Blackboard announces major upgrade

Blackboard Inc. (NASDAQ: BBBB), a leading provider of educational technology, today announced a significant update for its flagship software—the latest step in a multi-year, multi-release effort to deliver a next generation teaching and learning platform to more effectively engage learners from K-12 to higher education and professional education.

Release 9.0 of Blackboard Learn™ (formerly the Blackboard Academic Suite™) was designed in partnership with—and in support of—educators around the globe who share the common challenge of engaging increasingly diverse populations of learners in and out of the classroom. The release introduces a range of powerful capabilities to meet this challenge, from social learning tools to Web 2.0 innovations, as well as integrated components that enable institutions achieve more meaningful assessment of individuals, groups, programs and schools.

The release also significantly increases the openness and flexibility of the Blackboard® platform, enabling institutions to leverage its built-in capabilities or to use it as an open foundation for the complementary technologies they need to support their own approach to teaching and learning.

“Educators face significant challenges in engaging and assessing learners with different needs and different styles,” said Michael L. Chasen, President and CEO of Blackboard. “But while the challenges are real, so are the solutions. Blackboard Learn goes beyond the conventional course management categories and boxes to help bridge the gap between the way students live and the way they learn. The platform brings strong capabilities in its own right, and the flexibility for institutions to leverage whatever solutions they need to increase student engagement and achievement.”

Included in Release 9’s openness enhancements are integrations that allow open source and homegrown systems—including the Sakai and Moodle course management systems—to be accessed within the Blackboard platform with a single login. The integrations for Sakai and Moodle, developed in partnership with Syracuse University and Iowa State University, respectively, have been released as open source and join more than 150 free or open source Blackboard Building Blocks™ now available to the Blackboard community.

“Our entire campus community is excited about Blackboard Learn, which has allowed us to think about how education technology should be, not how it used to be,” said Santo Nucifora, Manager of Systems Development and Innovation at Seneca College in Toronto, Ontario, which has launched a pilot for Release 9 that will expand campus-wide later in the semester. “This release has allowed us, for the first time, to engage in a meaningful dialogue with everyone from senior academic officials to faculty champions and even departments that have previously operated independent systems but now see the potential for working within Blackboard Learn’s more open, flexible platform.”

The release is highlighted by new Web 2.0 and social learning capabilities including blogs, journals and enhanced group tools; notification dashboards highlighting time sensitive information and alerts; and a completely redesigned, customizable Web 2.0 user interface. The release is Blackboard’s most accessible ever, and includes new features for easy keyboard navigation and standards based design for ease of use with assistive technologies such as screen readers. The release also includes Blackboard’s popular, exclusive Web services:
Plagiarism prevention with SafeAssignTM, providing teachers with an opportunity to educate students about the importance of academic integrity and attribution; and
Integration with the Facebook® platform, enabling access to course information, updates, rosters and alerts—and social learning opportunities—within the Facebook interface.

“The Blackboard platform is a part of our district’s DNA, a powerful tool that enhances instruction inside and outside of the classroom,” said Sheryl Abshire, Chief Technology Officer at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Louisiana. “We are excited to see the Blackboard platform evolving in ways that make it a more meaningful and effective tool for daily instruction and a significant part of our efforts to expand learning opportunities and engage students and parents more effectively.”

During the last three months, more than 50 colleges, universities, K-12 schools and districts and professional organizations in the United States and around the world participated in a Beta program to test drive Release 9, the successor to the widely deployed Blackboard Academic Suite™ (Releases 6 through 8 and CE editions). The release has also undergone more than 70,000 hours of testing and performance engineering as part of Blackboard’s product development process.

Blackboard Learn joins Blackboard’s campus commerce and security platform, Blackboard Transact™, and its Web-based alert and notification platform, Blackboard Connect™, in the Company’s growing family of solutions for enriching the education experience. To learn more about the evolution of Blackboard’s offering, please visit .