How a Reston-based Company Is Powering the Shift to Virtual Teaching

Education technology giant Blackboard, which operates its global headquarters in Reston, is a major force in the shift to digital teaching and learning during COVID-19..

The company — which is contracted by Fairfax County Public Schools and many other jurisdictions nationwide — is partnering with K-12 districts and higher education institutions in the region as COVID-19 forces schools to close for the remainder of the school year.

Earlier this week, State Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all schools to close through the academic year. The Fairfax County School Board is expected to release information on online teaching, impact on seniors and grading over the next several days.

We appreciate and support the work that our superintendent and staff have done to set in motion the distance learning initiative. Adjustments will be made over time as we learn from our students and staff. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has provided school districts additional guidance regarding continuity of learning that has an equity focus,” wrote board chairwoman Karen Corbett Sanders on Tuesday.

Classrooms will likely leverage Blackboard Collaborate, an online classroom solution, to complement Blackboard’s existing online communication tools and website.

“We reach over 50 percent of the top 100 U.S. largest school districts with our educational communications and learning management tools,” a Blackboard spokesperson told Reston Now in an interview.

The company is currently working with Amazon Web Services, an Amazon subsidiary that provides cloud computing platforms, to ensure the company can meet increased demand.

The spike in global demand for cloud-based learning solutions like Blackboard due to the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented. But the company says it can apply lessons learned and best practices from situations like Hurricane Harvey and H1N1.

Blackboard is working with clients to understand how they might use the company’s services in two-week intervals to “improve our own processes and readiness,” the spokesperson said.

“These two-way conversations help us plan so that we can be more proactive with changes to our capacity.”

Photo via Blackboard

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