Montana Digital Academy at UM Wins Blackboard Catalyst Award

July 25, 2018

The Montana Digital Academy team received a Blackboard Inc. Catalyst Award July 19 in Orlando. Left to right: Tim Atkins, Blackboard chief client officer; Jason Neiffer, MTDA assistant director/curriculum director; Mike Agostinelli, MTDA instructional program director; and Bill Ballhaus, Blackboard CEO, president and chairman. MISSOULA – Three staff members from the Montana Digital Academy at the University of Montana have been named winners of a Blackboard Inc. Catalyst Award in the Teaching and Learning category.  

Founded in 2005, the annual Catalyst Awards recognize and honor innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community of practice, where millions of educators and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology. Winners are selected by a cross-functional team of Blackboard experts.

MTDA’s Mike Agostinelli, Robert Currie and Jason Neiffer received the honor for redesigning their credit recovery program using advanced communication and design tools available in the Blackboard MoodleRooms platform.

With seed money from the SHAPE P-20 grant program from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, the UM-based team reviewed data and gathered information to design a more rigorous and responsive user experience. The result was a new learner-focused credit recovery program that has resulted in more than 5,000 semester credits recovered by Montana students, a 91 percent satisfaction rating among participating students and a positive impact on graduation rates across the state.

 “I’m proud to recognize this year’s Catalyst Award winners for their dedication to using technology to enhance the learning experience and sharing their best practices with the larger community,” said Bill Ballhaus, chairman, CEO and president of Blackboard. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the winners and their institutions to support learner success.”

The UM team was honored alongside other Blackboard Catalyst Award winners during BbWorld 2018, Blackboard’s annual user conference July 16-19 in Orlando. Other award categories included leading change, community engagement, inclusive education, optimizing student experience, training and professional development, student success and exemplary course.

Blackboard is the leading provider of learner success-focused technology solutions and services. Its product portfolio is unmatched in the marketplace, spanning teaching and learning, analytics, community engagement, campus transactions and security solutions, as well as student services.

For more information on the Blackboard Catalyst Awards, visit

Created in 2009 by the Montana Legislature, MTDA provides unique online educational opportunities to Montana students and schools. To learn more, visit


Contact: Jason Neiffer, assistant director/curriculum director, Montana Digital Academy at UM, 406-203-1812,; Shawnee Cohn, public relations manager, Blackboard, 240-888-5687,