Sumter, SC, United States
Behind every computer there is, obviously, meticulously crafted hardware that allows everything to function correctly. From wires to buttons and from microchips to high-resolution screens. We all know this, but rarely think about the human element that put it all together, the person who designed with a pencil the first draft of what the computer screen was going to look like and wrote the code, correcting it thousands of times. In Blackboard Open LMS, the human element is taken very seriously.
That is why Blackboard Open LMS created a team made up of experts that help the costumer reach all their teaching and learning needs in just one platform. This is referred to “in the biz” as Software as a Service (SaaS), because they don’t want to sell just a program and a bunch of code, they understand that the program is used by humans, for humans. They are with you every step of the way until you reach the platform you invisioned.
In order to understand the human element behind the machine, E-Learn Magazine spoke to Terri Ann Bennet, director of the client engagement team who explained the way her “machine”, or her team, works.
Whenever you acquire new software or even open an account on a website, you have to sign a contract, or at least agree with the terms and conditions we rarely read. In Blackboard, this isn’t the case. The first step is to go to the sales team, who tell you how everything works, and offer you a package based on your previous knowledge of Blackboard, the goals of your company and other characteristics. There is the Foundations Package, which is for clients with more Blackboard knowledge and a small team. The Smart Start Package is for clients who need a little more help starting out and who are larger institutions. The Enterprise Package is only available in certain areas of the world, because this package allows face-to-face implementation of your Blackboard Open LMS site. This way, the client can choose to implement the Blackboard Open LMS service in three different ways, whichever seems more convenient.
After signing the contract, you get a welcome presentation by the Engagement Manager. This is a person who has been assigned to you from the very beginning so that if there is a problem, you have a name to call. Your EM will call you and welcome you to Blackboard. Next, the EM works as the “sign up” sheet you have to fill out when joining a new service. The EM will get to know you as a person, will understand your needs, will ask you exactly what it is that you want for the site that you just acquired, and will give you an idea of what the finished product will look like.
Next, your EM will introduce your Configuration Consultant. The role of a CC is a very technical one, and could be likened to the step-by-step instructions on a website about what each and every button does and how to use it, and you have to press ‘next’ to keep going. There are six CC’s in the client engagement team and they offer different languages, such as English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish. The CC ultimately helps you put the puzzle together. Depending on what you want and need, the CC will help you put your page together, will add all the different applications you need, and will even guide you through creating the course catalogs for your class.
After going through the Configuration Consultant, your page should be up and running perfectly. By this time you should already know the basics of Blackboard, so that if there are any changes, you can handle them yourself. However, there are always a few issues, and Blackboard doesn’t leave you all alone to handle them on your own. They work with a ticket system.
One of the two administrators that are allowed per page is welcome to submit a ticket, which will go directly to the Tier One team, or the Application Specialist. A ticket is simply a request for someone to take a look at a problem that the page is presenting. The Tier One team is the first one to look at the problem and to try to fix it. If Tier One can’t solve it, they will send it to Tier Two, which will then do a more thorough job of looking at the code more closely, to make sure there aren’t any glitches in the system.
If the client chooses, they can “escalate” a ticket, which means that they will send it directly to their Engagement Manager so that a more personalized way of fixing the problem can be found. Depending on the seriousness of the ticket, if it’s an emergency or a high priority, one of the six teams all over the world will be able to help you, since they are located in six different time zones, and therefore provide 24/7 support. If the priority is medium or low, someone in your same time zone will help you on the next business day. Technology is a big part of our lives, and somehow we still think that every program we use on a daily basis just magically appears before our eyes. Terri Ann Bennet knows this is not the case and that it takes hard work, time and a lot of communication to keep a client happy. She attributes the worldwide success Blackboard has enjoyed to the effectiveness of the client engagement team, because the client never feels he’s been left alone. He knows he has support. It’s clear after reviewing each of these steps that the “machine” behind Blackboard is made up of muscle and bone.
* Terri Ann Bennet – Director of Client Engagement, Blackboard.
* Alex Holt.