It is hard to believe that it has been two weeks since the Blackboard (Bb) conferences. Shenandoah was well represented at the conference this year. George Hoffman, Pamela Smulovitz, Mary Gardiner, and myself represented the University. Getting to the conference this year was an adventure in itself, as I had eight hours of delays and lost luggage and George had delays and a stole wallet venture. Thankfully, we all eventually got there safe though and learned lots!
George represented the Center for Teaching & Learning by moderating a "Birds Of A Feather" session in which Bb trainers from 33 countries shared ideas how to provide more training, to provide better training, and how to get more people to attend training sessions. George also lead the Virginia Blackboard User Group (aka: VaBug) session, talking about how Virginia Bb clients can help each other and when and where the annual VaBug conference may be. Lastly, George was one of six BbWorld 2013 VIP Bloggers. Read more about George's BbWorld adventures on his blog by clicking here.
As you may have heard, Axillary Services upgraded the Bb Transact system in June to improve your Hornet Dollar experience. While the upgrade went well, there were a few lose ends. While at BbWorld, Pam was able to get these items addressed by Bb Transact staff on hand. Not just with staff, but a Vice President. Pam also learned that soon SU will be able to add Hornet Dollars within our SU mobile app. She was also able to make a connection with other Transact system administrators. If you have any issues with Hornet Dollars, please contact Pam per the instructions on the "Hornet Dollars" sub-tab on the "Community" tab within Bb Learn.
This year was Mary Gardiner's third BbWorld. Mary represents the School of Nursing and finds the investment of attending BbWorld a good one. She learns lots from other health professionals and even gets to brag some about the amazing thing SU's nursing faculty are doing within Bb Learn. Due to time constraints Mary was unable to accept Bb's request to lead a "Birds of a Feather" session, but I am sure they will ask her again next year.
I not only attended BbWorld, but also the Bb Developers conference (aka: DevCon). The Developers conference is where key developers from Bb and clients meet to improve the product. It is also where system administrators learn how to read error logs, obtain troubleshooting skills, learn more about the back-end or dark side of the Bb applications, and talk in person with Bb Product Developers. While I was only an attendee at DevCon, I presented three times during BbWorld on the topic of Social Learning with the University of Missouri's LMS administrator, Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) with Chris Borales from Bb, Inc., and how Bb user's have a
responsibility to Bb. I had the pleasure of being quoted in Ray Henderson's speech during the Bb Corporate Keynote and interviewed by the conference roving reporter. I had the honor of winning one of six Key To Community awards. This was the first year this award was given out and it was presented to me by Stacey Fontenot, Bb VP of Academic Platforms and Tracey Stout, Bb Sr. VP of Marketing. While you cannot tell in the picture, it is a very nice glass key. I not only got to talk with other Bb users from all over the world, I got to meet Bb's new CEO Jay Bhatt. I enjoyed wearing my Google Glass at the conference, so others could experience Glass and I could see how it performs at conferences.
Enough about what we all did, because I am sure you really want to know how Bb will be changing and improving over the next year. First, the good news as of today SU is already on the most current release, so we won't be doing an upgrade before the start of Fall classes. With that said, the Bb CEO did inform us that the company goals were accelerate, integrate, and innovate. This includes adding things like polling, attendance, MOOC platforms, improved mobile via Mosaic, and much more. So I do expect that we will be adding new features to Bb through the year, but without any major downtime. A good recap of the corporate keynote can be found within the a post from Grand Rapids Community College here.
I realize that some of you may have experienced Bb in the past with less than pleasant experiences and this holds you skeptical of them, but I can tell you they have admitted their mistakes and are making amazing efforts to improve. We now just have to keep an open mind and give them the opportunity to succeed or fail. They will stumble a little as any company would, but they are investing more in their products and working hard to make all their products function seamlessly as one. You can learn more about this years conferences, such as key news, recorded sessions, tweets, and presentation slide desks at http://www.blackboard.com/BbWorld/Home.aspx Hopefully, this will get you to consider attending BbWorld next year...maybe even present. It will be held in Las Vagas, Nevada; July 14 - 17.
SU users won't have to wait till next year to have Bb hear their voices though. We are currently working on bringing Bb representatives to campus in September and as part of the Blackboard Idea Exchange (BIE) program SU users are invited to participate in focus groups, learning cohorts, and survey's throughout the year.