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Blackboard Announces Integration With Amazon’s Alexa

Blackboard has announced its partnership with Amazon’s Alexa to launch a new Skill for its flagship learning management system (LMS), Blackboard Learn. Learners (and their parents) will be able to get information about their profile and coursework simply by asking Alexa.

The initial Skill allows students to ask Alexa to access information about their profile and coursework. For example, students could access course information by asking questions like “Alexa, when is my next English essay due?” The functionality is expected to expand into asking about grades, course announcements, and messages. The goal of this integration is to simplify access to school-related information for end users and to incorporate seamlessly into their everyday lives.

According to Amazon, “the Alexa Education Skill API is a new set of interfaces that allow Education Technology (Ed Tech) developers to build voice experiences for parents and students 13 and over.” The API gives LMS vendors access to the voice model for common education requests so they will no longer have to spend development time on voice design. To develop the API, Amazon worked closely not only with Blackboard, but also Kickboard, ParentSquare, Coursera, and Canvas.

In order to use this Skill, students will need to link their Blackboard and Alexa accounts. The integration is currently in preview and expected to go live later this year.

Source: Blackboard at SoftwareReviews, Report published January 2019

Our Take

Voice design is more prevalent and becoming increasingly important as more applications look to integrate with Siri, OK Google, and Alexa. Amazon is seeking first player advantage by partnering with LMS systems before Apple and Google, and with the API those vendors will not have to commit resources to voice design.

The ability to speak with Alexa enables learners to access information as they go about their day and could be a huge benefit to those with accessibility needs as they don’t need to log into a device to receive accurate course information. Although the functionality is still developing, it might be enough to convince some users and families to adopt Alexa in order to have voice access to LMS content.