What’s in the plan for Blackboard’s solutions? What’s new? The Blackboard roadmap keynote at our Teaching & Learning Conferences are always well attended and Valerie Schreiner, vice president of product management, had a large audience at the opening of the 2nd day at the conference in Liverpool. The new version of Collaborate, innovations in Learn, Mobile, and the introduction of the Grades Journey to facilitate data synchronisation with any SIS were some of the topics Valerie presented on.

Where the previous blog post talked about leveraging technology to enhance the learning experience, another key topic at the conference was that of big data and analytics. It’s a hot topic and load of questions come with it: what info to collect? How to process? How to distil the data into actionable insights?

At the conference, Sandra Stevenson-Revill and Ruth Grindey, University of Derby, presented their insights. The University of Derby was keen to find a way of managing the success of both academics and students and has been leveraging Blackboard Analytics to help with this, remain flexible and be prepared for growth.

The immediate successes they noted include visibility on trend data for the last seven years across the institutions and the possibility for cause and effect analysis. Even if still at an early stage, the Analytics project delivered encouraging results and both Sandra and Ruth are confident that over the course of the next year and at next year’s TLC they will be able to share much more.

With over 27 sessions, the second day of the conference was not entirely about big data of course.

The University College Dublin presented a project about maximising the potential of Blackboard Learn to improve student engagement and learning in an online self-directed course.

Their nursing programme has 200 students a year and one of its main characteristics is to have a content-driven curriculum which moves away from a heavy focus on facts and concentrate more on how learners can demonstrate knowledge. Through Blackboard Learn, the University developed an authentic online learning resource, using a variety of nursing frameworks to process and organise knowledge for nursing practice amongst learners. This resulted in a huge impact on student engagement.

In another presentation we heard about the programmes created at the South West College, located 30 miles outside Belfast.

South West College is a pioneer in the use of education technology. In a bold move to show faculty and students the potential of Blackboard Learn, they embarked on an ambitious Virtual Week in 2011 with the entire curriculum offered online to 5,655 students in a blended learning format. In 2013 they launched the “Zambia Project” offering a synchronous online curriculum in Information Technology to a cohort of students located in Ndola, Zambia. And last year, they created the Digital Olympics, leveraging the Blackboard Achievement Badges to roll out an innovative digital staff development programme with the aim to improve teachers’ digital skills and support their continuous development. A truly innovative college!

These were just a couple of examples from the second day of the conference in Liverpool. And that is what the conference is all about: sharing best practices, programmes, ideas and innovations. But it is also a moment to have great fun – which was highlighted during the conference party, which saw the announcement of the location of the 2016 conference: the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

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