Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bb World Europe 2009 – Day 3


The third and final day of the conference included some more interesting topics than the day before. I selected a couple of sessions in which collaboration, communication and use of (recorded) video were the main subjects. The first session I attended was about the Wimba collaboration suite, which claims to provide the answers for the social dimension in 21st century education. An engaging environment in which students can interact and collaborate. The presentation was strongly product oriented and unfortunately suffered from some performance issues because of the slow WiFi network at the conference site. It was not really rocket science that was presented to us. A lot of functionality, such as content- and application sharing, videoconferencing, voicechat and instant messaging is also available in other tools as well (e.g., MSN, Skype, Adobe Connect). The interesting part is the full integration of some components with Blackboard. Wimba Pronto provides an instant messaging tool (looks a bit like MSN Messenger) that can be fully integrated with Blackboard. This means that your organization structure can be mapped onto Pronto: see who’s online for all classes you follow, see if someone is available at the student’s servicedesk, etc. An instructor can organize virtual tutoring sessions in which the students who are enrolled can participate.
After this I went to a Blackboard Product Management session, which was not very good by the way. The focus was on how to get to Bb9. It was more or less a listing of upgrade scenario’s and the resources you can use as a client:
o www.blackboard.com/release9 (preview account, webinars)
o behind.blackboard.com (license keys, documentation)
A somewhat disturbing part of the presentation was the repeated ‘advice’ (at least 5 times during the presentation) to move to Bb managed hosting services. No word whatsoever on the technical issues that were found at some client sites and the need to release a service pack before the summer.
After a great Mediterranean lunch I was curious about the session of André Rosendaal on the virtual cutter of existing video material. I have used previous version of the virtual cutter so I wanted to know about it’s current status. The virtual cutter adds a begin- and endpoint to existing media. Only the part within the defined timeframe will be played. It’s online av-editing without creating a new media file. The nice thing is that it is available as a webbased software service, free to use (in English, Dutch and Spanish) and open source:
o video.surfnet.nl/virtualcutter
o sourceforge.net/projects/virtualcutter
The virtual cutter can provide three types of output: copy link, URL or embedded object code to paste into your HTML editor. At first glance this provides interesting opportunities to use video clips in your Bb courses. However, this is not always possible. The WYSIWYG editor in Blackboard is not suitable to include full HTML-markup. The HTML is changed upon saving. In Bb9 it’s even worse: the code is rewritten when saving it: ‘embed’ tags are removed, which makes that the video clip does not play, or plays with limitations (depending on the browser you are using). Rosendaal argued that Bb should provide a real ‘add streaming content’ function to the WYSIWYG editor.
Another (research) presentation was on the use of Echo360 at the University of Birmingham (recording of video lectures), a product comparable to Mediasite or Presentations2Go. The interesting part of the presentation was not on the product itself, but on some findings that confirm my own experiences when I just to work for the University of Twente. The presenters also found that the attendance % was not systematically influenced upon the introduction of video lectures. The student see is as a supplement, not as a substitution. Students believe it to be a course enhancement and a means to improve their results. The results also show that students are highly selective when downloading a video lecture. The majority only selected 1 or 2 video lectures from a list of 10 available lectures. A remarkable conclusion is that members of the university staff are less positive. Staff members think that video lectures:
o will be a threat to student’s attendance,
o are not a engaging as face to face;
o cannot provide the right pedagogical quality;
o may threaten their job position.
The final session by the colleagues from the University of Avans was inspiring and highly interactive. They introduced a 4-quadrant model based on two axes: transaction versus interaction and virtual versus analog. The participants were invited to join 1 of 4 subgroups (representing 1 quadrant) and discuss the challenges that have to be faced in that quadrant. The results have been collected and will be published (and further discussed) at:
o avans-elearning.blogspot.com

On a scale of 1-10 I give the conference an overall rating between 6 and 7. The presentations had very different quality levels. Remarkable: we did not receive any evaluation forms! There were plenty of networking opportunities, that was good. From an organizational perspective I missed a sort of closure or closing reception. As a matter of fact the information market was closed directly after the lunchbreak. People were tearing the information boots down, while the 3 afternoon sessions were held. That’s probably why quite some people left early because it gave an atmosphere that the conference was over. At the Avans session there were probably only 15 participants. On the other hand the session proved that you don’t need a very large audience to have an inspiring debate with each other.
When the session ended at 5PM I directly went off to Barcelona El Prat airport to catch an evening flight back to Amsterdam.

2 comments:

Willem V said...

You will receive the evalution form via e-mail.
I agree with you about the closing of the conference

Rob Jones said...

Being one of the presenters on the Wednesday afternoon slot ( was one of the Echo360 presenters) I did find it strange there was no closing session for the conference. Just to wrap things up.
In all I enjoyed it, though did think it was smaller than last years