eLearning Frenzy

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


Blackboard World

Experience BbWorld 2016 From Your Office!

Each year, I count myself fortunate to attend the penultimate elearning event, Blackboard World.  If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you will know that the sharing of information from the cognitive surplus that is the BbWorld community is the high point of my year.

Sharing is Caring

Each year I share out my experience by blogging about the sessions I’ve attended, the latest news from Blackboard and what our industry leaders and forward thinkers are saying.  Well hold on to your hats folks, cause I have some news for you:

You can be a part of Blackboard World without leaving the comfort of your home sate, city, office or couch!  Yes, that’s right, you can be a part of BbWorld Live 2016.  Blackboard world will live stream sessions from the world’s largest elearning event over the course of three days!


Visit the BbWorld Live website to signup for the day that lines up with your track! In the Higher Education track alone, you can choose to live stream 8 sessions!  Between every session, Blackboard will be hosting interactive Q&A with speakers, facilitating live-chats in the discussion forum, taking polls, and giving away prizes.  You can even register to win an iPad!

The catch to all of this?   There is no catch!! It is free!  So do yourself a favor, signup for BbWorld Live today, and be a part of elearning’s biggest event of the year!

When you Pack your Bags for Blackboard World 2015

bbworld15When we think of thought leading eLearning conferences that we attend like Blackboard World, we often think of them in terms of things we will come back with. There is good reason for this, as there are so many takeaways that a conference like Blackboard World provides. For the purposes of this blog post however, we will be focusing on what we should bring with us to Blackboard World 2015.

So when you pack your bags for BbWorld….

…..Pack a way to share what you learn:

For every oSharing Gadgetsne of us who are fortunate enough to attend this tremendous eLearning event, there are many, many more of us who cannot be at BbWorld. Since we all know that “sharing is caring,” bring a way to share what you’ve learned with your coworkers back home and your colleagues across the world. Whether you are live tweeting by phone or mobile device, live-blogging from your tablet or laptop, or maybe just taking notes to present, blog, or post later, you will be helping your coworkers at home and your peers across academia benefit from what you are picking up from colleagues, professionals and thought leaders.

…..Pack a charger (Mobile or otherwise):

Portable ChargerIf indeed you are sharing your experience, or just trying to stay in touch with events back at home, you will definitely need a charger. I would suggest bringing one of the mobile chargers that you can keep in your pocket/purse/backpack. During the hectic schedule, you may not get a chance to go back to your room, and you may not find an open plug where you can “juice-up”. *As an addendum to this packing tip, bringing a small power strip is also beneficial as you can share one plug with a number of your peers.

…..Pack a desire to meet people and make connections:

Make ConnectionsPossibly the biggest benefit to being at Blackboard World is the ability to meet your peers and form connections that you will maintain and use throughout your professional career. At your home institution you may be the only person who does what you do, but at Blackboard World you are a small fish in a big pond. There will literally be hundreds of people with your same type of job. What better way to pick up best practices and learn what is working and not working for your colleagues, so that you aren’t stumbling around on your own when it comes to your learning management system or eLearning in general.

…..Pack some tennis shoes or at least comfy dress shoes:

ShoesBbWorld has possibly the largest population of slacks/skirts and Nikes in the eLearning universe. For a conference this large, you may be walking a quarter of a mile just to get to your next session. You also have vendors to see and colleagues to touch base with, so comfortable footwear is a must. Some of you may spend the evening at the Washington Mall area. Let me speak from experience, walking the Mall in DC can cause blisters in the wrong shoes!

…..Pack a Presentation!

PresentationBe a Blackboard World Presenter! The Call for Proposals is open until April 15. Share your successes, obstacles and experiences on a multitude of topics. The backbone of BbWorld are presentations by those of us in the trenches who work with faculty, students, deans, directors and Blackboard to make eLearning possible. Take the plunge and submit your proposal to present today!

There are probably many other things you can think of packing, so don’t limit yourself to just this list (checked bag fees not-withstanding). I know I look forward to seeing what my colleagues are bringing to BbWorld15 this summer!



BbWorld14 – Certified Trainer Summit

I had the good fortune to attend the Bb Certified Trainer summit pre-conference workshop as a Bb Certified Trainer.  I was invited to present by my mentor and 2013 CTP facilitator Craig Agneberg from Blackboard.

1st Presentation – Lessons Learned From the Trenches – Online Faculty Certification
Jacob Spradlin | Assistant Director of Training & Developemnt | SHSU Online

My presentation consisted of Lessons we learned in Implementing our Teaching Online with Bb Faculty Certification cohort. In the interest of brevity, I’ll skip all the introductions and get right to the lessons.

Lesson 1: Do Chunk it ‘Like A Boss
Packing almost everything you’ve wanted to know about Blackboard, but were afraid to ask” into 8 weeks, you need to find ways to make the material digestible. Our certification is chunked across 4 courses:

  1. Blackboard Learn – Course Building
  2. Blackboard Learn – Communication
  3. Blackboard Learn – Assessment
  4. Teaching Online – Strategies for Success

Each course is divided into no more than 7 and no less that 5 modules that covers topics. Each Module is divided into Objectives, Content (Learning Unit) & Assignments (Content Folder).

*One of the big lessons learned for us is to “chunk” the cohort by doing more than one section of each course if the enrollments get to high.

Lesson 2: Don’t Always use the Same Feedback
Engaged your participants in different ways by using different feedback methods:

  • Audio/Video (in Grade Center and throughout the course)
  • Weekly Announcements/E-mails summarizing what they went over and previewing what comes next.
  • Summary Discussion Posts
  • Chat Sessions
  • Peer Feedback
  • Text

Lesson 3: Don’t Assume They Won’t Enroll if it Isn’t Mandatory

How did we garner enrollments?

  • Peer Pressure (Beta Cohort with early adapters, and “Squeaky Wheels”) They went out and sold it for us
  • Certificates & Badges – Certificate for completing cohort and badges upon each course completion.
  • Partner With HR – We use Talent Management and faculty can record external training for PD.
  • Positive Attitude – Work on Relationship with Faculty/Departments/Deans get them excited about the prospect

Lesson 4: Don’t Assume Tech Fluency

Your faculty, just like your students, don’t come into Blackboard with the same technical skill sets. Find ways to make the process of navigating and using Bb tools “snag free” by providing:

  • Mechanical Instructions – How to use the Tool
  • Contextual Instructions – Place academic and mechanical instructions at the point of the assignment as well as in your syllabus
  • Demonstrate Success – Show the participants what success looks like upon assignment completion.

Lesson 5: Be Present in the Course

  • Have Virtual office Hours
  • Be more than text on a screen – Ensure your photo is in your courses, place yourself in audio an video in your courses and interact with your students (Its not correspondence!)
  • Give individual Feedback (Use Student Names)

Lesson 6: Develop a Routine

  • Use Expectations to let students know how often you will be in the course
  • Check your course before you wreck your course!
  • Check your Virtual Office
  • Limit your Availability (you need time for you)
  • Grade Turnarounds
  • Give individual feedback but not on everything
  • Leverage canned generic text where you can place student name

2nd Presentation – Faculty Training Evolution: An Institution Case Study
Kesha James | Instructional Technologist/Director of Distance Learning
Lawson State Community College

(Ice Breaker)
Handing out Pennies as an ice breaker – say something interesting that happened during the year on the penny.

Kesha described how her office/job formed and how the evolution of faculty training has grown from hey we probably need to do this, to creating a position/department that handles it.

To help bootstrap her way into the game Kesha earned a Certificate in Distance Learning – University of West Georgia, leaned on the resources of the Instructional Technology Council.

Where to Begin – Needs Assessment (Survey)
From the survey, they found the courses that they were lacking and placed them into a Summer Bb Insitute (2 month)

Planning – ADDIE Analysis, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate

Preparation – Training Material, Eventbrite (Scheduling Registration Software)

Go to Bb to update Materials. (Purchased training materials from Bb)

3rd Presentation – Is Your Course “Badge Worthy” – Rita Thomas, Frostburg State University



  • Understand Evolution of Teaching Online Training at FSU
  • Produce & Discuss creative motivators (group activity)
  • Understand need to develop cert. process
  • Review the rubric to evaluate a course at fSU

Background –

F.O.C – Faculty Online Certification
(stipend) after completing cert
Hotel California Feeling – You can enter but you can never leave

How to get faculty to keep improving their courses & to eventually develop courses according to Quality Matters rubric? Credentials?
What happens after Certification? What’s Next?

Faculty have to apply to attend Online Cert. Training
Badging for Tech Evaluations –

Put Badges on course banner, badges for competency, skill/ability/knowledge

4th Presentation – Tech Tools I (We) Cannot Live Without – Melinda Rhodes-DiSalvo, University of Cincinnati

Can’t live without iPad

  • 1to1 iPad requirement
  • Closed Operating system,
  • industry leading battery life,
  • app volume purchasing program,
  • revoke and reuse app redemption code
  • mobile device manager – give out apps at scale
  • Standardized suite of apps, (Apps organized by Bloom’s)
  • apple tvs everywhere – wirelessly project ipad change dynamic of classroom freedom from lectern
  • Content Delivery with iTunesU (optimize content for ipad)

redid content with iBooks – everything that was PowerPoint was redesigned in multi-touch ibook – SAMR MODEL technology driving toward

Every student has a virtual computer (remote access) – students purchase IPAD as part as program – Devices managed – air watch $100 in apps.

Can’t live without Technology kits for faculty (using faculty development dollars)
eLearning backpack – Apple TV, iPad Air, intelligent backpack, wacom tablet (Kahn academy videos), styles, wireless usb mic, wireless headset, camtasia studio (about $2000 in equipment) (20 hours of consultant who work with faculty)

I Can’t Live Without
Snagit, Camtasia – Scorm Created Objects, Webcam, Wireless headset/Mic (explain everything – Videos) $5 dollars, (Jott Stylus)

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

BbWorld13 – Blackboard Learn’s New Social Learning Network

Live Blog for the BbWorld13 session: Blackboard Learn’s New Social Learning Network

Presenters: Melissa Stange, Francesca Goneconti Monaco, Terry Patterson

Session Description:

This presentation will cover the following:

  • Differences between existing social networks & Bb learn’s new global learning network
  • Benefits of using Bb’s Social Tools
  • How to implement
  • Lessons Learned
  • Answers to common concerns
  • Q&A

Session Begins at 2pm:

Overview of Social Learning Tools:

What is Social Learning – not one clear definition.  We all have different ways of describing it.  Introduced back in the 70’s.   Learning that takes place at a wider scale than individual or group learning, up to a societal scale, through social interrogation between peers.

“Learners learning from each other”

Why Now? – Because of the expectations and needs of today’s active learners.  For today’s students in our highly connected, information intensive world, learning is a 24/7 enterprise and the traditional school day is no more!

What students want in education mirrors what they experience outside of education.

Easily connect with educational community online.  (facebook not ideal) Educational network is different.

Educational Network – current and former classmates, professors, clubs, committees.  (not just friends).  In current social network it is hard to identify who is in your educational network.

Desire to keep networks separate! 60% of students say they want to keep academic and social lives separate.  Same amoutn think it is important to have an online forum to communicate with other students.  Cautious of mixing academic and social lives.

What are the tools?

Global Learning Network that connects users across/within institutions and countries.

How students see networks:

Facebook = Social
LinkedIn = Professional
Blackboard = Learning

Profiles – (photo/description) & Profile Wall.
People – Ability for users to discover learning network online.  Directory of entire institution, courses, global learning network
Spaces – Ad-Hoc group area.  Spaces can be created in less than a minute by anyone for anything.  (Study groups, research projects, interest groups, departments)
Messages – Asynchronously communicate 1 to 1 and with a group of people

Social profile tools go beyond basic and reach out to global connections.  Cloud gives identity, social lets you connect, collaborate and communicate.

Plan – Find early Adopters (Departments, programs, etc) Discover issues, questions and impact on faculty staff, students.

Policy – Find and fill gaps on current policies. Create new policies to fill in gaps.  Clear policy and where information is stored with affected parties on campus.

Procedures – Develop procedures to apply policy changes. Who implements/manages the procedures.

Implement – Pilot Group then full release.

Educate – Social Media vs. Social Learning

Usage, Intellectual Property, Harassment, social Accountability & Responsibility

FERPA directory information

Town Halls & Email Alerts

Bb Demos

Within 1st 1/2 hour 72 people adopted.  Made MyBb a tab.

Reporting on SysAdmin tab is on the Road Map. has great FAQs and a communication & Adoption toolkit as well as videos on Youtube.

There’s more to learn video – a day in the life of a student using social learning tools.

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 World 2012 – Thoughts upon Leaving

I sit here this evening after a tremendous  Blackboard Client Appreciation party where I might or might not have one an HD video camera for dancing.  Check @jspradlin to be sure.  I am reminded of the vibrant community of users that get a chance to interface in an f2f environment after.  This community is what makes what we do great.

This community involves CIOs, Sys Admins, Instructional Designers, Faculty, Students, vendors and @Blackboard Staff who work in concert to provide an environment where students of all ages and life long learners in a professional environment can communicate, connect and collaborate in ways that are native to them.

You see ultimately, the job I’m responsible for is to equip our faculty so that they can help our students learn how to think critically, and to be well-rounded productive members in society. Blackboard and the Blackboard community just makes my job easier, and for that I am grateful!

I look forward to Vegas in 2013 where we get to do it all again!


Jacob Spradlin
Official Blackboard World Blogger 2012

BbWorld Blog: ConnectYard and University of Mississippi

BbWorld Blog: Engagement, Persistence and Retention:  How is the University of Southern Mississippi using ConnectYard to Successfully Enhance these Key Factors

Room 277
Tuesday 7/10/2012

Overall Concept: How Student Engagement and Persistence has a positive effect on retention.

Students and faculty choose course by course what channels they want to be communicated through.  (Facebook Twitter, Texting and e-mail)

Faculty doesn’t have to have a Facebook or twitter account to use ConnectYard for the students in their courses.

  • Social Media plays an important part in students’ lives.
  • U of M’s adoption of ConnectYard grew from a desire to improve communication and increase participation in online courses and enhance student learning.
  • Campus email is not an effective tool for student communication.


– Marketing

– Faculty and Student buy-in

  • Fear that professors will have to access FB pages
  • Faculty concerned with added workload

Social Media Policy (prohibits faculty from using it to teach classes through facebook, but they can use it to supplement.)

Faculty/Student Buy-in

  • Easy to use
  • Building block Integration
  • Bridge to Social Media

Position ConnectYard

  • Integral part to each course
  • Stress privacy protection

Encourage students to personalize notifications

Stress Use to Quantify Class Participation.

Current use of ConnectYard

Getting Everyone Involved

  • Faculty to Student
  • Student to Faculty
  • Student to Student

Communication within Courses

Student Notification

How it works: Messages, Discussions and Announcements come through Channels (Twitter, Facebook, Text & e-mail).  Gradebook updates coming.

Planned uses:

  • Enhance Hybrid courses & supplementals
  • Communication/interaction tool between learning teams
  • Back Channeling during course and web presentations (students communicating with each other during lecture/video etc)
  • Intra-department interaction & communication
  • Campus Notifications
  • Student Services
  • Marketing & Recruitment

Personalize Channels

  • personal perferences
  • protect privacy

One way & Two Way Communication
Bb Integration

  • Discussion Boards
  • Announcments
  • Messages (Blogs, Wikis and Grades coming)

Participation Points
Granular Administration

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