What is Blackboard? An In-Depth Guide on How Blackboard Works

What is Blackboard and why is it important for educators and businesses? These questions will be answered in this article.

Educators and businesses that want to teach their learners can consider Blackboard. It is a learning management system that is used for creating and delivering online courses to learners.

Blackboard features a customizable open architecture, a course management system, as well as a scalable design that you can merge with authentication processes and the information systems of the students.

In this article, I will walk you through what Blackboard is. At the end of this article, you would have learned how the platform can help you improve your employees’ skills.

What is Blackboard?

Blackboard refers to a customizable online learning platform that can be used to either replace or supplement face-to-face training. The equivalents of many conventional classroom functions can also be found in Blackboard.

Hence, students and educators will be able to have the same experience that they have in physical classroom settings.

In an online setting, the teacher can provide materials to students through a digital medium. The teacher can also communicate with the students using online tools and students can collaborate online.

However, a hybrid setting allows the class to meet in person for some minutes per week and utilize Blackboard activities that students work on outside the course.

Finally, a web-enhanced setting may have face-to-face classes, but instructors can provide syllabus, assignments, and discussions online.

SEE: Why You Should Take an Online Class

What Are the Features of Blackboard?

Highlighted below are the features of Blackboard that can help you boost efficiency, enhance course accessibility, and increase assessment capabilities.

1. Cloud Storage Integration

This feature helps you save time by enabling you to upload documents directly from the cloud storage solution of your choice when you are creating assignments or content. Also, your students can upload assignments from any solution of their choice.

2. Course Availability Status

This feature allows you to see your course’s availability to students. You can also change the availability from the main course view.

3. Attendance Tracking

With the attendance tracking feature, you can easily mark your student as present, late, absent, or excused. You will find each of the students’ attendance records in a single column close to other grades in the grade book.

Also, there are profile pictures on the Attendance page. This makes it easy for you to identify the students.

4. Grade Center Enhancements

This feature allows you to view the full titles of Grade Center columns. As a result, you will be able to easily differentiate between other items with similar titles. Also, you can view as many columns as your browser’s window permits.

More so, you can use the Grade Center full-screen mode to get the best experience from your desktop.

5. Enhanced Mobile Experience

To enjoy the mobile experience, Blackboard is optimized for mobile devices. The system and course level navigation, journals, blogs, tests, and the learning modules tool are optimized for mobile devices so that your students can learn on the go.

6. Admin Controls

Admins can easily manage courses, groups (or organizations), messages, tools, calendars, grades, and institution pages directly from the main dashboard.

Institutions are the homepage of your account and you will be able to create different institutions and also brand them separately.

This feature allows you to share Blackboard online training with various organizations.

7. Group Notifications

Blackboard has extensive automated notifications that allow users to have control over how and when they want to be notified.

From your profile, you can send messages through email, push notifications, or text. You can also select the messages that you want to show in your streams.

Also, the tool allows you to create any automated notifications you need. You have options such as institution announcements, new discussions, assignments, grade updates, events, due date reminders, and lots more.

8. Course Building

Blackboard allows you to add more content to your course by either uploading or dragging-and-dropping files. Also, you can import the content via the platform’s Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and other cloud-based accounts.

Furthermore, instructors can incorporate tests, documents, links, journals, and folders into courses. That’s not all, you can also copy another course, get items from other courses within the platform, and import an entire course package.

You can easily set time limits or pre-requisites for viewing content. For instance, you may want a student to complete a task or get a particular score before proceeding to the next item.

You can also divide course items into modules for students to complete in a particular order.

9. Custom Branding

Blackboard allows you to brand each of the institutions in your account. You can do this by uploading an image, assigning brand colors. This helps you create an attractive custom interface.

With Blackboard, you will enjoy lots of control over your account’s user interfaces.

10. Collaborate

This feature is a native conferencing tool of Blackboard. You will need to purchase this feature separately. Collaborate refers to a virtual Blackboard classroom where users can do many things.

In this classroom, users can meet, share apps and files, and also work on a virtual whiteboard.

You can use Collaborate on mobile devices; thereby making it easy for members of a specific team to connect anywhere they are.

What Are the Benefits of Blackboard?

The main benefits of Blackboard are embedded in its mobile support, pricing flexibility, and ease of use. Here are the benefits of Blackboard in detail:

Benefits for Learners

Students and learners benefit from Blackboard in different ways. Blackboard can be used on all forms of tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices thereby allowing users to access the platform irrespective of where they are.

Blackboard’s dashboard is also intuitive and can be easily navigated (just like existing social platforms).

SEE: What You Need to Know About Online Learning

Benefits for Educators

Blackboard equips educators with different methods that they can use to improve engagement from their students. The methods can also be used to motivate students to attain their full potential.

Benefits for Businesses

Businesses can use Blackboard to encourage learners in their companies to be connected through Blackboard’s collaboration suite. Businesses can also exercise control over any form of learning that is taking place in the organization.

Blackboard bridges the gap between learning and real-time support. This fosters professional development and competitiveness within companies that use it.

Since Blackboard integrates with third-party learning management systems, it makes it easy for data to flow between other forms of business software.

Companies can also enjoy features such as Student previews, collaborative integrations, calendars, SafeAssign, and data management amongst others.

More so, Blackboard extensions allow corporate users to easily acquire additional functions that they need.

Also, businesses don’t need to bother about the price tag because Blackboard has a flexible pricing scheme that charges users for their orders.

Customer Support

You can easily get in touch with customer support to fix any problem that you encounter while using the system.

Pricing

Blackboard offers users a 30-day free trial so that they can decide if the system meets their needs. The duration of the free trial is longer than some other products. Notwithstanding, there is no free tier.

The pricing information on the company’s website has no details of the pricing. Instead, you will need to contact the company to get a quote that aligns with your needs.

While I respect this method, I think it is frustrating because potential buyers need to provide their contact information. This can make the process of getting a quote lengthy.

When I researched further, I discovered that Blackboard starts at $9,500, thereby making it a costly purchase. With such a price, I understand why salespeople are hired to sell this system.

Support

Considering the price of the product, I am not impressed with the kind of support the company offers, especially the direct contact options.

Although there are many pre-made content to serve as support for students, there are times when the intervention of a human being can help solve issues.

The support path for instructors is also disappointing. There are no direct support options. The pre-made answers ended with a message directing instructors to get support from their institution. Many users will not be satisfied with this.

Pros

  • The tool has a huge collection of educational tools and services.
  • It is in partnership with many academic publishers.
  • The tool has features that make the tool easily accessible.
  • Its responsive design improves legacy courses while the Ultra course view enables support for richer courses.
  • It supports large-scale video conferencing.

Cons

  • The Ultra courses do not have features that can be found in legacy courses.
  • You need a cloud-based SaaS configuration to Ultra experience.

Who is Blackboard For?

Blackboard is good at providing learning experiences at scale. The company serves over 100 million users in 90 countries.

Blackboard is designed for businesses that have complex training needs. The tool does not support e-commerce, so it may not be ideal for companies that want to sell online courses.

It’s important to state that Blackboard is not the easiest platform to use. Thus, if you need a platform that everyone can easily use, you may need to consider cloud-native alternatives like Lessonly or WorkRamp.

More so, you can get the pricing by quote. Hence, you will need to talk to a sales representative to know if it suits your budget.

How Do Blackboard Classes Work?

Unlike the traditional face-to-face model, participants on Blackboard interact online. Educators deliver their course materials in online formats. They can also interact with students using online tools.

What are the Most Effective Features of Blackboard?

According to reports obtained from students and instructors, gradebook, assignments, and course documents are the most useful features of Blackboard.

One of the most important features of any learning management system is the ability to have access to course material, assignments, and gradebook, and the tool offers these.

FAQs

Is Blackboard free?

Blackboard offers a free trial subscription to instructors and learners through a website known as CourseSites. The features on trial accounts are limited and such accounts cannot have access to paid courses.

The paid services of Blackboard include the full LMSes, Blackboard Learn, and Blackboard Ultra.

Is Blackboard an LMS?

Yes, Blackboard is an LMS. The tool is used for creating, delivering, and managing courses. The two versions of the tool include Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Learn Ultra.

Also, it provides allied software apart from its LMSes; these include Blackboard Collaborate, (a web conferencing platform), SafeAssign (a software for detecting plagiarism), and Blackboard Ally (an accessibility software).

What is Blackboard used for?

Blackboard is a course management system that allows students or learners and educators to participate in classes that are delivered via the internet. The tool also allows the use of online materials and activities to replace face-to-face learning.

How much does Blackboard cost?

You can only get Blackboard’s pricing via quotation. The tool is sold through an annual subscription and also comes with additional charges for more features. To get the pricing, simply contact one of Blackboard’s sales representatives.

Conclusion

Blackboard can be used by businesses, schools of all levels, and government organizations. It has smartphone apps, integrated tools such as an anti-plagiarism checker. It also gives educators the autonomy to use their style of education.

Despite its significant downsides, the tool plays a key role in helping companies and educators to increase efficiency, improve course accessibility, and enhance assessment capabilities.

You can consider the 30-day free trial to see if it meets the needs of your business or institution.

Apart from Blackboard, here are other digital education tools that teachers and students can make use of.

Thanks for reading.