With Headquarters in Washington, D.C. (USA), Blackboard was founded in 1997 by Michael Chasen and Matthew Pittinsky. It is a education technology solutions company in that specializes in learning management systems. The company also provides collaboration and communication apps, and related services to clients in many sectors, including educational institutions and government organizations.
By the first quarter of 2013, Blackboard had serviced than 12,700 institutions in over 70 countries.
Blackboard Learn was the company’s first product, created back in 1998. The main platform, a learning management system that offers tools empowering instructors to engage their learners, is considered a student-centered LMS. The latest versions offer an improved way of grading and creating assessments, new social learning tools, a modern and personalized Calendar (with options to export a third party one) and an actionable Retention Center (bringing issues and trends of students to make proper and immediate corrections).
The discussion boards have been redesigned and now offer more functionality. Students can receive automatic text or text-to-voice notifications. Besides the support team, there is also a global community or ‘learning network’ (including K-12 and higher education) that will help and will share best practices within the Blackboard Learn environment. It connects users around the world and let users interact in a more informal (and social) way.
Besides their main LMS, the company has other six products:
Analytics – Analytic application with pre-created reports and dimensional data models. It can integrate with ERP systems. It was developed after the acquisition of iStrategy (a data analysis firm) in the last quarter 2010.
Collaborate – Launched in mid 2010, the “Social” online collaboration platform that combines capabilities of Wimba and Elluminate, provides users web-based video and audio conferencing.
Connect – Since 2008, it has worked as a mass notification and alert service working with text, voice and social media across school districts and communities.
Engage – Acquired in October 2011, Edline provides software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) to the K-12 education market. It is used in more than 20,000 schools.
Mobile – Launched in 2009, the app gives students access to their classes and content with any native mobile applications including Android and iPhone.
Transact – Usually used in higher education institutions, it’s a card that give access to different places (ID cards) or products/services to the students (meals, money, laundry, books, etc.).
They also offer managed hosting, consulting and training, strategic and student services (admissions, enrollment and financial aid). The company has 8 data centers supporting over 9 million users, located in the USA, Canada, Netherlands and Australia. In 2004, it became public. During all these years, it has acquired many companies, including its biggest competitors like WebCT (Course Tools) and MoodleRooms (an official Moodle Partner in the US) to continue growing and expanding its portfolio and services.
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