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Blackboard brings learning to the AWS GovCloud

As part of Blackboard’s effort to become fully accredited under the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, the learning management system provider announced its Blackboard Learn platform is now available for federal agencies in the Amazon Web Services GovCloud.

AWS GovCloud gives Blackboard an isolated environment at the FedRAMP High baseline, which provides the maximum security for non-classified information.

"Having the ability to deploy this invaluable capability on the FedRAMP-certified AWS GovCloud gives us the added confidence that our most sensitive data is safe and secure at all times,” said Helen Remily, capability manager of the Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Distributed Learning Program.

Blackboard offers three hosting environments for its learning management programs: self-hosted; managed-hosted through Blackboard data centers that are managed by IBM; and software as a service through AWS.

The company started working with AWS on its cloud-based Blackboard Learn platform in 2015 in the AWS US East Region.

“When we announced Blackboard Learn over a year ago, it was announced under a different region in Amazon that does not have the same security-level impact that Amazon GovCloud has,” David Palmer, a senior account executive at Blackboard, told GCN.  “GovCloud covers us for the infrastructure piece, but we are still working on the controls for the application process and a number of other things.”

Blackboard is hoping to have the Learn platform fully FedRAMP accredited by the second half of 2018.

The company provides support for educational activities in classrooms and online learning across the United States and internationally.

Blackboard’s learning systems have been used by the Veterans Acquisition Academy, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center and the Federal Aviation Administration.

“The federal government has a different approach to education where they don’t do typical semesters, but they have a lot of different courses that they offer over a period of one, two, three or four months,” Palmer said.  “Blackboard allows them to have a continuous learning environment where they continue training wherever they go.”

The FAA uses Blackboard’s systems for its FAA Academy to train members of aviation community on technical skills for air traffic control, regulatory standards and the handling of security and hazardous materials.

FLETC uses Blackboard’s Genius online product to enroll students for community training, track their progress and issue certificates.

Blackboard is also active in California and Ohio, which use FedRAMP as a guideline for their cloud-based programs, Palmer said

“We have some large customers in California such as the Department of General Services that will take advantage of our new government-secured platform,” said Palmer.  “We have been hosting customers from the Department of Defense and other agencies for 15 years, so the cloud-based platform is the next step in the evolution of our company.”

Note: This article was updated on April 19 to clarify the details of Blackboard Learn's hosting options.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@gcn.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.


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