Monday, April 06, 2009

Bb World Europe 2009 - Day 1

After a long trip with quite some delays, today I arrived at Bb World Europe 2009 in Barcelona. In order to clear my head a little bit, I made a small afternoon walk in the immediate surroundings of the Fira Palace Hotel. Quite nice, sunny and around 20 degrees. At 5 PM the conference started with a Blackboard opening keynote by Michael Chasen (CEO Bb Inc.).

A main part of his talk was focused on the roadmap, which he organized around three main issues:
o Learners at the centre (“engaging the student”)
o Leveraging the community
o Expanding openness

As examples of engaging the student Chasen mentioned some features of Bb 9 such as the drap&drop functionality of dashboard items, personalization of the dashboard also by students, choices for different notification settings (RSS, e-mail, SMS alerts) and the possibility of blogs as a reflection instrument. However, if you consider blogging as a tool which is especially interesting in informal learning situations, it was a little bit surprising to hear about the reviewing and grading functionality in relation to blogs. Why formalize what people may write as their personal reflection?
In relation to community aspects Chasen was proud to announce the in-built Enterprise Instant Messaging (based on Wimba) functionality. Well, you might say why bother to offer another IM tool in Blackboard? The first reason he mentioned was not very convincing to me: to get rid of all exotic IM aliases that people might have. Isn’t this contradictory to the trend that organizations are wondering if they should provide an institute e-mail address to their students? Other reasons that are more interesting is the possibility to have the IM function organized across institutions, around the courses in which you are enrolled. E.g., you can see who’s online for each of your separate courses. Moreover, there is a trend towards enhancing all sorts of content sharing, including assessments.
On a different level Chasen mentioned the Bb Connection site where Blackboard users of all sort users can collaborate and share best practices and deepen their knowledge and expertise in all things eLearning
The final subject was related more openness: Bb 9 has an open API in order to deploy multiple VLE’s: the Bb portal may display links to e.g. Moodle or Sakai courses or announcements from a Moodle course. Clicking the link will lead the user immediately to this environment without the need to logon again. A similar example was given for a Blackboard Learn add-on for your Facebook profile: see if there are any announcements or grades published in your Blackboard environment.
After the opening keynote I joined the welcome reception and met a lot of people from the Dutch Bb community. Nice to see them all here. Tomorrow the conference will move ahead with a full programme starting at 9 am.

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