Summer Updates to Blackbaud’s Education Management Portfolio

June 25, 2018 Janet Wittenberg

As we kick-off summer and temperatures soar, Blackbaud’s education management portfolio (formerly the “ON” products) is also heating up with new releases. Big updates are coming in the next few weeks, and you don't want to get burned by not being in the know, so read on to get a preview of what's hot. 

Summer Warm Up, Act 1: Login Page 

school management platform login

All users will enter their username and click Next or press the Enter key before seeing the password field.  Even though it looks a little different, users can authenticate with their same username and password as before. This update paves the way for allowing different authentication methods per role in a future release.

Summer Warm Up, Act 2:  SKY UX Fonts and Colors 

user experience fonts and color changes

Subtle font and color changes will also display in the "ON" user interface. Along with Raiser's Edge NXT, we are introducing the new Blackbaud font. This font is rounder and darker, which should help with readability and usability. We’ve also updated the contrast and colors of alert messages and other color indicators to improve accessibility. 

Summer Headliner: The New Navigation Release 

Administrative users will discover that tasks are organized a whole new way. We’ve aligned our features into capabilities that better match the way schools work instead of organizing them by product name. Most task functionality hasn’t changed—we're simply making it easier to find tasks by reorganizing the navigation and keeping frequently used items together in the same menu.  

It’s important to note that the navigation for parents, students, faculty, alumni, and friend personas remains the same. Users with more than one persona will see the switcher move to the left side instead of its current location on the right, but that's the only impact to your school's broader community. 

It has certainly taken a village to bring the new navigation to general release. Our design evolved through feedback received from over 1600 users at 520 schools in the 2017 Impact Survey. We then tested and refined the design and navigation language through usability tests that were available in our online community. Finally, we worked through more nuanced changes by conducting discovery calls with customers. Now, the Early Adopter Program (EAP) is well underway with over 40 schools participating, and the feedback has been very positive with few issues. 

“I just look where I expect it to be and it’s there," said Michael M. Nardulli, systems administrator at Rutgers Preparatory School. I’m spending a lot less time jumping between the different products and a lot less time, in general, searching for things."  

Most content and tasks you need are now grouped by “capabilities,” which include Academics, Enrollment Management, Extracurricular, School Website, and Core.  

In many cases, these capabilities closely resemble the original application/product personas. For example, you’ll find most Blackbaud Enrollment Management System™ (formerly onBoard®) information under Enrollment Management. Reorganizing tasks separately under Admissions and Enrollment menu options better aligns with the seasonality of when tasks are being used.  We’ve taken the guesswork out of defining what we considered a Setting versus a Process.  

  • The new Admissions Management section allows Admissions professionals to easily manage inquiries, applications, and checklists in conjunction with each other. It does not presume a linear progression because, in reality, Candidates move through stages in various ways.  
  • The Communication menu combines all methods for the school to contact a candidate family (e-Newsletter, Official Note, Notification) into one spot.   
  • Admissions Dashboards now appear as tabs, laying the groundwork for future user-built dashboards. The KPI Boards are going away in favor of our more modern and accurate tools for analyzing data (Interactive Lists, Prescriptive Dashboards, Insights). 

Some items have moved to new or renamed menu locations. For example, we have erased the unnatural line drawn between the learning management and student information systems, and most of these tasks are now under Academics. Class page set up, assignment and gradebook settings, report cards, transcripts, schedules, and attendance all live under the same umbrella now to minimize product hopping.  

LMS schedules

In addition to reshuffling tasks into functional areas, we are also enhancing the experience with: 

  • A new Requests and Schedules overview page for a one-stop shop to schedule academics, advisory, and activities. 
  • A new Gradebook Settings menu item that: 
    • Combines old Podium Bridge tasks (Marking Periods, Grade Access, and Letter Grade Scale) into one settings page. 
    • Introduces additional admin options for setting defaults on the Teacher Gradebook, which helps Teachers get started, and is also used to lock down defaults as school-wide settings. This addresses numerous community forum votes, including the request for more control over the display of cumulative grade decimal points, and choosing to publish assignment grades without sharing cumulative grades. 

Gradebook changes

While our schools still get the value of a learning management system that goes beyond the classroom, pulling non-academic tasks into a new Extracurricular space provides clarity around who manages these items. We’ve also reorganized tasks to make setup easier—Athletics managers can now set up venues and opponents while updating teams and schedules. 

Website page building and content management are now found within School Website.  A new landing page provides a comprehensive view of the websites you’ve created in Blackbaud School Website System™ (formerly onMessage®), their status, and URL. We’ve also highlighted Events in the menu to prepare for a future release where we’ll build ways to manage events across all Blackbaud products in a common way. 

Core tasks have also been organized with an eye toward the future where administrative navigation with Raiser's Edge NXT and Financial Edge NXT will be combined for the whole school.  All tasks related to security are now found in one menu, making it easier to configure access for everything from Roles and tasks, Group pages, and Content Editor groups. We’ve also separated Settings and System Tools to make it easier to find infrequently used tasks. 

We know that communicating these changes to your users is important, so we created a task map that allows anyone to search and filter all the menu tasks by old or new navigation structure, or task name. 

Please share the task map with your admin users so they can be prepared! 

Stay tuned for our encore later this summer, where new enhancements will be available in Core > People Finder > User Profile that will replace the old Edit User Profile Data item for managing users. 

About the Author

Janet Wittenberg

Principal Product Manager, Blackbaud K-12 Private Schools Group

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