Taking higher education sky-high

We partnered with Blackboard to create a new LMS product to better support the higher education market. This product, Blackboard Learn Ultra, would be the cloud-based version of their long-standing solution with a modern, highly accessible user interface.

We used Agile team practices as we worked on new, intuitive workflows, built new features, and prepared Blackboard for the future by implementing a microservice architecture. This upgrade helped Blackboard expand a major partnership and persuaded many customers to enable the Ultra experience.

Cloud
Web

What We Did

Cloud Development, Performance Testing, Product Ownership, DevOps Strategy, Accessibility Design and Testing, Forecasting/Estimation, Methodology Coaching

Tech Stack

AWS, Java, React, AngularJs, NodeJS, Docker, Kubernetes, Chef, Selenium, Postgres

Opportunity

Learning management systems (LMS) are the vital framework by which schools, institutions, teachers, and students collaborate online. Blackboard is the world’s largest global edtech company, providing industry-leading LMS and other solutions for 100 million learners in 90+ countries.

Blackboard needed to create a new LMS product to better support the higher-education market. This product, Blackboard Learn Ultra, would be the cloud-based version of their long-standing, highly successful on-premise solution, Blackboard Learn. Ultra would feature a modernized, highly accessible user interface.

Blackboard hired SEP to accelerate Ultra’s velocity of new feature development.

Solution

Together with our client, we worked on new, intuitive workstreams for the Ultra product that aligned with the needs of both teachers and students. This personalized experience is web-based and responsive, fit for any device.

While working together, we leveled-up agile team practices by demonstrating the effectiveness of modern practices, collaborative teamwork, and visualizing work. We also bolstered user-centric product thinking by bringing product management, design, and engineering together. As a result, we were able to encourage the use of a product owner role to keep the user’s needs at the forefront of decision-making conversations.

We set our client up for the future by creating new flexibility around integrations, fixing critical bugs, incorporating performance testing, and implementing a microservice architecture. Microservices allow Blackboard to make updates to smaller parts of their application without having to change the entire system, which enables the app’s capabilities and longevity to be extended.

We collaborated with Blackboard’s DevOps team to create new types of delivery pipelines, so the code could more quickly be deployed to end users. This was a new type of partnership between development and operations for our client and it resulted in a shared responsibility of maintaining the code as it was released to customers.

Major Features We Worked On:

  • Batch editing of class materials that saves instructors time and effort
  • A new text editor that was a key feature request by some institutions
  • Localization services that enable our client’s global presence by making it cost-effective for institutions around the world to customize the product
  • An important feature that allows instructors to copy the content of one course into a new course
  • Tools, like video feedback, that support the accessibility experience – inclusive and accessible design is a tremendous focus in the education world

Results

The improved performance and new features we worked on were important to Blackboard expanding a major partnership with the University of Phoenix. Blackboard Learn Ultra will be released across the university’s more than 2,000 courses.

From the time we began working together, the number of Blackboard Learn customers who have enabled the Ultra experience tripled.

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Let’s develop something special.

Reach out today to talk about how we can work together to shake up your industry.