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It is no secret that impactful student success and analytics initiatives are as much about strategy and human intervention as they are about technology, if not more so. However, over the years, many institutions have been consumed – and in some cases overwhelmed – by the technology, and have focused less on the strategy. As a result, institutions have not been able to extract value from data and put insight into action. Blackboard's response to this is to make a commitment to support its analytics customers by creating a community in which institutions can collaborate around data and analytics in higher education, and share best practices. This is significant; the industry needs vendor partners that focus not only on their products but also on building a community in which institutions can share good practice, in turn driving a better return from student success and analytics activities.

Blackboard thinks beyond its analytics products

When asked in Ovum's 2016/17 ICT Enterprise Insights survey what IT projects would have the highest priority over the next 18 months, as measured by total spend, the highest percentage of institutional respondents (26%) selected analytics as their number-one priority. These findings indicate that institutional willingness and appetite for more transformative efforts is growing, and that higher education is becoming a more data-driven industry. However, though the more transformative usage of analytics has been a topic of heated discussion for some time, few institutions have taken the next step and made investments to move these conversations from the theoretical to the concrete.

Improving retention and ultimately ensuring student success are two of the most important business challenges for institutions, yet barriers such as cost, lack of expertise, and siloed student success and analytics efforts are preventing institutions from realizing substantive progress on the whole. Blackboard, as a partner to higher education, is trying to change this by helping institutions – particularly those that have a plethora of tools but difficulty in using them to maximize output from data – to extract more value from their data and improve student success. The company recently announced new student success tools, such as Blackboard Predict and X-Ray Learning Analytics; however, it is not limiting its efforts to just the products. Rather, Blackboard is working in support of the community to bring users together to discuss challenges and share what works. For example, at the end of 2016, Blackboard created a customer advisory board for Blackboard Analytics, along with a monthly community newsletter, and more recently it hosted the Blackboard Analytics Symposium.

In Ovum's view, while Blackboard is encouraging collaboration in the community and shining a light on high-impact student success and analytics initiatives, it must also balance these efforts with a commitment to its product and services roadmap. In addition, Blackboard should make it a strategic priority to simplify its offerings and educate institutions on the best way to use the tools at their disposal. There is a large group of institutions that have been Blackboard customers for a long time and are advocating for the company's success, as well as their own. In return, Blackboard must dedicate more resources to delivering on all of the promises it makes to its customers, in addition to the work it is currently doing to bring the community together.


Further reading

Enterprise Case Study: Exposing Data While Maintaining Security, IT0007-000931 (January 2017)

2017 Trends to Watch: Higher Education, IT0008-000285 (November 2016)

On the Radar: Blackboard Planner and Blackboard Advise help students to plan a career path and stay on track, IT0008-000280 (August 2016)


Navneet Johal, Research Analyst, Education Technology

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