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Demand for Online Learning in K-12 Grows, But Continues to Outpace Supply

Personalization of Learning Process Key Driver for Student Interest

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2010 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ --

The number of high school students who are taking online classes has nearly doubled since last year, according to a survey report from Project Tomorrow(R) and Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB), but demand continues to outpace the opportunities currently available in K-12 schools and districts.

Twenty-seven percent of high school students and 21 percent of middle school students reported taking an online class for school or personal reasons in 2009, up from just 14 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in 2008. However, those percentages are far short of meeting student demand, with over half of high school students and nearly as many middle school students citing the availability of online classes as part of their ideal school experience.

According to the survey, students rank the ability to work at their own pace and be in control of the learning process as the top reasons for taking online classes. In fact, the ability to personalize learning in various ways with online classes was as important or more important a reason to take them than to earn college credit, take classes not offered at their school, or better manage their schedules.

"Students clearly want online learning to be a bigger part of their overall school experience," said Julie Evans, CEO of Project Tomorrow. "They're eager to personalize their learning with technologies they are already comfortable with. And so far schools have not fully capitalized on this interest to create more relevant, engaging, and productive learning experiences for students."

The findings are included in the report, Learning in the 21st Century: 2010 Trends Update, an analysis of data from Project Tomorrow's annual Speak Up National Research Project. The 2009 Speak Up surveys captured views on online education and 21st century learning from more than 370,000 U.S. K-12 students, parents, educators and college students enrolled in teacher preparation programs.

As student interest in online learning continues to grow, so has the number of teachers who have taught online classes - the percentage of which has tripled since 2008. Yet only 10 percent of teachers say they are currently tapping into online classes to enhance student achievement, according to the report. Further, while pre-service teachers are gaining more experience with online classes (52 percent) and online professional learning communities (38 percent) in their teacher preparation programs, just 4 percent report they are learning how to teach online classes in their instructional methods courses.

"It is exciting to see steady and continued growth in online learning for both blended and fully virtual educational models," said Jessie Woolley-Wilson, President of Blackboard K-12. "Online learning helps district leaders achieve key goals including student engagement, parental involvement and flexible and cost-effective teacher professional development. Combined, all these goals drive student success and prepare students to thrive in a knowledge based economy. We see this compelling set of highly collaborative and instructionally relevant online tools as essential components of the most successful and innovative connected districts in the United States and abroad."

Students reported a range of barriers to taking online classes. Over 25 percent of high school students that have not taken an online course said that classes were not offered at their school or they did not know what classes are offered. Sixteen percent said they could not afford to take an online class.

Institutional barriers are also preventing wider access, according to the report, with almost 40 percent of district administrators and 35 percent of principals reporting that their ability to offer classes online is stymied by limited state funding. In addition, 30 percent of administrators said that their teachers were not comfortable teaching online while 26 percent doubted their teachers' ability to effectively use tools for online classes, suggesting a need to provide educators with more training and additional support in online instruction.

"Learning will become an around the clock opportunity with students logging into school from home," said a Michigan principal who participated in the survey. "The role of the teacher will be to lead and assist students in discovering the uses for the technology and information. Every student from Pre-K through 12th grade will have access to learning through the most advanced IT devices available and learning will occur online at least 80 percent of the time."

Learning in the 21st Century: 2010 Trends Update, was released at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in Denver. The report is available online at www.blackboard.com/k12/education21c. For more information about Blackboard, please visit http://www.blackboard.com/K12.

About Blackboard Inc.

Blackboard Inc. (Nasdaq: BBBB) is a global leader in enterprise technology and innovative solutions that improve the experience of millions of students and learners around the world every day. Blackboard's solutions allow thousands of higher education, K-12, professional, corporate, and government organizations to extend teaching and learning online, facilitate campus commerce and security, and communicate more effectively with their communities. Founded in 1997, Blackboard is headquartered in Washington, D.C., with offices in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.

About Project Tomorrow

Speak Up is a national initiative of Project Tomorrow, the nation's leading education nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring that today's students are well prepared to be tomorrow's innovators, leaders, and engaged citizens. Since fall 2003, the Speak Up National Research Project has annually collected and reported on the views of over 1.85 million K-12 students, teachers, administrators and parents representing over 23,000 schools in all 50 states. The Speak Up National Research Project dataset represents the largest collection of authentic, unfiltered stakeholder input on education, technology, 21st century skills, schools of the future and science and math instruction. Education, business and policy leaders report using the data regularly to inform federal, state and local education programs. For additional information, visit www.tomorrow.org.

Any statements in this press release about future expectations, plans and prospects for Blackboard and other statements containing the words "believes," "anticipates," "plans," "expects," "will," and similar expressions, constitute forward-looking statements within the meaning of The Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Actual results may differ materially from those indicated by such forward-looking statements as a result of various important factors, including the factors discussed in the "Risk Factors" section of our Form 10-Q filed on May 7, 2010 with the SEC. In addition, the forward-looking statements included in this press release represent the Company's views as of June 29, 2010. The Company anticipates that subsequent events and developments will cause the Company's views to change. However, while the Company may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, the Company specifically disclaims any obligation to do so. These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing the Company's views as of any date subsequent to June 29 2010.

SOURCE Blackboard Inc.