Blackboard has announced the launch of the Blackboard Collaborate Self-Service Portal that allows for higher education institutions to quickly and easily purchase and implement its virtual classroom solution.

The self-service portal significantly reduces the time from purchase to getting started to just hours in direct response to the need for institutions across the globe to quickly transition to digital teaching and learning modalities as a part of their Covid-19 contingency planning.

“We’re committed to supporting the education community across South Africa and around the world as they transition rapidly to fully digital teaching and learning modalities in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic,” says Lee Blakemore, chief client officer and president: global markets at Blackboard.

“Over the past several weeks we’ve been working hand-in-hand with our clients across the globe to help solve their most pressing challenges, such as quickly deploying virtual classrooms, training faculty and academic staff to effectively leverage teaching and learning technologies and ensuring that all digital course content is engaging, accessible and inclusive for all students.”

Blackboard Collaborate is specifically designed for educators and learners and can ease the transition to a fully digital education environment by offering both synchronous and asynchronous course capabilities.

The virtual classroom solution connects students and instructors via both desktop and mobile devices. Designed to simulate a physical classroom, the tool includes features that connect students and promote collaboration, engagement, and accessible learning through features such as hand raising, whiteboard, chat, breakout groups, and polls. The solution integrates seamlessly with all leading learning management systems (LMS).

As education institutions prepare contingency plans for the weeks that lie ahead, Collaborate can help to ensure sustainable education throughout the pandemic. It is ideally suited to the current Covid-19 school shut down ordained by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the nation.

“This is the true test of providing access to education for students,” says Robert Speed, vice-president for Middle East and Africa at Blackboard. “Blackboard Collaborate is built for education, and we are glad to give even more educators access to the tool as a part of their Covid-19 continuity planning.”

In addition, Blackboard is helping to drive technical fluency and skills development through its Blackboard Digital Teaching and Learning Series (DTLS), a global, solution-agnostic professional development offering.

Blackboard DTLS offers educators online courses on the digital technologies that on-campus and distance-learning students use daily, as well as strategies for integrating digital technologies into every aspect of the education experience.

By addressing pedagogical and instructional design best practices for digital course development, the professional development series ensures instructors can continue to drive student success and maintain the same high-quality instruction as in-class courses.