Jan Poston Day: What do you do at Blackboard?
Volker Kleinschmidt: I’m a Client Support Engineer. Aside from troubleshooting product issues and resolving performance problems, I am responsible for handling case escalation to Product Development, prioritizing issues, communicating between Product Development and clients, and training fellow support technicians.
JPD: Where are you based?
VK: Currently the Amsterdam office. In a few weeks I will relocate to the US and work from home in the Chicago area.
JPD: How long have you been at Blackboard?
VK: A little more than one year.
JPD: We’re sad to report that you won’t be at this year’s Bb World. What are you sorry to be missing?
VK: Meeting clients and discussing their needs and issues with them person to person – this leads to a much better understanding of an issue’s impact. Focus group sessions – I love to hear where clients want our product to go. And of course the many client presentations about new and innovating ways of using Blackboard.
JPD: What kinds of changes have you seen taking place in Education?
VK: Technology has brought greater access to information, and made teaching and learning in many ways more convenient. Much of the energy and money spent in the education sector goes towards these convenience aspects – information aggregation and integration, facilitating access. There is a common trend to bite-size information and offer it in a convenience-store approach, going with the flow of the media generation and its short-lived attention span.
Contrasting that is the move to enhance students’s creative output and critical understanding via interactive discussions, group projects, peer criticism, and reflective blogging. While the challenge to the teacher here shifts from providing and presenting content to guiding and coaching the learners. The challenge to technology companies is to facilitate these learning methods in a comprehensive, yet easy and intuitive way, where the tools don’t get in the way of learning.
Content is out – collaboration is king.
JPD: Who was your favorite teacher growing up and why?
VK: My Latin teacher Josef Stingl. He was fair, honest, straightforward, not "funny" but witty, and always focused and firm, yet kind and understanding. A role model.
JPD: Tell us something about yourself that someone might not know from reading your resume.
VK: Although I work with computers all day long, and had a research focus in Artificial Intelligence, I have always believed that we rely too much on computers and need to focus more on human needs, human emotions, and human decisions.
I sing bass in choir, and have performed in Carnegie Hall, Ravinia Festival, Chicago Symphony Center and other well known venues.
I biked trough 10 US National Parks, swam below the Iguazu Falls, and climbed in the Dolomites.
I want to write a book someday.
JPD: Thanks Volker. Good luck with your move back to Chicago.