Blackboard Heroes

I am not overly fond of some of the policies and practices of the Blackboard company as a whole. Some of the problems of the company itself:

1. Diversification in their product offerings such that innovation in the teaching and learning space is no longer revolutionary, but only incremental . Examples: Add Scholar. Add Facebook widget. Add Web 2.0 interface. Yawn…

2. Internal communication problems such that no coherent or timely message or response to clients can be mustered. A couple examples of what I’d like to hear across Managed Hosting, Product Development, Client Support, whatever division supports fixes and enhancements of current product:

Example 1: Hypothetically, if a user group gave Blackboard feedback -which Bb welcomed- on what fixes are needed in the next service pack, their organization should be able to say- we are able to implement fixes for your suggestions 1,2 and 3 in service pack XX by date July 15, 2009. For reason X, we can not do suggestions 4-6 until service pack XX+1, and your suggestions 7-10 we will NEVER do because we’re moving on. Oh, and a singular message on a single venue for client feedback with cyclical pushes to gather such, that would be good too.

Example 2: Blackboard as a company (they’ll have to spin this…but I could write the spin I would find palatable, so I’m sure they could too), as a company, is either interested in expanding their resources to support a model of ever-expanding service engagements to build and support customizations for additional revenue stream OR is interested in expanding their resources to manage relationships and development efforts with partner vendors such that the Blackboard learning management system can be leaned upon by other (Student Information Systems, Library systems, ePortfolios systems) vendors as the glue that holds academically oriented systems together. One or the other. To attempt to do both gets us, the clients bad communication, insipid solutions, and an unresponsive indecisive vendor.

But …

My Blackboard Heroes

The individuals who care about whether I understand what’s going on, whether my institution is up and running, whether my experience with documentation or support or the lastest feature is good,  or my complaint about an old feature that pathetically has never worked right is heard and ACTED ON … these people ROCK.

They make call backs, they write notes about our contacts and make colleagues aware of them (no you can’t just access Notre Dame databases, you need to schedule an application sharing session with their Admins). They research my support tickets and understand my environments. They don’t write ‘stalling’ messages in tickets just to satisfy the ticket management system’s rule set for internal stats. They even write me offline, from their personal accounts sometimes so that I know I’m not just some ticket number. They attend user group sessions but shut up and listen. They advocate for clients with other Blackboard divisions (which should document it and define policy based on it at all levels so the advocacy could have a bigger snowball event on the organization as a whole).

By name, my Blackboard Heroes are:


John Porter

Doris Drugescu

Matt Brady

Justin Beck

Joel Diamant-Halpern

(Hello to Amsterdam. I send a bouquet of flowers … even though you took him away from me right after I broke him in  -smile- ).

John Fontaine