Blackboard Inc., the leading Internet infrastructure company for e-Education, announced today the general availability of release 5.5 of Blackboard 5TM, the company’s industry-leading enterprise software platform for online teaching and learning.

Blackboard Inc., the leading Internet infrastructure company for e-Education, announced today the general availability of release 5.5 of Blackboard 5TM, the company’s industry-leading enterprise software platform for online teaching and learning.

The 5.5 release of Blackboard 5 delivers enhanced teaching and learning tools and expanded enterprise capabilities all in a dependable, comprehensive product, including: timed release of content; learning units; gradebook and assessment enhancements; as well as a variety of core technology enhancements.

Blackboard 5 is a Web-based server software application that enables a complete e-Education enterprise, including online teaching and learning, campus communities and institutional services. Blackboard 5 can be deployed as a stand-alone application or can be integrated with "front-end" academic services and "back-end" administrative systems.

Blackboard software solutions have experienced rapid adoption over the past year. With more than 1,800 licensed institutions and more than 5 million active users around the world, Blackboard is quickly becoming the industry standard platform for bringing education online.

With release 5.5, faculty will be able to create lessons that sequence materials in a more powerful and structured process and they will have more control over managing assessments in an online environment. These platform innovations are based largely on the feedback received from clients, Blackboard’s Product Advisory Board and the institutions that tested the product.

"This release really sets the bar for what a compelling e-Education experience can be for faculty, students and system administrators," said Todd Gibby, general manager of Blackboard’s Course & Portal Solutions business. "We expect release 5.5 to accelerate the trend of new Blackboard adoptions and upgrades from previous versions of Blackboard software, as well as converts from competing e-Education systems. This release reflects a laser focus on quality, customer demand and scalability."

What’s New in Release 5.5

Teaching and Learning Environment – New Features and Functionality

Timed Release of Content – Instructors can now set content availability rules and specify dates upon which content becomes available or unavailable. This functionality allows instructors to pre-populate content areas, including assessments, and release as desired. The feature provides functionality for both Web-enabled and distance learning courses; is easy to use; and seamlessly integrates into the existing interface.

Learning Units – This intuitive and easy to use functionality allows instructors to build a sequential or non-sequential learning path within a particular course. For example, instructors can use this function to build a lesson around a chapter or assignment, with the ability to embed content, graphics, assessments, etc.

Gradebook Enhancements – Several new features in the gradebook exist in release 5.5. These include new sorting options (alphabetically, by date, user identification, etc.), improved calculation and grade weighting abilities, improved reporting for mid-semester and final grades and improved functionality for assessment status (complete, in-progress, needs grading or error). Students will also have advanced sorting options when checking their grades.

Assessment Enhancements – Instructors can place assessments in any of the major content areas (announcements, course materials, learning units, etc.). Blackboard has also implemented the capability for the timed release of assessments.

Expanded Enterprise Capabilities

Building Blocks Architecture – Blackboard 5 contains the first implementation of Blackboard’s Building Blocks (B2) initiative. Through this initiative, clients are able to plug in third-party tools developed independently of the Blackboard platform. This enables clients to create channels to leading applications and content from "Blackboard-enabled" partners, thus constructing flexible, scalable and comprehensive e-Education sites powered by one platform. For partners, B2 opens the Blackboard installed base as a marketplace for innovation.

Increased Scalability – Single-site implementations can support thousands of courses and tens of thousands of users.

User/Course Data Integration Developments – Snapshot tool improvements enhance enrollment automation, course templates, course categorization and advanced system management for Blackboard 5 Level Three.

Resource Management – To handle the size of data generated by the rapid adoption of many large-scale deployments, there are new management tools for resource monitoring, data archiving and controlled information purging for Blackboard 5 Level Three.

Seamless Upgradeability – Seamless platform and content migration enables convenient upgrades from any version of Blackboard 5, as well as CourseInfo(TM) 4.0.

Conversion Services – Seamless conversion services for legacy Web course tools are available as well.

Fulfilling Client Needs

Over the past several months, Blackboard executed a rigorous beta testing program for Blackboard 5, release 5.5. Beta partners included an equal representation of clients on Windows and Unix operating systems and on the various usage levels of Blackboard’s current software offering, as well as a unique cross section of institutions of varying sizes and program focuses.

"After beta testing release 5.5, we remain convinced that Blackboard offers the best product for our needs here at Princeton," said Dennis Hood, coordinator of course management systems at Princeton University. "Given our positive experience with the product, Princeton plans to upgrade to Blackboard 5 Level Three for the fall. We believe that faculty will find the new features in release 5.5 to be quite useful, especially the learning units, timed release of content and the enhancements to the gradebook."

Other institutions that chose to participate in Blackboard’s beta program include: Bellevue University; Cornell University; Grinnell College; Madison Area Technical College; Pearson Education; Seneca College (Canada); Singapore Polytechnic University (Singapore); Temple University; University of Alaska Fairbanks; University of Cincinnati; University of Groningen (Netherlands); University of Nebraska at Lincoln; Walden University; and Wichita State University.

Seneca College, Temple University and the USDA Graduate School requested to install a pre-release package of release 5.5 of Blackboard 5 and are currently in production with it.

"Many of the features that are now in Blackboard 5 have been on our faculty’s wish list, and our experience with support from Blackboard has been so outstanding that we had no concerns upgrading half way through most of our classes," said Dr. Stefan Gunther, program manager, at the USDA Graduate School. "The implementation was a very positive and smooth process."

About Blackboard Inc. Blackboard Inc. was founded to transform the Internet into a powerful environment for teaching and learning. The company offers a complete suite of enterprise software products and services that power a total "e-Education Infrastructure" for schools, colleges, universities and other education providers. Blackboard solutions deliver the promise of the Internet for online teaching and learning, campus communities, auxiliary services and integration of Web-enabled student services and back office systems.

Blackboard’s two major lines of business, Course & Portal Solutions and Commerce & Access Solutions, are consistently ranked by industry analysts as the market share and customer satisfaction leaders for thousands of academic institutions and a leading number of the Internet’s most popular consumer education sites. The company is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices and staff across North America, Europe and Asia. Please visit for more information.

Contact Information

Blackboard Inc.

Maria Gallagher, 202/463-4860 x541

Michael Stanton, 202/463-4860 x305

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