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Blackboard Lands Arizona Contract for Educators' Online Learning, Collaboration

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The Arizona Department of Education has granted Blackboard Inc. a five-year contract to support more than 60,000 educators for online learning and collaboration. The contract is valued at $767,000 over the first four years, with the fifth year price negotiated at the time of renewal.

The initiative is part of the education department's larger goal to help teachers successfully implement Arizona's College and Career Ready Standards, and to streamline the technical assistance, service, and support the agency provides educators, according to this week's announcement of the contract.

Blackboard, based in Washington, was chosen through what the state called a "rigorous" evaluation process following a request for proposals. The company's learning solutions will provide support for online and mobile learning, real-time video interaction and collaboration, and integration with other state systems. This integration will allow teachers to register for classes, pay course fees, and track their path to certification and endorsements, all within their online learning environment.

Blackboard is partnering with TrueNorthLogic, a Sandy, Utah-based company that has a professional development management platform, for the state implementation. The two companies will provide systems, managed hosting, training, and implementation services as part of the contract.

John Huppenthal, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, said in the state's release that this move will help teachers meet their individual goals, while also helping them prepare their students for success with "new, innovative approaches to teaching" as the K-12 educational landscape is quickly changing.

"Moving forward, the state's regional centers, county education service agencies, districts, and schools can choose to leverage the new solution through the Arizona Education Department, which would  also include implementation services and platform training, to support their own unique professional learning and K-12 student online learning needs," said Peter Laing, the Arizona education department senior director of Race to the Top, who responded by email to Education Week's questions about the contract.

Arizona is the first state department of education that has adopted Blackboard's Innovative Classroom solution, according to Mark Belles, the senior vice president of K-12 for the company.

"We already work with nearly 70 school districts across Arizona that are using one or more of our products," said Belles, in an emailed response, adding that the hope is this partnership will extend that reach. 


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