Anthology Together 2023: Building Out on the Promise of a Single Solution

Paul O’Brien |

Senior Analyst

Senior Analyst

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Approximately 2,000 attendees gathered at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, to learn what Anthology has delivered to its extensive product suite and what’s on tap for the next six months and beyond.

Attendees applauded enthusiastically when Chairman and CEO Jim Milton announced that more than 200 new product features have been delivered since Anthology Together 2022—an investment of tens of millions of dollars across the entire portfolio. The functionality improvements were showcased in sessions throughout the three-day conference.

“Intelligent Experiences” Is Not Just a Marketing Term!

Last year, Anthology Intelligent Experiences (Anthology iX) was rolled out as the exciting new addition to Anthology’s portfolio. Anthology iX promised to provide improved context and insights into the many data points across the student lifecycle. This year, we saw several new applications added to the iX product suite.

The new integration between Anthology Occupation Insight, Anthology Milestone, and Anthology Student will allow students to see the skills required for a particular career at the point of registration, while enabling advisors to track their assigned students’ progress toward achieving desired skills in real time.

The second Intelligent Experiences application announced connects Blackboard Learn’s progress tracking data to the advising module inside Anthology’s CRM and lifecycle engagement tool, Anthology Reach. With this update, advisors gain robust and easy-to-assess student engagement data. The predictive tool provides leading indicators that allow action to be taken to get learners back on track. J.D. White, Anthology’s chief product officer, noted, “By connecting data from Blackboard Learn and Anthology Reach, we are building a more powerful early intervention tool for advisors that enables them to quickly identify learners at risk to surround them with the support they need as early as possible.” 

Blackboard Learn: New Features and AI-enhanced Functionality

Anthology continues to invest in Blackboard Learn Ultra. New features and functionality have been steadily added since its merger with Anthology in 2020, and this year, generative artificial intelligence has been integrated into the product. The technology uses Microsoft Azure Open AI Service to provide several new features that promise to reduce time and effort in course development and assessment. The new AI Design Assistant will give faculty and instructional designers the ability to auto-generate course modules and descriptions when they provide input for course objectives. The Assistant also offers the ability to generate graphics.

Further, Blackboard Learn Ultra capabilities include a test/quiz generator and an assignment rubric, potentially offering significant time savings for faculty and staff. These features will be in testing during August 2023, with delivery to all Blackboard Learn Ultra users targeted for September 2023. These tools, along with recently released tools for bulk course conversion and the Ultra Adoption Toolkit, should help drive conversion from Blackboard Learn Original to Ultra.

Anthology’s investment in and commitment to Learn Ultra is evident, and a number of sessions focused on the Learn Ultra migration. There are now many successful migration stories from institutions, and Anthology reports that the number of courses offered through Learn Ultra has increased by more than 50 percent compared to 2022.

New Progress Tracking functionality provides more granular insight into students’ course performance, allowing for timely interventions by instructors if needed. Also, an accessibility checker powered by Blackboard Ally flags potential accessibility issues, helping instructors and designers ensure that content meets accessibility standards.

HCM, Finance, and Payroll—Continuing to Build Enterprise-ready Solutions

Anthology has been continuing its investment in its Finance and Human Capital Management (HCM) platforms. Both systems continue to leverage Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations Public Sector Edition with Anthology-built higher education extensions. New integrations between Anthology HCM, Finance, and Student provide expanded features and new capabilities

Anthology Payroll continues to see functionality enhancements, with several new features unveiled at the conference, including faculty workload management that’s made possible by integrations between Student, HCM, Finance, and Payroll.

Other enhancements include employee self-service functionality for benefits, employee information, and direct deposit. Each school can customize the functionality when it’s made available. Anthology also announced support for configuring pay periods and functionality to assist multiple pay groups within an institution.

Anthology Student

Anthology Student has seen the addition of the degree pathway audit (DPA), now with more advanced rules-based functionality. The solution fully embraces guided pathways for students, with dashboard functionality for advisors to view students from registration to degree progress, skill attainment, and career planning. The new functionality provides enhancements for:

  • Configuring prerequisite and corequisite courses in degree pathways
  • Identifying programs for which a course may simultaneously be both a prerequisite and a corequisite
  • Requirements rules engines
  • Configurable course fulfillment order capabilities

The student portal has also received significant enhancements for student self-service, financials, and financial aid information. Anthology has also made significant upgrades to its Financial Aid Automation. Several institutions have reported substantial reductions in time to complete tasks, including packaging, repackaging, and return to Title 4. With the new simplified FAFSA due in 2024, several updates have been developed to allow schools to adapt to the new requirements.

Anthology also announced the expansion of its partner program for Anthology Student with improved tools to assist with partner integrations, implementation, and maintenance. While some institutions have had implementation issues with Student in recent years, there is evidence that Anthology has been paying attention. Several recently migrated institutions have reported a much-improved posture, particularly concerning data conversion. Anthology is committed to positioning Student as a flexible solution for institutions of all types. Tambellini will continue to monitor its progress.

Data, AI, and the Delivery of Insight Across the Student Lifecycle

The expansive Anthology portfolio offers products that span the entire student lifecycle, including Reach, Student, HCM, Finance, and Blackboard, with the potential to provide data insights that can drive student success to levels many schools have only dreamed of. It does this by eliminating data silos, improving data integrations, and providing enhanced analytics.

During Anthology Together 2023, the roadmap for data analytics centered on expanding Blackboard Data. Blackboard Data, anchored on Snowflake, will move beyond LMS data to incorporate data from across the Anthology suite of products. Data from Anthology Student and Reach (CRM) will be added soon, with institutional effectiveness data after that. Enhanced reporting capabilities and AI enhancements are also on the roadmap.

Anthology’s recently announced partnership with Microsoft regarding the Azure OpenAI Service will drive feature enhancements that infuse AI into the solution. While currently not sunsetting its other analytics solutions, A4L and Anthology Insight, it’s clear that Anthology’s focus will be on creating a leading student analytics solution using Blackboard Data and Snowflake.

Bottom Line

Anthology Together 2023 showcased the multitude of functional enhancements Anthology has made throughout its entire product suite. Attendees were enthusiastic about the significant investments made, notably with the continued improvements to Blackboard Learn Ultra and the partnership with Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service. Anthology is committed to continuously evolving an enterprise suite of products and solutions that will likely attract new customers and help retain current ones.

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Paul O’Brien |
Senior Analyst
Paul O’Brien is responsible for advising higher education clients on selection and implementation strategies based on extensive research developed by Tambellini Group analysts. He brings more than 30 years of leadership and management experience in higher education technology. His experience includes building highly effective and solution-focused teams and overseeing many successful technological infrastructure projects and implementations. Paul is passionate about using technology to drive student success.

Additional Authors:

Senior Analyst
As a senior analyst, Dr. Matt Winn focuses his research initiatives on academic administration, LMS, and other teaching and learning technologies. He has led numerous modernization and implementation projects within the SIS, LMS, and CRM landscapes. Passionate about using technology to serve and improve education, he seeks to help institutions integrate disparate systems, create automations, and improve various processes across campus. 

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