Thursday, October 16, 2014

VaBUG Conference Only a week away!

Just wanted to remind everyone that the 5th annual Virginia Blackboard Users Group conference is about a week away, Friday, October 24th

Come and learn not only about Blackboard, but Educational Technology in General. VaBug team has their detailed program and all session information is now on their website now at It looks like it will be an informative day!

The best part is this conference is FREE, everyone's favorite word!

I hope to see you at the conference center at Holiday Inn Valley View in Roanoke! If you have any questions feel free to talk with the current VaBUG leader, George F. Hoffman. He can be reached at 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Good Tool Blackboard, Lacking Documentation

Blackboard Inc.'s (Bb) product Blackboard Learn offers users lots of freedoms to choose how to run their online course. Sometimes, so many it intimates non-technical or people who don't make decisions well. I personally, like the freedom to choice my course setup over a LMS that takes the one size fits all approach...but now with Bb's SaaS option you can even get that.  At BbWorld this year attendees were told about Bb "modernizing" design and we saw how the company was trying to look more like their competitors, Java free Collaborate, and the much requested Bb Grader app.  One thing that was not talked about being improved was their product documentation area known as

It is still setup that users of it have to know the release their institution is running. Most users know version 9.1, 9, or 8. They don't know April 2014, SP14, SP13, etc but that is the second then the user looking for help has to tell Bb. This is where most of my users get frustrated and just type in the search box what they are looking for. The problem with the search tool is that is shows every piece of documentation Bb publicly available with title, date updated, and a blup of information. It doesn't show role (student, instructor, or administrator) or even version until the person clicks the link and the document opens. When someone is looking for help having to dig for it only frustrates them more. We have submitted multiple enhancement request to have this changed.

The next issue I have been hearing about is the use of things under multiple names. For example, information about Badges, is actually under Achievements. As one user told me the other day, they need to pick one name and stick with it. The picture below shows the site where they have the main topic as Achievements, then word Badge is used, then Achievements, then Badge.

Once a user finds the Badge instructions, they are good. They include videos and text with examples and best practice tips. Blackboard provides some basic images that can be used or an instructor can upload their own image for the badge. This is an excellent idea, but this is another example where the help.blackboard. com page falls short.

When a user uploads their own graphic, Bb re-sizes the image to a specific specification. Bb tells the user that it has done this, but the message does not say what the re-sized image specifications are. The problem Bb's resizing causes the graphics to become blurred. Nor are the graphic specifications listed on the help site. I put in a support ticket and even they could not find documentation within the company that stated the graphic specializations.

Thank to the hosted support team for coming up with the following chart to help us better create graphics. They had three test badges in a course, uploading a different image to each. The average size of the images uploaded was ~557 x 371 @ 75kb. Once they had uploaded them, they downloaded the Badges folder from the course. The containing images had been scaled down to an average of 90 x 59 @ 13kb.

  Original Size Original Resolution New Size New Resolution
Image 1 68 KB 640 x 480 12 KB 90 x 67
Image 2 68 KB 530 x 300 13 KB 90 x 50
Image 3 86 KB 500 x 333 14 KB 90 x 59

The new resolution seems to be very consistent results. Hopefully, this information will help others create their badge graphics. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More BbWorld14 Notes

It's sad to see the social media stream about Blackboard World 2014 (aka: BbWorld14), I am sure this is due to attendees still trying to catch up on sleep & emails, complete expense reports, and gather all they learned into a usable format to share with others. I look forward to reading and seeing more in the social media soon so the user community can continue learning from each other.

In the mean time, you may want to check out the other Official BbWorld blogger sites at:
While the official blog team was small, when you add all the MVP's blogging to the group it grew and why four tables had to be setup for the keynote sessions. Ok, we also really wanted the opportunity to recharge all our mobile devices. The MVP websites can be found at:

Several people asked for the slides from the two presentations I co-presented at you can find them below and Blackboard Inc will have them online soon also. I was hoping the one on using Blackboard (Bb) Learn as a secure research center would have been recorded, so I could share it with others...but the good news is SU is going to do our own recording and share out with other health science schools. 

Below is the "Transforming Blackboard Learn Into A Research Engine" presentation presented on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 with Mary Gardiner

And for those of you who were unable to find the BatchUpload building block I mentioned. You can download it at here

Below is the "Trends In Online Learning" presentation presented on Wednesday, July 16, 2014 with Jason Rhode and Karen Yoshino.

The PDF of Blackboard Inc.'s survey the "Trends In Online Learning" presentation was built around can be downloaded at This findings are interesting for any institution considering or advancing online, hybrid, or blended learning.

While it is nice to present and share experiences to the masses, I have to say I actually enjoyed the working at the Knowledge Bar a little more. It gave me time to help others, but it also gave me the opportunity to learn from others. Below is the crazy crew I worked with at the Knowledge Bar.

Have a great day and thanks again for everyone who attended my presentation and shared with me tips & tricks about Blackboard products. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blackboard World 2014 Final Day Summary

Thursday started off with sadness because of it being the last day of the conference, but it ended on a happy note with the client appreciation party.

Blackboard management was definitely smart in ending the conference the with a keynote by Geoffery Canada. Geoffrey is retiring from the Harlem's Children Zone.  Geoffrey suggested that U.S. teachers need feedback sooner and more often- and the kids need it too.  He also mentioned that we are failing America's children. You can here more on the topic by viewing his TED talk here. Geoffrey stated "If you are a teacher you should have the same expectations for your classroom as you do for your own kids." It was sad to hear that their are some teachers that are teaching at lower standards than what they desire for their own kids. It was clear that we have to many people teaching just to get a pay check and they need to leave or be forced out if they are not will to put the effort and time in to excel our future (our kids).  He closed with an amazing poem that you can find on the "Big Binder" blog here.  I could write just a blog post about the closing keynote, but instead I suggest you check out the Twitter stream #BbWorld14 and see what others have to say about these keynote that got a standing applause.

After the keynote I spent sometime looking at the posters from the exemplary course winners. I think Bb Inc. short changed the course winners this year by not really promoting the posters and or allowing the winners to setup interactive course displays for people to come and talk with them and actually see their courses. Thanks to those winners that have shared their courses with attendees on Coursesites.  I also spent some time with the vendors in the Exhibit Hall, as I never think there is enough time to do this...unless I want to miss out on the great sessions. I really enjoyed the demo about Kaltura, never knew they had an open source product available also, but they also have very nice product that will work out of the box with multiple LMS's and with multiple media types. 

It was nice that Blackboard was able to offer for the first time K12 digital, so those who were unable to attend in Vegas could attend virtually. Now that they have it mastered, I hope they do this for Higher Ed at the 2015 conference. I also would like to have the option to print the full session list myself in a manageable format or have their main paper conference book next year. I had a lot of trouble with reliability from the mobile app, which prevented me from finding sessions or participating in the scavenger hunt to win prizes. The app would freeze or just drain my battery so bad, I had to uninstall it.  The one question, I left with was why did Crown Compass do the conference app instead of the Bb Mobile group this year?

One of the neatest things was that Blackboard (Bb) brought in approximately 100 students to the conference this year. While they had their own session track they also joined the 2500+ educators, executives, developers, and instructional designers for keynotes; but more importantly they lead sessions for educators to hear what they want and their education experiences directly from them.  You can read about the #BbWorld14 conference by looking at a few of these student blogs at and

I have to admit, I left the conference a little early on Thursday because by brain just could not hold anymore information. I enjoyed social time with some co-workers traveling the strip and getting our 6 mile walk in for the day, we had an amazing conversation over chips & salsa and got back in time to charge my phone, answer some emails, and hit the client appreciation party.

The client appreciation party was as expected fun. I got a selfie with CEO Jay & a co-worker, had a relaxing drink or to, got to see Bb employees relax and party, I enjoyed dancing like I was 30 again with friends and peers, and of course listen to the great music by the Spazmatics. I was a little worried at the beginning because no one was dancing when I arrived, but once we got started we did not want to stop at 11p. Maybe Bb needs to think about at least going till midnight or go back to the after parties for those of us that want to keep BbWorld going.

While I am sad to hear that the request for Bb World to be a float the high seas was turned down by CEO Jay Bhatt, I am very glad to see it will be back on the East Cost next year at the Gaylord National in Washington, D.C. July 21-23. Now I might get more people from my institution to attend and the west cost attendees will be the walking zombies, instead of me.

This was a great conference and I believe anyone who was there would say, Blackboard Inc is changing and truly showed why their are the LEADING LMS and why they are MORE than just an LMS.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Blackboard World 2014 - Wednesday's Review

The time went so fast this year and the attendees seemed to be craving more learning and collaboration this year.

I had the pleasure of starting the morning off by co-presenting with Jason Rhode comparing our institutions with result of Blackboard's (Bb) survey on Trends in Online Learning. Atomic Learning provide t-shirts for some lucky participants at the session. While we were continuing our discussion from a webinar that we did for Blackboard, this time Jason & I were dressed alike in our MVP jersey's. Jason was live tweeting the slides during the session, now that is talent. While presenting is a great way to spark creativity or to help others solve a problem. I personally like the conversations that occur after someone attendees your presentation. Thank you Ian Miller for the suggestions on how to design a successful infrastructure for hybrid/online learning role out at SU. I will be reaching out to you in the near future to continue the discussion. Chuck Ruot, I am sure will talk again soon as our institutions have so much in common and face many of the same issues. Blackboard will be posting the presentation for all attendees soon, but you can also find them on YouTube at  Thanks to everyone who attended.

There were lots things discussed during Jay's Keynote today. Stats provided to the 2500+ attendees were:
  • 1 out of 4 students are motivated to learn based on their learning environment
  • 75% of kids today use mobile devices
  • 100 million students are now coming into Higher Education (HE) & institutions are not ready
  • 57% of employers cannot find entry-level workers
  • Our graduates do not have the industry needed skills
  • Bb is moving beyond the LMS and putting the focus on the learner
  • Bb is looking at their products & their contribution in a more holistic way
  • Bb is focused on corporate citizenship
  • Bb is more actively participating in  the global education community
  • Founding partner of Badge Alliance
  • Significant investment in Moodlerooms, embracing the open concept more
  • Partnership with Academic Council on Education to advance competency-base education
  • Purchasing MyEDU helps students market themselves to employers
  • Brought approximately 100 students to BbWorld 2014 to let educators from around the world here them & how they want to learn first hand
During the keynote attendees got to see the redesign of Collaborate, it is simple and I even heard people say it was "hip".  To prove it worked and how great it was, they did a live collaborate session. This also showed Blackboards (Bb) confidence in their product. We also say the long awaited "Grader" app for faculty to provide feedback anytime & anywhere.  The big showing was the "new LEARN". What was shown was stream lined and modern. While some were focused on what other LMS they may have tried to duplicate. I saw the changes as Bb management heard the user community's demands loud and clear and took action. The UX team's usability lab was busy after this with everyone wanting to play with the new items. I cannot wait to see the results of the UX teams finds as to what we ask students to bring to class the first day and what we expect from them on the last day of class.

The session "the top 10 things you didn't know were in Bb Learn" was a big hit and you can find a great summary on the session at

I had the pleasure of  working the Knowledge Bar with other MVPs and the "brains" that make the Bb product and company run. I have to admit I felt a little intimidated being around their brain power. While I was happy to be able to help get people into the Blackboard Idea Exchange (BIE), answer questions about Snapshot to SIS, YofU Data Source Key B2, and Terms. I myself learned about the Solaris and Learning Information Systems (LIS) integrations to Student information Systems (SIS). You can learn more about that here. My shift at the Knowledge Bar ended with some photo memories.

I am a strong believer in not recreating the wheel, so I am not going to restate details about sessions others have covered. Instead I am going to suggest you check out:
I had a good conversation with Alex Kissal and Travis Castleman about Shenandoah University's move to managed hosting. We talked about how we got to where we are and how to successfully partner to get where we want to be by 8/8/2014. This one major benefit of attending the BbWorld conference is that you get to an opportunity to talk with Bb employees in person and get the assistance needed immediately. No phones or BtBb tickets to enter!

The day flew by and before I knew it I was late for the Community Leaders reception. As always, this was done in a way that was professional, yet made us feel important. It also gave me the opportunity to thank those at Bb Inc who were responsible for providing the STEWii research team the research grant that enabled us to help make lifestyle changes with teens to prevent them from getting heart disease and/or diabetes later in life. The six person team had the honor of having a private dinner after the reception with Anthony Jovanis (our client success advocate) and Matthew Davis. From dinner part of the SU crew headed out to the High Roller observation wheel to enjoy Vegas at night from 550 feet up.

Happy Blackboarding!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Blackboard World 2014 Day 1 In Review

Greetings from Las Vegas, where thousands of BbWorld participants are being well chilled! The conference center is making sure we don't feel the heat that is outside, by keeping the air conditioning cracked up on high.

The day started off with meeting up with friends and peers that I only get to see during BbWorld. The area around registration was busy and one of the hottest items in the Bb Store is the phone charger. Specially, since everyone's phones power were disappearing at lightening speed. Oracle is also providing mobile charging stations, if you don't want to purchase a Bb charger.

 For Developers, AKA former DevCon participants, Blackboard surprised us with a nice Bb World t-shirt that had BBWorld 2014 written in code and a pin that said "Ask Me About". The thought I believe was to help us adjust from not having a separate DevCon conference and to spark conversation. I have to admit I had a hard time thinking of what to put on my badge, next to people like Malcolm Murray, David Carter-Tod, Eric Kunnen, and Walker Wheeler I am not sure I can add anything to attendee knowledge. Then I remembered on of my favorite FREE building blocks JSHacks! Learn more about this building block at

Thanks to getting priority seating during the keynotes to blog, I got to talk with Mr. Quick Hits, Vivek Ramgopal. If you haven't checked out his videos yet, you can find them at here. As normal Bb Guru, Author, Bb MVP Terry Patterson start our fun with a ribbon contest, we quickly realized that we each had 6, but by the time of the keynote Terry managed to find two more ribbons. To bad Bb Collaborate, Connect, Hosting, and Mobile didn't have ribbons for me this years, as I could have won the challenge. Oh, well maybe next year.

I missed the "Be A Better Online Teacher" that I had planned to attend, but you can learn more about that session on Dr. Jason Rhode's blog at On Jason's blog you will also see the details about his presentation  "Being Present and Engaging Students Online With Video Everywhere", I also missed this session as it was at the same time as my presentation. Make sure to enroll in Jason's Exemplary Course located at Come this morning at 9:15a to Murano 3301 to hear Jason and I talk about "Trends in Online Learning" and the approaches of our Universities.

 I missed the above presentation because I as wrapped up in a discussion with Walker Wheeler from University of Alaska and our Nursing Bb Technologist Mary Gardiner about Walker and Adam Krynicki's Course Staker building block. The Course Stackerr building block allows instructors and administrators to merge or stack Bb Learn courses. This tool reduces the number of course sections that an instructor needs to manage within Bb Learn and saves hours of instructor time over the course of a semester.  Bb Inc improved their course merge tool in the base application but they focused on cross-listed courses and assumed that this was only an administrative feature. If you want to give more freedoms to your instructors to merge courses, you have to purchase an additional item from Bb Consulting called  the "Course Merge Tool". However, this tool is expensive and falls short in merge controls. The Course Stacker tool only shows instructors their courses to merge, yes a drop down list. If they have stacked courses they simply pick the course to add to or select new course to build a new one. There is a review screen before the merge actually happens. Course Builders and other support people can go in and select an instructor and see a list of there courses and merge from more memorizing course ID's to find them to merge and it isn't restricted to an administrative feature. To learn more visit http://tiny.c/coursestacker. You contact Walker directly at or (907) 474-7173.

You can also find details about the "Creating a Master Online Course and Blackboard Learn Presence" in the great blog post by Mariann H. at

Thanks to everyone who attended mine and Mary Gardiner's presentation on our STEWii Research project. Remember, Bb products when integrated with Bb Learn is the Little Engine That Can! Remember when asked "how can I", you can be assured Bb can, simply by combining their products with Free user community tools and the desire to find a solution. I will be posting the presentation and links to all the tools discussed later today. 

The opening keynote speaker, Joi Ito, was from MIT's Media Lab. He showed us Japan's first point-of presence to the Internet. It was in his bathroom. He reminded everyone that innovation and creativity go hand-in-hand and doesn't have to start from scratch. We learned about Scratch & Scratch Jr, two programs to teach young kids that coding is fun. We saw lots of amazing ideas that kids came up with when given the freedoms to be creative. My favorite was the banana piano. As educator's we need to be encouraging people to be artist, engineers, scientist, and designers to complete themselves instead of forcing them to pick one of these roles. In closing Joi reminded everyone that we need to push limits and challenge authority to encourage innovation. Eric Kunnen's blog has a great recap on the keynote presentation. You can find Eric's blog at

Attendees were escorted to the exhibit hall by the University of Las Vegas marching band. Then we enjoyed great food, drinks, and visitation with the 50+ partners in attendance. My night ended with a great dinner with peers and Blackboard employees at TAO.

Today, the first full day promises to be a great one!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Featured Partners at #BbWorld14

BbWorld is right around the corner, and we are excited to share some of the great things our participating partners have planned for this year's conference.With sessions, contests, the exhibit hall and more, there will be lots of opportunities to engage with partners and learn how to extend your Blackboard solutions. Visit the Partners at BbWorld webpage for more info, and learn how you can win an iPad mini by attending partner sessions!

Bring the "Wow" Factor to Your Courses
The trusted Discovery brand connects with students in ways few other educational content providers can. The “wow” factor of Discovery Education-produced content brings learning alive, and engages students in unexpected ways. Designed for higher education institutions, Discovery Education Higher Ed provides course aligned digital content focused on preparing students with the knowledge and skills to compete in the competitive global economy. Come to Booth #101 to experience the "wow" factor for yourself!

Experience the Power of bluepulse and Enter to Win
What if you could gather timely course feedback on a continuous basis so that incremental improvements can be introduced and tracked daily? Meet the new generation of improvement tools - bluepulse by eXplorance. Stop by Booth #100 for a personal demo of this free online social feedback tool and enter for a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card!

Kick Start Your Students' Careers
With over 75,000 internships & jobs from more than 50,000 companies in the U.S., is the largest website dedicated to supporting students' career goals.'s free building block within Blackboard Learn enables students to discover internship and job opportunities and strengthen their careers. Meet Jim Whitehead at Booth #400 for a personal demo, or attend the session on Wednesday, July 15 at 9:15am, Titian 2204.

Redefine Your Education Experience with Video
Video is revolutionizing education. Come visit Kaltura at Booth #300 to learn how the world’s leading educational institutions are effectively deploying video in a centralized fashion to enhance teaching and learning, drive better results and engage their communities wherever they may be, today and into the future. We will be demonstrating our new lecture capture solution, Kaltura CaptureSpace, our market-leading CampusTube video portal, and the latest version of the Kaltura Video Building Block for Blackboard.

Prizes and Free Online Proctoring Pilots
We're counting down the days until BbWorld 2014!  Stop by Booth 301 to experience Kryterion's fully integrated, live and real-time online proctoring service and enter to win a $100 AmEx gift card. This award-winning service combines the testing convenience your students expect and the testing integrity you require.

Take advantage of our free pilot program and experience first hand how Kryterion's Online Proctoring Building Block can help you reach more students, grow your online learning programs, save your faculty time as well as many other benefits.

Discover a Portfolio for Lifelong Learning
The only ePortfolio platform to span the education spectrum, from Pre-K through Career, SchoolChapters provides innovative solutions, services and resources that enable educators, learners and professionals to easily collect, reflect, store and showcase educational achievements, and manage their professional identity for continuous improvement. Find out more at Booth #513 or during SchoolChapters' partner session on Wednesday, July 16 at 2:15pm in Titian 2204.

Reprinted from email received,Friday, July 11, 2014. See you in Vegas!