London, United Kingdom
Phillip Miller is the International Vice President of Open Source services at Blackboard. He has worked there and in Blackboard Open LMS, the main Open Source product for education from Blackboard for over 10 years. Phillip works with 1,500 Blackboard Open LMS clients from all over the world and helps shape the roadmap of this open source platform in a way such that these organizations can reach their teaching and learning goals. What open source means is that each client has access to the most widely used LMS in the world, and on top of that, has the opportunity to modify it to meet their specific needs.
“Open source is important in education. I think the open source philosophy is very close to the philosophy of open research, open interaction and open dialogue in education”, Phillip explained. He appreciates the fact that teaching is done by teachers and the learning by students. However, Blackboard Open LMS acts as a tool, as a vehicle to make education simpler in today’s world. “Our perspective on learning is how we support instructors and students in the field, in order to provide better teaching and learning experiences”.
One of the newest tools available in Blackboard Open LMS is called X-Ray Learning Analytics. When teachers teach in a physical classroom, they know in real time who is paying attention, who is participating, and who isn’t. However, it would seem impossible to know all this in a virtual classroom. With X-Ray Learning Analytics, teachers have various indicators for their students, such as activity and participation, and how much critical thinking is going on within students’ private chat rooms, and by using all that data, the program can predict activity levels and can actually suggest final grades for each student.
“Blackboard, in its desire to be a global leader in education, realized that if you want to have an impact on education, you have to be part of that movement. There is no other company in the world that wakes up thinking about teaching and learning using technology and puts as much effort and commercial weight behind that. That is where we want to go, just to reach the next step in the LMS”, said Phillip. He appreciates that instead of being a company that just creates software, the Blackboard and Blackboard Open LMS teams have to constantly communicate with their clients. Everything from a design team to product managers to focus groups, for making sure that the client has what he needs. “We have a series of services that we wrap around the teaching and learning space, that try to go beyond the technology and focus on how we really implement processes and procedures that help students be more successful and programs be more effective”.
“Our perspective on learning is how we support instructors and students in the field, in order to provide better teaching and learning experiences.”
Phillip explains that ten years ago, LMS software like Blackboard Open LMS and Blackboard Learn was viewed as a luxury. Today, it is assumed by default that institutions and universities have some form of LMS. Bearing this in mind, the real objective for Blackboard is to go beyond technology and software development and try to envision the future of education. “The next phase for us is moving towards really tracking competence as opposed to degrees, and skills as opposed to hours in a classroom. I think that in the future we are going to see people be more focused on sets of skills that people want to have in order to make them job ready”, Phillip explained. This is why Blackboard is reaching out not only to educational institutions but also to corporations that want to give their workers specific skills, and Blackboard’s mission is to make sure students get to learn those skills and to try to track them. “The future is analytics, it is personalization of learning, it is allowing people to take courses across multiple universities or cities. We are trying to think beyond just an LMS on its own”.
* Phil Miller – International Vice President of Open Source Services, Blackboard.