I recently had the privilege to accept the Learning Impact Platinum Award, along with Dr. Sam Slike of Bloomsburg University, at the IMS Global Learning Impact Conference for the design and implementation of an online program that improves access and delivery of specialized education. The Learning Impact Awards are designed to recognize the most impactful use of technology worldwide in support of learning.

Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania uses the Wimba platform (a Blackboard Collaborate solution) to facilitate a fully online Masters in Education program for school-based speech-language pathologists. By facilitating a full-online program, Wimba has allowed Bloomsburg to double graduate-level degrees in Speech-Language Pathology – helping address a severe shortage in teachers qualified to work with special needs students in Pennsylvania’s elementary schools.

Bloomsburg also uses Wimba to deliver online undergraduate courses related to education for the deaf and hard of hearing. Wimba capabilities like voice-activated video switching, real-time closed captioning support and playback allow instructors to engage deaf and hard of hearing students with equitable access to content, instruction and participation. The technology acts as not only as an education tool for these students but as applied learning for the hearing students, giving future educators guidance for how to best address the distinct needs of deaf/hard of hearing students.

This award is particularly gratifying for Blackboard Collaborate, as we continue to work to make our software applications accessible to all users, regardless of (dis)ability. As part of our commitment to entitle equal access to education, we established an Accessibility Taskforce comprised of educators and students with disabilities to help us identify our shortcomings and make improvements.  Our Accessibility Taskforce continues to review our products and is actively helping to shape our next release, Blackboard Collaborate 11, scheduled to become available later this year.  Blackboard plans for this release to combine the best of Elluminate and Wimba technologies to enable robust, accessible web conferencing and enterprise instant messaging, offering an intuitive and seamless education experience for everyone.

I also want to congratulate Blackboard clients Florida Virtual School and Penn State who were also awarded Impact Learning Awards last week!

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