Saturday, October 31, 2015

Should big data analytics be used in conjunction with opinion surveys in Education?

In a world filled with data and most companies starting to realize the possibilities of what can be done with big data analytics. Why is higher education and others still solely making decisions on "client opinion surveys"? Why not at least support client survey results with big data analytics?

Webopedia defines big data analytics as "the process of collecting, organizing and analyzing large sets of data ("big data") to discover patterns and other useful information. Not only will big data analytics help you to understand the information contained within the data, but it will also help identify the data that is most important to the business and future business decisions." According to the SAS Institute Inc "big data analytics is the process of examining big data to uncover hidden patterns, unknown correlations and other useful information that can be used to make better decisions. With big data analytics, data scientists and others can analyze huge volumes of data that conventional analytics and business intelligence solutions can't touch". According to Margaret Rouse (2012) big data can show true "customer preferences" and that one of the goals to using big data is " to help companies make more informed business decisions".  TerraData states that when big data is done correctly "it is the coming together of business and IT to produce results that differentiate, that power you forward and reduce costs. Big Data is less about the size of the data and more about the ability to handle lots of different data types and the application of powerful analytics techniques" (2014). This means "smarter decisions cut costs, improve productivity, enhance customer experience and provide any organization with a competitive advantage" (TerraData).

So why isn't everyone using big data? Rouse (2012) suggest that it is besause they have "a lack of internal analytics skills and the high cost of hiring experienced analytics professionals" who know tools like Hadoop, Pig, Spark, MapReduce, Hive and YARN. ThoughtWorks Inc. point out that companies need to shift their thinking from the actual data to insight and impact thinking and trying to address unanswered questions. Schmarzo acknowledges that educational institutions are interested in using big data for showing ways to "improve student performance and raise teacher/professor effectiveness, while reducing administrative workload" and to compare one institution to another, but no mention of us on the business side of the house or to learn current LMS usage to compare against a possible replacement. van Rijmenam's infographic shows the benefits on learning, but still no mention of using it for software changes. Fleisher, explains that some institutions are not using it because they have a concern that acknowledging that they recording all learning activities and releasing results may harm students if this data got into the wrong hands.  Guthrie points out that big data in respect to education needs to go"beyond online learning, administrators" need to  "understand that big data can be used in admissions, budgeting and student services to ensure transparency, better distribution of resources and identification of at-risk students." (2013). Perhaps one could classify technology application purchases as a student service, but I do not think that is what Guthrie is referring to.

Coursera was the one place that mentions the use of big data in education for more than learning. Their course description says includes the statement: "to drive intervention and improvement in educational software and systems". So way aren't leaders doing software comparison, including LMS reviews required to learn big data techniques? I think it is because the top academic administrators are afraid they would find out that some of their decisions based solely on "pilot survey results" were made based on inaccurate data.

For example, Lets assume a institution was currently trying to decide between two LMSs, "The pilot consisted of 11 courses and 162 students. With 39 students, 5 faculty and 1 TA responding to a survey, when asked whether LMS2 or LMS1 was better for teaching and learning the results were":

LMS2    30/4567%(Faculty only 5/7)
LMS1  4/459%(Faculty only 0/7)
Same  5/4511%(Faculty only 1/7)
n/a - unsure 6/4513%(TA only 1/7)

Additional Notes: that there were only ll courses for this single semester to use LMS2, out of a total of 2,094 courses. Only 162 students were included in the LMS2 test, out of the total 3,991 students enrolled and only 5 faculty and 1 TA was included in respect to the 780+ faculty on payroll.

At first glance, the 67%  sticks out and some may say that is a strong indicator that an institution needs to switch to LMS2 because only 33% wanted to stay with LMS1 or were not sure LMS2 had an increase benefit to change. But that 67% is a percentage based on those that responded to a survey not the number that want to switch. The table says out of "7" faculty yet in the text the person stated that only 5 faculty and 1 TA responded, and the last I check 5+1 is 6 not 7. If you take the total number of participants compared to the number of surveys completed, the 67% is really only based on approximately 27% of those who participated in the pilot. The student population is only represented by ~0.04% and the faculty population by ~0.007%.  What about Staff or business entities that use LMS1, they were not represented at all in these results. Other questions that come to mind and decision makers should be asking are: (1) did the faculty who's courses were included actively uses LMS1 to the fullest?, (2) Were the faculty included tech savvy?, (3) Did the included faculty have a personal issue with LMS1?, (4) What actual course included? Were they freshman courses or senior level courses?, (5) what is more important ease of use for faculty or better learning engagement options for students?, (6) Had participants been properly shown how to use LMS1 as they were LMS2?, and (7) What were the features of LMS2 used compared to the used features of LMS1?

I this basic example shows that survey results alone allow for skewed reporting, but add big data analytics to opinion surveys and education decision makers would have a more realistic picture and better decisions for most important stake holder, the student. Garber provides other examples how people are spinning survey results to get their way. In his examples he talks about how some people cherry-picked a statistic describing just a small percentage of a population to make things look better than they are and decision makers need to ask "What did the rest think?" (Garber). In a 2012 paper talk about the need to develop an approach to detect research interviewer falsification of survey data. But that the detection approach was not limited to interviewers and could be applied to basic survey analyst. Robert Oak points out that falsification of figures is more common place in his article about the New York Post claim of falsified unemployment figures.  Johnson, Parker, & Clements stated in their research "Likewise, satisfaction that little or no data falsification has been detected previously should not serve as an excuse for failure to continually apply careful quality control standards to all survey operations" (2001). Fanelli's 2009 research showed that "scientists admitted to have fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once –a serious form of misconduct by any standard– and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behavior of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% (N = 12, 95% CI: 9.91–19.72) for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices" which would make one think that there is a prevalence of researcher misconduct or did Fanelli mislead us with these results?

Schmarzo states "In a world where education holds the greatest potential to drive quality-of-life improvements, there are countless opportunities for educational institutions to collaborate and raise the fortunes of students, teachers, and society as a whole" (2014) by using big data along with old fashion surveys. The benefits of big data can be felt by all organizations.


Do Projects Fail or Does Project Leadership Fail?

Graphic Courtesy of
       I am sure almost everyone working has been part of a "project team" at some point even if only to plan a going away event for a co-worker. Working in a team can be challenging and yet it can be an amazing adventure.

      When I ask the question do projects fail or do project leaders fail,  I am thinking of work place projects that have an impact on a company, a community, or the world. According to an article, HR IT projects have a pretty high rate of failure. Michael Krigsman, says, "Depending on the statistics you read, 30 percent to 70 percent of these projects will be late, over budget or don't deliver the planned scope." No honest project manager will claim that they have not had at least one they were running not fall short.  

      Sometimes projects fall short because of unforeseeable events, but more often they fall short because of things that could have been fixed with the assistance of upper management through education or common sense. Below are a list of a five common issues that I have see cause projects to fail over the last couple years.

1: Big Egos
More often than not in today's business world people have massive egos. Some people even confuse confidence level with their ego level. Confidence is something everyone should have in the business world, but when a person lets their confidence believe they are the best and they have all the answers so they do not have to "listen" to or "include" input from the rest of the team the chance of failure increases. 

I have seen to often when someone with a big ego is forced to let others help, the work environment struggles due to lack of trust and anger. The ego driven employee often struggles to remotely respect their project mates.  Management has to ensure that every team member's ego is in check and have away for team members to address issues in a supportive environment, even if it is the project leads ego that is the problem.  Team members may stop contributing and time will be wasted not only resulting in failed projects, but lose of revenue for the business. 

2: Hidden Agendas
Project team members need to know the real goals and outcomes of the project. This means for upper management, project managers, and team members not to have professional or personal hidden agendas. For example, the project member or upper management may see the project as their professional ticket to promotion or their name in lights. I have seen team members use a project as an opportunity to boast their personal friendships or try to oust a co-worker they feel threaten by. I have seen upper management use projects to get publicity in hopes to get a promotion. This type of behavior will only lead to an unproductive team and an unhealthy work environment.  

I have see projects where the leads have vision of how things should be done and while they put on the front to their superiors that they are open to success and feedback they prevent anything from moving forward unless it matches with their vision exactly. This automatically cause resentment among the team and will cause project failure. 

3: Overestimating Work Involved
While it would be great if all mangers and project leads could just say "do this and have it done by X" and every employee would comply. According to a report in the Houston Chronicle by Kate McFarlin stated that leaders who set unobtainable goals lead to project failure. McFarlin explained further that it is nice to have great expectations, but those expectations need to be realistic if a team (or project) is actually going to succeed. McFarlin's report recommends for leaders to break task into small ones while on the path to the ultimate goal. This will help ensure the project progress is easily tracked and moves forward while giving the team small feelings of success.   

The other issue here is that when the project was defined the person or persons who initially determined the amount of time it would take to complete the project, had no real idea how to create a project timeline or did not have the area of expertise to really determine the true amount of time involved in each area of the project. Other things often not taken into consideration are sick time, weather, technology delay, team members availability, and communication ability of the project lead. Good projects timelines consider the "what ifs". 

4: Insufficient Resources
The lack of a needed resource or resources will cause a project to fail or be late. This include things like lack of staff, lack of direction, lack of money, lack of support, lack of equipment, lack of office space, etc. Without all the needed resources upfront or secured early the project is doomed from the start. 

It is the project leads responsibility along with management to have a contingency plan for resources. If sufficient resources are not available, then backup strategies must be developed to do more with less or find creative unplanned ways to secure the additional resources. This sometimes means that the project lead must be willing to ask for other team members to solve a problem and to give up control temporarily or for them to actually stop directing and actually get their hands dirty and do the work themselves. 

This often occurs when management or team leaders do not include all parties who the project will ultimately affect because in the planning stage they did not have the forethought they should have. Instead of admitting the mistake and moving on, they try to hide their shortcoming by blaming others and making excuses. 

5:  Lack of Project Management Ability
You do not have to be a PMI certification to lead a project successfully, though it helps.  Nor do you need a PhD to lead a project successfully, but you do need logic, communication skills, and some basic project skills. Munns & Bjeirmi (1996) defined project management as a process used as a control to achieve the project objectives by utilizing the organizational structure and resources to manage a project with the application of tools and techniques, without disrupting the routine operation of the company.

Usually projects are divided into phases the most common are initiation, implementation, and closure. Each phase has checkpoints with assigned dates. The entire project should be tracked on timeline that can be shared at a high and low level to all involved. So a successful project lead will know how to properly create a project timeline, set milestones, and monitor the progression often to address any trouble spots before they cause a major issue. I have seen projects fail or become sloppy due to lack of a project timeline from the start. A new project manager should at minimum have completed classes on project management or have been mentored by an experienced PM before they take on a large project. 

Communication ability is critical for a project manager. If a person talks down to people (on purpose or not), cannot explain themselves, or is just a nasty person they should not be placed in a project lead position. Let's face it, some people are not good with talking to other people. Some people may be better suited for working alone or doing task they can just report on. These people should not be put into a project lead position. People who will use personal and professional friendships, but really have never managed people or a team before should not be given major projects to lead. While some will say we have natural born leaders, most of us have to learn it. Lack of communication causes delays or even failure since team members do not have the information they needed, issues or changes do not get escalated, project reporting becomes sluggish. 

Project managers who talk about other team members behind their backs create an unhealthy working environment. Project managers who points out other team members short comings to upper management without talking with the team member first, is a bad leader. Project managers who do not realize that their teams success will ultimately be their success in the end, should not be leading projects. 

Just because someone says they have past connections or because they have been with the company for years or has a good idea does not been they should be a project lead. Being a good project lead, which is basically a manager, requires certain people, communication, and common sense skills that not everyone has.

         It is imperative for a project manager to understand all the stakeholders, this means listening to them not just meeting with them. It is equally important for upper management to admit someone is not a good project manager even if they have amazing vision or ideas. Human Resources needs to ensure that all project managers are trained in ethical and legal management issues, so they end up putting the company in a legal situation.

        In order to avoid big potholes it is important to monitor milestones and address things that happen quickly. It is vital for the team lead to remember that the success criteria is how the project will be judged by the rest of the team, users, management, community, and world. A good project lead realizes that criteria or the initial project plan probably will change overtime as the project moves through the stages and they need to adapt to these changes instead of trying to ignore them. Good project leads realize that there is more to a project than just time, cost, and quality. Benefit for the organization and user satisfaction are also keep players. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

BbWorld Promised Versus Delivered

I had the opportunity to talk with some employees of Blackboard Incorporated (Bb) during the #BbWorld15 conference last week and after reading blogs/tweets about the company being behind on product delivery and repeating statements from the 2014 conference, I decided to re-evaluate what was promised in 2014 versus what was delivered in 2015. Let me first being by apologizing for the length of the post.

Just do a search on #BbWorld14 and #BbWorld15 to find lots of information. For 2014, you might read a post by Kristine Putnam here and here or a post from Jason Rhode here, here, and here. If you don't trust either of these Bb MVPs then how about reading Michael Feldstein's (e-Literate) post found here or maybe the company's own BbWorld 2014 recap site located here. For #BbWorld15 check out the conference recap site at, or Michael Feldstein's post here, or Sue Watling's blog here. You can also look at the Tweeter hashtags #BbWorld14 and #BbWorld15 for more information. Regardless of where you read about the two conferences, it becomes clear in my opinion the follow was promised and delivered.

BbWorld 2014 primary items promised:
  1. CEO Jay Bhatt's promise the company was changing direction by embracing a Learner Centered model
  2. Removal of Java from their Collaborate product
  3. Redesign the user interface (UX) of their flag ship LEARN product
  4. Investment in mobile improvements
  5. Increased K12 innovation 
  6. Improved product quality in releases and updates
BbWorld 2015 primary items delivered:
  1. Company was so student focused they failed in communication with rest of client community
  2. Collaborate Ultra has no Java
  3. Learn UX redesigned (aka Learn Ultra) w/responsive design
  4. Company change in direction not only self & managed hosted clients but a SaaS solution 
  5. Mobile Learn out and Bb Grader out; Bb Student, Bb Teacher, are Bb Parent are in
  6. SchoolWires and ParentLink for K12
  7. Collaborate building block released for Learn during conference, Collaborate Tech Preview offered to attendees along with Learn Ultra Tech Preview during conference, Community Site Beta launched, Redesign of Help.Blackboard.Site shared, Learn Ultra released with limited initial features, and hiring of Peter George for quality control.
From this summary comparison it would seems that Bb Inc. delivered what they promised. But why were clients unhappy during BbWorld last week? My thoughts are the unhappiness is due to missed communication, incorrect assumptions, and poor message marketing. Which lead to Tweets like the following:

First of all, clients missed 2014 announcements about products like "MyJobGenie" announced during Jon Kolko's presentation because we focused on Bb Grader and the "early demo of revised Mobile Learn" (click here to watch video). To be honest, I missed the MyJobGenie announcement about this mobile app that lets students learn about careers, perhaps I was to focused on the BbGrader and Mobile Learn news. 

Lets now look at some other examples that lead to this client confusion.  Below is an image of the Learn redesign shared at the 2014 conference captured by Kristine Putnam:
and this one from Jon Kolko's 2014 presentation of Mobile Learn:

Now look at the image below of Learn Ultra that is on Jason Rhode's Blog for BbWorld 2015:
As you can see the images shown at both conferences are very similar, so yes clients may quickly say it was the same thing as last year, but it was not. The UX shown in 2014 was a sneak peek not a working model, but when shown 2015 it was live and named Learn Ultra for SaaS. Kolko's 2014 display of Mobile Learn, was in very early stages of development, as stated at least three times during presentation, and ultimately came out as Bb Student. The same holds true for the 2014 New Collaborate without Java, morphed into Collaborate Ultra. Yes the 2014 images are similar to 2015 images, I personally think Bb marketing should not have taken the easy road and just reused images. While it was stated in 2014, clients missed a key point that in that what was shown was only a goal and very early in development designs. Another issue were assumptions on the client side because in the past whatever was shown at BbWorld became available for use shortly after. The Bb Management changed approaches without making that change clear to clients. The dropped communications with client community about status of development like Learn UX changes only for SaaS, Mobile Learn demo was going to be changed to three improved mobile apps, and the demo done with Collaborate was just an internal development site not general release are key to understanding clients lack of excitement and trust with Bb Management right now.

Note only during this time of product revamping, eight players left the company (Maurice Heiblum, Mark Belles, Gary Lang, Michael Bisignano, Brad Koch, David Ashman, Mark Drechsler, and John Porter). While these people all landed on their feet, it did slow development and client community advocacy. Additionally, as Michael Feldstein pointed out what Bb is doing with Ultra is technically difficult and why "big companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple are still in the process of working out right now" (July 25, 2015). This added layer of complexity and Peter George's thumb on quality assurance has added unplanned time in development. 
Just as clients started getting improved product communications seen within detailed roadmap slides, within this post, thanks to Valerie Schreiner and through Bb's new Jive Client Site, it is "leaked"  that Providence Equity Partners LLC wants to jump ship on these innovations and the Bb client community. This move maybe because providence was expecting Bb Inc. to regain loss market share faster, instead of holding around 44% (Koner, EdSurge, Pappas 2015) or the company is just not the cash cow they thought, or Providence is scared of the little 3% Canvas market share increase (Koner, EdSurge, Pappas 2015), or it is just a marketing campaign. I  am not willing to jump to conclusions that it is because Providence has lost faith in the innovation or leadership of Bb Inc. If that was the case, wouldn't Providence just fire Jay, his top management, and stop Ultra development?

To Bb Inc., I apologize for being on of those clients who made assumptions on what was shared during BbWorld 2014, for not seeing the difference between vision and real product, and for missing announcements about things like MyJobGenie. I bet Bb Inc, never expected that from me.  BUT, Bb management team, I am holding you to promised improved communications with the client communities, improved quality all product releases, continued innovation and dedication to Learn 9.1, forward progress on Ultra and competency-based education, and inclusion of all key education roles to enable everyone to be learner focused. 


Monday, July 27, 2015 A Recap of #BbWorld15 Learning

To make it easier to bring all the great news and content from BbWorld 2015 home, please visit Bb's digital conference site online at Use this site as a tool for continuing and sharing the enthusiasm from BbWorld with your colleagues who could not attend the conference. Also the site is a good way to remember all the little things you might have forgotten during this amazing educational technology cram week.

There you’ll find a lot of the BbWorld experience, packaged to go, including things like:

  • Jay Bhatt’s opening main stage keynote presentation
  • The student Panel from Wednesday’s main stage, moderated by Katie Blot
  • Adora Svitak’s inspiring keynote main stage presentation
  • The insightful panel from Thursday’s main stage, moderated by Katie Blot
  • Bb's key product and leadership presentations that include roadmaps, news, and announcements
  • Important announcements, information on the New Learning Experience, and printable versions of Bb's new ad campaign
Most of us will be revisiting and talking about highlights from BbWorld 2015 for weeks to come, and Blackboard Inc. has made it easy for us this year. With so many sessions to choose from, it was impossible to see everything, so use to see a presentation again or to watch one you missed. 

The above information was from a letter from a letter I received under my door (with the hotel bill) from the Blackboard team before checking out. Also check out the Twitter hashtag #BbWorld15. Facebook and LinkedIn also have active DevCon/BbWorld communications. Oh, yes DevCon this year was asked to Tweet under BbWorld15, instead of using a separate hashtag.

#BbWorld15 Closing Day Reflections

The morning started off with a nice meet and greet hosted by the East Coast Client Service Advocates (CSA) group. It was a great opportunity to talk with the amazing Anthony Jovanis. He is a CSA and is always willing to help clients. I watched him that morning connect CSA's to clients (even if he wasn't their CSA) and was also willing to suggest other Blackboard employees who were at the conference that could answer their questions. While Anthony said he is always glad to help connect CSA's with clients, as I am sure other CSAs also do. I learned that sometimes the disconnect between clients and CSA is because Bb Inc. only works with a given person(s) at institutions and often the people seeking a CSA or attending the conference is not the person list for communication with Bb Inc. So anyone looking to talk with their CSA should first contact the primary Blackboard (Bb) communicator at their institution. However, I do think it would be nice for Bb Inc. to add a "Who is my CSA" page to their website. They don't have to list individual schools (thought that would be nice) they could simply do it by region or however Bb divides up the CSAs. This page would also provide direct contact information, then they just need to let all clients know this page is out there.

Next I was off to the General Session, which was another panel discussion moderated by Katie Blot. The panel included:
  • Richard Culatta, Director of the Office of Educational Technology, U.S. Dept. of Education 
  • Amy Laitinen, Deputy Director, Education Policy, New America 
  • Kent Hopkins, Vice Provost for Enrollment Services, Arizona State University 
  • Kris Clerkin, Executive Director, College for America at Southern New Hampshire University

The panelist made very important points about education, but the most beloved panelist was Richard Culatta. There was a Twitter call for him to be a keynote at next years conference. There was a lot of discussion on the need to stop saying "traditional" and "non-traditional". Because 75% of students now are old "non-traditional". Instead we should be using the term "New Learner".  There was a cry for more funding and to hold educational administrators more accountable for supporting educators who embraced the New Learner instead of forcing them to follow the old way of thinking.  The panelist also talked about the importance of competency based learning and the positive impact it will have on society if done correctly. Equally discussed was the need for personalized learning and to provide more guidance and support services to the learner.  As Eric Syliva tweeted "
Education needs to be a partnership between the student, faculty, staff and institution" there were also some great discussion on the use of #OER, addressing skill (competency) gaps through industry partnerships, and the need for revamping of the entire education system K12 to Higher Education. I personally think everyone wish this panel discussion would have been longer. 

After the panel discussion came the closing Keynote Speaker Peter Diamandis who is Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation. He provided attendees a trip through technology marvels and educational technology beautifully articulating how today's education system should and could learn from each of these past events. It is the questions that we as educators ask today that are going to be important for the success of the future. While I enjoyed this session, I am not sure the non-technical attendees enjoyed it as much. Blackboard live streamed this event, but if you missed it you can watch it at

From here I went to listen to fellow #BbMVP Doug Cohen talked about  Open SUNY's 
 ( University-wide collaboration that opens the door to world-class online-enabled learning opportunities. Join this discussion to learn about more about the tools, services, and supports that make up our Digital DNA, and how their implementation has been designed to help online students be successful. It is amazing how much work Doug and his team have put into making sure their Digital footprint was a positive one all their users. 

After a quick break, it was time for my participation in a digital badge panel discussion. I believe the panel gave an overview of badges and why they are important. Plus we provided three examples of how to use the badges (achievements) within Blackboard Learn to improve student engagement, work cross curriculum, and to move educational activities into skill evidence tools. Richard event about how police officers were using their badges to alert them for re-certification. While I talked about some things to watch out for when copying or modifying achievement setup and trigger definitions, the audience did seem to want to see actual demos of our classes. Perhaps it wasn't smart to combine our two presentations into one. I know that all the panelist will be glad to talk further with anyone who reaches out to them. Check out the "Gamification Leaderboard" building block on Oscelot if you want to do basic gamification in your classroom. The building block can be found at You can see a more detailed look into my courses with badges on YouTube here.  Our panel presentation can be found at

Then I spent time in the Exhibit hall with vendors after enjoying some wonderful cupcakes, which seemed to be the most common dessert in National Harbor. I was really hoping to talk with the vendor ProctorFree, but they had to leave before the "Time with Vendors". I heard they were a great company to work with and their pricing structure was more realistic then most of the other proctoring options out there. The amazing Jacob Spradlin did a blog post about them at  I just you check them out.

Blackboard has done a lot for research and realizes they need to improve their help site ( They had a very informative session that showed the new and improved Help experience is coming soon for Blackboard users! This session also explained their vision for the site to be a single help resource for all Blackboard products, and the upcoming redesign is a critical step on that journey. Clients will benefit from the new responsive site design, improved site functionality, better localization of content, and more accessible content. There will also be an expanding search and 'findability' of content. Attendees got to see an in-depth tour of the new design, content formats, and distribution enhancements we are making for developers, administrators, instructors, and students. We got to see how Bb Inc. involved clients in the redesign process, how the help site relates to other Blackboard resources, and hear about their plans for the future. More importantly, they provided clients an opportunity for our voice to be heard for future site developments.Conference attendees could so stop by the Usability Labs booth.

Then it was off to here Wade Weichel a Bb Sr. Product Manger talk about competency-based education (CBE). He explained that building a training program around competencies is beneficial because it allows employees to understand what skills they're developing and how they're being evaluated. Managers benefit because they have a clearer framework to discuss strengths and opportunities for development. This session while designed to help training manager plan for creating a competency model and evaluating employee development. It was informative for educators who are involved in starting or thinking about starting #CBE programs at their institutions. Wade even took time to explain how Bb Learn could already help with goals/alignments and automated updates with curriculum changes. He also explained how Bb was going to roll out more competency tools in Learn 9.1 very soon. 
Luckily I got to stay in the same room for a presentation by Capella University and their #CBE program known as Flexpath. Capella is an online school and they were one of the fist credentialed CBE programs. You can learn more about their Flexpath, self-pace program at While Capella set their program up in 6 months it took lots of work to get it ready. They worked hand-in-hand with Bb Inc. to use within Bb Learn and integrate with custom databases and PeopleSoft. The use Bb Analytics in addition to another 3rd party analytics tool. The suggest that anyone venturing down this path have a dedicated internal staff and to partner them with a single person at Bb Inc.There presentation will be available through Bb Inc after the conference.

In short, I feel like Bb senior management realized that they short changed their client community by not involving them as much as was done in the past. I believe that they heard the clients voice that we wanted more direct, specific, and technical communication. The company heard that not everyone has access to Behind the Blackboard (BtBb) and that they need to post more on known issues and workarounds outside the BtBb site. Clients are not aware of CSA group as they should be and that innovation and support of Learn 9.1 is an absolute must for the next several years. I think it was also clearly shown through comments at the executive session was while we loved the Ultra feel and support student focuses, we also wanted self-hosting ability with Ultra and did not want the company to forget that faculty also play a key role in student success. While I did receive some contradiction when asked about why Collaborate Ultra took so long, I believe this was because communication issues were also happening within the company. Find a new name for Blackboard User Groups, aka "BUGs" because that name alone according to Jay Bhatt indicates problems and User Groups are not a problem. However, senior management was very transparent during the executive listening session and I hope everyone will be open to giving them to now fulfill the many promises made during the conference. Some deliverables to clients, as I see it are:
  • Better internal communications so clients get consistent answers
  • Improved communication with clients & user groups, new community site a great start
  • Clearer marketing strategy so clients understand company vision and plan better
  • Identification of Client Satisfaction Advocate group, so clients know who to contact
  • Quality delivery of updates for all products, starting step hiring Peter George from Kronos
  • Include clients more in community activities, like presentation selection at DevCon/BbWorld and redesign of Help Site. Great start with offering attendees on Technical Preview of Collaborate and Ultra. 
  • Improved understanding of client community product passion. Off to a good start with listening sessions with MVPs & User Group Leaders. 
  • More technical & specific deliverable communication on Ultra & 9.1, more "Quick Hit" videos from Vivek Ramgopal and Jim Chalex webinars about 9.1.
Just enough time to do some chatting with friends and Bb employees before the Client Appreciation Party that is always looked forward to. There was lights of neon lights, good food, dancing, and socialization at Club Blackboard with tunes from DJ Ravi Drums. There was even some good creative team building activities like making statues out of the bling and fun photos.

If you attended the conference, please help out the conference team and complete the post-conference survey. You should have gotten an email in the mailbox of the account you registered with.

Save the date:  BbWorld 2016, July 12-14 at the Venetian|Palazzo Las Vegas