Mcheadshot_1  Hello – This is Melissa Chotiner, one of the behind-the-scenes blog team members at Blackboard – by day I’m the PR Manager. I’m writing to share some information I picked up on the show floor of Bb World this year.

While manning the Bb World “Connect with Blackboard” booth (a meeting place where clients can share their stories of innovation with Blackboard and learn about Blackboard Connections and the Blackboard Idea Exchange) on the exhibit floor, I had a chance to catch up with John McFadden, the CIO from Loyola College in Maryland.

John was telling me about what he thought was the “Tipping Point” for use of Blackboard technology solutions at Loyola. (Malcolm Gladwell had delivered the keynote address at the conference that morning). Online student elections, when students started using Blackboard software to hold their student elections – that was what he considered the Tipping Point.

Hmm… I was interested and surprised to hear this. It was actually the first time since I started at Blackboard (about 18 months ago) that anyone had really talked to me about the use of Blackboard products for this purpose. Sure, I had seen stories about this in student papers on occasion. However I didn’t realize its significance until Mr. McFadden explained the role it played at Loyola.

Possibly I was missing the point  – because Blackboard was and still is not really intended to be used for this purpose. I asked around the office why this is… and learned from some of the Blackboard veterans that there is a possible risk for problems. In other words – it’s not 100% guaranteed – using Blackboard for student elections. There is a possibility for fraud, however that’s actually the case in any election – online or with paper ballots.

Consider this excerpt from the founder of, 

  1. In most jurisdictions, identification for voting is on the honor system. Signatures, if taken, are not compared to your signature on file in most places unless you are "challenged" by election judges or poll watchers, a rare event. When this system started hundreds of years ago, the election judges or poll watchers knew most everyone in their precincts. In modern


    , this is rarely true.

I digress – let me get back to my original point – which is that it’s surprising, exciting and well, encouraging to see how students at many campuses (including Loyola College, Oregon State University and University of Nebraska, Lincoln – to name just a few) have taken Blackboard’s technology and extended it beyond its primary intended uses to achieve a positive, valuable, useful – and at the end of the day – very worthwhile outcome.

Are there risks involved? Sure – there are risks – but the question is– do the benefits of using the technology this way outweigh the risks – IMHO – ABSOLUTELY!  More students can vote – more students do vote. Why? It’s fast, easy. They can do it in their dorm rooms. They can do it at


. It’s convenient and empowering.

The use of technology to achieve new things will bring about risks – but those who are willing to take them can gain some surprising gains. Kudos to those of you willing to take the risks!

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