#BbWorld17 – Blackboard Opening Keynote

Session Description: Join us as we kick off BbWorld 2017 with Bill Ballhaus, Blackboard CEO and Katie Blot, Blackboard Chief Strategy Officer. Then, hear from lifelong education advocate, and former Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden.


Bill Ballhaus @billballhaus

  • 4,000 on BbWorldLIVE
  • 36 countries represented
  • Happy 20th anniversary for Blackboard!

  • 66 institutions have been a partner for over 20 years, than you
  • It all began… 1997 – the Palm Pilot was popular, broadband was making it’s way, 1/3 of college courses used email, 1/4 classes used internet and 1/8 used multimedia
  • Now… 73% use an LMS, 35% faculty use primarily digital materials, 95% of colleges agree that digital curricular resources make learning more efficient and effective.

“Blackboard is your partner in change.”

  • The journey starts with educational institutions and students.

Driving learning outcomes

  • Invest in original experience, improve UI, responsiveness for devices, and quality enhancements
  • Learn Ultra is expanding and growing
  • Learn Saas more than 200 have made the migration
  • Listening to YOU – from Bb Community with over 5,000 members
  • Blackboard is now in over 90 countries

Supporting the learner

  • Engage students and communicate with parents in K12
  • Balancing work, school, and family life, students are on th go – delivering a seamless mobile experience (when and where it’s most convenient to for them)
  • Leveraging data and analtyics support students, manage financiers, make purchases, controlled access

Attracting and enrolling the right students

  • Marketing, recruitment and enrollment services is tailored by data and analytics

Keys to Success

  • A compelling, broad portfolio of process and services
  • The best experience for your students, faculty, and advisors
  • Work within your ecosystem

Katie Blot, Chief Strategy Officer, @kcblot

Driving Learning Outcomes

  • Heart of what you do, with the center the LMS
  • Welcome, Moodle Community


  • 1 Learn, 2 Experiences (Original, Ultra), and 3 Deployments (Self-hosted, Managed Hosted, Saas)
  • Blackboard is the ONLY partner giving you the flexibility and choice for what is best for you and your institution.
  • 200 institutions are already on Saas
  • Original experiece focus: quality, responsiveness, and ease of use
  • Ultra experience: a new design philosophy across all products for a seamless experience
  • Over 1,200 clients on Collaborate Ultra

Collaborate Ultra – Continuous Delivery Enhancements

  • 1.1 million users of Blackboard mobile app
  • Keep the focus on the learning instead of the technology

Q3 2016

  • Rubrics, Tests: MC/MS questions, test/activity report, gradebook custom categories, links in rich text editor, due date accommodations

Q4 2016

  • Group discussions, Bb Collaborate integration,, goal alignments, smiplified grading workflow, multiple assignments/test attempts, media in test questions

Q1 2017

  • Tests (T/F questions, timed), unlimited assignment/test attempts, grade categories, 3rd party tool placements in navigation tools panel, discussions additional thread depth, read/unread, localization

Q2 2017

  • Tests: randomize questions, media in rich text editor, discussion insights, LTI links open within Ultra course window, LTI 2.0, Blackboard Open Content in the Content Market, Time zone visibility, numerous performance enhancements

FOCUS: It’s about driving better learning outcomes with thoughtful design. Don’t need to choose between simplicity and power. 

Data everywhere – really powerful for helping someone making a better decisions, getting the data isn’t enough > it needs to be able to be used, surfacing data within the appropriate context. Garner insights from data to drive learning outcomes.

Expanding Capabilities

  • My Grades Predictor for Students with comparison to other student activity in the class
  • Quiz Activity with student activity details

Jim Chalex and John Whitmer

  • Discussion Insights > Automated discussion grading via data science? Out in Ultra in the next few months.

No Boundaries

Blackboard Ally

  • Machine learning algorithms for providing accessible alternatives. “Auto-Magic”
  • Alternative Accessible Versions – Automatically checks for for accessibility issues and generates alteranative accessible formats.
  • Instructor Feedback – Guides instructors on how to improve the accessibility of their course content and alters future behavior
  • Institutional Report -Provides detailed data and insights to help further improve course content accessibility at the institution

Introducing Blackboard Instructor

  • Current features: access content, communicate with students, collaborate with students
  • Next up: tablet optimized grading, complex grading

Openness Commitment

  • Introductions… Openness Innovation Initiative – free development access to system liences for testing.

Supporting the learner along their journey.

Blackboard’s student success strategy

  • Engage – Engage students daily to inform and simplify the most critical activities across their educational journey.
  • Insight – Sufrace meaningful insights – derived from academic, financial, student sentiment data – to the people who can drive the greatest impact.
  • Action – Effect behavioral change through proactive, modern, scalable communication between students, instructors, and advisors.

Advisor Dashboard

  • Bb Predict – Provides student risk summary. Consolidated view of career, financial, and course work.


#BbWorld17 – DevCon: Managed Hosting, Does it work? Will I get access to my data?

Session Description:  University of Illinois at Chicago adopted the managed hosting environment in 2012 and has been successful in important user support improvements and stability of operations. While employing GAs and undergraduate students in the support structure the resolution time for Blackboard tickets was reduced from two weeks to a few hours. Deep integrations have been created for event driven user synchronization. A number of OSCELOT projects are being sponsored and developed in a staging managed hosted system. The experience and collaboration with managed hosted team allowed for strong support of Blackboard Learn adoption on campus. The panel will include representative from Grand Valley State University, where initial deployment to Managed Hosting was later reversed to again become self-hosted.


  • Szymon Machajewski, University of Illinois at Chicago, Grand Valley State University
  • Eric Kunnen, Grand Valley State University

Session Slides:

#BbWorld17 – Course Design Patterns: Latent Class Analysis with Opensource BbStats

Session Description: Fostering the adoption of teaching and learning technologies requires taking stock of how faculty use the LMS through a process that is reproducible, reliable, and affordable. Studies in student activity patterns, such as the recent Patterns in Blackboard Learn tool use: Five Course Design Archetypes, help us to understand evidence of use. But what about the ways that faculty design courses before any student activity takes place? This session will explore a case study at University of Illinois at Chicago in which course design patterns in Blackboard Learn were derrived using BbStats and Latent Class Analysis.


  • Elizabeth Romero Fuerte, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Alena Steffen, University of Illinois at Chicago 
  • Szymon Machajewski, University of Illinois at Chicago, Grand Valley State University


  • BbStats is an opensource and free Building Block for institutions using Blackboard. It provides a wide array of usage data.  More information and a download package is available on Ocelot.
  • Here are some sample BbStats reports:

  • Data collected: announcements, assessments, assignments, content, discussion forums, gradebook columns, blogs/wikis
  • Sample size: n=2,561


  • Content was present in nearly all courses.
  • Colleges with more online courses fell in group 1 (holistic tool use).
  • Half of coures show a complementary tool use pattern.
  • Most F2F classes using Blackboard fell into group 2 (complimentary tool use) and group 3 (content repository).

Next Steps

  • LMS governance board
  • UIC innovation center
  • PD for faculty
  • LMS roadmap for UIC

#BbWorld17 – Machine Learning: Past, Present, and Future

Session Description: Blackboard is pleased to welcome Hilary Mason, noted Machine Learning expert and Data Scientist to the 2017 DevCon Keynote. In this session, Hilary will take us on a journey, beginning with the origins of Machine Learning and weaving through to the present state of affairs in the discipline, before embarking on a wild journey to where Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence will go in the years to come. Attendees should expect to leave this session with knowledge of Machine Learning and how it is applied today, and excitement and insight into the future of smarter education through data-driven design and implementation.

Speaker: Hilary Mason, Fast Forward Labs, @hmason, fastforwardlabs.com

  • We are able to build things now that 5 years ago we thought were never possible via Machine Learning!
  • First big data project was census, in 1888 a patent was filed for counting people. A machine was developed “tabulating machine company” ended up becoming IBM. The punch cards persisted into the 1900’s.
  • Teenager Teaches A.I. to Rap like Kanye

Fred Brooks – “In 1969, I went to te Provost, Prof. Charles J. Morrow, and I said, “We are ready and have the necessaries to build an intelligence amplifying system in which the mind and matching will cooperate on tackling hard problems. Who on this faculty most deservices to have his intelligence amplified?”

  • 1952 Bell Labs, Claude Shannon, Machine Learning Mouse 
  • In 2017, the world is becoming computable. 
  • In many ways, what we are doing now isn’t unique but rather we can do it faster and easier.
  • Artificial intelligence hold great potential for both students and teachers – but only if we used wisely. – The Conversation
  • How AI is Already Changing Business – Harvard Business Review
  • Scientific American – How people read about information on the social web. Based on clicks.
  • AI? > Maching Learning > Data Science > Analytics > “Big Data”
  • Going from counting to predicting with data = data science.
  • “Big Data” – once you build th stack, it’s not just one thing, you now have a bunch of things = business intelligence, analytics, business intelligence, product data science, R&D 
  • Your data can offer the opportunity to see the future, and a lot of people ignore this…
  • Google Maps – A map with traffic data is an example, you can make a decision after seeing the data and you don’t have to think at all about the technology behind the scenes… you just use it.
  • When we as community build great products and that data fades into the background.
  • The biggest opportunities may surprise you.
  • What higher value problem than we have than education.
  • Data science is a new professional role and a “team sport”.
  • Executives and product managers must embrace data, too.
  • We are augmenting human capabilities – not replacing a human with Machine Learning…
  • Strategies: first, invest in automation to support an existing process, then, invest in scaling to allow entirely new products and applications.
  • Often there are ethic issues with data that engieers are often not trained in.
  • Data culture is vital! “Data Driven – Creating a Data Culture” Free book.

Tips for Machine Learning

  1. Research Activity
  2. Change in Economics
  3. A Capability becomes a Commodity
  4. New Data is Available (Wikipedia)
  5. Plus a bit of adventure, some coffee, and bad ideas…

Natural Language Generation

  • AP’s robot journalists are writing their own stories now – The Verge
  • The real impact will be in making complex data simple.
  • Deep Learning – Tools like image analysis makes rich media computable.
  • Summarization is another example, finding similar content across large about of text.
  • Small messy data + intuition is useful!

It’s “intuition” AND “data” it’s not one or the other.

#BbWorld17 – Devcon: @Blackboard Technology State of the Union

Session Description: Come hear Tim Tomlinson @timtomlinson, Chief Product Officer for Blackboard, outline Blackboard’s product development philosophy and progress. Tim will outline Blackboard’s overall approach to product development and highlight key achievements and development priorities. We’ll also announce the winners of the 2017 Hackathon.



  • Blackboard “Your Partner in Change”
  • Sponsors Amazon Web Services and Amazon Alexa
  • 375 developers, 250 institutions, 18 countries at DevCon
  • 20 years of Blackboard – Founded in 1997

Product Development

  • Product Excellence and Quality – 100s of bug fixes with focus on not releasing new bugs, updated technology, simplified releases
  • Quality – New focus on initial quality and maintenance with a new build-and-test automation to increase almost 600% in fix requests delivered, installer size reduced 33% and run time is down 20%, with managed hosting 80% of update procedures are automated, average time of resultion down to 6.5 days, new test automation technology and higher coverage, updated performance testing technology
  • Innovation – Innovating in products and in the way products are delivered (self-hosted, managed hosted, Saas). Recognized by Ovum and PC Magazine. Ally was introduced to assist in providing accessibility for students.  Blackboard Instructor mobile app is brand new for the needs of the faculty persona. REST API, IMS Standards (LTI, Caliper, Common Cartridge) Support, new architectural paradigm through micro-services, and more.

“The widespread availability of business-grade “as-a-service” (aka cloud) offerings is affecting all industry sectors, and higher education is no exception. However, while the institutional discussion regarding cloud has moved from “if” to “when,” most organizations are still challenged as to the practicalities of how they get to the future state. At the recent Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC) in Sydney, Australia, Blackboard laid out a transition plan to help institutions manage the move while minimizing disruption.” – OVUM

‘Blackboard’s interface was dated and counterintuitive, and I worried that the company simply couldn’t both satisfy long-time customers and create an interface that would attract new ones. The latest version, Blackboard Learn 9.1, has allayed my concerns, bringing a fresh look and feel—and responsive design—to existing Original courses and a sleek Ultra view for new ones.” – PCMAGAZINE

  • Transparency – Blackboard Community is growing strong to involve clients in the direction of the product and the needs for clients – and to build community among developers, users, faculty, and system admins.
  • Accountability – Tracking via report cards along with building community as a partner to align needs of institutions with solutions that Blackboard provides. Additional Learn and Collaborate REST APIs will continue, additional LTI placements points for Building Blocks in the Ultra experience, activity stream support including Caliper, fully committee to delivery product experiences that conform to global accessibility concerns (W3C, Section 508 Compliance, BSI) with Learn and Collaborate being the most accessible platforms in the education market today. 200 partners and over 3,000 extensions. 
  • NEW! Open Innovation Initiative – A FREE open license for developers for the ability to test integrations.


  • 203 clients on SaaS
  • 68 additional migrations underway
  • 52 more evaluations and pilots
  • Awarded: aws competency status via Amazon

Blackboard is a partner for you to provide flexibility in deployment for your needs:

#CampusTech – Making the Most of Multimedia

Session Description: Technological advances have put multimedia directly into the hands of faculty and students. It is not uncommon to find video lectures, interactive modules, audio/video assignment feedback, and other multimedia tools used in both online and face-to-face courses. Learn how to take your multimedia content to the next level. This presentation explains how to use audio, images and video effectively to make your presentations and courses more engaging. Additionally, you’ll see examples of mini-lecture videos, audio feedback and screencasts from faculty at the University of Cincinnati.

Speakers: JP Long, Nikki Holden, University of Cincinnati


  • What is multimedia? Well… it’s anything digital eg.: webcam videos, screen recordings, lectures, guest speakers, presentation slides, interactive applications, etc.
  • Online Learning at CECH: 8,163 faculty created videos in CECH were produced, 13,927 student created videos, 23,015 faculty created videos in all of UC.
  • Benefits of multimedia: add instructor presence, demonstrate processes, promote UDL, increase retention, reinforce learning objectives, etc.
  • UC faculty use self-produced videos such as screencasts, lectures, software demos, assignment feedback, student video assignments, web conferencing tools, interactive modules, etc. 

Four Best Practices of Design

  1. Contrast
  2. Repetition
  3. Alignment
  4. Proximity

Design tips from presentationzen:

#CampusTech – Creative Leadership: A Human-Centered Approach to Building Technology Strategies

Session Description: Student and stakeholder engagement throughout the strategic development process is essential to creating technology that is relevant, effective and forward-looking. Taking a human-centered approach, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism partnered with innovation and strategy firm MO Studio to redesign an annual Student Technology Survey. Initially designed as a tool to collect basic usage data, it is now being used as a platform to increase student engagement. By building student empathy, focusing on collaborative design and generating insight, the school is able to better understand how students learn and faculty teach and to use this understanding to drive better technology decisions. The team will share the story of the approach, outcomes and impact of this process on the school’s ongoing strategic effort to develop an innovative technology roadmap.

Speakers: James Vasquez, CIO, University of Southern California and Sue Tan and Jeff Scheire, MO Studio


  • Survey… it all begin with a tech based survey. What tech are students using… now >>> asking about the student experience and not focused on technology hardware/software.
  • Map a users journey – the best services are designed around a broad understanding of the different interrelated moments along an end-to-end experience that balances, supports, and evolves to support academic priorities: awareness > consideration > commitment > experience > reflection
  • What keeps you up at night?

  • A survey can be more than just a tool to collect basic usage data – desire for deeper use: 1) how might we create a holistic survey that provides insight to prepare use to go from practical to strategic, 2) how to design a survey that is engaging, and 3) how can we use a survey to experiment with new ways of engaging students for feedback and ideas.
  • It’s about how the technology adds value to teh learning experience and not about th technology.
  • Vision > Value > Student Experience > Facilities and Resources
  • Design Thinking approach: 1) understand the problem, 2) reimagine the solution, 3) execute and deliver
  • Survey has 16 questions with 3 open ended… “how might we questions”.
  • Uncover insights (why) from the opinions (what) shared by users.

The Annenberg Digital Lounge was an outcome and provided the insight of importance of communicating with students that such a valuable resource was available.

The Digital Lounge is a creative makerspace where members of the Annenberg community can learn to experiment and play with the digital tools they have received as part of the Digital Literacy Initiative. We are located on the third floor of our new, state-of-the-art building, Wallis Annenberg Hall, located right in the heart of campus and literally designed to foster creativity, collaboration and media. Through workshops, events, helpdesk support and Adobe Certification Courses, we aim to promote a DIY culture that empowers our students to create and learn, regardless of their background or prior experience. From audio to video, to interactivity and the web, we want to make these tools approachable and fun for all!

In closing…