Mexico City, Mexico
Nancy Olmos and Abraham López are Blackboard Customer Success Advocates for Latin America, and as such their work includes ensuring that company clients adopt solutions as effectively as possible and get the best value out of them. To this end, they have detected eleven key practices to guarantee that Blackboard solutions become more efficient and enriching tools.
The two experts maintain that a successful and effective adoption involves many of the following aspects that go beyond the mere implementation of the platform:
Goals: Universities must reach their targets.
Efficiency: Teachers must be efficient in terms of the results they get from their students and the way they support their learning process.
Quality: It is of the essence for all learning experiences as it allows the institution to retain more students and improve its reputation.
Support: Blackboard must support institutional accreditation processes at different levels in order to foster institutional growth.
Cost Effectiveness: There must be a measurable return on institutions’ investment. If the benefits to an institution are greater than its investment in the tool, institutions are very likely to use other Blackboard solutions and achieve even better results.
Satisfaction: Students must be satisfied with their professor’s teaching and learning follow-up methods and also with the way teachers use the applicable tools.
Regarding the eleven key practices identified by the Customer Success Advocates, Nancy Olmos and Abraham López point out that each institution can choose to implement either all or some of them, depending not only on their objectives but also on their strengths and weaknesses.
Set up a well-trained and fully-updated team
Make sure that all team members using Blackboard Learn are duly trained on the effective management and use of the platform and provide them with access to resources such as updates, changes, best practices, problem-solving strategies, etc.
Determine an adoption strategy
Who is going to use the platform? All teachers? All classes? Only certain faculties? Who is going to develop the courses? A course development team? Teachers alone? These are some of the decisions that should be made before introducing the technology, as they are vital to know the ultimate objectives of the platform implementation. The strategy should also be communicated to everyone at the institution and aligned with its targets.
Establish a recognition policy
Teacher engagement is an essential part of the adoption policy. If the best users of the platform are recognized, other teachers will be encouraged and inspired to take advantage of the tool and advanced users will look for new ways to bring technology into their classrooms. Recognition can take various forms: a thank you note or certificate, or a special mention via the institution’s internal communication channels.
Create an incentive for adoption
It is important to get both teachers and students to understand all the benefits Blackboard has to offer. Both experts advise institutions to concentrate on the platform’s key assets, such as integrated grades or the possibility to use Blackboard Collaborate as a videoconference tool or Blackboard Analytics to monitor student progress. Thus, the whole community will understand the features and importance of the platform.
Organize events to share experiences and exchange ideas
This refers to hosting institutional events where teachers can explain how they use Blackboard solutions to their colleagues from other disciplines. This in turn will lead to an exchange of ideas and cooperation between teachers, helping them overcome their doubts or think of new ways to exploit the tool
Establish a permanent training strategy
Every institution has different types of teachers:
1. Those who are not afraid of technology and are eager to learn everything about the tool.
2. Those who are highly motivated by the possibilities and eager to learn, but do not have good technological skills.
3. Those who have plenty of teaching experience, even with technology, but have no motivation to learn more.
4. Those who are not interested in learning new things or in using technology in the classroom.
All these types of teachers need different combinations of training resources, modalities, durations and supporting resources
Find possible uses for solutions outside the classroom
Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate are extremely powerful tools that can be used in many ways, and not just in the classroom. They can be used to train teachers, support certification processes, assist in potential student selection processes, survey the opinions of graduates to make improvements, and help design student retention mechanisms. If institutions wish to implement the platform to its full potential, they must identify the processes for which it could be a ready-made solution.
Acknowledge innovations and achievements
It is important for institutions to acknowledge the platform’s value to raise expectations in the education community. Information on available resources, functions and achievements using the platform can be disseminated through internal communication channels.
Establish mechanisms to measure users’ experience
Improving Blackboard’s use is not only a matter of good intentions or practices from a technological or educational standpoint: it is also about the impact these practices have on the student-teacher experience. There are everyday factors that are not registered by access statistics or by the number of courses using the platform, meaning that there is a need to implement mechanisms to assess the experience of final Blackboard users. What do they enjoy most, or what is the most valuable aspect for them? What should be improved? To what extent does course design meet their needs or expectations? What makes their use of the platform easier? What obstacles do they find? These are just a few of the questions that institutions must be able to answer. Opinion surveys, focus groups and interviews are some of the methods that can be used to obtain these qualitative measurements to support an ongoing improvement process.
Make permanent support mechanisms available
The experts also recommend institutions to invest in a group of specialists who can provide the user community with support at three fundamental levels:
1. Technical, to solve problems related to the platform’s functioning and optimal operation.
2. Functional, to help users exploit the available tools and functionalities better as they get familiar with the platform.
3. Pedagogical, to support teachers in implementing teaching strategies, which results in academic improvements supported by Blackboard.
Gather existing evidence and make well-informed decisions
In order to ensure that technology is adopted successfully, it is important for institutions to understand their current system’s features, levels, patterns, types of use, their connection with teaching strategies, etc. To do this, they must pay attention to the analytic data produced on a daily basis and use it to identify potential failures and achievements, so that they can take prompt actions to help students improve.
Blackboard Learn is a powerful tool that can greatly help institutions to generate changes and make significant progress, which include helping dynamize teachers’ methods and improve student’s learning. Blackboard Learn is a fundamental tool to achieve all the necessary goals to help institutions grow and improve.
Nancy Olmos, Blackboard Customer Success Advocates.
Abraham López, Blackboard Customer Success Advocates.