The Arkansas Blackboard Users Group (ARbug) recently held their annual user’s conference, and I was lucky enough to take part in the festivities. The conference took place in beautiful Hot Springs, Arkansas on the campus of National Park Community College. The theme of the conference was, “Educate. Communicate. Collaborate,” and the group of ~100 clients, Blackboarders and Blackboard Partners did everything they could to make that theme a reality.
The conference began on Wednesday, March 9 — in the brand new Frederick Dierks Center for Nursing and Health Sciences, a beautiful building with a state-of-the-art Amphitheater – with two workshops designed to build collaboration amongst two groups of the educational community – Online Course Builders and System Administrators.
The Online Course Development Workshop was led by Bryan Fendley from the University of Arkansas – Monticello, who is a dynamic speaker and leader in the ARbug Community. Bryan gave two presentations he had previously delivered at BbWorld. The first centered on the use of the Blackboard Exemplary Course Program Rubric for course evaluation and the improvement of existing course design. The second reviewed the philosophy of Problem Based Learning, by taking a real-life problem that schools face, and giving the attendees the tools and resources to develop a collaborative solution.
In another classroom, Chris Bray from the University of Arkansas and I led the System Administrators workshop. The morning session was mine, and we talked about the re-launch of the SYSBUG user’s group as TechBUG, (I will be blogging on this group quite a bit, but you can learn more at the Blackboard Communities site, located at http://bit.ly/TechBUG) as well as a virtual tour of online resources for System Administrators to find help, Blackboard Partner and Open Source Building Blocks and Powerlinks, and several Blackboard Coursesites that have been or may be built to support all technical users of the Blackboard Learn platform.
Chris Bray spent the afternoon passing on his knowledge and perspective. His workshop on using the Blackboard Logs to troubleshoot problems was informative and his take on the Blackboard Upgrade Cohort program when moving from Blackboard Learning System Vista 8.0 to Blackboard Learn, Release 9.1 Service Pack 4 was phenomenal.
The bulk of the conference took place on Thursday, March 10, with client-led session, Partner-led sessions (McGraw-Hill, Follett and ConnectYard were all in attendance) and many Blackboard-led sessions. I was fortunate enough to again present on TechBUG, and at lunch sat in on a Community Conversation panel with Ramsey Chambers, Jared Harless from McGraw-Hill, ARbug President Terry Patterson and the aforementioned Chris Bray. Blackboard closed out the day, as I delivered the afternoon key note address on the Blackboard Learn roadmap.
Everyone returned on Friday for a few morning sessions. Chris Bray and I teamed up again to present the tour of technical resources for Blackboard clients and a repeat of the workshop Chris gave on log file forensics, and there were multiple other sessions, but Friday was as much a day to get together one last time and say good-bye until next year as it was a day of learning. All in all, this conference was a great success for all involved.
So with this conference recap completed, I just wanted to take a few moments to thank a few key people that made this conference a success for the clients of Arkansas, as well as a very enjoyable event for me personally and all of the Blackboard personnel and Partner representatives I have talked to. First of all, ARbug President Terry Patterson put on a great conference. The ARbug community on the whole is very friendly and very easy to work with, and it is a direct reflection of their leader. Sue Burris was the “hostess with the most-est,” as her institution was the forum for the event. Everything went smoothly and the facilities were fantastic. If anyone is looking to build a new building on campus with a 300-seat amphitheater, classroom and lab space, I highly recommend visiting the Dierks Center. A number of clients were instrumental in the success of the event, including K. Aurora Adney, Bryan Fendley, Chris Bray, Joshua Niswonger, Danny Martin and Sue’s husband Mark Burris.
Last, and most certainly not least, no client event could be so successful without the hard word of Blackboard’s Client Success Team; specifically Sahar Javadi. Sahar was instrumental in the organization and execution of this conference. She was there every step of the way, from planning, to sitting in on sessions, helping to facilitate discussions and helping me personally improve upon my presentations.
In closing, I would just like to re-iterate my appreciation to the clients of ARbug and all the folks that contributed to the success of this conference. Hopefully, I will be invited again next year. If you are a Blackboard Client in Arkansas, you should absolutely join this fantastic organization.