Monday, July 28, 2014

Blackboard World Takeaways (Not just free pens!)

Last week, my colleague and I traveled to Blackboard World (or on Twitter, #Bbworld14) in Las Vegas, NV.  This was my first time attending Blackboard World.  The tech talk began immediately, when, at the airport terminal, I overheard a SharePoint conversation.  I managed to get on the flight and into the desert heat without information overload.

Once we arrived and settled in, we received the conference agenda.  As expected: breakout sessions, opening and closing Keynotes, Blackboard’s CEO pep talk, and an Exhibit Hall, full of friendly vendors wanting you to use their services. Rather than be annoyed or passive, I found the Exhibit Hall to be the most interesting!  I enjoyed learning how other products could do something differently or even better.  In addition, I always have fun signing up to win free iPads or picking up loads of free pens.

During his presentation, the CEO revealed that Blackboard is working on a new version of their Learn product.  The new version includes a sleek interface and removes the dependency of Java.  This new interface will introduce a new way to enter content into courses and rearrange that content.  It is still a work in progress and should be out sometime next year.

Overall, we attended 12 sessions on upcoming products, aligning content, learning analytics, course design, and mobile apps.  During these sessions, what I kept hearing repeatedly was the importance of personalizing your online course.  Students desire face-to-face interaction. Video seemed to be the solution: videos of course tours at the beginning the semester, assignment instructions and test study guides, journals, and most common, student feedback.  

Fellow conference attendees stated common hesitation for creating videos, such as failed attempts in the past, accessibility issues, training, and time.  Here at TLT, we try to eliminate technology intimidation in both your face-to-face and online courses. Here are a few ideas I heard on how to make your course more personal:

  • Suggest groups use Adobe Connect to record their meetings for class participation
  • Use Audacity to give students audio feedback
  • Encourage your students to create a MyEdu profile in Blackboard to develop a social media presence
  • Use your webcam to record and introduce each week’s topic

All and all, Blackboard World was a blast. Clay and Julie are back and ready to assist (our colleagues, too!) on how to make your online classes more personal and answer any questions regarding the upcoming changes to Blackboard. Feel free to call TLT (x8-7107) for ideas and training on technology in your courses!  

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