eLearning Frenzy

eLearning is like a sewer, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it.



Blackboard World and Vegas – A Perfect Match

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

BbWorld 2013 Session – Effective Interactive Tools and Web 2.0 Projects Promote Student Learning & Engagement

Session Title: BbWorld 2013 Session – Effective Interactive Tools and Web 2.0 Projects Promote Student Learning & Engagement

Shu-Hui (Susan) Chang, Ph. D.
Director Distance Education
Computer Science Department
Iowa State University

(Seated and waiting for session to start)

Sound Teaching Pedagogies, Interactive Components and Effective Technologies are the hallmarks of an engaging online learning experience.

Distance Learning Evaluation Guide from American Council on Education

Before integrating interactive components in your course, focus on design.  (Systematic Design complete with Objectives, weekly modules, & technology that accommodates different learning styles)

Integrating Interactive Components

  • Build Online Community
  • Engage Learning
  • Facilitate Student instructor and student student interaction

Start from beginning.  Include media in Introductory Activities (Don’t be afraid to do audio/video).  Let the student start out as course content owners.

Use Case Study’s for group projects to build online learning community.  Students research their own project and comment on each other’s reports.

Use real-time Chat sessions – (Text chat is fine)  Guide the discussion by providing rules of the road so that the students know what to focus on.  Prompt with each question.  For example: What is Web 2.0?

Stream lecture-ets (5-15 minute) lectures that connect to Learning Activities.

Be Collaborative with Wikis, have students build the content and then provide feedback on each other’s section.  Include positive feedback and constructive Criticism in comments.  (provide netiquette guidelines for flaming etc)


Use Shutterfly to Introduce yourself to the class.  Incorporates photos and text.
Use Prezi – Give students a research topic to present on (eg. Network Topology)


Presentation Tools
Prezi, Brain Shark, Knovio,, PhotoSnack,

Video Tools
TED, Animoto, Capzles (Capzles Classrooms), Jing, Podsnack(Custom Flash audio players), Tubesnack (create video playlists and sharew ith others)


Audioboo(record sound to cellular device and attach picture to sound), Instagram, (creates a social network using cell phones)

Community Tools maps, brainstorming diagrams), Voki, Classtools (create interactive games, quizzes etcc), Wikis, Facebook, Blogger,

Other Tools
Blabbberize, Glogster, Quizlet, Toon Doo (create cartoons games), Fodey (fake newspaper), Pixlr (photo editor), Pintrest

BbWorld13 Breakout Session – Micro-blogging to Increase Engagement

BbWorld13 Breakout Session – Micro-blogging to Increase Engagement

Sprang from: Implementing Twitter into classes as a teaching tool.

Use hashtag #teachwithtwitter to share best practices.

Use of twitter came about from challenge of increasing retention.  What does engagement mean?  Connecting all institutional constituents to the activities of learning, discovery and the academic topics of study.

Twitter allowed use of social media in classes and beyond, tied to institutional mission, programmatic learning outcomes, & class objectives.  Connect to thought leaders in the industry to apply what they are doing to academic work.

Tell students to BYOD to class.  “If I find you on Facebook, “I get to post your status”.

276 students, 13 hasthtags and 10 professors.

Twitter is:

  • a great way to have students do research
  • a great way to connect with thought leaders in industry
  • a great way to engage students and faculty
  • a great way to affirm student knowledge  (retweets, favorites etc..)

Students felt more connected.

Twitter is not:

  • A way for instructors to STALK students
  • A home work reminder tool!

Follow every major leader, mover/shaker in your field.  Prompts prof to prompt students to look at questions they should be thinking about!

Engagement uptick:

Building relationships via tweets and re-tweets.  Students that may not interact in face-to-face environment may feel more comfortable in the twittersphere.  Gain insight into your students through micro-blogging.

Affirming students by:

  • Followers
  • Retweets/Mentions
  • Favorited
  • Direct response/reply
  • Start a hashtag trend!

Bonus Results:  Creating Twitter pages for professional/business uses

In Blackboard – Use Twitter widget to display twitter feed!

Resources: will shorten URLs  (also tracks clicks)
HootSuite, TweetDeck  (HootSuite allows you to schedule tweets – making them relevant to when your followers are reading their feeds)Twitonomy – Metrics on Tweets

Lessons Learned

  • Will continue to do this
  • More training for everyone (hashtag/mention use)
  • Help students understand Twitter (be clear on assignment layout)
  • Don’t assume all Gen Y students are tech savvy
  • Students were afraid of doing it “wrong” based on “multiple choice” mentality
  • Better Balance of quantifiable pieces with softer side

Twitter Assignment 1: Hashtag, you’re it!

  • Current event searches

Twitter Assingment 2: Follow you, Follow me

  • Making Connections to industry Leaders (make a professional account)

Twitter Assignment 3: Tweet That, Tweety Bird

  • Sharing ideas with others

Blackboard will want me to be a BbWorld VIP blogger

Please accept this ‘Ode To BbWorld 2013’ as my humble submission.

Ode to Bb WorldAn Ode to BbWorld 2013

There once was a blogger of eLearning

who had a Technologically specific yearning.

To Vegas he’d go, not just for show,

but for BbWorld VIP Blogger status he was burning.

The Blogger heard that Sugata Mitra would be there,

Mitra’s thoughts on expanding EDU access he’d share.

He would blog them all down, and Tweet them around,

for once, what happened in Vegas wouldn’t stay there.

The knowledge acquired on these five days,

for Tips, Tricks & trends to the mainstays.

They would benefit all, because come the fall,

will be a bevy of BbWorld-influenced #bestpracticemondays!

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