After months of hard work (and a handful of all nighters) we are very happy to announce that our brand new, freshly redesigned iPad app is now available to build in Mosaic. 

In addition to providing unique, native support for a highly demanded platform, this launch epitomizes our team’s exceptional attention to providing a delightful experience to all of our users. 

Based on the research and experience that we’ve gathered over the past few years, we know that the use cases for tablets and smartphones vary - so we didn’t just want to take the same small format UI and blow it up at a higher resolution to fit the iPad. We thought long and hard about the types of data that our clients are trying to deliver, and ultimately what they are trying to accomplish with their school’s mobile presence. All of those details have been distilled into a beautiful UI that is centered around exploration and discovery of content - ultimately aiming to increase the end user’s interaction and engagement with our clients apps.

The iPad app is centered around three primary elements:

Relevance - Delivering timely and diverse content through the digest.

Discovery - Of new content, places, events, or things.

Beauty and ease of use - Seamlessly integrated content, and playful navigation encourages users to spend more time in the app.

We are so proud to release this new platform to our clients, and can’t wait to see how they start to build out their unique iPad experience.

Thanks to our product management, project management, developers, designers, operations, QA, and client solutions managers for all of their hard work!

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Last week, San Francisco’s own Aaron Krivitzky (AK) led twelve brave souls through a sonic adventure of sound design, sequencing, and music production in Blackboard’s first brown bag talk on music, “An Introduction to Ableton Live 9.”

The crowd was a motley mix of engineers, designers, support specialists, and team managers; and this constitution make for some interesting conversation and comparison, as folks in different careers most certainly had different approaches to their musical workflow.

The sessions’ participants worked on processing hip-hop beats, dubstep baselines, funky horns, and all sort of bleeps and blips in an effort to understand how technology has brought professional quality sound and original composition to a level where anyone with headphones and a MacBook pro can make CD-quality tunes.

Equipped with a starter-pack template that AK designed specifically for instruction, Blackboard’s own producers-to-be experimented with audio warping, acoustic mangling, FX routing, and a host of other techniques in a quest to find the right sound.

In general, the lessons were pragmatically demonstrated; AK would explain a technique, and then illustrate how it might be used musically on an audio sample or midi score, and then the group would take five minutes (in headphones) applying that technique to new or different material.

For almost 2 hours, the room was fully engaged, looping, cutting, and clipping tracks, getting one step closer to an original composition.

The workshop was so well received a few core members have decided to create bimonthly music production ‘club’, where they can continue to meet, trade tips and tracks, and continue learning through collaboration and group activities. There’s even been talk of busting out the network switch to do some live LAM jamming! 

Any budding producers out there who would like a free copy of the ‘Learning Live 9’ template set or are interested in getting involved inthese monthly meetups are welcome to reach out to AK directly and express interest: aaron.krivitzky@blackboard.com

AK is a multi-instrumentalist who has been producing music in the box for about 2 years. Generally a fan of glitch, breaks, and drum and bass, his musical experience as a jazz and funky guitar player lend an interested facet to his songs. He’s anticipates his first purely electronicalbum to be released in 2014.

Of course, if there are particular aspects of sound design and music production that you might be interested in, here’s a list of web-resources that AK uses on a regular basis to education himself – and he hopes you find them useful:

Sound Design, FX (making sounds from scratch):

http://www.syntorial.com
http://www.youtube.com/user/thepluginguru 
http://www.youtube.com/user/DJVespers 
http://www.youtube.com/user/ADSRtuts 

Mixing (playing other peoples stuff):
http://www.youtube.com/user/DubSpot 
http://www.youtube.com/user/fabfilter 

Arranging (going from ideas to songs): 
http://www.youtube.com/user/cosmcosm 
http://www.youtube.com/user/DJVespers 
http://www.youtube.com/channel/HCazdDn5uceSc 

Sound theory, mastering, & Music theory for producers (science):
http://www.youtube.com/user/izotopeinc 
http://www.youtube.com/user/ADSRtuts

"I am thankful to work at a place with such wonderful people whom I can share some of the things I’m passionate about with; thanks to everyone who showed up. Happy music making!" - AK

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To celebrate the Mobile Learn 4.0 launch our team designed some super cool sweatshirts and patches.  

Here’s one of our Mobile Learn Support Ninja’s, Michael Beler, ironing on his patch.  We decided to go with patches so the team could customize their sweatshirts, just like users customize their experience in our app! 

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Internally, we’ve been calling Mobile Learn 4.0 Tesla (not the car company). According to the Mobile Learn Product Manager, Dori Rutkevitz, “We decided to name each major release in 4.x according to big thinkers who have inspired us. We threw around some names and decided to start with Tesla.  The team was inspired by the ‘Why Tesla is the Greatest Geek Ever' comic by the Oatmeal, a fantastic cartoon.”

In addition to getting these sweet threads, the team went on a field trip to the SF Exploratorium on Wednesday.  The museum is fantastic and inspired us all as we tinkered and experimented with the cool hands-on exhibits.

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Check out our Flickr Gallery for more pics!

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Meet Blackboard SF’s newest team member - Staniel Chrischard, M.D.

A native of the waters, Staniel Chrischard, M.D. holds a doctorate in podiatry. He is thrilled to be part of a balanced ecosystem that doubles as an deluxe aquatic bachelor pad suite. While basil and wheatgrass sprout on his roof, he swims actively about his plastic day-glo environs. When the work day is over, he whips out his glow sticks and raves all night long against the neon glow. His favorite leisure activities are dining on pellets, flaring his fins, and raving.
You can visit Staniel on the 2nd floor at the Design bench!

Meet Blackboard SF’s newest team member - Staniel Chrischard, M.D.

A native of the waters, Staniel Chrischard, M.D. holds a doctorate in podiatry. He is thrilled to be part of a balanced ecosystem that doubles as an deluxe aquatic bachelor pad suite. While basil and wheatgrass sprout on his roof, he swims actively about his plastic day-glo environs. When the work day is over, he whips out his glow sticks and raves all night long against the neon glow. His favorite leisure activities are dining on pellets, flaring his fins, and raving.

You can visit Staniel on the 2nd floor at the Design bench!

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It’s back to school season and for many people it’s a time to start anew.  Students all over the world are starting a new chapter of their lives.  They’re setting up their dorm rooms, sporting fresh clothes, and some are even moving out of their childhood homes for the first time.  

For Blackboard Mobile Learn, back to school season is no different.  

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Today we’d like to introduce Mobile Learn 4.0, a complete redesign of our app, available now on iOS and Android.  For Mobile Learn 4.0 we went back to the drawing board, looking at feedback from students, teachers, and instructional designers.  In addition, we incorporated evolving design paradigms and our app analytics to design an experience that makes using the app even more intuitive, simple, and fun.  

"First and foremost the Mobile Learn experience is about reading, so the new user interface is much cleaner and simpler," says the lead designer on Mobile Learn 4.0, Tyler Hansen.  "The cork board and general skeuomorphism of the previous design didn’t make reading easier, in fact in some cases it made it more difficult. After all, mobile is designed and mainly used for content consumption.”

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 Not to say we didn’t like the old design, it’s just time for Mobile Learn to grow up a bit. “It can now be taken a little more seriously than before, though it hasn’t lost all of its fun.” Tyler notes that the team has engineered lots of cool animations and transitions that are rooted in fun user experience rather than mimicking analog metaphors (sticky notes and chalkboards) to lighten the app experience.

Mobile Learn 4.0 offers a more personal experience for our users.  You can now rename your courses (who calls their course ECON-104-SEC-45 anyways?), reorder them, hide ones you never use on your phone (maybe courses from last year), and even associate a color label to a course so that every piece of new content in the app will correspond to its specific course.   

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Updating an app with as many users as ours was not an easy task and we went through countless design revisions.  We explored different navigation paradigms, varying color schemes, and lots of user interfaces.

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***original mockups***  

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***original mockups***

After months of work we’re incredibly proud of the app we’ve put in the hands of our users.  After a day in the wild we’re seeing some awesome feedback on Twitter, in the App Store, and Google Play.  image

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It’s no casual affair to reimagine a product you work on every day and it’s incredibly stressful to await the response of your users.  It takes a lot more people than you might think to make an app like this a reality— you have device engineers working on the iOS and Android code, backend engineers who tie it all into the school’s Blackboard Learn system, an incredible QA team to make sure there are no issues or bugs, an End User support team who work with users to help troubleshoot issues and collect their feedback, a design team who focuses on user interface and user experience, a marketing team to spread the word about the app, and of course a product management team.  All these people worked together over the last year to make this app a reality and help millions of students in their pursuit of an education.  

It’s always mind blowing to realize how many people rely on the technology we build— in only it’s first day live, we saw 1.1 million sessions in Mobile Learn 4.0.  It’s magical to see the immediate response from students, teachers, and institutions and we’re excited to incorporate the resulting feedback into the upcoming versions of our apps.  Thanks again, have a great school year, and enjoy the new Mobile Learn! 

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Last week I packed up my bags and headed east.  I had the chance to work out of the Blackboard HQ office in Washington, DC and I jumped on the opportunity.  After a few days my thin San Francisco skin got used to the heat and humidity of an actual summer and I felt right at home in our nation’s capital.  The Blackboard office occupies about 3.5 floors of a building next to Chinatown, just like our offices in SF.  

The Mobile team members in this office are mostly in sales and marketing and spend a lot of their time talking with Mosaic and Mobile Learn customers, as well as working with the larger organization to get more visibility into the products we support.  In addition to sales and marketing, our DC peeps are client managers, inside sales reps, and business development professionals.  

The main office hosts a huge number of people who focus their attention on different markets, clients, and products all over the world.    

   

If you’re ever in DC for fun, or if you make it out there for Blackboard, the office is full of great people.  And, being a true San Franciscan, I found some really good food right around the office:

For your morning coffee fix, check out Chinatown Coffee.  For lunch, go over to SUNdaVICH for some killer sandwiches.  Finally, if you’re looking to whine and dine with fellow young urban professionals, make a reservation or walk in late to Graffiato.  

Our fearless leader Jay Bhatt came out to the SF office Wednesday and Thursday to spend more time with the team and talk about his plans for the future.  He recapped his experience at Bb World and his continued focus on Blackboard doing more to integrate, accelerate, and innovate.  We hope to see Jay in SF more often!

Our fearless leader Jay Bhatt came out to the SF office Wednesday and Thursday to spend more time with the team and talk about his plans for the future.  He recapped his experience at Bb World and his continued focus on Blackboard doing more to integrate, accelerate, and innovate.  We hope to see Jay in SF more often!