BBWorld 2021 Highlights: What’s New At Blackboard This Year?

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LMS powerhouse Blackboard held the latest BBWorld 2021 last July. A fully online event —that’s still available on demand— where experts in education and technology share ideas, thoughts and even discuss paths for what is coming for the company and its thousands of clients (16 as of 2017), likely the largest LMS vendor worldwide.

To watch the sessions and download the presentations (where available), you need to sign up for free at and log in with the same registration credentials at

The Keynotes

To luminaries the status of First Lady Jill Biden, Ed. D. and Temple Grandin, this year joined the BBWorld keynote roster:

  • Haben Girma. Disability Justice Lawyer, author, speaker and equal rights advocate, Haben is the first deafblind person to graduate from Harvard Law. Watch here.
  • Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III. President of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County since 1992 and listed in 2012’s Most Influential People in the World by Time magazine. Watch here (same stream)Q&A

Chief’s Sampler

In the session “Paving the Path for Students of Underrepresented Groups” Jeannine Richardson, Blackboard’s Director of Solutions Engineering for K-12, led a roundtable focusing, among other things, on the role of inclusion as an ingredient to lead and move education forward in the midst of a global crisis.

The Transformation to Hybrid Laboratories During COVID-19: University of Sharjah’s Experience” with Head of Academic Computing Section at University, Anissa Bettayeb, walks throught the process that led to successful implementation of “hybrid labs” at one of UAE’s top universities.

Syracuse’s Jason Webb showcase, “Beyond the Green Screen – XR and Blackboard” is an all-round cool tour around “Hollywood-rivaling” developments in the field of storytelling through extended reality.

Retention: Definitions, Measurements, Reporting and Interventions,” another MasterClass by IntelliBoard’s Dr. Tonya Riney, who gives us an up-to-date look at retention and engagement measurements, proactive interventions and modeling approaches using state of the art learning analytics tools.

The Future is (bright for) Black(Board)

  • Blackboard Data just launched a “Developer Mode,” offering a database query language interface within the LMS; as well as granular telemetry on mobile devices which tracks “every single click.” These will continue to roll out across the global service regions. Down the pipeline, AWS QuickSight integration, more metrics for proprietary videoconferencing plugin Collaborate and model extensibility. Perhaps most notably is “Blackboard Achieve,” an analytics modules that aims to use data to validate online education policy.
  • Blackboard Collaborate, the company’s answer to the zooms, meets and teams, is picking up the slack, with better mobile and gallery view performance. Soon the progress will continue with a whiteboard, bulk recording management, automated live captioning and transcriptions, and ultimately an integration with Amazon Chime SDK.
  • Blackboard Ally, one of Blackboard’s most noble contributions to accessibility in the space, remains strong. The “Ally Transformer” module will become more closely integrated to the LMS, offering built-in instant document accessibility fixing capabilities. Usability improvements are expected to increase conversion rates and surpass the already record-breaking compliance rates reported for the 2020-2021 school year.
  • Blackboard Learn Original has made it official. The company will go full SaaS by 2023, time when self-hosted instances will stop being serviced. (Managed hosting will end by 2022.) Meaning the future involves plenty of SaaS migration and familiarization of “Base,” Blackboard’s SaaS default theme. Eventually Original will cease to unify every learning experience under Ultra. To the recently improved support for microcredentials, Badgr and LTI, on the horizon are built-in Ally Transformer and pronouns displayed next to the users’s name.
  • Blackboard Learn Ultra follows a parallel roadmap, and sets itself up to become the only Blackboard experience by 2024. Microsoft Teams integration and micro-reactions (quick emoji-based feedback) are on the horizon, along with “feature flagging”: The ability to turn on or off new features at will by administrators during a given period.
  • Blackboard Training and Development Manager (TDM) provides a continuing education and outreach dashboard that connects with Learn and adds features like course templates, and administration and role panel, and payment processing integration. Coming up, support for microcredentials, approvals and hierarchy sync.

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