Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are there more technology break-up coming?

The technology field has a long history in acquisitions and mergers. Savvy business people have become wealthy by purchasing competitors and young products at just the right time. Sometimes this is done to add the "wow" to a new version of an old product or save them valuable programming time.  Over the last 20 years in technology, I have often heard people use phrases like "don't recreate the wheel" or "hear today, gone tomorrow". 

Through the years as mergers and acquisitions continue and companies grown, we often heard their CEO's say that they would continue to support of these products or would even promise customers to be a larger and better company. Yet, during this second half of 2014 several technology companies stopped us in our tracks and made us start to wonder, if companies should try to do everything or is it better to focus on just one product. Or are these changes to secure financial footings?

Following Cisco's 2013 move to of selling its Home Networking Business Unit, including its Linksys line, to Belkin. IBM sells its x86 server business To Lenovo. Juniper Networks sold its Junos Pulse to Siris to form Pulse Secure. CA Technologies ditched its Arcserve data backup and recovery software to a private equity company, only months after selling their ERwin data modeling software to Embarcadero Technologies. Following Motorola's 2011 split into two companies (Motorola Mobility &Motorola Solutions).  HP is divides into two business: one consisting of the PC and printer portion and the other will be a software, hardware, and service business. Symantic is spinning off the well-known security business from it's storage software. Ebay is scheduled to finalize their dump of PayPal. There are rumors that EMC is exploring breaking away from its RSA Security business (Westervelt, 2014). Yet, Dell and Oracle seem to be operating a full speed to to expand and grow. Alcatel-Lucen was open about their "Shift Plan" to get back onto financial footing, and part of that plan was selling assets (Burt, 2014).  Microsoft is another company that publicly claims to support the concept of "ONE" for many areas, yet there have long been rumors that it could at anytime drop several of it's business units (Schwartz, 2014). 

Often we see technology industry trends being followed in the education technology arena. For example, Desire2Learn (D2L) seems to be on the side of acquisitions. They have purchased Degree Compass, Wiggio, & Knowillage to expand their footing against giant Blackboard Incorporated (Bb). Does this mean they are strong or their base product is not good enough? Blackboard Incorporated (Bb) has a long history of scoping up products and competitors to build the LMS empire of today. Like WebCT, Angel, Edline, Collaborate, Elluminate, NTI Group, MoodleRooms, etc. That buying surge does appear to slow have slowed under CEO Jay Bhatt. Mr. Bhatt promised to focus on their base product, move into the cloud realm, to build "one Bb", yet still purchased MyEDU. But there have long been rumors that Blackboard Inc is considering selling off their Transact and Mobile divisions, as these groups appear to operate independently from the education group in sales and support methods. Instructure Canvas, seems to want to operate in the play it safe area according to  Joshua Kim's 2013 article $30 Million for Instructure. 

Companies change directions all the time and refocus when they get into financial woes. But those of use on the sidelines have to wounder if it is really worth spending millions or billions to purchase another product, take what you want from it and either dispose of it or sell it off for pennies on the dollar a year or two later. Does immediate selling or freezing acquisitions mean the company will be here today and gone tomorrow? Some will say yes! Others may say it is just a side affect of management changes. Is it better and cheaper to "recreate the wheel" or maybe actually use some good old creativity to be a leader instead of a follower. 

Resources:
Silicon Splits: Symantec, HP And Five Other Big Tech Breakups
FireEye's DeWalt: Symantec, HP Almost 'Choked' On Their Acquisition Models
Splitters! First HP's cut in two, now it's Symantec’s turn – report
Managing A Divestiture. IBM Sells x86 business To Lenovo
For HP, Symantec, Others, Breaking Up Can Be Hard to Do
Flush With $80M, Desire2Learn Buys ‘Anti-Sharepoint For Students’ Platform Wiggio, Its 2nd Acquisition In 2 Months
Exclusive: Desire2Learn buys Bill Gates-backed ‘virtual guidance counselor’ Degree Compass
Desire2Learn acquires Knowillage to bring personalized learning to classrooms
Desire2Learn acquires Degree Compass
Blackboard: With Both Co-founders Now Gone, It’s The End Of An Era For The Education Software Giant
Blackboard makes another acquisition, says it will make good on past acquisitions
The Download: Blackboard makes first acquisition under CEO Jay Bhatt
$30 Million for Instructure
Jeffrey Schwartz. 2014. Breaking up in IT is hard to do. Readmondmag.com November 2014 Edition.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

One Clients 2015 Bb Wish List

With the recent announcement of the general availability of Blackboard (Bb) Learn, Release 9.1, October 2014 on November 5.  I decided it was time to start thinking about all the changes in 2014 and the enhancement my peers and I have submitted throughout the year to create my annual Bb wish list. In previous years, I did not complete the list until January. Maybe doing it in November will give Bb management more time to reflect.  You can see my 2013 post by clicking here and my 2014 post by clicking here.

Let's take a moment to reflect on some past wishes.
  • In 2013, I wished for a single support location for all Bb products. Well blackboard has almost done this. Bb Mosaic (formerly Bb Central) is still has a stand alone ticket system. They have moved Bb Collaborate under the "Behind the Blackboard" (BtBb). Bb Connect is still a separate support location and one that needs a lot of improvement. 
  • In 2013, I wished for Bb to use their own products, specifically use Collaborate instead of Webex for webinars and support. In the past year, I have only seen Bb use Collaborate or in conjunction with Coursesites. So I would say this is now a granted wish. 
  • In 2013, I asked for Bb quality assurance team to make sure that one Bb product did not break another Bb product. This came specifically when Learn or Collaborate was updated and it broke Mobile Learn. While that does not seem to happen now that Bb has integrated their staff more. But they could improve on getting all features in Learn to work on Mobile Learn and having all Collaborate features work with in the mobile Collaborate app. Like Web tour and whiteboard in the mobile version. 
  • In 2013, I asked for Bb to learn more about the community that was using their product. As I said in January 2014 I think Bb is doing this via the MVPs, BIEs, PDPs, Betas, Usability (UX)  visits, surveys, and focus groups. I like that the usability visits usually include not only UX folks but a developer. I do however think that this could still improve by actually partnering with client developers and/or by getting more feedback from clients before rolling out. For example, the Bb Grader App. It is great but initially it didn't work for support stuff who were faculty. It is still limited by the number of courses on can be enrolled in and does not provide a means for grading anything other than Assignments. 
  • In 2013, I asked for a secure testing feature and Bb delivered "Restricted IP feature" This is a major step for institutions that have wired computer labs still or wired classrooms. But when you are a totally wireless institution the IP feature is not usable if you have a student get their IP in their dorm and keep it all day long in classes. Instead Bb pushes us to their partners Respondus, Examsoft, Software Secure, etc.. While some work well with wireless and some do not, some integrate with Blackboard test managers and some do not, some don't allow multiple instructors, or continuous courses.  The problems with this approach, is (1) Bb Support says the building block (B2) is not written by Bb Inc so it is not supported if you are hosted, (2) Some of these vendors do not use the B2 update tool, so the client has to continuously manually check for updates or depend on salesman to email them, and (3)it adds to the client's cost and the overall budget cost of running Bb Inc.  Yes, I know other LMS competitors for clients to use 3rd party tools, also but if Bb wants to shine above them instead of being like them, they need to step up and include secure testing in their product. The dream tool would use Bb Test/Pool Manager, Bb Item Analysis, and download the test and launch in an environment that is locked until submitted and no Internet connection until submitted. Maybe Bb's Offline content will be a step toward this. 
  • In 2013, I asked for bundled pricing and inclusion of training. This one happens when a client  moves to the Learning Essentials bundle or higher. Thank you for listening Bb. 
  • In 2014, I asked for Improving client communications. I believe that Bb has done that and continues to work on this item. For example, in the past they hired students to promote publisher B2's to faculty without talking to clients first. This year they sent out example marketing emails BEFORE they were sent and explained the emails. Though I believe marketing may still be using an out-of-date database for some institutions. Maybe each institution system admin could clean up the database annually for them. Another example is the new Learn user interface, there still is confusion is that just for the SaaS clients or will all Learn customers get it. Another example is graphic size for badges (Read more here) I got one answer from support and a different answer from an onsite trainer and there is nothing on help.blackboard.com.
  • In 2014, I asked for Bb to focus on the current application and less on new bells and whistles. I still personally have this as pending. They haven't made their product device responsive, added  tools like printing a test for student who has 504 accommodations, or even basic online attendance reporting. But they have improved the calendar, grade center, add more reporting, and some other things. Bb still has some room to grown in the area of better quality testing before roll out.
  • In 2014, I asked for integration with other SIS systems like Peoplesoft and Colleague.  Bb still only focuses on the Banner system. I will just keep hoping these companies can put aside their differences and work together for their customers. 
  • In 2014, I talked about follow announcements through timely. This is getting better, but what I think Bb still does not understand is when they show a shinny new feature like the new Collaborate UI at BbWorld, we do not expect to wait a year for it. 
www.smartambala.com
We know their are millions lines of code and thousands of customized options at each role level within the Bb Academic products, it is no small feet to change a Bb product each year. Yet Bb developers have done it for years and why their clients hold them to such high expectations. With that said, here are my top 20 things I would like to see in 2015..
  1. Ability to print test in a usable format without dependency on browser tools for Bb Learn. This will make Bb Learn complaint for student who have 504 accommodations.
  2. Basic online attendance tools within Bb Learn. Where either the faculty enter (make default present) or students use their mobile device to post attendance. 
  3. Have Bb Learn display times in user time zone, instead of system default. 
  4. Have all gradable Learn items available within Bb Grader
  5. Have the BbWorld demo'd Collaborate UI by the end of February 2015
  6. Slow down focus on making Bb Learn look like Canvas, and increase focus on current features
  7. Bb Learn system reporting to provide statistics on all tools. For example how many submissions were done to safeassign in a given time period or semester
  8. Provide managed hosted clients read only access to their full database, ASR is very limited. This may mean stop up charging for an open database. 
  9. Provide an Ad-Hoc report writer for system admins to query the database for basic information. 
  10. Improve Test Access Log reporting to Bb Learn. If a question is skipped say "skipped" don't just not show in log and put "none given" for answer. Or if impatient student double clicked on next  button causing a question skip say that clearly to assist faculty in stopping the student blaming Bb for their test failures. Or if they had one answer then changed it, why not record an answer change, so when students say "Bb changed my answer, we know they did it". 
  11. Sub-tabs to be role based like top-frame tabs in Bb Learn.
  12. Add a photo roaster tool to Bb Learn that would allow institutions the option to use photos from SIS within the courses/organizations instead of picture control being done by user. 
  13. Allow faculty to control release of information to students more. Notifications are great, but some faculty do not want student told when they are uploading items until it is released to them. 
  14. Provide clients a list of all "Bb Product Enhancement" request submitted and allow clients or BIE members to vote on them. Similar to old bug squad, but make a client promise that the top 5- 10 will be included in next release. 
  15. Add more versatility to Domain collections. Maybe add the ability to select by term or multiple terms, without having to manually select all courses or require additional categories added to courses. 
  16. Force all partners to use the B2 update tool. This will help clients and force others who claim they are partners stay current with Bb's ability. 
  17. Rethink B2 dependency. At least the code was changed so if you don't have a dependent B2, the updater would automatically install for you. However, with so many dependencies, Bb Inc is taking more customization away from clients and forcing them to turn on things they may not want to. 
  18. Big Data sharing. Bb Inc is probably collecting data on all it's clients, I know it can managed hosted ones. Why not share that with the clients or provide a place for clients to share it with each others securely. Include GUI tools for institutions to produce their own big data reports. 
  19. Expand the client success group, this is an awesome group and should be the ones that support directs clients to not their account rep all the time. 
  20. Have more BbWorld input from clients.  It is a users conference, it should be coordinated with users, presentations selected by users, as it was in the past and the way most other user conferences are done. 

I know Bb has focused on their SaaS platform, Ultra, and some other big things but they must not lose site on the needs of clients while developing these items. Yes, Bb is hearing from clients they are losing to Canvas, it is because of price, simple usability, and modern look. But if that is the primary focus they will miss what their loyal customers are saying "we want quality over quantity and we love the academic freedom Learn provides.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My life's journey, pondering questions, & blogging

     My journey began as I became part of the Generation X or more commonly known as a “latch-key kid”. Both of my parents worked full-time and I had a couple hours of alone time, but of course there were rules. Society makes it sound like a horrible thing for a kid to come home to an empty house, but if done correctly it instead teaches a child independence and responsibility. I love reading the different statements about “my generation” and how different we were from other generations, but so are the generations that follow: Generation Y (aka: Millenniums) and Generation Z (aka: Boomlets) Friesner, 2014. I was not lucky to born into a family business or to be in the right place at the right time when job hunting. Instead I move forward due to hard work and personal desire to transcend my environment and make a difference in society. If I had a crystal ball as a child to glimpse into my future according to my sixth grade teacher, I would been a high school dropout and never amount to more than a day laborer. I would not have believed possible the blessings, experiences, and accomplishments that have become part of my mid-life story.

     During my high school years I learned that my dyslexia could be used as a blessing, instead of a disability if I wanted it to. Yes, I had to work twice as hard as my peers to read something, to understand written test, and to prove that poor writing or spelling did not mean I was stupid. Teachers who don’t understand dyslexia would tell me “slow down and proof read”, boy did they have it wrong. Then in my senior year, I met a teacher who said “ignore them all”, do what you can and succeed or at least prove them wrong because your success or failure is up to you. Remember a grade is a grade for a moment in time, but a learned concept is yours for a lifetime. So with this encouragement, I went to community college, got married, got a college degree, and started my technology career.

     My career started as a night computer operator on a main frame computer system that would fill a large room with a traditional raised floors and Alaskan like temperatures. After I lost my father when he was only 47 years old, I decided that I had to find a job that was more challenging and pushed my outer limits of knowledge. I took a job with the local public school system to get their first and own IBM AS/400 system setup and running. It was fun and interesting, since the position was within the finance department. I wondered though what would happen if I failed, it was a small town and many people who worked at the school board knew my parents or were my former elementary principals. Eventually, the position morphed into a true information technology (IT) position in a small, but mighty IT department of four people. After four and a half years the position stalled and I moved on.

     The road in my life’s journey had me in a junior programmer position at a regional medical center. From the moment the job offer came, I realized I was going to experience gender and ethnical challenges on this job but knew I would better for facing the challenges then running from them. The director and senior programmer were both of a different culture and strong believers that a professional women needed to prove themselves to earn respect in a man’s world and thankfully in a year, I had their blessing and was climbing programmer/developer ladder, while earning my Master’s degree alongside my direct supervisor. After learning that they were holding my promotion until they promoted the person above me, I decided it was time to turn down a new road.
      
     That new road set me on the path to a man that little did I know would teach me so much and become a lifelong mentor.  My interesting ride started with this securing an applications programming position with a printing company. My supervisor quickly challenged me to assist with new software and to find solutions to old problems that had yet been addressed. I watch my supervisor one evening, use his contacts with Microsoft to solve a problem and at that moment I realized it isn’t always what you know, but who you know to help you solve the problem. Thankfully my employer realized that my supervisor was a leader and allowed him to open an “online” or “dot com” division. While I did not go immediately, I was able to switch from COBOL & RPG Coding in the plant to the dot com technology and creating websites and intranet solutions for customers. Work with Microsoft as a solution provider, grow to love IIS, asp, VBscript, java script, and SQL. Over the next several years and companies I followed Mr. Warren learning more about business and the importance of networking, than I could imagine. Ok, I also learned that the gift of “chocolate” can make almost anyone smile.  

      As my dot com journey end, with the dot com blast I entered into the realm of parenthood and then decided to return to school to get my doctorate degree. I returned to adjunct professor because I believed what everyone said “you’re getting a PhD you must be a college professor”. I enjoyed this a lot because my teaching mentors were faculty that taught me when I was fresh out of high school. They had lots of wisdom and high respect from me. I dreamed of being filling their shoes when they retired. I worked hard to succeed, but quickly learned that higher education is not about promoting the right person, it is about squeaky wheels and smooth talkers. I was honored to be named the 2007 adjunct of the year, but quickly learned I would not be hired full-time there because others felt threatened because I pushed on new things like authentic learning and using open education resources in the classroom or had a desire to grow the information systems technology program. While I continue to adjunct at the college, I do so not to seek full-time employment but to take every opportunity to make a difference in the 100+ students’ lives each year that I get to work with.

     That revolution lead me to my position of today. It was the dream job supportive of my PhD endeavors, my teaching endeavors (by training faculty & staff, I was help students), movement into management, and allowed me to explore my education technology interest while expanding on existing IT skills.  As I started to make a difference, some became jealous of my success and sought to slow me down, instead of riding the wave.  An opportunity happened that allowed me to bring a friend and former colleague on this adventure with me. We were a team that continued to expand and be successful, the team focused on training and support and I focused on the technology and promoting the university name. We were successful, until someone at the college decided the team was too successful and the water started filling under the bridge. The team was split between departments, friendships were destroyed, and trust was lost. As time showed that I was supported more from the vendors that were connected with my employer, than the employer I started to wonder about this road and if it time to move on. This road though allowed me to make new friends and enjoy in their successes, grow my professional network, to win awards for helping others (Bb MVP, Bb Catalyst, Bb Key to Community), and to learn new skills, and how quickly a few bad apples destroy the entire basket.

     In my higher education experiences, I get to talk to students about success and excellence in not only their careers but how they also apply to life’s journey, keys to success, and living well. One might automatically think of success in terms monetary compensation based on educational and professional titles. But higher pay and fancy titles are just byproducts of success. To me, success means living a life of authenticity, focus, passion, and truth—all while believing in dreams and striving toward my goals, not those around me. Because of my success definition, I now stand in at a folk in my journey and am hoping the answer to the questions below will help guide my direction.

A few pondering questions:
  1. What I find puzzling is why Higher Education is concentrating so hard on the Millenniums instead of thinking further out and being prepared for the Boomlets, who will clearly have higher education technology expectations.
  2. Why does society promote those that have extended vocabularies, but cannot actually do the task they are talking about? Is it really more important to use fancy words then able to improve society by doing?
  3. Why is higher education so quick to jump to the next new shinny application? Is it because their future students are asking for it or is it because of someone’s personal agenda?
  4. Is the Ivory Towers documentary, really what higher education has become or is it just banking believers that all higher education institutions are the same?
  5. Is it too much to expect an employer to congratulate on success, understand during failures, and to support you during both?
  6. Is a job supposed to be fun and exciting or is it “just a job”?
  7. Should technology support learning, not restrict or replace it? Why do some educators fill the need to not teach phonics, writing, or spelling to children? But instead just hand them a tablet and say use spell and grammar check. 
  8. How does one change careers if every job posting require prior experience?
  9. Are certifications (ie:MCP, PMP, PHR, etc) more important today because of Human Resources application automated filtering system tools?
  10. Does a industry certification prove ability or just ability to memorize and take test?
  11. Critical thinking skills are important and some a pushing for banning True/False and Multiple Choice testing in schools, yet licensing test like nursing are still using the multiple choice approach, so should we prepare students by giving test like their license exam or should we also force all certification & licensing bodies to change to match education trends? 


     I am more than a generational member, more than my professional experience, and my educational background on might see on a resume. I have thoughts, opinions, feelings, and experiences that extend far beyond the boxes people try to place me in. I started blogging to win a contest being hosted by Blackboard Incorporated and now I realize that I must cover a broader mix of topics ranging from education, business, finance, current events, and hobbies for my blog to grow. Depending on the topic, the tone might be fun and light-hearted or serious. Either way, I hope you will open your mind to receive messages that will both inspire and challenge you. I only ask that when you disagree, you do so with respect of differences of opinions. And in turn each of you will help me remember what Eleanor Roosevelt that “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

References:

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 http://vabug.org. 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 Help.Blackboard.com.

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.

http://help.blackboard.com/en-us/Learn/9.1_2014_04/Instructor/130_Student_Performance/050_Achievements#

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: http://www.blackboard.com/sites/mvp/index.html#meet-the-mvps.

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 http://bbbb.blackboard.com/Trends_in_Online_Learning_Report. 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 http://blog.ericsilva.me/?s=bbworld14 and http://fionndelahunty.me/blackboard-world/

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.