No matter how old you are, it is never too late to learn a thing or two from the classroom. If you’re in business, or work in a professional team environment of any kind, there are obvious similarities between the workplace and the teacher-student relationship.
Both are top-down structures where the person in charge (boss or teacher) sets the agenda and the ultimate goal, while the students or employees do the actual work in getting there. They’re both dynamic environments where people of different personalities and backgrounds come together to accomplish things. And they both require feats of human management to keep the ship on track no matter what unexpected situations might come up.
So it makes sense, then, that a piece of technology that was that was designed to better link students and teachers in the education system can improve the efficiency and connections of a small business.
The Rise of Blackboard in Education
Blackboard Inc. this year celebrates 20 years of existence. Over those two decades it has been one of the few consistent winners in education and eLearning, generated hundreds of millions of dollars in funding and shareholdings, and generally dominating the way schools from K-12 to college and beyond function online.
It has grown to become a true tech giant, and now offers scalability that rivals that of tech used by major corporations. It can cater to group video conferencing links, and can create entire networks tracking student data, from attendance and grades to in-school behavior.
It has never won many plaudits for its user interface, and it works best as a remote learning device or an assistant in blended classrooms, but it has few rivals and continues to be deployed from elementary school on through to higher education.
It also has valuable lessons to teach the business world.
Video Connections and More
For starters, Blackboard has evolved alongside the internet at large. It now offers cloud storage and Software as a Service functionality that reduces hardware and professional burdens for educators. Its online learning tools and video calling links have also been adapted to the changing nature of connected devices, and the ages and expectations of those using them–when 75% of kids are using smartphones, tablets and the like it pays to be able to reach them on familiar territory.
Secondly, it’s versatile. It has become the backbone of many distance education courses because it lets teachers and students engage in a multitude of ways. It has a group video calling webinar function, breakout rooms for shrinking the group down in size for more personal learning, and it can be configured to accommodate more dynamic conversations, like quizzes, polls, tours, and more. Plus, it has recording and note-taking features just to remind students this a classroom after all, and there will be a test at the end.
It is, in essence, a well functioning virtual classroom. It reproduces the real world interaction and communication of a classroom, and it builds on this experience by adding the digital extras that an in-person meeting can’t match.
That’s what the business world should be learning.
Blackboard Collaborate for Business
Blackboard currently offers a business version of its core program, but it sticks within the education framework by focusing on employee training. That seems like a narrow vision of what the full program could offer the corporate world.
The core of Blackboard, especially the Collaborate version, is that it serves both internal and external audiences simultaneously. That means more than just providing access to video conferencing and group video calls to stage internal staff development, and tracking their development progress.
Here’s what we think Blackboard for business should do:
- It should provide internal staff with linked and easily manipulated client databases that stem from the same interface they’ll use during face-to-face calls.
- It should be able to build out cloud-based networks across departments and offices, enabling each to pick up on the leads and needs of the other.
- For the customer, it should create a sense of inclusion, like the company is waiting on their next call and working to anticipate future needs. An ideal form of Blackboard could achieve this by keeping track of data, like customers’ actions and the times they seek out services.
If Blackboard is going to restrict itself to teaching-related functions, there is an option for businesses who want its flexibility for their employees and customers: you could recreate its strategy by bringing together services. It’s a messy solution compared to the all-in-one Blackboard model, but a workflow management platform like Slack, which can cobble together a range of specialized third-party apps into a single format could give rise to a Frankenstein’s monster version of Blackboard. You could pair a customer relationship matrix with a catalog of company services, add Slack’s own video calling feature with a browser-based video portal, tack on data tracking and business management software like The Wylie Business System, and so on until you have a working model, albeit with a lot of jagged edges.
At any rate, if you’re going to learn a new way of working, it’s probably wise to take lessons from a company that has forged an online empire by helping the country’s educators.