Mass Messaging Use Grows Among Schools

Blackboard this week crossed a major milestone: voice and text messages sent through its Connect-ED mass messaging service are now reaching the parents of 11 million U.S. elementary and high school students, representing one in five households with school-aged children nationwide.

In addition, the Washington-based company last week added 30,000 students north of the border to its rolls when it signed its first Canadian customer, the Lester B. Pearson School Board in Quebec.

The fully hosted, software-as-a-service solution, which first launched in 2001, has been widely used for parent outreach programs aimed at cutting student truancy. Districts using the solution for that purpose send a message to parents when a student is not in school.

"Quick, reliable, efficient communication has a positive impact on parental engagement, ultimately improving student achievement," explains Tom Motter, president and chief operating officer of Blackboard Connect. "Superintendents, principals and other education leaders have recognized a direct link between a strong communication platform and enhanced student success."

Districts have also used Blackboard Connect-ED to help ensure student safety during a number of natural disasters, including the Gulf Coast hurricanes and massive wildfires in southern California. The solution has also proved effective in situations where students went missing, with school districts using it as a kind of internal "Amber Alert" system.

"The fact that school districts use Connect-ED to reach the families of one in five students in the U.S. reinforces their commitment to student achievement," Motter says. "Achieving the scale we've reached across the country is an important milestone for us and for our client community."

Blackboard Connect lets school leaders register up to six phone numbers and two email addresses per student and staff member, with fees based on a fixed per-person rate. It can send:

  • Prerecorded voice messages to home phones, work phones, cell phones, and email addresses;
  • Text messages to email accounts or text-enabled cell phones, handheld devices, or networked digital signage; and
  • Messages to TTY/TDD devices for the hearing-impaired.

The Blackboard Connect platform allows officials to send an unlimited number of messages and can be used from any computer with Internet access or telephone. Additionally, officials receive detailed reports on contacts that did not receive the message, enabling them to follow up through alternative means as needed.

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