Yes. The Blackboard admin may soon go the way of the Dodo Bird. I have spent the past few months reviewing the educational landscape for several of my friends and for my own benefit. Positions for Blackboard admins seem to be dwindling in higher education today. Sadly I think I know why.
I have seen numerous institutions in the past five years be swallowed up into Blackboard Managed Hosting. Now I’m not going to spend this blog post discussing the positive and negative issues of this service. However when most institutions pony up the money for it, they don’t see the need for a technical Blackboard admin on staff. Administrators believe all the technical work no longer has to be done by the institution. They can give the “admin duties” as part time responsibilities to an employee with a much cheaper position on the salary scale.
Another issue is how Managed Hosting or “the cloud” are requirements for the “Ultra Project”, Blackboard’s latest release. While this is a pretty new technology, I suspect that this (and future developments) will depend on Amazon Web Services or other cloud hosting systems. That development will make more institutions look at moving to hosted solutions which in turn sends more Blackboard admins looking.
So we have examined and found the problem. What can be done about it? I would suggest while moving an institution to a hosted solution, Blackboard recommends the institution retain a Blackboard technical admin. Blackboard should provide examples as to why an organization will continue to need this position. Tasks such as integrations with other enterprise software on campus, ASR database querying, and even analytical data collection would fall to someone with experience as Blackboard technical admin.
The company could also hire admins to help develop the Blackboard community. The user community which thrived years ago seems to have become stagnant. While listservs continue to have heavy activity, user groups and other targeted communities have lost their way. I’m not sure what it could take to bring the community back to life. But I believe those admins know the importance of networking other Blackboard users could provide some answers.
In summary, when I get up in the morning I like to wake up and have passion for something. Passion that fuels that drive and energy and makes you want to take on each day. For over 12 years the work I have done (and I’m sure many other admins have as well) with Blackboard has been my passion. This software and how it meets the needs of users brings me great joy. Once you find something you are passionate about, its hard to replace it. Nothing has, and I hope I don’t have to start searching anytime soon.