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Blackboard Launches Virtual Hub for Ed Policy Research

The education software company’s new Center for Advancing Learning will focus on tech accessibility, community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities, and online program management.

As schools and universities continue the adoption of digital tools accelerated by COVID-19, some education technology developers are playing an increasingly important role in research on virtual learning. With educators turning to the industry players for more insight, the ed-tech company Blackboard is building a new community of policy analysts to study best practices for making the most of these new technologies in the classroom.

According to a news release this week, the company has launched the Center for Advancing Learning, a virtual space for research, analysis and policy advocacy aimed at improving student performance and equity in today’s increasingly tech-integrated schools.

Blackboard Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Darcy Hardy, the center’s first director, said it will connect education thought leaders, nonprofit organizations and data scientists with policymakers to “help best practices move from concept to the classroom more rapidly,” with an emphasis on data-driven decision-making.

Hardy said their research will focus initially on accessibility, community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and online program management — all topics at the center of education policy discussions across the country.

“Every school, whether it’s K-12 or higher ed, is dealing with the digital transformation and how quickly things have changed, and how they’re not likely to go back to the way they were, ever,” she said.

According to Hardy, Blackboard’s eponymous software platform, which includes a learning management system, applications and data analytics, has about 150 million users. She said the Center for Advancing Learning has been months in the making, a culmination of the company’s longstanding desire to get involved with policy analysis, built upon its consultation services for schools and other institutions.

“We’ve been interested in policy and legislation related to education for many years,” she said, noting an interest in supporting at-risk populations and equitable outcomes. “This is a way to formally pull experts from the company and outside of the company together to look deeper into what’s happening and how legislation and policy impacts education.”

According to Blackboard, more details on the center’s partnerships, fellow appointments and policy roundtables will be available in the fall.

“It’s a combination of following what’s happening, keeping up with what’s happening, and making sure we’re sharing information with not only our clients and those in the education space and community, but also helping them use data and research in order to meet the requirements of whatever comes down the pipeline,” Hardy said.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.