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Blackboard Data is available right now, and Learn SaaS clients on continuous delivery with data in the USA, Europe or Sydney are eligible. However, this doesn’t mean that your Blackboard Data instance will only include this data source. Learn SaaS is the key to provisioning Blackboard Data, and once provisioned you’ll find data from all of the SaaS tools that you currently license. This includes Learn SaaS, Collaborate Ultra, Ally, SafeAssign and Mobile. And remember, this is available as part of the standard SaaS license at no additional cost.

Right now, what you’ll get is the Developer Tier of the Blackboard Reporting Stack, but once provisioned you’ll benefit from regular releases with incremental updates and eventually the Reporting and API tiers.


For those not on Learn SaaS, you'll become eligible soon as we widen eligibility to other SaaS tools, including OpenLMS, Collaborate Ultra, Ally etc. and we will of course announce these changes here in the Blackboard Data community.


Just to be clear, you won’t need to have a SaaS LMS or even license an LMS at all from Blackboard to benefit from Blackboard Data. For example, institutions licensing only Ally will still get access to Blackboard Data for Ally going forward. However, the more SaaS tools you license from Blackboard, the more insight you’ll get on this platform.


So, if you're eligible, simply request Blackboard Data provisioning through a Behind the Blackboard ticket. Provisioning is currently taking about a week, and we're working on reducing this timescale. To make things a little easier, here are the selections you'll need to make:


  • Product Line: Learn
  • Environment: Learn SaaS
  • Issue Topic: Blackboard Data
  • Functional Area: Provisioning


So provision your Blackboard Reporting Stack, give your SQL expert the keys to the Developer Tier and share your experiences in the blogs and forums in this community. We look forward to exploring Blackboard Data with you!

This year's Blackboard Analytics Symposium (BAS19) was held in Austin Convention Center, TX, and featured presentations from Blackboard Analytics clients, Product Management and Consulting, with a keynote presentation by Timothy McKay. Below you will find details of each session along with the presentation slides (in PDF format). Follow the Blackboard Analytics community for upcoming news about Blackboard Analytics Symposium 2020.


Timothy McKayEngaging Faculty in Learning Analytics: from One Institution to Many (Keynote)Many faculty members care deeply about the success of their students. Given the opportunity, they are eager to use learning analytics methods to support that success. In this talk, I will tell the story of the discovery, loss, rediscovery, and expansion in the use of learning analytics at the University of Michigan. I will also describe newly emerging ways in which multi-institutional data can be brought to bear in motivating change in higher education.
Andy Miller, Ruth Newberry, Szymon Machajewski, Christopher Brandt, Venkat Gadepalli5 in 5 PresentationsPresenters have 5 minutes and a limit of 5 slides to present information and results from one high-impact learning analytics project / strategy / initiative from their institution. These will be engaging, high-impact, TED talk style presentations and will be professionally recorded for asynchronous viewing
Rachel SchererBlackboard Portfolio KeynoteBlackboard provides a range of analytics solutions to help drive and monitor educational and institutional strategies. Learn about the currently available solutions as well as upcoming analytics capabilities to help you make effective and informed decisions.
Andy MillerDramatically Decode Data: Debunking the Data-Storytelling OxymoronIt doesn't matter how compelling your data are, if you cannot communicate, you cannot convince people to act. The concepts of storytelling typically engage the right brain, whereas analytics engages the left brain, making the idea of Storytelling with Data a bit of an oxymoron. Yet, this truth remains a critical component in driving action via data. Learn some fundamental principles in communication and effective storytelling to engage your audience and drive action.
Sharlene Heard, Lauri Mantooth, Ming Wright, Ken MurphyHappiness is Warm People, Financial and Student Data: The Chapman University StoryIn 2 years, Chapman University implemented Blackboard Analytics modules in support of student, HR and financial reporting.  Come hear how Chapman University is empowering units across the University with analytical tools for better decision making.
Christopher BrandtDeveloping the Data Analyst as Internal ConsultantThis session will cover the scalability of data expertise through the development of subject matter experts (SME) data analysts into “internal consultants” and discuss their mentor development based on Human Recourse Development (HRD) principles that empower and enable these individuals and their expertise to be known utilized as a resource throughout the university.
Liz Crowell, Sean GausmanThe Trials and Tribulations of Building a Custom DashboardFrom the humble beginnings of automating a paper statistics report to predictive analytics, the KPI Dashboard (custom built by the IDEA Team at UCO using Blackboard Analytics) has had its share of growing pains as well as triumphs. This session will discuss some of the features (room search, schedule toxicity, enrollment projection, and department and university profiles) and the pitfalls, both hit and avoided, along the way. We will also look at additional uses and features that we hope to implement in the future. Come to commiserate or learn from our mistakes.
Curt ShermanThe Cost of Instruction: Using Analytics to Improve Decision Making about Academic Programs

Concordia University is using data analytics to better understand the true costs of instruction. With Blackboard Analytics, Concordia is able to calculate cost and revenue measures at an atomic level. Because measures are available at the finest possible grain, data can be viewed at the level of individual class sections and student registrations in those sections. Measures of direct instructional compensation are also available at the level of individual instructional assignments to sections.

Because measures are calculated at the atomic level, class measures can be rolled up to courses, subjects, departments, colleges, instruction methods, and other attributes. Student registrations can also be rolled up by students, student levels, programs, and majors. This has also afforded Concordia-Nebraska the flexibility to build out sub-populations for views by athletic teams and other areas.

This flexibility in analyzing and exploring data allows our Institution to ask the fundamental question “Who is Teaching what to whom and at what cost”. This measured information allows the University to make better informed decisions on programs and methods of teaching across campus.

Andy MillerNo Surprise: The Most Obvious Solution to Cultural ChangePredictive modeling student success can be quite complex, so too is fostering a scaling analytics adoption across the enterprise. Despite these complexities, there is one ostensibly obvious metric that is often overlooked. Learn more about this metric and how it has increased student success, aided analytics adoption, and enhanced faculty compliance for providing clean & reliable data.
Christopher BrandtPolicy Based Data GovernanceData Governance is not a one size fits all concept. It is much more like a tailored suit or dress. Every organization needs to get the right fit for their needs. Higher education is not the private sector. Can higher education develop a method or model that works for its complexities? Could the Policy Governance system developed by John Carver make a difference in the way we run data governance in higher education? Do you want to join the conversation?

Hi there, Analytics Community


I'm Carlos, a new member of the Analytics Product team at Blackboard. I've been going through the Analytics Community site and I'm really excited to see how engaged this community is So, just before we head out to the weekend, I wanted to reach out and invite you to join our new Blackboard Data Community!


This space will be a subgroup of this community and where we will share helpful resources, content, and information about upcoming events. This is a great place for you to interact with other Data & Analytics practitioners that are using Blackboard Data to solve the most critical questions at their institutions.


Here's the link to join: Blackboard Data Community


See you there!



Product @ Blackboard Analytics

In 2016, Blackboard engaged in a study “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes” that included data from 70,000 courses from 927 institutions, with 3,374,462 unique learners.

Based on this study of over 3 million learners and 70,000 courses, it was found that 53% of courses were supplemental, meaning content-heavy with low interaction, following by complementary at 24% meaning one-way communication through content, announcements, and gradebook. Additional course archetypes are illustrated in the chart below:


Chart retrieved from: “Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes

Additionally, the Blackboard study found:

Courses with the largest amount of student activity take advantage of a diverse set of tools; campuses should identify and investigate these leading courses as sources for best practices and examples that can be adapted by other faculty in their courses.

Blackboard Use at GVSU

At GVSU, the eLearning team was interested in researching how Blackboard is being used by faculty and students. By leveraging the opensource BbStats Blackboard Building Block (which includes a “Latent Class Analysis Report”) by Dr. Szymon Machajewski, it was found that 72% of courses are using Blackboard in Holistic and Complementary ways, whereas 28% of courses fall into the content repository category in the Winter 2019 semester.

19% Holistic

  • 19% or 758 courses at GVSU fall into the Holistic category where 5 more more tools are used per course (eg. content, grade center, announcements, and possibly assignments, discussions, and/or assessments).

53% Complementary

  • 53% or 2,082 courses at GVSU are using at least 3 tools per course (eg. content, grade center, and announcements or assignments).

28% Content Repository

  • 28% or 1,088 courses at GVSU are using 2 or less tools per course (eg. content and announcements or discussion board). Additionally, there is no use of grade center, assignments, or assessments.


Chart retrieved from: GVSU BbStats Blackboard Building Block, Latent Class Analysis Report


Read more on GVSU eLearning blog ...

Download the Springer journal article:

We have now finalised the registration process for Blackboard Analytics Symposium 2019, which is happening on July 22-23 in Austin, TX, followed by BbWorld. BAS continues to be a free event, but registration is required. Please register for attendance at


We are also still accepting submissions for presentation proposals, click here to find out more and submit your proposal.


As always, further information about the symposium can be found on the Blackboard Analytics Website, and we'll continue to post updates in the Community site.


I look forward to seeing you there ;-)

I have some great news to share, and it's something that I'm aware most of you have been waiting for. Blackboard has certified the new Pyramid Analytics business intelligence software, and we're ready to begin deployment. Let me give you a little more information about the application before we talk about the transition process...


Pyramid are replacing BIOffice with a brand new application called "Pyramid". You've probably heard of this as "Pyramid 2018" but, for obvious reasons, they've decided to drop the year off the name (though it's still used for versioning). It's a little confusing as I for one have been referring to BIOffice as "Pyramid" for half a decade, but I'm sure we'll get used to it. The big headline is that Pyramid is a full-html application and so no longer requires Microsoft Silverlight (yay!). There's also a bunch of new features, and many existing features have been fully overhauled to make them easier to use - let's just say that if you're a user of cascading prompts you're going to be very happy. Finally, there is comprehensive help documentation and tutorial videos, and I'm sure that those of you who are already confident users of BIOffice will quickly adapt to the new software.


With any significant upgrade there's bound to be some change management required - and remember that this isn't an upgrade, it's a completely new application - and this is no exception. Pyramid will need to be installed and the content and users migrated across from BIOffice. Pyramid Analytics has provided a migration tool to do this, but it's not comprehensive - some content will need to be manually recreated and, my own personal recommendation, automatically migrated content should be carefully checked. With this in mind, Blackboard have designed some services to help you through this process, with options to perform the installation for you, manually migrate high priority content and provide training.


To start the migration process, raise a ticket on Behind the Blackboard. If you're a Managed Hosting client you can request installation and this will be scheduled with you. For self-hosted clients, you can request the installer files. If you're interested in finding out more about the services we can offer around migration and training then please contact your Blackboard Account Executive.


And, of course, do please post on the Community about your experiences so that we can all learn together.


Pyramid Transition Introduction

Late last year, we notified you that the Blackboard Analytics Symposium was being rescheduled from the February dates, but we've yet to provide you with an update. I can now announce that the Symposium is scheduled for July 22-23 as a pre-conference event at BbWorld in Austin, TX. I hope this means that those of you planning to attend BbWorld as well. Note that the Symposium continues to be a free event and attendance at BbWorld is not required (but recommended, of course). We're just finalising the registration system so I'll send an update when that's ready, but for now please save the date.


If you'd like to present, we have specific guidance on submitting your proposal, but the formats are the same as last year (I hear the 5x5 presentations are really enjoyable, and I'm looking forward to those). The deadline for submissions is March 29, and we will make final decisions by April 19, so please submit your proposals. A few proposals were submitted last year, and these won't need to be resubmitted. I'll reach out to the people involved to confirm.


I'm personally excited about the event as I've wanted to attend for a long time, and I'm looking forward to meeting, and collaborating with, many community members there.

Hi everyone, I’m the new Senior Product Marketing Manager for Analytics at Blackboard (replacing Timothy Harfield, and so Blackboard's main representative within this Community), and I’d like to take this opportunity to introduce myself. I’ve been with Blackboard for nearly 5 years working exclusively with our Analytics products, and with clients across the world, so I have a lot of experience of how Analytics is deployed and used. I’m now transitioning to Product Marketing so I can use this experience to inform the development and promotion of our Analytics portfolio.


Prior to Blackboard, I worked as a Learning Technologist at a UK university (I’m based near Manchester, England) for 7 years, implementing various different technologies and designing training sessions and materials, and I have a Masters in Higher Education and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education. What I’m trying to make clear here is that I’m much more about the learning than the selling, and I hope that this will be beneficial to you.


My role will involve working directly with you to help understand your current and future needs, and to represent your views with the Product Management team so that our products continue to meet, and hopefully exceed, your expectations. I’ll be working closely with the Customer Advisory Board and will be very active in the Community site. In fact, one of my first tasks is to review the recent comments and provide responses as I’m very aware we haven’t had a very proactive presence since Timothy left. I’ll also be responsible for the Analytics track at our events, so I’ll hopefully get to meet some of you face-to-face soon.


So you’ll be seeing a lot of messages from me on here, and I appreciate your patience whilst I’m getting ramped up on the specifics. If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to contact me (, but if you feel that others within the community would benefit from the response then I’d recommend posting directly on here. If you’d like to connect on LinkedIn, you’ll find me here:


I'm looking forward to working with you all. Steve

DjrvZN7X0AA8cMu.jpgWould you like to know how your faculty are using the LMS?


The study demonstrates how to evaluate the use of your own Blackboard Learn LMS and how to apply latent class analysis to identify major faculty usage profiles.



Technology in Higher Education affects teaching and learning excellence while being a significant expense for universities. There is a need for evaluation of current instructional technology use when planning for renewal or adoption of a new learning management system (LMS). This study was conducted to understand the patterns of course tools used by faculty in a commercial LMS used at a large public research university. Course data was extracted from 2562 courses with 98,381 student enrollments during the Fall of 2016. A latent class analysis was conducted to identify the patterns of LMS tool use based on the presence of grade center columns, announcements, assignments, discussion boards, and assessments within each course. Three latent classes of courses were identified and characterized as Holistic tool use (28% of the courses), Complementary tool use (51%), and Content repository (21%). These classes differed in the mean number of students per course and whether courses were exclusively . These descriptions provided data-based information to share with deans across the university to facilitate discussion of faculty needs for LMS tools and training.



Comparing the student use of time in  courses and faculty design intentions, there is clearly a gap.  Perhaps time spent on course items by students reflects their best judgment on what will make them successful in the course.  Faculty may be designing opportunities for students, which are not well communicated and utilized.  Further research is needed to bridge this gap and match student  behavior with faculty expectations and their design for learning.



TechTrends Journal | Linking Research and Practice to Improve Learning

A publication of the Association for Educational Communications & TechnologyISSN: 8756-3894 (Print) 1559-7075 ()


Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 5.12.11 PM.png



Screen Shot 2018-09-08 at 5.12.23 PM.png

To read the full article please visit Research Gate or you can use your library access to Springer journal TechTrends:


Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use


Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use | SpringerLink




Machajewski, S., Steffen, A., Romero Fuerte, E., & Rivera, E. (2018). Patterns in Faculty Learning Management System Use. TechTrends.


  1. Abazi-Bexheti, L., Kadriu, A., & Ahmedi, L. (2010). Measurement and assessment of learning management system usage. In Proceedings of 6th WSEAS/IASME International Conference on Educational Technologies. WSEAS Press.Google Scholar
  2. Berking, P., & Gallagher, S. (2013). Choosing a learning management system. Advanced distributed learning (ADL) Co-laboratories. Version 3.0. Serco Services, Inc.–OPM contract no. OPM0207008, Project Code: 02EA3TTAN MP, Vol.3. Accessed 2 Jan 2017.

  3. Dahlstrom, E., Brooks, C., & Bichsel J. (2014). The Current Ecosystem of Learning Management Systems in Higher Education: Student, Faculty, and IT Perspectives. Retrieved from:
  4. Dawson, S., McWilliam, E. & Tan, J. (2008). Teaching smarter: how mining ICT data can inform and improve learning and teaching practice. Annual Conference of the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education (pp. 221–230). Melbourne, Australia: Deakin University.Google Scholar

  5. Englund, C., Olofsson, A. D., & Price, L. (2017). Teaching with technology in higher education: Understanding conceptual change and development in practice, Higher Education Research & Development, 36:1, 73–87.

  6. Fritz, J. (2013). Using Analytics at UMBC: Encouraging Student Responsibility and Identifying Effective Course Designs. (Research Bulletin). Louisville, CO: EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research.  Retrieved from Accessed 2 Jan 2017.
  7. Janossy, J. (2008). Proposed Model for Evaluating C/LMS Faculty Usage in Higher Education Institutions. Paper presented at the MBAA International Conference, Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  8. Kroner G. (2014). Does your LMS do this? [Blog post]. Retrieved from
  9. Lazarsfeld, P., & Henry, N. (1968). Latent structure analysis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  10. Machajewski, S. (2014). Open source analytics for Blackboard Learn, BbStats – Activity dashboard. Paper presented at the Big Data Conference, Allendale, MI. Retrieved from
  11. Medina-Flores, R., & Morales-Gamboa, R. (2015). Usability evaluation by experts of a learning management system. IEEE Revista Iberoamericana de Tecnologias del Aprendizaje, 10(4), 197–203. Scholar
  12. Openo, J., Laverty, C., Kolomitro, K., Borin, P., Goff, L., Stranach, M., & Gomaa, N. (2017). Bridging the divide: Leveraging the scholarship of teaching and learning for quality enhancement. The Canadian Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, 8(2), 1–18. Scholar

  13. Orfanou, K., Tselios, N., & Katsanos, C. (2015). Perceived usability evaluation of learning management systems: Empirical evaluation of the system usability scale. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 16(2), 227–246. Scholar

  14. Whitmer, J., Nuñez, N., Harfield, T., & Forteza, D. (2016). Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five course design archetypes. Retrieved from
  15. Whitmer, J., Nuñez, N. & Forteza, D. (2016a). Research in progress: Learning analytics at scale for Blackboard Learn [Blog post]. Retrieved from

  16. Whitmer, J., Nuñez, N. & Forteza, D. (2016b). How successful students use LMS tools – confirming our hunches [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Help define the future of Blackboard Data!


On July 17, 2018 we announced that we are developing a new data and reporting environment that will play an important unifying role as a core feature for Blackboard customers.  With a view to building data experiences that meaningfully address core educational challenges, the Blackboard Data Collaborative Program will bring Blackboard users together to define institutional challenges, co-develop solutions, and promote adoption through best practices.


AT A GLANCE. Each Blackboard Data Collaborative will work together to understand important questions within a specific problem domain, make product recommendations, and define sets of best practices so that institutions can quickly and effectively adopt new features and capabilities once they are released.  Each collaborative will last for 6 weeks, during which time members will participate in interviews and design workshops. At the end of each 6 week period, groups will generate a set of product recommendations in addition to a draft of a white paper to be published at the time of feature release. White papers will document rationale for design decisions, and provide a best practice guide for feature adoption by campuses.


MEMBER SELECTION. Collaborative members will be selected according to the relevance of their role, interest, and expertise in the specific research area defined by product management for Blackboard Analytics. The areas of research will be wide-ranging, covering all areas of teaching and learning, student success, and institutional performance, so we are looking for people from every part of higher education, including faculty, students, instructional designers, academic advisors, and administrators. We are looking for people working with instructional technology of course, but also in enrollment management, finance, HR, alumni affairs, and campus security. Blackboard Data is designed to serve the information needs of the entire institution, and we are looking for the entire institution to help us build it.


Would you like to help us to build features that will serve the entire Blackboard community, and create knowledge with the potential to make a significant impact in shaping the future of higher education?  Add your name to the list, and follow our progress via the Blackboard Analytics Community.



"Do we pout?" "No, Daddy. We take action."


Check out this awesome guest blog post from Andy Miller, on how Concordia University - Wisconsin used data to support intensive advising and increase its retention rates.


FAST Data Out of the Box: Using analytics to support intensive advising and increase retention rates - Blackboard Blog



Andy is speaking along with Christopher Brandt as part of our "Best of BAS" webinar series. Register now to learn more:


Event Registration >>

Headcount and Credit Hour Reporting for Student Management


At the 2018 Blackboard Analytics Symposium, we launched a new program designed to enhance the core functionality of Blackboard Intelligence modules through strategic client partnerships.  The Innovation Partnership Program for Blackboard Intelligence invites proposals from institutions with ideas for high impact enhancement requests for Blackboard Intelligence modules (including Analytics for Learn, Student Management, Financial Aid, Finance, HR, and Advancement).


Today we are delighted to announce the first project that we will complete as part of the Innovative Partnership Program: headcount and credit hour goals reporting in Student Management.  Proposed by Karen Bussan from Roosevelt University, this feature will give institutions the ability to easily compare their progress against headcount and credit hour goals.


Founded in 1945 to educate students of every race, ethnicity and religion,  is a nationally recognized, distinctively diverse institution.  Roosevelt offers more than 70 undergraduate majors with an average class size of 20 students and a student-faculty ratio of 11:1. Roosevelt also offers more than 40 graduate programs and is home to the third oldest music conservatory in the country.  With two campus locations in Chicago and Schaumburg, Roosevelt total student enrollment in 2017-18 is 4,457 of which 45% are students of color and represent over 400 international students from 73 countries.


Since 2011, Roosevelt has effectively leveraged Student Management to increase transparency, empower campus leaders by putting actionable information in their hands, and support institutional goals around enrollment, retention, and graduation by enabling fact-based decision-making.  We look forward to collaborating with Roosevelt University to build upon the customization work that they completed last year to provide headcount and credit hour goals reporting as a standard feature in the next release of the Student Management module for Blackboard Intelligence.


A huge thank you to all who submitted a proposal prior to March 1, 2018. We will continue to consider all these project ideas, alongside new proposals, which we will review and accept on a rolling basis.  If you have an idea for a new feature with the potential to benefit the entire Blackboard Intelligence, learn more about the Innovation Partnership Program an submit your idea here: Innovation Partnership Program for Blackboard Intelligence



Last year we ran a very successful series of technical training webinars to help Blackboard Intelligence customers to implement their own customizations, and maximize the value they are able to extract from their existing analytics investments.


They're back!


We are still building out the schedule, but the line up for this series is already looking spectacular:


APRIL 17, 2018 | 1:00PM - 2:00PM EDT | SPEAKER: Brandy Thatcher

TECH TALK: Implementing the NSC Data Extension for Student Management


March 15, 2018 | 1:00PM - 2:00PM EDT | SPEAKER: Christopher Brandt

TECH TALK: Customizing Student Management for unique email distribution to advisors


Register today! If you have an idea for content that you would like to see covered in a future webinar, or if you have a customization you would like to share with the technical community, let me know in the comments below.

34 presentations in 1.5 days.  450 attendees, both in person and via live stream from around the world.  The quantity and quality of material that was delivered in this relatively short period of time in Austin, TX as part of the 2018 Blackboard Analytics Symposium is a testament to the accomplishments of Blackboard clients, and to their eagerness to scale high impact practices in higher education.


If it is worth presenting, it is worth preserving.


Why limit the impact of a talk to those who were able to attend in person?  If we are to take seriously our mission to scale high impact practices in higher education, it is incumbent upon us to share our work with the widest audience possible.  That's why, over the next few weeks, you will see us posting full video from each of the sessions from this year's event.  In the meantime, and as a supplement to what is to come, here are some powerpoint decks and other materials from the event:







Last week, the Blackboard Analytics Symposium brought together nearly 450 Blackboard clients from all over the world, both in person and via the live stream, to share emerging and high impact practices involving the use of analytics to drive teaching, learning, student success, and institutional performance. A client-focused event, we also used the symposium as an opportunity to share some exciting news:

  1. Blackboard is committed to a product strategy that leverages our extensive data science capability to solve core challenges facing global higher education in the 21st century
  2. Researchers at Blackboard announced the development of a readiness assessment for predictive modelling using LMS data
  3. We announced our increased commitment to Blackboard Intelligence, through the launch of the Innovative Partnership Program
  4. Based on research and feedback from instructors about how we can best help them with grading, we are planning to release discussion board analytics in Q2 2018.

Commitment to analytics as central to the Blackboard Vision

Opening remarks at the Blackboard Analytics Symposium were delivered by Blackboard Chairman, CEO, and President Bill Ballhaus.  He used this opportunity to lay out a new strategic product vision.Today, an LMS is simply not enough to solve your most critical challenges.  As we look to the future, we are focused on the development of a comprehensive, digital learning environment focused on helping institutions to solve their core challenges. Instead of building products separately and integrating them into an LMS, we are taking a much more holistic approach helping institutions solve challenges related to educator empowerment, educational integrity, accessibility, student retention, and student success. Through providing educational insight, we are driven to help improve learner engagement and drive academic effectiveness.

Predictive model readiness assessment

There are huge advantages to building a predictive model of student risk that only uses LMS data.  In addition to being quicker to implement, it is beneficial from a teaching, learning, and ethical perspective because it relies on behavioral factors that can be changed instead of demographic and dispositional features that cannot.  In some contexts, we have been able to build models for X-Ray Learning Analytics that are over 90% accurate.  But in other contexts, accuracy has been so low that we have recommended against implementing a predictive model.At the Blackboard Analytics Symposium, John Whitmer discussed new research that has led to the development of a readiness assessment for predictive analytics using LMS data.  What is incredibly exciting about the approach that we have taken is that it is not specific to any one LMS, and we have tried to document our process in a way that would encourage its use across the industry.  Even more exciting, however, is our finding that the patterns of LMS use that must be present in order to build a predictive model are also high impact instructional practices.  What this means, is that in readying itself for predictive analytics, an institution must adopt practices that, in themselves, will help have a measurable impact on student engagement academic performance.

Introducing the Innovative Partnership Program for Blackboard Intelligence

Last year, we released the National Clearinghouse Data Extension for the Student Management module of Blackboard Intelligence.  A feature that was widely requested by our customers, we worked closely with two client partners to develop and implement it before making it a part of our core product in July 2017.Following the success of this approach, and as a way of demonstrating our long-term commitment to our market-leading ERP data warehousing products for Student Management, Finance, HR, and Advancement, we have launched the Innovative Partnership Program for Blackboard Intelligence. The program invites existing Blackboard Intelligence customers to submit ideas for enhancements and features that they would like us to develop with them and make available to the broader Blackboard Intelligence community upon completion.  Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis, with the first round of partnerships to be announced on March 15, 2018.

Analytics for discussion grading in Blackboard Learn

Considering research findings and feedback from instructors, we’re revising our product strategy around discussion board grading.A central theme from main stage at the Blackboard Analytics Symposium was the importance of experimentation and the value of client feedback.  VP for Teaching and Learning at Blackboard, Phill Miller, used a recent high-profile example to illustrate the point.  We recently embarked on a project to automate discussion board grading and found that the way that discussion boards are graded today makes it impossible to responsibly do so. As a consequence, we are developing tools to help instructors to grade better.Discussion forums have huge benefits for students. If well-run, they increase engagement, self-reflection, and critical thinking.  And yet, especially in large classes, many faculty do not make use of them.  We have been told that a significant reason for this is that they lack a method for grading that is both efficient and pedagogically sound.  We asked ourselves whether it might be possible for us to provide suggested grades to faculty in a way that would relieve the grading burden so that more instructors would include discussion forums as a pedagogically robust part of their overall teaching and learning practice.Results were promising when we conducted a preliminary analysis using Moodle data.  But when we scaled our approach to include data from Blackboard Learn we discovered two things:


  • only 0.2% of instructors who use discussion forums actually grade them, and
  • when grades are assigned, they are poorly distributed.


The most common grade is 100%, suggesting that in most cases discussion boards are merely used to assign a participation score.  Even when we applied techniques to stretch out the distribution, the model we developed did not produce results that were consistent with actual grading.

We came out of this process with a better understanding of the problem. Consequently, we do not plan to release an automated grading feature in Blackboard Learn. Instead, on the roadmap for Q2 2018 are discussion board analytics that empower educators to grade discussion boards in a way that promotes their pedagogical benefits to the fullest.  In providing educators with information like post counts, word counts, lexical complexity scores, and a critical thinking coefficient, this is just one of many examples of how we are surfacing educational insights to drive academic effectiveness and learner engagement at scale.


Originally published to

Please note, any statements regarding our product development initiatives, including new products and future product upgrades, updates or enhancements represent our current intentions, but may be modified, delayed or abandoned without prior notice and there is no assurance that such offering, upgrades, updates or functionality will become available unless and until they have been made generally available to our customers.