By Catalina Sánchez Montoya
Washington, United States
One of Blackboard’s most innovative projects is its web community. This site directly connects developers with customers, attending to their needs. No programing problems, no schedules, no intermediaries – everyone’s opinion is important here.
Today, around 300 ideas and 7,000 users make up the Blackboard Community, a website officially launched during the course of 2016. The goal is to set up a one-on-one communication outlet with each client, on a massive scale.
“We wanted all that feedback from customers regarding Blackboard products and services to be all in one place,” explains Brad Evans, Product Manager for Blackboard.
According to Marissa Dimino, Senior Community Manager at Blackboard, it all started with a couple of conversations they had with customers. “They have always been very interested in providing ideas and feedback. That helped us create the site; they value transparency and we strive to continually improve in our level of openness. We thought this platform was the best way to respond to that desire of getting involved in the improvement of the products we have.”
Openness equals access
Undoubtedly, transparency is one of the most important values of Blackboard’s structure. The community project started precisely for that reason: a space in which everyone could have access to the processes and could freely raise their hands and give their opinion, because their contribution is important.
“As usual, customers have access to our roadmap presentation. However, the site allows them to understand in greater detail what we are working on. We have prioritization exercises of topics and ideas so that they focus on their needs, and we include that in the goals. We also take note of specific ideas,” explains Evans, “and this is not about them proposing something and getting a response in a year or two.”
In other words, in the Blackboard Community, openness means that customers are involved in the whole process and that they know, step by step, the status of evolution of the approaches used to improve one or another product.
In the Blackboard Community, everyone takes part equally; everyone has the same status. It doesn’t matter if a user is a member of the Blackboard team or even if they are using other types of learning platforms, the value of this exercise is that each member involved is present to give an opinion and expand their knowledge. From the Blackboard developer to a product consumer, they are all learning from each other. Because you can always learn more!
Interaction, communication, and execution
One of the biggest advantages is that communication is not one-sided between a customer and a member of the Blackboard internal team. The interaction goes beyond this because customers can also interact with each other, ask questions and learn from their personal experiences, no matter what type of product they use. In the long run, this strengthens the community and the ideas that may emerge from it.
Blackboard Community, openness means that customers are involved in the whole process and that they know, step by step, the status of evolution of the approaches used to improve one or another product.
Through this web platform, a type of communication that did not exist in the past has been fostered. In the past, when a customer had a doubt, comment or improvement proposal on a particular product, it went to the developers through a sales representative, and on the way, more than one precise point or a part of the intention was lost. This is why for some time until now, Blackboard has ventured to establish a one-on-one communication outlet with its customers. However, along the way, they realized that, operationally, it wasn’t easy to get every member involved to agree upon schedules and times.
None of these two problems happen here in the Blackboard Community. Thanks to the Blackboard Community, there is a deeper and much more direct level of connection with customers, and now it’s much easier to capture those needs they have to work on them, in order to improve their experience with each different product.
What do members need?
Over the course of these six months, it has been possible for the Blackboard team to make sure that most of the customer’s requirements are already covered in the company roadmap.
Requests usually revolve around issues such as care and functionality. There are also a lot of ideas regarding the website’s improvement because, among other things, customers belong to the community to give their opinion not only about a product or service, but also about the site itself. All these ideas make it possible to strengthen the platform and enhance its usefulness from now on.
The future of Blackboard Community
One of the key goals is to make the community grow, and that more and more users come to the site to get involved in generating ideas. While this happens, it is also intended to improve the design of the interface to facilitate everyone’s access and render the experience more effective.
In addition, a formal process will be put in place to systematize new ideas that may arise in the community. For Blackboard, it is important to ensure that they are taking advantage of all those opinions of the customers involved, as the number of users grows.
To us, ’community’ means that members are connecting with other like minded individuals who have shared goals and interests”, says Marissa Dimino, “We want to provide one location to enable these interactions so that they increasingly understand learning technology, they are using our products better, they are happier and have more knowledge; they are increasingly empowered customers.”
In both the present and future, the Blackboard Community expects its customers to return to the website because they feel it is a useful place and that the conversations given there are actually having an impact.
Visit the community site: https://community.blackboard.com/
*Marissa Dimino, Senior Community Manager at Blackboard, Brad Evans, Product Manager for Blackboard.
*Photos Marissa Dimino: AFP Yuri Gripas, Brad Evans: AFP Ed Rode