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eLearning Frenzy

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

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What I’m hoping to get from Blackboard World 2014

What do I hope to get from #BbWorld14 this July? Well, aside from the endorsement deals, the hefty signing bonus and the fame and fortune that comes along with attending eLearning’s premier event, I hope to get the following:

1. The Ability to Share
2. The Ability to Learn
3. The Ability to Connect
The Ability to Share
shareThe first benefit from my attendance seems obvious, right? We are supposed to share when we attend #BbWorld14.  After all, even the Care Bears thought that “sharing is caring”.  This year i am very fortunate in that I get to share not only in conversations I have with colleagues across the country, or Twitter back-n-forths.  I get to present TWICE.  This is my first time to really present at Blackboard’s premiere event.  I’ve presented as part of a panel, but never on my own, so I feel privileged.  I have the good fortune of being able to stand in front of my peers and present information that i believe is important to the eLearning sphere.
I will be presenting as part of the Certified Trainer Summit during Bb’s pre-conference workshops (frankly this one scares me because I will be presenting in front of people who do exactly what I do at their institutions) and I am pumped for it.  I’m also presenting on the last day of the conference on how we managed to put our Faculty Certification Online with an assist from the good folks at Blackboard.  I am so jazzed that i will be able to share our successes and even our mistakes with the community!
The Ability to Learn
learnThis is possibly the main reason I come to Blackboard World each year since around 2000.  I learn so much!  Learning at the feet of luminaries that present at our keynotes as well as colleagues and thought leaders who present at all the sessions is a gift that I will never be able to fully repay.  Information that I can pass on to my constituencies about the direction Blackboard is going is also key to getting faculty excited about eLearning where I work.
I take copious notes at the sessions that I attend and bookmark the blogs and presentations of others I could not so that it can benefit my people back at home.  These nuggets of wisdom, methods of learning and best practices that I can absorb will be shared with my local community for the benefit of our students.
The Ability to Connect
connectHow often do you get the chance to talk to thought leaders in your field? Yea, sure you may be able to have a Twitter discussion on occasion where you get one or two sentences in, but that isn’t all you want, right?.  Imagine a five minute sit-down with one of them.  Blackboard World affords us that opportunity.  But, even more important that that, it allows us to sit down with our counterparts at other institutions.  We can find out what they are doing and share with them what we are doing.  How cool is that?
This professional learning community that meets once a year all together is possibly one of the worlds greatest versions of a “cognitive surplus” to quote one of your keynotes from last year.
I have made friends at this event that I will be able to stay in touch with beyond the scope of a once-a-year conference.  Connections forged at Blackboard world not only benefit us professionally, but personally as well!  I look forward to affirming those connections this year as well as making new ones.
I hope these few words start to shed some light on what I’ll be hoping to receive when I attend #BbWorld14!
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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!

Why I want to be a VIP BbWorld Blogger

CommunitySo if you’re reading this, you may be asking yourself “Why does this guy want to be a VIP BbWorld Blogger?”  This could be because you honestly want to know, or you just may be reading the title of my Blog post out loud. Regardless of why you are asking yourself that question (or just reading), I’ll tell you in one word… Community.

My name is Jacob Spradlin, I am the Assistant Director of Training and Development for the department that handles Distance Education at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville Texas.  I hold a Master’s in Instructional Technology and have over 15 years experience in the field.  I have worked with Blackboard in one form or another since 2000.   My current job involves online course development as well as training for faculty here at SHSU.

For a long time, (I believe that 1 eLearning year is like 7 regular years) I have been interested in building community on my campus when it comes to eLearning.  I started our first local Blackboard users group back in the early double oughts and learned first-hand how powerful it was to put people together so they can learn from each other.  Getting 2 English faculty in same room or even cross-pollinating the disciplines lead to wonderful discussions and discoveries.

After a while longer in the game I’ve come to the determination that their are four major communities at work in eLearning:

  • Learning Communities
  • Support Communities
  • Social Communities
  • Communities of Practice

Your Learning Community is the obvious choice in that you try to make your course(s) a community of learning.  You might think of it as the “Guide on the Side on Steroids”, where your students with equal parts professor interaction, feedback and prompting; interact with each other, reflect and build upon the knowledge and skills that they are learning.

The Support Community is now almost the gold standard for eLearning, where you use the Tool to support the tool.  Whether it is a Faculty Resource course or a Student Orientation course, you leverage the technology so that they practice using it to find the answers they need.  Our most recent accomplishment at my institution is the beginnings of an Online Certification process where the faculty use the online tools to learn and become certified to teach online.

Social (insert concept here) seems to be the buzzword these days.  It is easy to say I don’t want my course to be like Facebook or Twitter, but is is harder to ask yourself “how are my students communicating?” or “where are they living digitally?”. A Social Community gives your students a sense of home away from home and for online students it creates a connection with the university that helps fight off the “I’m just a lonely student taking courses on the Internet” syndrome.

Communities of Practice have found a home in the eLearning spectrum.  Departments, divisions and other constituencies share professional learning, documentation and knowledge base resources by using this vehicle.  Content Repositories are tremendous assets for these communities.

So, “Is he going to get around to why he wants to be a VIP BbWorld blogger?”  Don’t worry I am, I just wanted to provide some context.

What better community to interact and learn from than the BbWorld community? What better event to foster innovation, creative design and fundamentally shifting the way we communicate than BbWorld 2012? Hundreds of sessions will taking place that will expand our community of support. Thousands of people will attend who will grow our social community.  Ideas, resources and conversations will take place that will add to our community of practice.  This event encompasses exponentially one of the largest learning communities in the world. So instead of asking why I would want to be there, it might be better to ask why I wouldn’t want to be there?!

Not only will i be recording for posterity my observations of a awesome event, I will also be communicating to my eLearning communities and reflecting my experience so that others can take part.

So here i am begging the eLearning gods to, tearing my educational sack cloth, wailing and gnashing my teeth…Please let me be a VIP BbWorld Blogger this year so that I can communicate about the community that I love so much!

Sincerely,

Jacob Spradlin

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