M Balasubramaniam, MD, Blackboard Technology, traced the genesis of the company, which is making inroads into the country. “In 2016, the privately-held Blackboard Inc, a global leader in education technology for teaching, learning and student engagement, completed the acquisition of Higher One Holdings, Inc. This $260 million acquisition was done to expand the company’s financial service portfolio to institutions, students and parents and add muscle to the learning management systems capabilities,” he said.
Blackboard has presence in 90 countries, reaching several million students through its technology platform. Apart from facilitating student-teacher interaction and deepening the learning engagement, the company also specialises in providing security solutions. “Customised entry restrictions to dorms or access to labs are some such features of the platform, that are available for the US market. In India, our focus is LMS, Analytics and E-teacher. Following the acquisition, the company charted out its path in India. Initially, we were operating through partners but later realised the importance of having our own facility. We are 100-odd people strong and our company has also outsourced over 500 plus people to various IT companies in India,” said Bala, who also chairs the Nasscom – GCC (Global Capability Centre) for TN and Kerala.
The technology product in the learning management space works on a software as a service or SaaS model. Its small customer base of 13 includes Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs and Sona College. Bala’s lament is that the pedagogy has to be re-looked for the country to be on a par with global developments in the technology interfacing front, as far as education is concerned. However, the thrust on digital India has proved to be a boon for companies like Blackboard, which has been scouting for such opportunities to enhance the e-penetration into the education side.
He is quick to add that the platform is not looking at replacing teachers or professors but instead, is aimed at reducing the workload of college professionals. A recent experiment of a five-day workshop on ‘eteacher’ at NITTTR, Chandigarh resulted in a better understanding of the platform’s capabilities. Besides exposure to international training methods, thanks to the participation of an Australian trainer from Blackboard, the exercise gave the company a foothold at NITTTR, Bala said, adding even prestigious organisations such as NASA and the US Army had embraced the platform
Predictability, analytics and dashboards are some of the features of the platform offered by Blackboard, he sought to point out.