Blackboard

SAWIB08 Winner

Company: Blackboard, Washington, D.C.
Company Description: Blackboard Inc. is a leading provider of e-Learning software applications and related services. Founded in 1997, Blackboard enables educational innovations everywhere by connecting people and technology. Millions of people use Blackboard everyday at corporations, associations, government agencies, and military and academic institutions around the globe.
Nomination Category: Company/Organization Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Technology Innovator of the Year

Nomination Title: Jessica Finnefrock Senior Vice President for Product Development at Blackboard Inc.

1. Describe for the judges the activities and accomplishments of the nominated company during the eligibility period (up to 500 words):

As Senior Vice President for Product Development, Jessica Finnefrock leads product strategy and development efforts for Blackboard Inc., a publicly traded company with a market capitalization of approximately $1 billion. Blackboard provides the technology that is used by thousands of colleges and universities around the world to put courses—and their campuses—online.

During the eligibility period, Finnefrock has led efforts to conceive and implement the biggest product development effort in Blackboard’s history: “Project NG,” a multi-year, multi-release effort to deliver a next generation teaching and learning solution. With Project NG, Finnefrock has led an ambitious effort to unite separate academic software products from Blackboard and WebCT—the world’s two largest e-learning platforms. Every day millions of students and teachers around the world use Blackboard and WebCT (acquired by Blackboard in 2006) to access their courses, connect and collaborate with each other, and participate in the full range of campus activities.

Finnefrock’s work to combine the power of these two platforms—and to add a host of new improvements—represents one of the most significant product breakthroughs in e-learning in more than a decade. When complete, the effort will deliver a vastly improved, powerfully simple user experience that will make it easier for teachers and students to participate in rich learning experiences.

As part of Project NG, Finnefrock has also helped to bring new Web 2.0 capabilities to Blackboard’s e-learning platform, to help better engage students and leverage the power of social learning communities. A primary example of this effort is Blackboard Sync™, an application launched earlier this year that enables students to receive information on new course assignments and updates, discussion board postings, and even new grades while logged on to their Facebook accounts. Blackboard Sync is already helping thousands of students to be better engaged in their academic lives, learn more about their classmates, and join in social networks and learning opportunities.

Product launched as part of Project NG will be rigorously evaluated with a highly efficient, enterprise-class performance engineering and testing system developed by Finnefrock that has been a critical part of the company’s continued success and growth. In fact, Blackboard’s next product offering will have undergone more than 40,000 hours of testing powered by nearly 800 servers before it is launched.

This year, Finnefrock has emerged as the longest-serving product development chief in Blackboard’s 11-year history. Under Finnefrock’s leadership, Blackboard’s product development team has grown four-fold, and now includes more than 250 full-time product development staff members working in locations across the globe. More than one-third of this group have been with the company for five or more years, making the group the longest-tenured section of the company, and a reflection of Finnefrock’s commitment to establishing a positive, supportive, and exciting work environment.

Given her unprecedented work on Project NG, her passionate commitment to creating a positive work environment for her team, and her trailblazing role as a successful leader in business and technology, Jessica Finnefrock is an ideal candidate for the Stevie Awards.

2. List the URLs (web addresses) of any online news stories, press releases, or other documents that you would like the judges to see that support your entry. IMPORTANT: List each URL on a separate line, begin each URL with http://, and enclose each URL in square brackets. For example, [http://www.yourcompany.com/pressrelease.html]:

Project NG http://www.blackboard.com/projectNG/

Blackboard Problems Leave Vista on Double-Secret Probation http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,1895,2109454,00.asp

Jessica Finnefrock Invites You to BbWorld '08 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48JsvffHG5U

Thar she blows! New Blackboard Pirate Language Pack Celebrates Talk Like a Pirate Day http://www.blackboard.com/company/press/release.aspx?id=1053413

Blackboard Supports Piracy ... Not That Kind http://campustechnology.com/articles/50452/

3. Provide a brief biography of the nominated person(s) or the leader(s) of the nominated organization or (up to 100 words):

As Senior Vice President for Product Development, Jessica Finnefrock leads Blackboard’s product strategy and development efforts and serves as a member of Blackboard’s corporate executive team. Finnefrock is Blackboard’s longest-serving product development chief, and is responsible for identifying and pursuing the vision for its full suite of academic products. Since 2002, Finnefrock has helped to grow the product development team four-fold and has led efforts to establish a highly efficient performance engineering and testing system that has been a critical part of the company’s success and growth. She oversees more than 250 staff members working in locations across the globe.