Guest Post by Jim Wolfgang, University System of Georgia

I am Jim Wolfgang, Director of the Digital Innovation Group. The DI Group is a collaborative effort of the University System of Georgia’s Faculty Development Office and Georgia College. The focus is to “Enhance the Learning Experience” through the innovative uses of technology. Note that this is not the “academic experience.” We take a comprehensive look at what the opportunities are in the full spectrum of campus activities. Although primarily focused on higher education in the USG, we also work with private institutions, K-12, corporate partners, communities and anyone else with an idea.

This is my retirement playground. I have been a faculty member, Assistant Dean of Education, Associate VP for Distance Education and Chief Information Office.

Being a resource for the 35 institutions in the USG, we don’t really use Wimba for “classes.” Our focus is on activities that bring opportunities to a wide range of participants. We have hosted our Annual Computing Conference for 500 of our closest friends. We have “traveled” to St. Augustine for a live walking tour of an elementary school, including a talk with third grade students, for our Collaborative Digital Education Summit for teacher prep institutions and K-12 in-service. We “opened” the Language Café – our version of Starbucks – for our language students in Georgia and their counterparts in Colombia SA. These are just a few examples in expanding the use of the tools.  They also represent our underlying premise: “An event that happens to be on-line, not an on-line event.

The DI Group is an advocate and facilitator for 35 institutions and other special initiatives. We host the USG Wimba Users Group. To help with this, I am thankful to be able to participate in the Product Advisory Group. It helps us understand why some decisions are made, as well as voice our suggestions and concerns in a very open environment. As importantly, it has allowed me to interact with some very creative and talented individuals from the Wimba and Elluminate camps.

I am fortunate to be both a current Wimba User and previously a member of the Elluminate Community. The new Blackboard Collaborate platform brings together the expertise of these two strong teams, as well as many good friends. The results should be a product with power, but as importantly an expanded family of people truly interested in sound education.

The product development has been exciting. The new features are stimulating, the opportunity for feedback has been motivating and the input from the group should be evident in the early versions of the tool.

Our middle name is innovation. The power of Blackboard Collaborate should help us push the envelope as we continue to search for new innovative ways to of enhancing the learning experience.

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