As I wrap up my time with Blackboard and enter my final semester of graduate school, I am hit by the bittersweet realization of all I’ve learned in my past 6 months as a Community Coordination intern. For starters, I was introduced to a field I did not know existed. Community Managers are before anything, connectors, and I had the privilege of connecting parents, admins, developers, educators, and students with a shared commitment to revolutionize learning. Even more, I learned that us Blackboarders are a community inside an industry – an industry that is evolving and expanding every day. “EdTech” as I had experienced it was limited to online gradebooks and virtual courses. In working improving the learning experience for others, I learned a few things myself:
- We are a Global Community…
- And can exchange ideas with our community members. Some of my favorite conversations were with clients in Finland, France, and England, where I learned about the set-up of their institutions, the use of the LMS, and the cultural factors surrounding its adoption.
- Cultural Sensitivity is Key
- Education is universal, but its method of delivery is not. I had the opportunity to explore my interest in international marketing with Demetra Katsifli and recommended some strategies for introducing Bb products into an emerging market. During my research, I was shocked to learn that the nation’s political landscape still restricted access to education as I know it in the U.S., and had to revise my strategy to align with the government regulations and economic restrictions of the region.
- Students find it boring…
- In high school, my definition of “EdTech” was the online gradebook where I could check my progress. In undergrad, that definition expanded to include dry, self-paced online courses. In my first year of grad school, the LMS was an online database where I could access readings, find homework, and submit assignments. It was a static portal through which I could give and receive information. Through Blackboard, my communication with instructional designers has opened my eyes to all that an LMS can – and soon enough will – be.
- Unless the LMS is creative
- I envy those students who are just beginning high school/college and will get to experience the best EdTech has to offer at the pinnacle of their educational career. There is now an emphasis on student engagement through dynamic and challenging learning experiences that traditionally were not part of the online learning environment. These include the blended learning and flipped classroom concepts, in which a mix of web-based lesson and traditional in-person lecture have shown impressive gains in student achievement. Then there is competency-based education (CBE), in which students are expected to demonstrate their knowledge in order to progress through their courses. Also, there is gamification, which many instructors have integrated into the assessment portion of their courses. This promotes collaboration, healthy competition, and a more positive learning experience. No matter the grade level, and no matter the institution, instructional designers are learning that their courses must offer flexibility, motivation, and challenges in order to engage students.
- One size does not fit all
- It is human nature that when we are motivated, we do better and achieve more. In an EdTech context, this means embracing a bit of ambiguity in online course design. Instead of giving students all the answers, remind them to develop their own perspectives and strengths. This is where the ability of an LMS to maintain personal profiles helps educators organize students’ unique learning paths.
- Content is cool
- Shared content, that is. Accessories like the camera, projectors, screenshare, voice recordings, etc. allow students to show off their work and collaborate with others. This promotes generation of new ideas and emulates the in-person conversational experience.
- Remember the Teachers
- The LMS is just as important for educators as it is for students. Traditionally, success has been a largely subjective measure of one’s quality of work, or numerical scores. Without any contained database, keeping track of individual students needs is difficult. Blackboard offers tools for instructors to track, set goals, and measure student gains against their peers. From this information, they can adjust their course design accordingly and promote greater student achievement.
- Tech means Technology
- And working with technology requires some basic understanding of the nuts and bolts. Never did I expect to learn the basics of HTML, CSS, APIs and the Cloud, but in order to design this page, I did. To all you coders out there – I admire you greatly.
With both frustration and inspiration, I now find myself involuntarily critiquing all of the improvements that could be made to course design within my own LMS. While my University does not use Blackboard, 6 months of working with them has been enough to excite me about the future of EdTech – so much so, that I almost wish I had more time as a student.
Thank you, Blackboard!
And thank you, Marissa Dimino!