A Blackboard K-20 Connection

Back in October (at the EDUCAUSE 2007 Annual Conference), Blackboard Inc. launched their K-20 Connection. It's an initiative, like others that I've written about here, to get K-12 schools and higher education institutions to connect and collaborate.

They plan to invest about one million dollars in "strategic and tactical imperatives that enhance K-20 collaborative opportunities in the US and around the world."

"It is critical that secondary and post secondary education leaders work closely together to better prepare today's students for success in school, in their careers, and in life," said Michael Chasen, President and CEO of Blackboard.
"The lines that traditionally separate high school and college have become blurred as more and more high school students aspire to take college level course work. Similarly, large numbers of college students are in need of remedial work in order to succeed academically. Today's announcement is just the first step in a multi-year effort to leverage our resources to build new and lasting connections between K12 and college."

"We have a tremendous opportunity to leverage education technology to build communities that better engage students, individualize learning experiences and increase learning productivity," said Jessie Woolley-Wilson, President K12, Blackboard.
"Today's students are global citizens and require new skills to compete effectively in a global economy. Education leaders are challenged to find new ways to successfully prepare and transition students from K12 to post-secondary education. Blackboard wants to help them build new bridges to facilitate their efforts."

I know a lot of us in higher education have become wary of corporate initiatives in education. I have written recently about how distrustful some schools are of joining the Apple iTunes U program.

Blackboard Inc. has gotten a lot of criticism since its merger with WebCT, and every meeting I go to where its discussed rings with suspicion whether that's justified or not. Educators have problems with big corporate entities it seems, and when they enter into educational partnerships, some people question their motives.

Blackboard's initiative has the following stated objectives:

  • Provide strategic leadership to help define and promote models for successful collaboration between K12 and higher education, including state and province-wide initiatives
  • Create an online community of education leaders to promote the exchange of best practices in K-20 policy, curriculum, and education technology
  • Cultivate meaningful dialogue among all education stakeholders,including students, parents, school leaders, and administrators by leveraging Blackboard's relationships with thousands of K-12 and higher education partners
  • Increase the use of technology solutions that foster engagement and collaboration while delivering more individualized learning experiences.

As with the case of iTunes U, educators ask, "What is in it for Blackboard? Are they trying to open new markets in the K-12 world?"

I'm sure they are trying to broaden their market reach. Why wouldn't they? They are a business. Of course, as I said about Apple, it's also possible that they are trying to do good things for education.

Blackboard Inc. says it will launch the following specific efforts in the coming months:

  • Create a K-20 Connection Virtual Learning Community
  • Publish case studies of innovative K-20 Initiatives from the US and abroad
  • Offer financial incentives related to Blackboard solutions and services to encourage K-20 coordination and collaboration
  • Develop a K-20 Blackboard practice area that can serve as a resource to education leaders.
I'm willing to suspend disbelief here and see what comes. At the Blackboard K-20 Connection site, you can register for upcoming web presentations, download the "Building K-20 Connections" issue brief and access research and best practices of successful K-20 models.


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