Blackboard World and Las VegasAfter spending the last week in Las Vegas, Nevada at Blackboard World, the seminal conference for eLearning (professional, K-12 & Higher Ed); it is easy to see how Blackboard World & Las Vegas go well together.  Yes, I know there are obvious reasons around logistics and space, but those aren’t it.  Although, where else can you comfortably house, feed and present to 2500 people? But, I digress.

Breaking it down, I see Blackboard World 2013 & Las Vegas pairing up in three ways:

  • Bright Lights
  • Passion
  • An Oasis in the Desert

Bright Lights

Freemont Casino EntranceFrom the light show at the Bellagio to the casino entrances and screen covered ceiling of the Freemont Experience, Las Vegas is bright light in the desert once the sun goes down.  Stand close enough to the entrance to the Golden Nugget and you might find yourself with a tan.

In the same way, Blackboard World shines with luminaries from the world of eLearning.  This year’s keynotes were powerful examples of bright lights in the field.  Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus and Sugata Mitra’s Beyond a Hole in a Wall were powerful examples of the way an idea can not only shine on its own, but of how those ideas can spark other lights into shinning.

The old summer/church camp song that starts off “It only takes a spark to get a fire going.” was in full effect with each of the conference sessions.  Attendees took the torch they were given with the sharing of successes, best practices and challenges, and left to spread the illumination to their peers, colleagues, faculty, staff and students at home.  I suggest we take another Blackboard World blogger’s advice and DON’T let what happened in Vegas stay there!


PassionLas Vegas is most assuredly, a city of Passion.  Passionate headliners go on stage each night at every casino.  Passionate Street musicians, performers and more put it all on the line to entertain you as you walk through the city.  There are more wedding chapels per capita in Las Vegas than anywhere else I’ve seen, testifying to the amount of passion in the city.  Revelers were passionately making bets, pulling levers on slots or putting it all on black on the casino floor in the conference hotel.

Just like Las Vegas, Blackboard World is a conference full of passionate individuals.    Blackboard announced this year a refocusing on their passion, teaching & learning.  The presenters at each session spoke passionately about their subject matter and how it relates to themselves and their (and our) constituencies.  Blackboard World Bloggers blogged and tweeted passionately about conference subject matter that lit up the eLearning Twittersphere.  As an attendee, I arrived early to each session so I could find a spot next to a power cord in order to passionately record everything I could.  All of these examples point to the fact that Vegas and Blackboard World are both passionate.

By the way, if anyone is looking for the name of a good educational jam-band my money is on eLearning Twittersphere or Cognitive Surplus.

An Oasis in the Desert

OasisAs I flew into Las Vegas, I was struck by how it seemed to spring out of the desert like a green sprout of life in a concrete jungle.  I could not help but be amazed at the sheer amount of water features in a city surrounded by nothing but sand and sparse vegetation.  Where the surrounding environs had little to no water to speak of, Las Vegas seemed to have water to spare magically bubbling, shooting and flowing its way throughout the city.

I do believe that Blackboard World provides an oasis of sorts for those involved in eLearning.  As each of us return to the day-to-day of our professional lives, it is easy to just get caught up in doing what we do without thought for innovation or disruptive change.  The wellspring of ideas that we swim in at Blackboard World give an almost recharging effect to our careers.  We remember why we do what we do, find new ways of doing it and learn to think outside of our proverbial boxes.

In closing, I hope everyone that attended Blackboard World this year got at least half as much out of it as I did.  Much like that oasis in the desert, I am bubbling over with energy, ideas and excitement about where eLearning is headed.  It is an exciting time to be involved in this noble pursuit as we break down barriers, redefine how we learn and push the envelope together.

I hope that this next year brings you some bright lights, passion in your work and an overflowing oasis full of what you need to keep on learning.

Jacob SpradlinA BbWorld13 Blogger