Greetings from Phoenix, Arizona, on day three of BbWorld Commerce ’08!
On Saturday afternoon I boarded a flight from BWI airport and headed here to Phoenix for the annual Blackboard users conference, which officially opened on Sunday afternoon. I wanted to arrive in time to attend Pre-Conference workshops held before the opening keynote, as well as get out of the rainy, 29-degree weather that we’d been having in the Washington, D.C. area. In Phoenix the weather has been beautiful: there’s nothing but sun here, and the temperature each day has been in the low `80s.
When I arrived at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort on Saturday evening, I settled into my room and discovered I had an amazing view from my balcony: a placid blue pool to one side and, to the other side, a range of desert hills full of running trails . . . Looks like a challenge to me.
Saturday evening I ate an excellent dinner (a dish called "Angry Chicken Salad") with several Blackboard users who are attending the conference and some Blackboard colleagues. We dined at one of the several restaurants here at the resort, called a Pointe in Tyme. Of course, we didn’t pass on dessert, a wonderful chocolate volcano. If you like chocolate, you’d have been jealous.
Sunday morning I woke early (my body’s still on East Coast time!) and headed into the nearby hills for a short trail run. I completed 3+ miles before succumbing to the terrain and altitude. I think if I could run the trails here daily, I’d eventually become an Ironman. However, after the conference ends tomorrow, I have to head back to D.C. Until then, I am loving the desert views in every direction from this resort; the dry, warm weather here; and the interesting people I’ve met each morning on the running trails.
After Pre-Conference sessions and lunch on Sunday, I attended the main conference’s opening session, in which Blackboard Commerce President Russ Carlson welcomed everyone. Russ discussed the new Blackboard Commerce line of products that will be available this summer, and officially unveiled the innovative new offerings that will be available in the coming weeks, like Blackboard Video Surveillance.
The audience seemed excited — fired up! — to hear the details of these forthcoming products and how they can benefit their home campuses. Several Blackboard users have asked me to ensure they receive e-mail updates about these new products.
Following Russ’s opening keynote address on Sunday afternoon, the Exhibit Hall opened, and we all moved there for an Opening Reception, with a catered buffet dinner, and had the opportunity to view offerings and product demonstrations from Blackboard’s partners.
The excitement amongst conference attendees to learn more about these new opportunities and network with peers throughout the Campus Card community, sharing best practices, continued through Monday. Yesterday morning, the main keynote address was delivered by Dr. Mark Milliron, president and CEO of Catalyze Learning International, then client-led sessions began and partner demonstrations continued through the afternoon. Last night everyone at the conference met for another beautifully designed buffet dinner at the Different Pointe of View Restaurant, located on the highest point of the Tapatio Cliffs Resort, with nearly 360-degree stunning views of the twinkling lights of Phoenix.
The conference continues today. Activities began early with a three-mile fun run at 6:30 AM, then a keynote address by Dr. Adrian Sannier, the CIO of Arizona State University, and now more client-led sessions. This evening, of course, is the Client Appreciation Party.
I’m enjoying the activities here immensely and hope everyone attending is, as well. If you weren’t able to join us this year, BlackboardTV is here and crew members have been recording events. In the coming weeks we’ll be sharing the highlights, the desert views, some of the keynotes, and advice and best practices from Blackboard users over at the BlackboardTV Channel on YouTube.