Navigating COVID-19 with Blackbaud's Education Management Solutions

March 16, 2020 Julia Mayer

As higher education institutions are looking into emergency preparedness plans for COVID-19, it's important that their technology can enable them to quickly communicate news and updates with faculty, staff, students, and supporters.

Today, there’s an abundance of technology options to help institutions foster campus collaboration during emergency situations. We’ve gotten questions about how Blackbaud’s education management solutions for higher education can help, so let’s take a look. 

Online Portal

First and foremost, our education management solutions provide a single, unified experience where students have access to everything they need at their fingertips. Students’ day-to-day routines and responsibilities aren’t interrupted when face-to-face interaction is not an option.

Communication Tools

The following communication features are available with all of Blackbaud’s education management solutions.

  • Emergency Bulletins — Available to Platform Managers under Core > Communication > Emergency bulletins, this special news feature displays on the website as a lightbox (pop-up box) and as a banner in the internal app. This feature doesn’t replace text or call-dialer services; it supplements them by providing on-site notifications for people who missed the message or aren’t included in the university’s emergency contacts. 
  • Sign In Messages — Similar to Emergency Bulletins, Sign In Messages display as a pop-up when constituents sign into the app. Because these messages are tied to the user’s login, the added benefit is that the small college can track read receipts.
  • Pushpage — Blackbaud’s email newsletter tool is a critical component of crisis communication. With enough preparation time, institutions should consider creating a special “emergency” template to provide a visual indicator that the message is of greater importance than the standard newsletter. To alleviate the stress of rushing a vital communication, it’s also wise to prepare ahead of time the email messaging and approvals necessary for the various contingencies that may arise. 
  • Resource Boards — A Resource board post can serve as the central hub for emergency information such as policies, news, announcements, and helpful links. Like Pushpage planning, an emergency Resource board can get pre-populated with information likely to be used in a crisis that is published and expired as needed. 
  • Community Groups — With built-in Bulletin Board, Topic, and Roster functionality, Community Groups provide a more robust option to Resource Boards as the central internal hub of emergency information. The group owner can create a smart roster by querying the database to pull together a large group of people such as all faculty, as well as email messages to all group members. 

Classroom Collaboration Tools

Blackbaud Learning Management System™ provides a variety of classroom tools to complement the small college’s chosen video conferencing solution for remote learning. In that regard, Google and Microsoft have announced that they are providing free access to their enterprise conferencing solutions for a limited time; GoToMeeting and Zoom are other video conferencing options that schools are considering. 

As for Blackbaud’s LMS, the Professor Resource Page in our How-To Center provides documentation on the following features.  

  • Bulletin Boards — Professors can use bulletin boards in remote learning situations to post general class information such as a welcome video, expectations, and announcements. 
  • Topics — Topics are where professors post information for specific units, chapters, or themes. A variety of content options are available from photos and videos to embed codes from third-party educational tools. In small universities where video conferencing isn’t being used, professors could post a video series in Topics for an improvised asynchronous classroom lecture.
  • Assignments — Assignments provide a convenient and paperless method for students to complete coursework. Blackbaud’s LMS supports online submissions to collect student work and integrations are also available with Google Drive and Turnitin. To stay organized, students can view their entire workload from all courses in the Assignment Center.
  • Assessments — Quizzes and exams to gauge student understanding are administered through Assessments. There are a variety of customization options available to professors such as question type (multiple-choice, essay, etc.), the time to complete, and whether students can retake the assessment. 
  • Graded Discussions — Ideally suited to remote learning situations, Graded Discussions enable professors to open a discussion thread as an assignment for students to comment on and engage with each other. These discussions can get graded, but that functionality isn’t required.
  • Course Roster — From the course rosters, professors can communicate with students via messages within the application or email. This is a good way to provide feedback and connect with students to make sure they’re staying on task. 

The Blackbaud Higher Ed Team is Here for You

We hope that emergency measures won't be necessary at your university – but if you find yourself stuck on something or in need of additional assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

If you’re a customer, keep in mind that the Blackbaud Education Management Solutions for Higher Ed Community is your go-to resource to communicate with peers and share your plans for overcoming challenges related to COVID-19. 

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