We have a winner – it’s the community. Actually, the team who received the award was Ball State University’s Cinema Arts Project. You can read about it in our press release about the project. It’s a cool project for a number of reasons, but what I find most interesting is the fact that the end product of what they create will help hundreds of Blackboard institutions connect to virtual worlds.
We use wikis internally at Blackboard for project management, development and operations among other things, and in the last year or so they’ve really taken root company-wide. As more and more people have started using them, we have moved from a culture of "information control" to one of shared information and openness.
I have to admit, at first it was a little nerve wracking to put all of my project plans and ideas out there for the whole company to see. But in doing so, it created more of a sense of accountability and confidence. No longer was I only compiling information for myself or to convey to my immediate team, but I found myself being more succinct and thorough so that anyone could understand the plan and reasoning behind it. I was forced to think things through even more than before and make decisions more on fact and research, less on assumptions. And of course, I then referenced and linked out to the sources of those facts and research findings, thus spreading even more knowledge to my colleagues that they could then apply to their initiatives, as well.
Even more beneficial is the opportunity for those colleagues reading my work to provide feedback and suggestions. I have had numerous occasions where someone from another department read my launch plan on the wiki and offered insight to a novel approach they had seen at a conference, or offered experiences they have had that influenced me to alter my direction. Instead of me just creating things in my own bubble, confined by my own knowledge and experiences, they helped me get to a more reasoned and weathered solution that had the support of the greater company behind it.
Earlier this year my colleague Craig Chanoff posted to EducateInnovate about measuring all aspects of our clients’ experiences. This is a big challenge and many of you have asked how we’re going to do this.
One of the first steps we took was to ask a group of our clients from around the world to help us, and with these clients we formed the Client Experience Advisory Group. I asked the members of this group, representatives from K-12, Higher Education and Professional Education institutions to tell us about their experiences as clients – the good, the bad and the painfully ugly. They didn’t hold back.
To the Advisory Group feedback, I added the feedback from Client Support tickets and from Blackboard staff members to get a comprehensive list of areas in which Blackboard needs to work to improve the Client Experience. It was a long and detailed list. So, to figure out where Blackboard should start working, I asked the Advisory Group to prioritize the items in the list. It took a couple of meetings, but together we organized the list into core areas and priorities within them, and defined a baseline set of metrics that we may use to measure progress in each of the areas.
When visiting user groups and talking with other groups in the Blackboard community, I meet a lot of faculty members. As we talk, often our conversation revolves around their online courses. I’ll ask,
"How do you know if your online course is working?"
Often, if they don’t say "Well, ’cause I can log in," they mention that, as faculty members, they receive little to no feedback on what’s working and what needs improvement in their online courses.
That’s one of the reasons we created the Blackboard Greenhouse Exemplary Course Program — to provide faculty members with examples of exemplary courses and, more importantly, to give them detailed peer feedback on their courses.
This year we bloggers at EducateInnovate will be working hard to improve the amount and type of information shared here.
We’ll be increasing the frequency of our posts; bringing in new voices from across the company to post regularly; inviting industry leaders and members of the global Blackboard community of users to participate directly in our blog by posting and commenting on posted entries and ed. tech. industry events; and adding new features to the site, such as multi-media functionality and a blogroll of the folks we’re reading.
The first step we’re taking is to help you more easily find the posts of greatest interest to you. To complement the categories listed in the right column of our site, which we’ve been using as tags, each week we’ll have teams of bloggers dedicated to posting—a different team for every day of the work week (Monday—Friday):
- Monday — Members of the International Blackboard community
- Tuesday — Campus card solutions professionals
- Wednesday — Our Client Success initiative leaders (including Craig Chanoff and Jan Day)
- Thursday — The Blackboard Beyond team
- Friday — The K-12 e-Learning community
Gordon Freedman will continue to post while traveling to meet with e-Learning leaders around the world; and Kerry Jo Richards—a familiar face to many people throughout the global Blackboard community of users—will be posting this year about, and answering your questions on, all things BbWorld (our annual series of users conferences held around the globe).
Please let me know which of the posts you read here are of greatest interest or use to you, and any suggestions you may have for us in 2008. Tell me what worked for you in 2007, and we’ll do more of it in ’08. Also, if you’d like to contribute to EducateInnovate, let me know. I can be contacted at email@example.com.