Recently, we at StudyTree solidified our partnership with Blackboard. We are extremely excited for what this development means for us moving forward, and the institutions that we can have even further integration with. Here is some background information for those of you that enjoy the details.
What is an LMS?
Most college students have no idea what this acronym stand for but they have all in one way shape or form used an LMS. Now if you’re unfamiliar with all of this; The acronym is popular in the EdTech startup world, referring to a system that organizes information for schools. Ever heard of Blackboard? Moodle? or Canvas? Yes those are LMS and it stands for Learning Management System. It’s basically one behemoth platform that allows the institutions in education to communicate between the administrators, instructors and most importantly the students.
Now let’s get into the market of these Learning Management Systems. Don’t worry we won’t get into the boring details, let’s just summarize that Blackboard, Moodle and Canvas collectively control almost 75% of the market for institutions of higher education. The LMS market by the numbers is pretty staggering in regards to who is running the show, especially to StudyTree. For us trying to operate within higher education, it is imperative that we partner with these companies to offer the most that we can to our clients… while avoiding competition when we don’t need to.
We all love and hate FERPA depending on which side of the educational wall you’re on. Students love this when they’re trying to hide their poor performance in class from their parents. And parents hate this when they’re trying to find out how their kids are performing and legally can’t. Well for the greater good, FERPA protects everyone from releasing any kind of information to anyone. At StudyTree, we are not trying to create an “uber for tutor” platform. We are striving to create powerful platforms for students and institutions themselves to enhance the learning environment and drive success. So the question is, how do you do this without the information on the student’s performance? and notify them when they’re at risk? Well the answer is simple, you can’t.
What Now? New Partnership
We wanted to create a system within StudyTree that would notify any “high risk” student who is underperforming in class. So how do we do this without all the FERPA restrictions to access student’s data? We needed access to their grades to get this new addition to the platform started. There were some interesting options to be FERPA compliant. We could have just applied for the certification, of course this would mean we would have to go through some rigorous and extremely time consuming process. As a startup, we were scaling, not stalling and this was the last thing that we wanted to do in regards to time sensitivity. Another way was to hire and contract a FERPA certified information technology company to handle all of our traffic. Again we didn’t want to waste our funding on a big IT contract. I mean obviously it’s not our bread and butter but we wanted to make StudyTree better with this notification feature. There was only one option left, partnerships.
Ethan had met someone from Blackboard during his invite to EDUCAUSE 2015, the biggest institution of higher education conference in the country. After reaching out to Blackboard, we got a meeting with a representative. Which later turns out, that’s all we really needed. By the time we ended our conference call with the Blackboard representative, we knew exactly how we would integrate with their LMS. This would open up an entire new door to StudyTree’s notification feature and access to all the pre-existing institutions that are using Blackboard. Partnering with Blackboard has been the biggest validation for our platform to this point.
We’re taking big steps into EdTech and into institutions of higher learning with our partnership with Blackboard. We are excited to see what we will do next with Blackboard and new partners as we move forward.