Blackboard, providing new add ons at the expense of the core experience.
February 11, 2019

Blackboard, providing new add ons at the expense of the core experience.

Matthew Deakyne | TrustRadius Reviewer
Score 6 out of 10
Vetted Review
Verified User

Modules Used

  • Blackboard Learn
  • Blackboard Mobile
  • Blackboard Collaborate
  • Blackboard Community

Overall Satisfaction with Blackboard Learn

Blackboard Learn is the supported Learning Management system at the University of Kansas. It is used across the organization, with a focus on academic courses. All courses in our PeopleSoft Student Information System automatically receive a corresponding Blackboard class. It allows students and instructors to coordinate assignments and grades for academic classes, and is sometimes used as a communication tool for non-academic use.
  • Number of Integrations. Up until fairly recently, Blackboard Learn was the only option that scaled well for an institution of our size. They purchased competitors, and dominated marketshare. Due to this, most integrations from publishers or other educational technologies had to create a Blackboard integration.
  • Adapting to Web Standards. Blackboard is currently releasing REST APIs and LTI integrations, and encouraging these as the standards moving forward. This is an excellent direction, and will allow Blackboard to be more competitive in the future.
  • Customization. Each Blackboard course can be fully customized by the Instructor, using as much or as little as each individual instructor would like. For those that enjoy complete control - this is really useful.
  • Self-Hosted Option. I anticipate this to eventually be depreciated, but currently we can host our Blackboard instance - which grants full flexibility and data analysis capabilities that are not available in the managed or cloud hosted options.
  • Lack of APIs. Blackboard is catching up, but other competitors are much further along since those competitors started as a web-based company. The other factor holding these back is the different hosting options. All APIs are available for cloud-hosted, but not for managed-hosted or self-hosted.
  • Lack of defaults. While highly configurable, Blackboard is really intimidating for instructors used to default course structures. You can lock this down, but our users enjoy the customizability - which causes issues providing for both values. Instructors have multiple ways to do tasks - and often there isn't a clear pathway.
  • Lack of focus on core. Blackboard keeps releasing new products : Analytics (usage), Transact (purchase / card system), Ally (accessibility), Predict (early warning)... while the core experience lags behind. Blackboard is trying to sell the idea that their stuff works well with their stuff... while competitors keep improving the core system and make integrations easier. Personally, I believe Blackboard needs to refocus on the core competencies.
  • Lack of communication / proactivity. Blackboard relied on an integration with Crocodoc for assignment markup. Crocodoc was purchased and shuttered by Box, who had a general press release a year out. Blackboard worked with Box to replace this functionality - but DID NOT DO A GOOD JOB. Communication on progress was non-existant, it required an unplanned restart, and there was a massive feature loss. We still experience some performance issues, and it's been over a year since the switch.
  • Lack of migration pathway. There are distinct differences between self-hosted and cloud-hosted. The migration path from self hosted to cloud hosted is just as complex as migrating to another LMS. Blackboard has been really pushing cloud-hosted as a better experience, but many institutions of our size have had extreme difficulty migrating and some have ultimately switched to a competitor and had an easier time migrating. If you are considering going to the cloud, Blackboard SaaS will probably be as big of a change as a competitor.
  • Poor Branding. Ultra is a ubiquitous term that Blackboard has settled on, but there are too many Ultras. Ultra was originally the branding for SaaS, a technology that was Vaporware for two years and then ultimately came out half-completed. Then they started offering Collaborate Ultra, Ultra Course View and Ultra Experience. I think there is even now an Ultra theme that is available for Learn Original. They need to find another word, because it's extremely confusing for administrators - let alone instructors.
  • Blackboard Learn allows students and instructors to better communicate assignments and grades, and connecting this system directly to our SIS has been hugely successful to increase adoption.
  • Blackboard Learn takes a lot of resources to help train and troubleshoot. Instructors starting off have a very difficult time exploring the options, especially when there are different versions and features across various institutions. Having a more streamlined offering would allow for better self-help options.
  • Blackboard Learn has enabled newer technologies that allow us to customize in a web-first manor. This is crucial to moving forward with the platform.
We did a formal evaluation of the LMS a few years ago, and selected to remain self-hosted on Blackboard Learn. At the time, we were not ready to upgrade or migrate and it was easier to remain with the system we already had.

If we started from scratch - Canvas is the clear choice. Brightspace, Moodle and Sakai could all meet specific needs, but each have their own issues. Blackboard is trying to be the everything platform, but Canvas does the core much better. They also have the advantage of being web and mobile first from the start.
Blackboard Learn does the basics really well - but it's not pretty. It has a lot of options, and may be customized to meet specific needs better than the default options available with competing software. It's getting better, slowly, and adapting to a web-first / mobile-first strategy. It's a great option if you are already investing in the Blackboard ecosystem and have been impressed by any of Blackboard other products.

Blackboard Learn by Anthology Feature Ratings

Course authoring
Course catalog or library
Learning content
Mobile friendly
Progress tracking & certifications
Compliance management
Learning administration
Learning reporting & analytics
Social learning