Technology has always played a role in education. During the 19th century, it was the chalkboard that changed how teachers interacted in the classroom.1 During the 20th century, the advent of record players, radios, televisions, and eventually computers, led to the emergence of distance education and greatly increased student access to education. However, the greatest changes have taken place in the last twenty years, with the emergence of e-learning.2 As Blackboard celebrates its 20th anniversary, let’s take a few minutes to look at how education has evolved during this time.
1997 – In 1997, there were 120 million internet users around the world, and a little over 1 million websites available. Now, there are over 3.7 trillion users and 1.2 trillion websites as this article is being written, which is a staggering change.3
1997 – Blackboard Inc. is founded as a technology company, gaining recognition from its inception for providing effective student-driven learning solutions. Since then, the company’s portfolio has evolved to be much broader, spanning teaching and learning software, data analytics tools, community engagement solutions, and campus transactions and security solutions.
1997 – 1999 – Big data emerges as an important part of the internet. In 1997, Michael Lesk estimated the internet consisted of 12,000 petabytes and would increase tenfold each year. In 1999, data pioneer Richard W. Hamming wrote about the need to analyze this growing body of data which he described as “big data.” Such analysis can provide insights resulting in the development of intelligence and research models. Eventually, the emergence of big data will lead to the development of learning analytics, helping instructors identify and assist struggling students.4
1998 – Launch of Blackboard Learn, the first learning management system to gain widespread use. Because of its innovative take on education, content delivery capabilities, and interactive tools, Blackboard Learn eventually becomes the most widely used LMS in the world.
Sept. 4, 1998 – Google is launched and transforms education by making it easier to find and transmit information.5
October 1999 – Connexions is founded as a global repository of open educational resources6. In 2012, it became known as OpenStax, and now has thousands of modules, textbook collections and authors in over 40 different languages.7
2000 – Students graduating from colleges and universities shortly after the millennium face a drastically different job market featuring new types of technologies and jobs.8
2001 – Creative Commons, a non-profit community, develops alternative licenses to copyright. This significantly eases the legal sharing of materials and is a boon to the development of open educational resources.9
Jan. 15, 2001 – Wikipedia is launched making encyclopedias obsolete and transitioning research from libraries to the internet.10
2002 – The term “gamification” comes into play. It is used to teach students in an alternative way by using game-like platforms to impart knowledge. At this time, education is going through radical changes, bringing in new technology and games into the classroom.11
Aug. 20, 2002 – Martin Dougiamas launches Moodle, an open-source LMS created as a way to help educators simply design collaborative online courses.12 Its open source characteristics allows teachers to make changes to the software according to their own needs, for the platform to be a collaborative effort where anyone can edit or update it for the benefit of the community, and for anyone to develop their own plugins that can also be shared with the rest of the world.
October 2002 – Tim O’Riley popularizes the term Web 2.0, emphasizing user-generated content, usability and interoperability. Web 2.0 opened the door to the creation of collaborative tools that would bring significant impact to education and allow students to play a greater role in generating content.13
Feb. 4, 2004 – Facebook launches – and with it the social media frenzy.14 Social media platforms have had a profound impact on the classroom, at times being leveraged as a learning platform, a communication tool, a virtual meeting room, and a vehicle for accessing authors and other personalities.15
Feb. 14, 2005 – YouTube launches, and its teaching and learning capabilities soon emerge. In 2009, YouTube launched YouTube EDU, a volunteer project aimed at collecting and highlighting the best educational content available on YouTube.16
2006 – Twitter is born. The new social media platform allows users to ‘tweet’ (post) messages containing 140 characters or less, by combining social media with the ease of instant messaging.17 Twitter has shown to improve student engagement through regular teacher participation on the platform.18
2006 – The “maker” movement emerges with the growing availability of consumer 3D printing machines. On-demand manufacturing of 3D printing machines comes into play, making printing machines commercially viable.19 With 3D printing, students can create prototypes and build anything they imagine.20
June 29, 2007 – Apple introduces its iPhone, giving way to the smartphone as we know it today21. The widespread availability of the smartphone allows students easy and convenient access to information. It is estimated that in 2017, 2.32 billion people around the world have smartphones,22 and the average age that a child gets their first smartphone is now 10.3 years.23
Nov. 19, 2007 – Amazon introduces the Kindle, the first e-book reader to offer instant online book purchasing. E-book readers offer less waste, lower price points, convenience and instant purchasing – great benefits for students.24
2008 – The Khan Academy is created by Salaman Khan, with the mission to provide a free, world-class education to anyone, anywhere. Courses are made up of bite-sized videos, coupled with step-by-step problems and constant feedback, for a personalized learning experience. Classes range in all types of topics, with the aim to expand into every language so learners worldwide can learn about any topic of interest.25
2008 – Artificial Intelligence (AI) starts to appear in thousands of people’s homes and mobile devices around the world,26 with the capability of speech recognition and the creation of robots for everyday tasks. Although still young, AI in education can potentially automate grading, aid in personalized learning, and identify learning gaps and offer tips to improve them.
May 2009 – Blackboard Inc. expands its open source LMS capabilities with ANGEL Learning, enhancing Blackboard’s customer support ability and increasing the suite of tools available on Blackboard Learn, including a tool developed by ANGEL which helps teachers with at-risk students.
April 3, 2010 – Apple introduces the iPad, a tablet device that is being widely used to teach children in developing countries how to use technology.27
July 2010 – Blackboard Inc. launches Blackboard Collaborate, a web conferencing solution that enables virtual classrooms where students can see their teacher, raise their hand, make comments, and even form groups to work on assignments. Blackboard Collaborate offers an experience in digital learning that includes interpersonal interaction, thus combining both the synchronous and asynchronous learning methods into online learning.
December 2010 – Blackboard Inc. develops Blackboard Analytics, a tool that analyzes student LMS usage, grades, and interaction and engagement data to identify at-risk students and improve student success. Never before have teachers had the opportunity to receive concise data on student class engagement and satisfaction, helping them to be more in control of their classroom and help students in need.
2011 – Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig’s Stanford University Artificial Intelligence Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) enrolls 160,000 students from around the world.28
2012 – Leveraging the success of his AI MOOC, Sebastian Thrun launches Udacity, a MOOC provider that offers hundreds of free courses as well as nanodegrees to improve learners’ employability skills.29 The goal is to deliver credentials endorsed by the employer, while educating at a fraction of the cost over the traditional school model.30
2012 – Harvard University and MIT launch their own MOOC provider, EdX which partners with more than 90 partners globally, including some of the world’s leading universities, offering courses to students around the world.31 At the same time, Daphne Koeller and Andrew Ng, two Stanford University computer science professors, launch their own MOOC provider, Coursera.32
2012 – Adaptive Learning, an educational method that uses technology to achieve personalized learning by monitoring and adapting learning materials to the student’s unique needs, gains traction.33
March 26, 2012 – Blackboard Inc. expands its open source offering with Blackboard Open LMS and NetSpot, both Moodle solutions hosted on the Blackboard cloud and which offer hosting support and consulting services to clients using open source technology.
2014 – Mobile learning grows to become an important aspect of e-learning and distance education. Globally, there are more people with access to a mobile device than a computer,34 with teenagers being mostly cellphone users.35 Educational mobile applications start to become more popular, offering more flexibility since learning can be done anytime, anywhere.36
August 2015 – Blackboard Inc. welcomes Nivel Siete into the Blackboard family. Through this addition, Blackboard expands its presence into the Latin American market, while also spreading the use of Blackboard Open LMS, its open source LMS, and providing customers with learning solutions, hosting, support and consulting services.
December 1, 2015 – Blackboard expands its analytics offering with Blue Canary, a higher education predictive analytics engine that helps institutions glean powerful data-driven insights and use them to improve student success.
2016 – The Internet of Things (IoT), the connection of everyday objects over the internet, gains worldwide recognition from the media even though it’s been around for decades.37 Today, schools are using IoT to track school buses and student attendance.38 Even though IoT is still in its infancy stage, its impact on education could be significant if classrooms and entire campuses become connected to the internet.
March 28, 2016 – Oculus Rift is released to the general public, and with it comes the possibility of taking virtual reality and augmented reality into the homes of thousands of people. Although Oculus Rift was created for gaming, today, virtual reality headsets are being used in higher education to give students a better understanding of the world around them.39
Oct. 26, 2016 – Blackboard Inc. further enhances its portfolio offering with the addition of Fronteer, a leading educational technology company that specializes in student engagement and accessibility, solidifying its commitment to accessibility for all learners, with all types of learning styles and abilities.
May 18, 2017 – Blackboard Inc. launches Blackboard Ally on Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Blackboard Ally is a system that integrates with an institution’s existing LMS that helps institutions gain greater insight into the accessibility of their digital course content and makes user generated content more accessible through the creation of accessible versions of course materials.
Technological advances have led to profound educational changes over the last 20 years. The classroom of 2017 is an interactive and globally connected place where data insights drive personalized assistance to students that ultimately helps them succeed. Blackboard is proud to be a part of this digital revolution. Today we are excited to explore new technologies and services that have the potential to greatly improve student and institutional access and success, whether it be artificial intelligence, data analytics, universal accessibility, natural language processing, or adaptive learning. And we are committed to innovating for an even brighter, more informed future of education.
1 Concordia University – The History of the Classroom Blackboard – In: http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/reference-material/the-history-of-the-classroom-blackboard/ Consulted on: August 2017
2 UK Essays. Education has changed over the years education essay. On: https://www.ukessays.com/essays/education/education-has-changed-over-the-years-education-essay.php Consulted on September 2017
3 Internet Live Stats -Total number of Websites Internet Live Stats. In: http://www.internetlivestats.com/total-number-of-websites/ Consulted on: August 2017
4 Forbes. A very short history of Big Data. On: https://www.forbes.com/sites/gilpress/2013/05/09/a-very-short-history-of-big-data/#4e2235bc65a1. Consulted on September 2017
5 Google.com From the garage to the Googleplex. https://www.google.com/intl/en/about/our-story/ Consulted on: August 2017
6 OpenStax CNX. Project History. On: https://legacy.cnx.org/aboutus/project/history. Consulted on September 2017.
7 OpenStax. Connexions is now OpenStax CNX. On: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mFJ0F0VlYaI. Consulted on September 2017.
8 Digital Marketing Institute – 10 Jobs That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago. On: https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/10-jobs-didnt-exist-10-years-ago Consulted on: August 2017
9 Creative Commons. History. On: https://wiki.creativecommons.org/wiki/History. Consulted on September 2017.
10 The Telegraph – How Wikipedia changed the world. On http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/wikipedia/12100516/How-Wikipedia-changed-the-world.html. Consulted on August 2017
11 Growth Engineering. The Birth of Gamification (History of Gamification Pt.2). On: http://www.growthengineering.co.uk/the-birth-of-gamification-history-of-gamification-pt-2/ Consulted on August 2017
12 Moodle.Org. History. On: https://docs.moodle.org/33/en/History. Consulted on August 2017
13 O’Rilley. What is Web 2.0. On: http://www.oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html. Consulted on August 2017
14 The Guardian. A Brief History of Facebook. On: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2007/jul/25/media.newmedia. Consulted on August 2017
15 Edutopia. A Guidebook for Social Media in the Classroom. On; https://www.edutopia.org/blog/guidebook-social-media-in-classroom-vicki-davis Consulted on August 2017
16 YouTube. Official Blog. On: https://youtube.googleblog.com/2009/03/release-notes-3262009.html. Consulted on September 2017.
17 Biography.com. Jack Dorsey. On: https://www.biography.com/people/jack-dorsey-578280. Consulted on September 2017.
18 EducauseReview. Tweeting in Higher Education: Best Practices. On: http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/9/tweeting-in-higher-education-best-practices. Consulted on September 2017
19 3D Insider. A Detailed History of 3D Printing and 3D Printing Technologies. On: http://3dinsider.com/3d-printing-history/ Consulted on August 2017
20 Tech Thought. 10 Ways 3D Printing Can Be Used In Education [Infographic] – http://www.teachthought.com/technology/10-ways-3d-printing-can-be-used-in-education/ Consulted on August 2010
21 Wired. June 29, 2007: iPhone, You Phone, We All Wanna iPhone. On: https://www.wired.com/2009/06/dayintech_0629/ Consulted on August 2017.
22 Statista. Number of smartphone users worldwide from 2014 to 2020 (in billions). On: https://www.statista.com/statistics/330695/number-of-smartphone-users-worldwide/ Consulted on August 2017
23 TechCrunch. The average age for a child getting their first smartphone is now 10.3 years. On https://techcrunch.com/2016/05/19/the-average-age-for-a-child-getting-their-first-smartphone-is-now-10-3-years/ Consulted on August 2017
24 Forbes. Kindle Most Popular Device For Ebooks, Beating Out iPad; Tablets On The Rise. On: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremygreenfield/2013/10/30/kindle-most-popular-device-for-ebooks-beating-out-ipad-tablets-on-the-rise/#6b6c0f323927 Consulted on August 2018
25 Khan Academy. What is Khan Academy, now it started and who started it? On: https://khanacademy.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/202483180-What-is-Khan-Academy-how-was-it-started-and-who-started-it-. Consulted on September 2017.
26 BBC. Key moments in the history of Artificial Intelligence. On: http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zq376fr Consulted on August 2017
27 Daily Mail. Happy Birthday, iPad! On: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3024275/Happy-birthday-iPad-Apple-s-revolutionary-tablet-celebrates-fifth-year-days-numbered.html Consulted on August 2017
28 Standford.edu. Origins of the MOOC. Andrew Ng and Jennifer Widom. On: http://ai.stanford.edu/~ang/papers/mooc14-OriginsOfModernMOOC.pdf Consulted on August 2017
29 Quartz. No University Needed: A Stanford-Born company is equipping India’s youth for well-paid jobs. On: https://qz.com/1061133/no-university-needed-udacity-a-stanford-born-company-is-equipping-indias-youth-for-well-paid-tech-jobs/. Consulted on September 2017
30 Udacity. About us. On: https://in.udacity.com/us/. Consulted on September 2017.
31 EdX. About us. On: https://www.edx.org/about-us. Consulted on September 2017.
32 Coursera. Our Story. On: https://about.coursera.org/. Consulted on September 2017.
33 Forbes. 5 school technologies to watch: Personalized learning is here. On: https://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/10/22/5-school-technologies-to-watch-personalized-learning-is-here/#e356028252cd. Consulted on October 2017.
34 Business Insider. More people are using just their phones to access the internet than desktops. On: http://www.businessinsider.com/mobile-internet-users-pass-desktop-users-2015-4. Consulted on September 2017.
35 Getting Smart. The future of online learning: The age of mobile-first Education. On: http://www.gettingsmart.com/2014/02/future-online-learning-age-mobile-first-education/. Consulted on August 2017.
36 E-Learning Industry. 6 Mobile Learning Benefits: The Mobile Learning Revolution. On: https://elearningindustry.com/6-mobile-learning-benefits-mobile-learning-revolution Consulted on September 2017
37 Forbes. What is the Internet of Things – A complete beginners guide. On https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2017/04/10/what-is-the-internet-of-things-a-complete-beginners-guide-in-2017/#6abd515d5982. Consulted on August 2017
38 EdTech Magazine. How Will the Internet of Things Impact Education? On: https://edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2017/03/how-will-internet-things-impact-education Consulted on August 2017
39 Billboard.com. As Oculus Rift Launches, what is next for Virtual Reality . On: http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7311581/oculus-rift-launches-whats-next-for-virtual-reality. Consulted on August 2017