive in a complex and changing environment