A revolution is sweeping across the halls of academe which will forever put dogs out of business as homework munchers. Today’s students, who are so attuned to things electronic and who depend on the internet for so many of their diversions, are now finding that the same technology which provides them with an endless source of music and movies is shielding the family pooch from any blame with regard to the tardy submission of assignments.
And who is responsible for this long overdue justice for canines? A lot of the credit goes to Blackboard (NASDAQ:BBBB), a company whose Academic Suite software enables high school and college instructors to easily interact with their students via the web. Assignments and other course material can be posted and students can submit their work via the system as well. A very attractive feature of Blackboard is integration with major textbook publishers. These publishers can provide modules for their books, thus enabling instructors and students to move seamlessly between the classroom and the online venue.
The emergence and continued growth of numerous for-profit education providers, such as the University of Phoenix (NASDAQ:APOL) and Strayer Education (NASDAQ:STRA) who have online course offerings of considerable scope, has put pressure on the not-for-profits to enhance their web-based course capabilities. Increasingly, institutions of all kinds are looking for ways to answer this demand, and they are turning to Blackboard in large numbers. And once on board, the company’s clients renew at a rate in excess of 90%.
Two recent developments further underscore the prospects for Blackboard’s continued dominance in its market. Its moat has recently widened as a result of its acquisition of chief competitor WebCT, an acquisition which will enable Blackboard to further expand its international presence via WebCT’s considerable international client base. Also, a joint project with Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) to help academic institutions achieve better integration between Blackboard and Office will further enhance Blackboard’s value to its customers.
Much as many faculty and administrators in the traditionally conservative halls of the academy might regret it, delivery systems other than the traditional classroom setting are here to stay and will play an increasingly large role in all educational institutions. And much as many students will lament the loss of that tried and true excuse, the days of blaming man’s best friend are over. It’s a dog’s life.
Disclosure: Author is a university professor who owns shares of Blackboard and who is mightily dismayed that he can no longer explain away a delay in returning assignments to his students with the excuse that his greyhound ran off with them
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