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Northern Arizona University Adopts Blackboard Learn To Reduce Staff Management

Northern Arizona University (NAU) has chosen a proprietary learning platform over an open source competitor in an effort to reduce costs and management responsibilities for university staff.

Following pilot programs of each platform with approximately 1,000 students in 30 courses, NAU settled on Blackboard Learn Release 9.1.

Blackboard Learn will allow NAU to host the system internally while relying on Blackboard staff for ongoing maintenance and support, which turned out to be cheaper than the cost of licensing, training, integrating, and migrating courses for the open source alternative.

Other factors that led to the decision include:

  • The ability to learn from Blackboard's global user community;
  • Blackboard's SafeAssign plagiarism detection tool;
  • The ability to integrate the platform with the school's current student information system; and
  • A messaging system better suited to students and faculty.

"As a campus, we decided that Blackboard Learn was the best platform to support our institution now and into the future," said Don Carter, director of e-learning at Northern Arizona University. "We have found in some cases that open source communities can be dispersed and lacking continuity, and managing an open source system over time would have required more work than we wanted to invest. Instead, we can leverage Blackboard to manage the system and invest our efforts in working with our peers to develop integrations and building blocks that help us customize and improve the platform for our specific needs."

Currently, NAU uses Blackboard Collaborate for online course delivery, course evaluations, and human resources interviews. The university has also launched NAU Mobile, an app that provides access to campus services and courses via mobile devices, in collaboration with Blackboard.

Established in 1899, NAU serves an enrollment of approximately 25,000 students with 95 undergraduate degree programs and 57 graduate degree programs.

More information about Blackboard Learn is available at

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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