By Anthony Doyle, Senior Client Manager, Blackboard
I work with Blackboard’s International Client Management Team in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and joined Blackboard back in November 2005, direct from an institution where I was responsible for the implementation of an institution-wide rollout of Blackboard software.
With those years of experience working on the user side of the Blackboard fence, I’m always excited to meet with members of the global community of Blackboard users and hear first-hand how they are using the software to educate and implementing innovative uses for their implementations. From my time as a technologist and VLE systems manager, I can vouch for the power of community.
So, in May, I undertook an exciting drive across country, from Middlesbrough in North East England to Sunny Manchester, to join over 300 peers, colleagues and friends (and not to forget the Glasgow Rangers fans) to participate in BbWorld Europe 2008. I have many connections still from my days as a Blackboard client, and I’m always excited to learn what the latest success stories from day-today users of the system.
My first experience of Blackboard was as a student at university. From that experience I moved directly from using Blackboard software as a student into working with it as a technologist at a further education college, who actually implemented Blackboard software. That student perspective stayed with me when I worked as a technologist and much of my work was based around learner-centric methodology.
After one particular session at BbWorld Europe ’08, I left the room with excitement, really thinking, “This is what it’s all about!”
That session, entitled “Students Writing Their Own Lectures,” was led by Cathy Ellis and Sue Folley from the University of Huddersfield. I know what you’re thinking, something along the line of “There’s no way I could let students take-over a class!” But stay with me for a minute, because Cathy and Sue’s session was fantastic.
First of all, the room was packed: about 90 delegates filled the audience. I was an official room monitor for the session, handing out post-session evaluation forms, and I ran out. That session title really drew a crowd.
Cathy and Sue kicked off the session by describing a project the university had undertaken, in distributed learning. One of the tools they used in this project was the Wiki tool found within Blackboard software.
Cathy then explained how she had put forth a learning activity where by she set up a Wiki in their Blackboard implementation and posed a set of questions for her students to choose from. The students were required to research one question and provide an answer within the Wiki, by authoring their own page. Naturally, the approach of allowing the students to research and discover the knowledge about their chosen topic, on their own, was much more powerful and useful than if she simply had force-fed the information to them in a lecture.
While listening to Cathy and Sue, I certainly could relate their experience, as well as imagine how much the students preferred this type of learning – after all, when we ourselves were students, who amongst us really preferred those traditional staid lectures?
So, is the lecture – the stand-in-front-of-a-classroom-and-talk-type of teaching – dead? Maybe not, but I think it is changing, for the better – to engage students in new pedagogical ways.
Thanks, Cathy and Sue, for sharing your success story from the University of Huddersfield. I, and an entire audience, left your session thinking, “Yes, engaging students is what it’s all about!”