Not Your Father’s Blackboard

Dave's Blog 10-30Even the name conjures images of a classroom, so you wouldn’t be faulted for subconsciously linking Blackboard’s LMS solely with higher education learning. However, there have been a lot of changes at Blackboard over the past few years. Just a year ago, founder and CEO Michael Chasen left the company and new CEO Jay Bhatt stepped in. Bhatt comes from Autodesk, a provider of 3D design software and not from anywhere inside the learning technology space. Earlier this year, he brought in three more high-level executives from his former company, and there have been many other personnel shifts.  All of this points to Blackboard trying to change the market perception of who the company is. I spoke with company representatives, and there is excitement around the new direction.

One of the areas of focus for the near future is global expansion with an eye on Europe, Latin America and Asia. Blackboard is also looking to devote more focus on its mobile offering, which has been around since the company acquired TerriblyClever back in 2009, before many LMS providers even knew mobile was a thing.

But the big change (and challenge) for Blackboard is the push to capture more of the corporate market. It already has customers like ADP, Intel  and ConocoPhillips, so the system can clearly service big corporate clients. The challenge comes from shaking the industry perception that Blackboard is only for higher education. But Blackboard has the same tools at its disposal as the other players in the LMS space, as well as a head start in some other areas. The acquisition of Moodlerooms positions Blackboard to take advantage of the growing interest in open-source solutions. Also, Blackboard is using place straddling the corporate/education border to explore massive open online courses (MOOCs) for the enterprises. MOOCs have exploded in popularity among higher education and personal learning, but companies have yet to figure out how to leverage them for the enterprise. Blackboard is already ahead of the game here.

Expect to continue to hear noise from Blackboard as the new executive team points the company in new directions. Bhatt’s explicitly stated goal is to change the path of the company and its perception within the industry.

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