At Blackboard Collaborate, we’re always boasting about our web conferencing software’s ability to foster a live online experience that’s almost as good as being there.  But sometimes it’s simply nice to just get everyone together face-to-face. So we were ecstatic to descend upon Atlanta last week for our first-ever Collaborate Now one-day user event where we brought together 100 customers from throughout the Southeast to learn about best practices, tips and tricks, and innovative uses of Blackboard Collaborate.  Collaborate Now featured an opening keynote and roadmap presentation, 12 customer and staff-led presentations, an Ask-the-Expert area, a birds-of-the-feather lunch, and unbridled enthusiasm.

Blackboard Collaborate’s VP of Strategy and Operations Annie Chechitelli and VP of Marketing Valerie Schreiner kicked off the day by providing an overview of our platform and roadmap.  Between Annie’s jokes about how much she ate for breakfast and planned to eat for lunch, she gave a detailed overview of our global customer base as well as the demographics of the schools in attendance in Atlanta.  Val then stepped to the podium to emphasize the fact that the Collaborate product team truly listens to its customers.  She initially discussed a slide from 2011 showing what features Collaborate users most requested two years ago, and then wrapped up by showing how those features have all either been delivered or will be shortly – all because of the active, open dialogue between us and our customers.


As Annie and Val concluded, Jim Wolfgang, Director of the Digital Innovations Group and leader of the Georgia Collaborate Users Group, handed out his user group’s annual Collaborate awards, with the big winners coming from the University of West Georgia.  Congrats to all the winners and nominees!

And then it was on to the customer presentations.

The Collaborate Now agenda featured many of the Southeast’s best, brightest, and most innovative customers.  Janet Sylvia of UGA presented about making accessible courses and guidelines for satisfying 508 regulations in online courses, while Kevin Mobbs of The College of Coastal Georgia brought in a Smartboard to demonstrate innovative in-class techniques.  Those presentations gave way to Kelli Watts wowing the audience with tales of using Collaborate to enable Auburn University instructors and physicians to perform online audiology tests for impoverished children in Guatemala.  At the same time, I teamed up with Jim Wolfgang to talk about unique uses of Collaborate, including providing vocal feedback to my creative writing students via Voice Email, which saves me 25-35 hours each semester because I can speak my feedback so much faster than if I provide it via track changes in Word. Later, one attends said, “I would have paid for this event just for that one tip!”

After a lot of informal networking during the birds-of-a-feather lunch, the afternoon was choc full of presentations by the University of West Georgia instructional design team, Catherine Giddens of the South Carolina Department of Education, and Kristen Betts of Forbes Education – not to mention sessions by several members of the Collaborate solutions engineers and product managers. 

And I want to give one particular shout-out to Jim Wolfgang with whom we worked hand-in-hand in organizing this event.  His knowledge of how Collaborate customers in the Southeast use our platform is unparalleled. And his enthusiasm is infectious!

Having such an enthusiastic and eager group of technologists, administrators, and faculty together truly made our first Collaborate Now event a smashing success.  Ideas were shared, tips were discussed, and audience members left eager to try what they learned. In the fall, we’re bringing Collaborate Now out West. See you then!


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