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Blackboard, K12 Pilot Developmental Math Program

Two large education companies have started pilots to test out a new joint service to help students get through developmental mathematics. Blackboard, which sells a number of education applications, including its popular commercial learning management system, and K12, which delivers online courses to schools and individual students, have teamed up to deliver Blackboard Developmental Education. K12's role is to provide materials, teaching, and counseling capabilities.

Currently, several community colleges and four-year institutions have committed to the pilot effort, including the University of Kentucky, Baton Rouge Community College, and Ivy Tech Community College. The pilot, which continues through the summer, will provide online courses to students delivered by Blackboard that include live instruction. The course offerings are expected to work as additional instruction or as replacement curriculum for specific areas of study.

This service can be deployed as a stand-alone product or it can be integrated with an institution's existing LMS, whether from Blackboard or another company. It's designed to support an institution's existing developmental program, curriculum policies, course requirements, and assessment efforts.

The companies said in a statement that while the course experience is similar for all participants in the pilot, each campus will leverage the program in unique ways. For example, U Kentucky will include the new courses in a bridge program established to increase college readiness for local high school students. Other institutions are offering the courses as an alternative to traditional remedial courses or as a second chance for students who have previously failed a traditional remedial course.

Blackboard describes its offering as "a cost-effective solution designed to give students a more personalized learning experience and allow them to move through the course at their own pace." Students are supported by one-on-one online sessions and through live phone support with instructors.

An ingredient of the program is the on-campus "mentor" who acts as a program representative with access to real-time reporting and analysis on student activity and progression, including how much time a student has spent on a particular section and how far they've progressed in the course.

"Improving outcomes in developmental education is one of the best ways that the education community can respond to the challenge from our president and the United States Department of Education to grow the number of U.S. college graduates," said Matthew Small, the chief business officer of Blackboard. "Institutions have asked us to help them in this area with an efficient and cost-effective solution, and we're excited to begin this effort in partnership with a forward-thinking set of campuses."

The math service is planned for commercial availability in fall 2011. Blackboard plans to share results from the pilot initiatives at its annual conference, BbWorld 2011, which takes place in Las Vegas in July.

The two companies are also working on a reading and writing application relevant to higher education students. Blackboard expects to test that offering later in the year and take it commercial in winter 2011.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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