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From 35,000 feet....

Posted by tjatkin Sep 27, 2017

As I’m writing this, I’m on a plane on my way from Washington D.C. to Los Angeles. 


I’m going to LA for a (belated) summer vacation.  Even though I’m not going for work, I’ll get to visit with my friend and fellow Blackboarder Karen Yoshino.  She’s a rock star and I’m excited to get to see her and catch up!


Because I’ve flown this airline before, I know I’ll be receiving an email with an online survey asking me about my experience.  I’ve completed their surveys in the past, and yet I’ve never seen or heard any feedback.  Did what I say matter? Did what I say influence anything about the ticketing process, notifications, boarding, the flight experience itself, how fast I get my luggage after I land?


Have you found yourself asking these questions after you’ve taken an online survey?  I, like many of you, take these surveys with faith that they’ll make a difference.


I mentioned in my blog post last week that I’d share the results of Blackboard’s annual Client Satisfaction survey.  In April 2017, over 2,000 clients participated in Blackboard’s annual Client Satisfaction survey.  Thank you for having faith. I want you to know your participation matters. These survey results help me – and everyone at Blackboard – to reflect, prioritize and plan . . . and to improve how we partner with you.


In conjunction with our research firm, we perform sophisticated statistical analyses to determine strategic areas of focus where we have room for improvement and areas that are most important to your overall satisfaction. We identified the following key areas of focus:

  • Product ease-of-use
  • Ease of integrating with other systems and tools
  • Ease of doing business with Blackboard
  • Proactive communications


We are paying close attention to your inputs, and we are laser focused on improvements in these areas.


Product ease-of-use
The design language we call Ultra has dramatically improved ease of use within Blackboard Collaborate and our newest mobile apps, and we are working diligently to drive faster continued adoption of Ultra design across all our products. We know there is always room to improve and we will continue to add features to our newest products, always while preserving the simplicity of the Ultra design.


Ease of integrating with other systems and tools
We’re addressing this priority in two important ways.  First, we’re working diligently to better integrate the end-user experience across Blackboard products. For example, the Blackboard app for mobile devices provides a seamless user experience across Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate. Additionally, we continue to work to improve both the ease and depth of integration of our products within your larger technology ecosystem. Examples of this work include our continuing expansion of REST APIs available through the Blackboard Developer Portal and our ongoing support for standards-based integration through our participation and leadership in the IMS Global community.  We pledge to continue to improve the ease and variety of integrations supported in Learn and our other platforms.


Ease of doing business with Blackboard
When it comes to "doing business with Blackboard," we are pursuing improvements across all facets of the Client Experience. We will soon be concluding a large internal system consolidation and upgrade that will allow us to streamline the quoting, contracting, and invoicing processes. We’ve expanded accessibility of resources in places like, the Community Site, and Behind the Blackboard. Between these and other improvements, such as the improved reach of our Client Success team, we will strive to be the best partner to you that we can be.


Proactive communication
At BbWorld this summer, we worked hard to create open forums for transparent and honest conversations about every aspect of our work. For those who were able to participate, we appreciate your candid insights.  The launch of the CCO blog is another step in our effort to support a two-way dialogue, to ensure we can understand your perspective and proactively share information.  We’re continuing to identify additional areas where we can improve our communications with you.


Beyond those key areas identified for improvement, the survey recognized improvements between 2016 and 2017 in a number of areas. We are pleased that clients are experiencing greater satisfaction overall, and seeing sharp improvements in:

  • Satisfaction in adoption of Blackboard products at your institution
  • The value of Blackboard events and networking opportunities with other Blackboard clients
  • Blackboard’s thought leadership within the education sector
  • Satisfaction with Blackboard Student Services
  • Scalability of Blackboard solutions
  • Depth of functionality of Blackboard solutions


At Blackboard, we are extremely proud of our nearly 3,000 professionals around the world, and we believe these improvements in the survey results reflect the hard work of our employees and teams over the past year. A few examples of our employees' work include the continuous delivery of improvements to Blackboard Collaborate Ultra and Learn SaaS, and a renewed focus on client programs such as User Groups, Catalyst Awards, Exemplary Course Program, Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series, Tech Previews, Cohorts, and this Community site.


We know the results are more than numbers. They represent the very real daily, weekly, and monthly impact we have on people around the world – the impact we have on you.  We want to continue to hear from you in our annual survey, and as importantly, throughout the year. I encourage you to continue the conversation here on the Community Site and via other forums.


In future blog posts, I will continue to share information about work we’re doing to improve our work in areas identified through the annual survey.


How do we listen to you?

Posted by tjatkin Sep 20, 2017

Several weeks ago, I sat in Blackboard's Curie conference room (named for Marie Curie, the famed researcher, double Nobel prize winner, and first woman to become a professor at the University of Paris) and listened to the results of our Client Satisfaction survey, an annual survey we conduct to better understand how we’re meeting our clients’ needs.  As I listened to the different data points – the highs, the lows, the trends, and the areas of focus - I thought of:


  • the Online Campus leader who emailed Bill Ballhaus and me with ideas of how we can improve our efforts to support his university;
  • the Associate Provost who sat next to me in a listening session at BbWorld, and shared her team’s concerns;
  • the Instructional Designer and the System Administrator (from different universities) who I talked with for 3 hours at the House of Blues party in New Orleans after BbWorld; I got to know them as caring, engaged and fun education professionals – and we never even “talked shop;”
  • the Professor Emeritus who reached out to me via email as she didn't know where to turn for help;
  • my neighbor who is a kindergarten assistant at a Blackboard client county system; and
  • my nephew who uses Blackboard in school.


I realized the survey results represent not just these individuals, but their teams, their colleagues, their peers, and their classmates. The survey results are more than numbers. They represent the very real daily, weekly, and monthly impact we have on people around the world – the impact we have on you.


The survey results help me, and everyone at Blackboard, to understand the individual stories, challenges, needs, and desires in a more holistic way. The survey results help us reflect, prioritize, and plan.


Previously, Blackboard had sporadically obtained client feedback via survey tools.  In 2015, we committed to an annual survey cycle across all of our clients to better inform our work.  Next week, I will share a summary of our annual Client Satisfaction survey taken in April, 2017.


When you read the survey summary, you'll likely see elements that reflect your experience with Blackboard. You'll also see that other people and institutions may have competing needs and desires. Keeping with our conviction about the importance of transparency as a cornerstone of partnership, we will be sharing these results because we believe it will strengthen our dialogue.


Stay tuned. And thank you for taking the time to read my first blog post in my role as Blackboard's Chief Client Officer. I look forward to our conversation.



The full blog post by Eric Kunnen is available here.


Based on a project request from faculty involved in the Pew FTLC Strong Start Initiative, a class photo roster feature has been implemented in Blackboard to enhance personal connections between faculty and students.


The Strong Start Initiative, led by Pew FTLC Faculty Fellow Tom Pentecost, focuses faculty attention on best practices for engaging students in first-year undergraduate courses and important aspects of the college experience vital to student success.

The Strong Start Initiative highlighted the importance of making it a priority to learn students’ names and calling them by name as a recommendation for improving student success, along with being more approachable as a faculty member.

Read the blog post about the Blackboard Class Photo Roster ...

You waited all summer for it, and your wait is over. That’s right, Season 3 of What’s Your Problem? is here. Our third season kicks off with an episode dedicated to Practice. Why is practice so fundamentally important to our success? Adam Authier, Jason Kane  and Kaylynn Mortensen tackle this question and offer some ways you can ensure that the practice opportunities you offer your students will prepare them for success! As always, visit our YouTube channel to view past episodes, and drop us a line anytime with questions or suggestions for future episodes!