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tjatkin

It's Not Too Late!

Posted by tjatkin Mar 21, 2019

The Exemplary Course Cohort kicked off yesterday. . . and it’s not too late to join and take advantage of this 5-week series. If you missed the first session, you can register to receive the recording. Each week features a different Blackboard Instructional Design expert speaker. We have several 2018 ECP winners who will present a course tour.

 

The Exemplary Course Program (ECP) is designed to celebrate the success of your hard work in designing and delivering such a course and we’re looking forward to your participation.

 

Patsy Hayes is leading the 2019 ECP Cohort. Patricia (Patsy) Hayes joined Blackboard as a Client Success Advocate in 2017. She spent 11 years at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and, as a “soaring Seahawk,” instructional technology became her focus as she worked to design and develop online courses with faculty. We’re excited to have Patsy leading the ECP Cohort and Program because she knows pedagogy and understands faculty challenges when it comes to course design.

 

Again, it’s not too late to register - for a complete list of speakers and to join the cohort, please visit https://go.blackboard.com/ECPSpring2019.

 

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tjatkin

BEST. JOB. EVER.

Posted by tjatkin Feb 13, 2019

When I celebrate extraordinary accomplishments and innovation in education by presenting the Blackboard Catalyst Awards, it reminds me that I have the best job ever.

 

Last year we honored 44 Catalyst Award winners across the globe at BbWorld and at the regional Teaching & Learning Conferences (Manchester, Sydney and Singapore). The work and impact of the award winners is inspiring.

 

Catalyst Awards recognize achievements in the following areas: (1) leading change; (2) community engagement; (3) teaching & learning; (4) inclusive education; (5) optimizing the student experience; (6) training and professional development; and (7) student success.

 

We are accepting nominations for the 2019 Blackboard Catalyst Awards through March 8, 2019.

 

Please consider sharing how your institution redefines what's possible when leveraging technology – it deserves recognition and enhances our global education community. Submit a nomination for yourself, a team or a colleague!

 

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tjatkin

Pay It Forward

Posted by tjatkin Feb 4, 2019

Consider sharing your insights, ideas and innovations – in order to enhance and improve education globally. Last year we had over 270 presenters share their experience and work at BbWorld. If you’ve been thinking of sharing your story this year in Austin, below are some items I wanted to make sure you were aware of that you might find helpful:

 

  • Early Acceptance: Based on feedback that submitters wanted to find out earlier if their session was accepted so they could plan and book travel, we created an early acceptance process. Submit your proposal by February 15th, and your session will be included in the new early review process. We work with a small group of clients and a cross-functional group of Blackboard employees to review each submission and help select the ones that make it into the BbWorld program. If the session is accepted you will be notified a couple weeks earlier than everyone else. Please keep in mind that early submission does not guarantee acceptance.

 

  • Consider reviewing this year’s themes in the submission guide before submitting. Sessions that relate to these themes will have a higher chance of acceptance. Learn more about the themes, session types and how to submit in the guide.

 

  • If you don’t want to present alone, consider partnering with a colleague at another institution or being part of a panel session. Let us know if we can help facilitate these connections.

 

  • Want more tips on creating a winning proposal, there will be a webinar on Feb 7th at 2pm ET. If you can’t join live, register anyway to receive the recording.

 

To be considered for the early acceptance process, submit your session by February 15th, otherwise you can submit up until the regular deadline - February 28th.

 

I hope to see you in Austin!

 

 


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tjatkin

Quality Matters - Part II

Posted by tjatkin Jan 8, 2019

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you had a nice holiday break with family and friends. My husband and I were lucky to visit Quebec City for the first time over the holidays – it was cold, and awesome, and we can’t wait to go back! As our paths cross this year, remind me to share stories of our adventures.

 

As many of you know, to close out 2018, I used my blog to introduce you to Ashley Hunsberger, Blackboard’s Quality Architect. As promised, here is Part 2 to that blog post, where she provides greater insight into our testing process, the programs to gather client feedback and how Blackboard strives diligently to deliver quality software.

 

1. What are we doing at Blackboard to deliver quality products?

Our work begins with having a rigorous and informed approach. There are several tenets that I think are critical to our approach for driving improvements in quality – and by quality, I mean that our products work well, and that they work in ways our clients want them to work. We’ve been working hard this past year to make process improvements to our approach to quality. We know we need to understand what’s important to you and then test our work to make sure we get there!

 

We put the user first. We ask ourselves, how will they use the product? What will that experience be like for them? We know that automation cannot tell us how our product makes the user feel. What we can do is learn from you, understand how you expect what we build to behave, and explore the system accordingly to make sure it reflects your desires and incorporates your feedback.

 

We can’t test quality in. This means that even if all testing is complete, you won't necessarily have a quality product at the end of the day. Testing is merely feedback, telling us what the impact of a code change is on the system. What we CAN do is get that feedback as fast as possible and prevent known errors from traveling any further downstream. To do that though, we need the right feedback at the right time. We do that by understanding our business goals as well as the corresponding questions we must answer and taking a risk-based approach to testing since, as unfair as it may seem, we can’t test everything. We identify the areas where feedback is critical after every single change and then automate those areas as much as possible. Doing this enables us to have better results faster AND it frees us to explore our product in other ways – such as human-based testing.

 

We believe in small, incremental changes. It is much easier to get the feedback we need on very small changes than it is to leave testing to the end of massive, sweeping changes that could take months. This is a shift in software development over the last several years that, frankly, makes our lives easier in development. We must continue to view quality and testing as an activity, not a role, and take a whole team approach. We are all in this together and want the same thing - a wonderful experience for our users.

 

2. What are some of the results or process improvements that have been made over the past year?

When we started our risk-based testing approach, we were able to invest in automation in high-risk areas by evaluating the likelihood we thought something could occur and the impact if it did. Once we were able to get testing in place for those higher risk areas, we introduced something called gates. What this means is, if a test fails, it will automatically fail the build and won’t go to production. This is really important, driving higher quality.

 

Of course, since we can’t test everything, some things may unfortunately make it through. When we don’t capture something during multiple facets of testing, we do root-cause analysis to understand why it happened, and then we look at our testing to ensure that we could find the issue with our testing to avoid it happening again.

 

 

3. What are some ways we gather client input into this process?

For Learn Original, we offer a Tech Preview program twice a year that allows self-hosted and managed-hosted clients to test the release right before launch. We had 28 clients contribute in providing feedback in the Q4 2018 Tech Preview. The Q2 2019 Tech Preview will start in late March 2019. (CCO note: stay tuned for the details of how to sign up).

 

For SaaS clients, there is a client-led weekly user group meeting called the SaaS Virtual Group with support from Blackboard's product management team. For clients on Ultra, there is a monthly Learn Ultra Office Hours program, where clients can give feedback directly to our product management team.

 

There is a Blackboard Idea Exchange section on the Community site where clients can submit new ideas directly to Product Management. We are focused on finding ways to provide better and more timely feedback and show how your ideas are informing our roadmap and prioritization.

 

4. What are some other areas you are excited to think about for the future of driving quality at Blackboard?

In the coming year, we’ll be working even more closely on how teams go from idea to production as fast as possible. I’ll be increasing my focus on Release Engineering. We’ll be concentrating on improving flow and feedback - establishing the processes, tooling and infrastructure to enable teams to do so. Our team will also work very closely with our Site Reliability Engineering team, all to build towards better predictability, observability, and reliability (and recoverability) of our systems. It’s an incredibly exciting time in our field!

 

I also hope to look at other areas where we may enhance testing to drive better quality, like testing in production; improving our cross-browser testing (how we test across all the browsers); and introducing a type of testing that’s been around awhile but really catching attention in the testing field lately – Visual Regression Testing (pixel by pixel comparison on each change). All experimental, all ways to deepen our learning of the impact of our changes on the system.

 

I want to thank Ashley for sharing her vision and work via my blog.

 

At the heart of all this work that Ashley and our teams do, is you - our partners and users. How you experience our products is what matters. We will never be done with improving quality, and we improve every day thanks to your feedback and inputs!

 

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In my last blog post, I recapped the results of our 2018 Client Satisfaction Survey. I noted that one of the top 4 areas of importance to you was the quality of our products and services.

 

I wanted to share with you how we are focusing on quality – directly from Ashley Hunsberger, Blackboard’s Quality Architect. I recently met with Ashely Hunsberger to get a greater understanding of the testing process and how Blackboard works to deliver quality software.

 

This will be a two-part blog post! Part I is to introduce you to Ashley and Blackboard's framework for defining quality. Part II, which I will post next week, will focus on how we deliver quality software.

 

Q&A with Ashley Hunsberger, Blackboard’s Quality Architect - Part I

 

Tell me about your background?

I was born and raised in Reston, Virginia and now live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I went to a small, all-women, liberal arts school (Mary Baldwin University) where I studied Computer Information Systems, which I see as the intersection of people, organizations, and technology. I’ve had various roles in tech throughout my career, though my first job in testing was not software! It was in vehicle safety research at the University of Virginia’s Center for Applied Biomechanics (read: car crash testing with cadavers). That was a job I’ll never forget! I still remember being asked, “Ashley, what do you think will happen to the tibia and fibula during this lower extremity impact test?”

But my love of testing and experimentation grew from there – I worked with the Federal Communications Commission as a Business Analyst, then worked in medical technology as a Quality Analyst, and then on to Blackboard!

 

Tell us something interesting about yourself – outside of work?

I consider myself a pretty boring person but personally speaking I’m a mother of two brilliant little girls, Emma and Layla. I love to play the piano, and play field hockey. I love traveling, and am so thankful my speaking and work has allowed me to see the world. (I find Ashley the opposite of boring!)

 

Describe your role at Blackboard, and how long have you worked here?

I’ve been at Blackboard since 2005. I started as a Quality Analyst on the Learn product team and have progressed over the years to my current role as a Quality Architect in our Engineering Quality and Productivity department. I like to think of my role as a combination of research, strategy, philosophy, and leadership to help drive quality improvements across the company. One of the main ways I do this is with the Test Steering Group, where I get to work with some amazing people to discuss testing practices, challenge thinking, and roll out ideas through experiments. And I engage directly in the education community and across the software development industry as well, sharing my experiences in testing at various conferences around the world. I believe very much in contributing to Open Source Software (a way to give back to the software community), and sit on the Selenium Project Leadership Committee, where I primarily co-chair their conference. Being involved beyond the walls of Blackboard has helped me bring new ideas back to the company that will benefit our users – faculty, students and administrators!

 

What are we doing at Blackboard to deliver quality products?

Let’s talk about what quality is. To us, it’s the degree of excellence that a system displays. We consider various aspects of quality that help us understand that degree of excellence, such as:

  • Functionality (Do we meet stated and implied needs?);
  • Reliability (What is our fault tolerance? How fast can we recover?);
  • Usability (Are our products understandable, learnable, and usable? How delighted are our clients when they use our product?);
  • Efficiency (Can we perform appropriately relative to the amount of resources?);
  • Maintainability (How do we handle changes to the system?);
  • Portability (How adaptable is our product? Can we transfer from one environment to another?).

 

Now that Ashley has provided a frame for how we think about quality at Blackboard, in next week’s blog post Ashley will share specific thoughts on the tenets that drive quality in our work. Stay tuned!

 

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tjatkin

Listening to you!

Posted by tjatkin Oct 26, 2018

I recently shared a review of the work we’ve done across Blackboard this past year guided by the 2017 Annual Client Satisfaction Survey. We’re now working with the insights from the initial report of our 2018 survey results.

 

Today, I want to highlight this year’s results, in comparison with 2017, as well as how we are using your feedback to inform and guide our efforts as we look to 2019 and beyond.

 

We used the same independent partner to conduct the web-based survey and perform sophisticated statistical analyses on the results. The survey was sent out to clients globally in 3 languages – English, Spanish and Portuguese. It included a cross section of stakeholders (including executives, IT staff, instructional designers and educators) across Higher Education, K-12, Business and Government. We used the same questions as last year to enable year-over-year trend analyses and comparison.

 

What stayed the same?

 

What’s Most Important to You: The areas that are most important to you remained consistent from last year:

  • Ease of using products and services
  • Adoption of products and services within your institution
  • Value your institution receives from products and services of the price paid
  • Quality of products and services

We will continue to prioritize these areas and invest time and resources to ensure we are making improvements.

 

What changed since a year ago?

 

Client Participation & Engagement: This year over 2,500 individuals responded to the survey, up 20 percent from last year (and last year was 15 percent higher than the year before). The increase in the number of clients providing feedback is so positive to us because your insights are critical.

 

The Faculty View: We improved in a year-over-year comparison in virtually every category in the survey responses from faculty. There are several areas in which faculty survey responses indicated significant improvement:

  • Blackboard Is a strategic partner/extension of your institution
  • Blackboard is committed to the success of your students
  • Blackboard helps your institution anticipate, influence and adapt to the future
  • Blackboard is a resource for discussing and addressing your institution’s day-to-day challenges

 

We are encouraged by these results, and we know we need to continue to make improvements in our efforts to support and enable faculty as they focus on student success.

 

New Areas of Importance: While the areas that were most important to you remained the same, there were some additional areas you highlighted as more important to you today than they were a year ago.

  • Blackboard thought leadership within the education sector

We recognize this is critical for us to be a true Partner in Change. We also know this must be a dedicated and focused effort. To that end, a few months ago we established a Chief Learning and Innovation Officer position reporting directly to our CEO. Phill Miller has taken on this important role to focus on our understanding of the needs of the education community, regional differences, forward-looking trends and how these inform our work on our EdTech platform and portfolio. More to follow on this as we focus on it in the coming months!

  • Resolve non-technical questions/problems

While faculty survey input showed improvements in virtually all areas of performance, this was highlighted by faculty as an area of increased importance today, and thus will be a key focus for our teams.

  • Interaction with client team

The results showed a clear increase in importance for you across multiple facets of your interaction with your Blackboard client team: frequency of interaction, availability and consistency of the client team. We believe this reflects the value of being a true partner. We will continue to focus on improvements here.

 

We Did Better: In my recent blog, I reflected on the last year and in several areas we were pleased to see that you told us we are doing better than we were a year ago: (1) ease of doing business with Blackboard (2) proactive communications and (3) migrations and upgrades. While you provided positive feedback in these areas, we know we still have more work to do and many of you provided specific feedback in the survey that will guide us.

 

What’s next?

 

Last week we gathered the top 100 Blackboard leaders from around the world. We spent three days planning for next year and beyond and your feedback helps us to prioritize and inform our efforts.

 

We are committed to being transparent with the results of our survey, our areas of focus, and our progress along the way so we can continue to build your trust as a partner.

 

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tjatkin

Welcome New Members!

Posted by tjatkin Oct 17, 2018

Last week I participated in the Blackboard Teaching & Learning Conference Asia (TLC Asia) in Singapore with over 130 participants.  It was an honor to meet with and get feedback and insights from clients across the region - Malaysia, Singapore, India, Philippines, China, Thailand, Australia, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. I also had the pleasure of traveling out to visit our Singapore clients including Polymall and Institute of Technical Education  at their campuses.

 

At the conference, we highlighted the significant momentum within the client community to migrate to SaaS, and focused many of our discussions and sessions on the change management of Ultra which is now being used in production by over 90 clients.

 

I also had the pleasure of presenting the Catalyst Awards. I would like to congratulate the teams from University of Santo Tomas, Malayan Colleges Mindanao, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, INTI International University and Colleges, and Temasek Polytechnic for their innovative uses of Blackboard technology.

 

Throughout the conference, we highlighted the Community Site and the Community programs which provide tremendous value through the sharing of insights, best practices and lessons learned across the 13,000+ members of the Blackboard Community. We had 30 new members join the Community site at the conference – welcome to the Community!

 

 

 

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Almost exactly a year ago, I shared the results of our 2017 Annual Client Satisfaction Survey via my blog.  We used your feedback to inform our planning and our efforts this past year and dedicated ourselves to continuous improvement with your views as guideposts for this work.

 

Ease of Doing Business with Blackboard

You told us that our post-sale delivery efforts were uncoordinated and made it difficult for you to work with Blackboard, and that we needed to focus on improved responsiveness in our work to support you.

 

We established a new organization under the leadership of Lee Blakemore to focus on providing an improved post-sale client experience -- the Global Client Operations & Success organization. We brought together all of the client delivery and support functions across the company into the new organization, along with our infrastructure and cloud services teams, to better integrate and coordinate our work.  

 

Over the last year we enhanced and formalized our executive and team focus, prioritization and coordination in responding to incidents and challenges that surfaced for our clients. 

  • Our leadership team is informed immediately of outages through an alert system, and we receive a consolidated daily Major Incident Management Report to ensure visibility into occurrences and resolution.
  • Lee Blakemore and I co-chair a weekly hot issues call, with leadership from our support, client success, infrastructure, cloud services and technical teams, to ensure tight coordination and track longer-term corrective actions.
  • We conduct monthly program reviews with our CEO and the entire leadership team that assess the trends and the actions we are taking to improve performance.

 

We have worked hard to strengthen our focus on continuous improvement as an integral part of our culture and work ethic.  We expanded the scope and strengthened the efforts of our work to understand the root causes of incidents that impact you.  Through our Incident Review Boards (IRBs), we assess the technical, process and human aspects of every incident. We validate the actions taken to resolve the incident were appropriate and as timely as possible. And, we focus on what we can do to improve the “system” to avoid future incidents of a similar nature.  The work of our IRBs is linked to our weekly hot issues calls so we can ensure the appropriate coordination and attention to all incidents.

 

Product Quality and Stability

You told us product quality and stability were critically important and needed attention. Building upon the outputs and insights from our IRBs as mentioned above, we placed a significant emphasis on improved testing in order to ensure higher quality.

 

We use an agile scrum process as our software development lifecycle which means our engineers and quality assurance resources approach the work collectively as a team whether it’s work on a bug fix or a feature change. The team reviews requirements from an engineering and QA perspective, looks at the code, and develops a test strategy. They perform a risk analysis to determine what testing needs to be done.

 

We've improved our automated testing across four areas: unit level testing, integrated testing, API and REST testing, and User Interface accepting testing.  In addition, the team does manual testing to validate all the changes being made are appropriate and typically includes:

  • Manual validation of the bug or feature change
  • Visual test across browsers, tablets, and mobile devices
  • Test using assisted technologies
  • And exploratory testing of critical use cases that may be impacted by the change.

 

Learn SaaS Clients using Continuous Delivery told us they would like to have more time for User Acceptance Testing (UAT) to ensure quality in their environment and manage the change (they were getting 7 to 8 business days - and one weekend, depending on time zone). Our product management and development teams identified process improvements allowing for more time for client UAT.  Our process improvements enable us to modify the Continuous Delivery Learn SaaS release schedule to give clients more time to conduct user acceptance testing and to manage change; we now provide 12-13 business days (and two weekends, depending on time zone).

 

We measure ourselves by your direct feedback, and through hard results of our performance. While learning is a year-round endeavor these days, there remains a very busy “Back to School” season in the July through September time period.  While we continue our efforts to improve product stability and quality, I’m proud of the work my colleagues and peers have done through the efforts mentioned above.

  • While the number of SaaS clients has doubled in the last year, the year over year comparison of outages between the 2017 and 2018 back to school season has shown a dramatic improvement – we have seen a 60% reduction in incidents.
  • For managed hosting clients, we similarly saw a significant decrease in outages – a 50% reduction in outages during back to school season (year over year).

And while I’m encouraged by the improvements, we know we are not done. Every outage has a direct impact on student success and we will continue to focus our work to improve stability and quality.

 

Proactive Communications

You told us proactive communications are important – here are just a few examples of our efforts to be more timely and transparent:

  • We introduced a new feature on Behind the Blackboard that provides a pop-up window announcing any current and impacting issues to enable you to know quickly what’s going on. The pop-up window shows up on your screen once you log into BtBb.
  • We redesigned and made improvements to http://status.blackboard.com/  in order to keep you updated on planned system maintenance activities and service interruptions as they occur.  You can now receive alerts pushed to your iOS or Android device.
  • Quarterly Teaching & Learning Roadmaps: We offer quarterly roadmap sessions in 3 different time zones highlighting the upcoming features for each Learn, Collaborate and Blackboard Open LMS.

 

Keeping with our commitment to be transparent, as I did last year, I’ll use my blog next week to share a summary of the results of our 2018 Client Satisfaction Survey.

 

The Year in Context

Our work to be responsive to your feedback this past year was done while we continued to see a great deal of momentum and movement to Learn SaaS and Ultra.

  • We have seen a significant increase in SaaS deployments. As of this week, we have 428 clients on a Learn SaaS deployment. With the addition of China this summer and South Korea this week, we’ve deployed Learn SaaS to 6 regions plus GovCloud. This gives us a worldwide footprint to meet more and more client’s desires to transition to SaaS.
  • As of this week, we have 91 institutions that have enabled Learn Ultra (that’s more than a 45% increase since BbWorld).

 

I’m proud of my Blackboard colleagues around the world who are committed to improving how we serve as a partner to you. While we made progress in a number of areas, we know more remains to be done and we are focused on our culture of continuous improvement.

 

Thank you for your feedback, your partnership, and the work you do.

 

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tjatkin

Going Back to School?

Posted by tjatkin Aug 24, 2018

While school is no longer constrained to the September to May timeline, there remains a large group of students who are starting in the coming weeks.  With that in mind, if you haven’t done so already, I wanted to reinforce some organizational actions that our Global Client Support team have found helpful over the years.

 

There are several steps system administrators can take to ensure they’re ready for the upcoming term. This coincides with the Operations and Web Tech teams review of each client. Here are a few of their recommendations:

 

  1. Verify that your Institution/University’s Help Desk portal is searchable to students under Support on https://blackboard.secure.force.com/btbb_publichome
  2. Bookmark status.blackboard.com for updates on planned system maintenance activities and service interruptions.  You can also follow the link at the top of the status.blackboard.com page for instructions on using free RSS feed apps to have alerts pushed to your iOS or Android device. 
  3. Review and update the information in My Profile and My Institution in Behind the Blackboard to ensure all contacts are correct for ticketing and escalations

 

Take a moment to consider your usage of our products. Support recommends considering the following statistics over the past school year and how any changes may impact your efforts or support needs:

 

  • Expected user increases greater than 5% over the previous year
  • Expected enrollment or course increases greater than 15% over previous year
  • New deployment of Analytics, Collaborate, Mobile Learn, Outcomes, or Retention Center
  • Changes to a current integration, customization, or 3rd party tool
  • Any other system-wide change or new institution policy that could potentially impact performance.  For example: Proctored Exams, Assignments/Discussion Boards due on same day/time, etc.

 

Please share these practices to the appropriate people – and please share your own thoughts of any best practices.

tjatkin

BbWorld - Time Flies!

Posted by tjatkin Aug 2, 2018

BbWorld was an exciting week – and then I took off for London to meet with several team members to ensure we are doing our best to take advantage of our best practices globally to better serve all of our clients.

 

I had a wonderful time participating in BbWorld and hearing from you about your work with our portfolio of products, and your overall experience.  So, now that I’m back home (and past my jet lag), I wanted to share my top reflections on BbWorld2018.

 

#3 – We can all make a difference and pay it forward. I was inspired by Sheila Johnson’s remarks, the discussion created by the Inclusive Education panel, and the charities across our community and around the world that are making a difference.  And it was a hugely uplifting moment for me to stand on stage with the Catalyst Award and Exemplary Course Program winners – all who are giving back by sharing their stories, their hard work and their creativity and innovation. Our individual actions matter and make a difference.

 

#2 – What a difference a year makes!  Earlier this week, our 400th Learn SaaS client went live in production, and we have over 50 clients in process. Over 65 clients are using Ultra in production, with an additional 35 institutions running pilots. I’m proud of my 2000+ Blackboard colleagues who have worked tirelessly to make this possible.

 

#1 – The LMS is necessary, but is not enough to support the complex challenges you are facing to help drive student success.  And this is why we’re working to bring you a portfolio of connected products and a super-charged ecosystem of partners to enable your efforts. And the most powerful part of our ecosystem is you, the community of user groups, discussion boards, MVPs, and peer networks.

 

I want to thank everyone who presented at BbWorld.  Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and expertise by presenting a session, workshop or on a panel.  BbWorld is a success because of you. And for those that may wish to watch the highlights from our general keynote, please select this link.

 

I noticed that this thread – “What did you learn” has been started on the Community site, I encourage you to contribute when you have a moment. Thanks @Syzmon for getting us started.

Every year Blackboard recognizes innovative uses of Blackboard technology and services, and we are pleased this year to announce 32 Blackboard Catalyst Award winners.

 

This year we had 75 submissions across 7 categories. The submissions highlighted a variety of programs including providing woman access to education in remote areas of Saudi Arabia, and transforming online course design processes to providing surgery students just-in-time feedback after taking assessments on the mobile app.  This year’s winners are:

 

Leading Change: This award recognizes institutions that have developed practices and/or technologies that have had a measurable effect on learning outcomes, student performance, or academic progression. The winners are:

  • Kettering University: Kettering Global - Kettering University Online
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver: MSU Denver Instructional Design Team (Jeff Loats, Alex McDaniel, Taylor Kendal, Dennis Smith, Sarah Debbek, Adrienne Christy, and  Todd Wolfe)
  • California State University, East Bay: Office of the Online Campus
  • Prince Sattam University: Dr. Tahani Aldosemani & Dr. Abdullah Albahdal
  • Virginia Commonwealth University: Division of Strategic Enrollment Management
  • University of Northampton: Learning Technology Team

Community Engagement: This award recognizes clients who are improving student achievement by fostering a connection between school districts, institutions, educators, students, and their communities. The winners are:

  • Vestavia Hills City Schools, Alabama: Youth Leadership Vestavia Hills
  • Fremont School District 79: FSD79 Staff
  • University of Leeds: Learning Technologies Team

Teaching & Learning: This award recognizes those who have adopted flexible, distance and online delivery, including using mobile technologies to positively impact the educational experience. The winners are:

  • Capella University: FlexPath 2.0 Project Team
  • Davidson Academy, Nevada: Stacy Hawthorne and Jessica Potts, PhD
  • George Mason University, Virginia: David Miller and Larisa Olesova
  • Montana Digital Academy: Mike Agostinelli, Robert Currie, and Jason Neiffer
  • Mayo Clinic: Andre Lapeyre, III, MD, Jerry Donney, Stacy Craft, Jennifer Mears, Kelley Sandvik, Kurt Simon, Tammy Simpkins, and Victoria Staifer, Dr. David Farley and the Farley Innovative Research Surgical Team
  • Saint Mary’s College: Dr. Joel Ralston
  • University of Derby: TEL Team
  • University of Mississippi: Marc Watkins
  • Wilmington University, Delaware: The College of Arts and Sciences and The College of Online and Experiential Learning

Inclusive Education: This award honors those institutions whose methods have ensured their pedagogy, content, technology, and educational services are fully inclusive and supportive of all learners with disabilities. The winners are:

  • Edge Hill University: Learning Services Staff
  • University of Cincinnati: Megan Wuebker, Dave Rathbun, Heidi Pettyjohn, and Paul Foster

Optimizing Student Experience: This award honors those institutions whose educational and administrative innovations have markedly improved the total learner experience. The winners are:

  • Concordia University, Wisconsin: Christopher Brandt, Andy Miller, and Elizabeth Polzin
  • Lamar University, Texas: Office of Marketing Communications - Kate Downing, Daniel McLemore, Charla Pate and Bri Gore
  • Technical College System of Georgia

Training & Professional Development: This award recognizes those who use Blackboard programs to support and enhance professional development within or outside of their organization. The winners are:

  • Edge Hill University: Learning Services Staff
  • Indian River State College, Florida: Katie Profeta and Michael Pelitera, IRSC Virtual Campus
  • Central Michigan University: Jeremy Bond, Kendra Brown, and Ming Dai
  • Grand Valley State University, Michigan: eLearning and Emerging Technologies Team Eric Kunnen
  • Kentucky Community and Technical College System: James Gibson
  • Calcasieu Parish Public Schools: Sheryl Abshire

Student Success: This award recognizes individuals and/or institutions whose creative program application has led to increased retention, increased completion, and/or improved outcomes. The winners are:

  • Continental University, Peru: Miguel Córdova and the Digital Technologies Team
  • Bryant University, Rhode Island: Dr. Laurie L. Hazard, Laura Kohl, Stephanie K. Carter, and Stephen Payne
  • Obridge Academy, New York: Dr. Jennifer Albert, Kristin Bestler, Harry Yang, and Laura Levarity

 

Please join me in congratulating this year’s winners. The winners will be honored and receive their awards at the Catalyst Awards luncheon on July 19th at BbWorld in Orlando.

 

And, it’s important to share these innovations as they strengthen our efforts as a community.  To that end, we will be sharing summaries of each winning Catalyst submissions through a variety of channels in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

 

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This will be my 3rd BbWorld and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with many of you, and excited to have the chance to meet in person those who I haven’t yet met.

 

At BbWorld, I found tremendous value in the opportunity to share ideas, best practices, tips and tricks. I’ve also found it a great way to talk with others about challenges we are each facing – usually they are shared by others, and someone has often found a way to solve them, or minimize the impact. And, the networking is AWESOME! It’s so great to make strong connections, to establish friendships and to create a network of colleagues to call upon throughout the year.

 

  • We expect this will be the first BbWorld for about 35% of the attendees this year. If this is your first time attending BbWorld, we will have a NEW first-time attendee webinar before BbWorld and an orientation session onsite on the first day at BbWorld to help you navigate the conference (they’re not scheduled yet, more details to follow!). We want to make you feel welcome and help you get the most out of your time at BbWorld.
  • We have over 175 sessions planned as well as many specialized keynotes and events. I am eager to hear Sheila Johnson share why she’s an impassioned education advocate, and how she became a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.
  • Check out the latest info here for the full program online.

 

I am looking forward to spending time with our Blackboard MVPs, presenting awards at the Catalyst Awards Lunch, attending sessions and walking the exhibit hall, and hosting our Leadership Summit.  If you see me in the exhibit hall or walking around, please be sure to stop me and introduce yourself.

 

If you’re a BbWorld veteran, please share any thoughts or ideas you have about how those attending for the first time can get the most out of BbWorld!

 

Orlando bound . . . 39 days and counting!

 

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tjatkin

4 Words – 40 Years Later

Posted by tjatkin May 8, 2018

As we recognize Teacher Appreciation Day in the U.S., I want to take a moment to pay tribute to my grade school teacher, Ms. M., who’s words of encouragement still stick with me 40 years later. 

 

I attended third through fifth grades at Oakton Elementary school in northern Virginia.  Our classroom was referred to as "The Learning Center." It included 120 students from across several grade-levels, taught by 4 teachers in a highly fluid and energizing environment.

 

In the fall of my 5th grade year, I participated in the school play competition. I wrote, directed and performed in my first play, The Snoggletoss Family. (Catchy title, huh? Part of a longer story.) The experience was exhilarating. My friends were the cast. My mother came to see all 5 performances. And, we won the competition!

 

Several months later I learned we were moving away before my sixth-grade year. My father was a career Navy officer and he was going to be stationed in Hawaii. We moved every three years and I loved it because my parents made it a family adventure (and Hawaii is, well Hawaii).

 

We didn’t have yearbooks to sign, so on my last day I asked my teachers to sign the manila envelope that contained my school papers. Ms. M, who taught and worked with me across multiple school subjects, wrote four simple words, "to a great playwright."

 

Ms. M. understood and recognized a passion in me. She understood it probably more profoundly than I think I did at the time.  While I dabbled in creative theater, writing and directing over the years, I pursued a career path that included military service (to include serving as a faculty member), a political appointment, and many years of working in the IT and technology business sector. I've loved every moment, challenge, opportunity and experience along the way.

 

Just over 40 years later, Ms. M's four words remained etched in my mind.  Two years ago, I took 6 months off from my 'day job' and I wrote a screenplay. I had some amazing mentors and support in my work, and it was simply an awesome experience. Those four words from Ms. M. inspired me to live a fuller life. She helped me to see I could embrace all the passions I have.

 

Thank you Ms. M. Thank you to all the teachers who impact and inspire their students in the moment, and for decades to come.

 

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I attended Blackboard’s Teaching and Learning Conference (TLC) in Manchester, England, three weeks ago which included clients from 100 institutions across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

 

While there, I had the pleasure of meeting the 3 Blackboard MVPs based in the UK. Matthew Deeprose, Chris Boon, Jonathan Knight, I witnessed first-hand their leadership of and support for the Community – presenting & sharing their insights, being active in their local user groups, and leading discussions on the Community Site such as Upgrade Club and Show us your Blackboard.

 

The Blackboard Community of users is an inspiring network of people who want to help one another in order to improve learning.  As a company, we want to identify and commend those clients who spend that extra time to support and share with others in the community in significant ways.

 

The Blackboard MVP program recognizes individuals who have expertise in Blackboard products, instructional design and the overall educational technology landscape. Our MVP's are engaged and dedicated clients who are leaders in the community.

 

This year, we are pleased to welcome 17 new dedicated leaders into the program. Please join me in congratulating and thanking them!

 

Chris Boon, Senior TEL Support Analyst, City College Norwich

Khadejah Brown, Professional Development Manager, United States Department of Agriculture

Justin Carrell Technology Support Specialist III, Tarleton State University

Dena Carrigan, Director Distance Education, Alvin Community College

Marco D'Alessio, Learning Architect, Laureate Education

David C. Dixon, Project Team Leader, Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College

Casey Eubank, LMS Administrator, WSU Tech

Paula James Kaplan, Instructional Designer, Marshall University

Jason Kane, Instructional Designer, Schoolcraft College

Helen Keier Manager of Support Services, CUNY John Jay College

Alex Manly, Director of Technology Learning Resources, Arkansas Tech University

Carolyn Ponce, Blackboard Administrator & Coordinator of Distance Education, Arkansas State University

Mark Reynolds, Lead Application Specialist, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Humberto Salazar, Online Rector, Universidad del Valle de Mexico

Lisa Sawtell Director of Online Learning and Educational Technology, Stetson University

Susan Subocz Vice President, US/UK Digital Learning Solutions Center, Laureate Education/Walden University

Mary Talalay, Instructional Designer, Johns Hopkins University - The Peabody Institute

 

I encourage you to follow each of these leaders in the Community.  We now have 58 MVPs, please check out the full list of MVPs.

 

@MVPs please share with us why you wanted to become an MVP and what the Community means to you!

 

Photo: Matthew Deeprose, Jonathan Knight, Marissa Dimino, Chris Boon

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Today is World Book Day, and it’s made me reflect on a book that I found inspiring when I was a faculty member at the Coast Guard Academy.

 

I served on the faculty twice – the first time I taught Professional Studies (maritime navigation, and shipboard skills), and the second time I taught in the Department of Management and Economics (teaching Organizational Behavior, Leadership, Human Resources, and I had the joy of creating a course on Public Policy).

 

Between my two ‘tours’ serving on the faculty at the Coast Guard Academy, I read A Life in School by Jane Tompkins.  I felt like it captured the experiences I had in my first days as a teacher, and elevated my thinking about my continued work.

 

As I recall it, the book captured the angst I had believing that I always “needed to be right” in front of my students, to have the correct answer, every time. And from reading this book, it helped shape my view that the impact of education reached far beyond the specific substance of the lessons I taught. The power of teaching – and the impact of learning – was at its most impactful when the student (or learner) learned something about themselves that expanded or changed their world view.

 

In my Public Policy course, my students had an assignment to “spend a day with a public manager” and write a paper to share their experiences and observations.  Students spent the day with a wide variety of public servants: police officers, high school teachers, city council members, librarians, and judges. And, I had two students who were able to spend the day with then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala.

 

As it turned out, the two students spent the day with Secretary Shalala on a day when I was also in Washington, D.C. for other work – so, the next day, I had the pleasure of driving with them from Washington, D.C. back to Connecticut.  This enabled me to hear first-hand and real time about their day.

 

They described their day with energy and excitement, tripping over one another to provide details.  They participated in a UN teleconference on Women’s Issues which included then First Lady Hillary Clinton; they joined the Secretary in an office visit with a young child who’s meeting was made possible through the Make a Wish Foundation; they engaged privately with the Secretary who had a keen interest in their life goals, and answered their questions about policy, about leadership, about public service. In the early afternoon, the Secretary asked these 2 students to ride with her to the White House so she could spend more time with them before their day with her was over.

 

As we drove to Connecticut the next day, they described their day, their observations, their experiences.  They said their day was life altering. I still recall the moment I heard them utter these words.  They’d had a glimpse into politics, policy and the dedication and selflessness of public servants. They found it life altering.

 

It turned out to be more than a good homework assignment, more valuable than any questions and answers we’d covered in the classroom. And for me, A Life in School helped to give me a perspective on being impactful as a teacher. It helped me realize that education is simply powerful.

 

Is there a book the inspired you in some way?