The 2010 Blackboard Developer’s Conference started early this morning at 8am. We have over 275 attendees, which is the largest DevCon attendance ever! To kick this year’s conference off, we invited Anya Kamenetz, a passionate writer from NYC to discuss her thoughts on transforming higher education from her latest book DIY U. Normally, the DevCon keynote is much more technical in nature, but Anya quickly explained that system administrators, developers, and other IT staff have important roles in shaping the minds of faculty and students to understand what is possible from a technology standpoint. These roles are not only important but are growing in influence as technologies are rapidly becoming available and many faculty may not be aware of these new tools to develop more effective learning practices.

Anya’s presentation was close to 45 slides and grabbed immediate attention with large images to make her point. She started off by explaining that today’s graduation rates at typical 4-year institutions are decreasing and the availability of learning content on the web and tools to socialize on the web are dramatically increasing. This led her into a conversation that universities need to adopt new models of openness to give students more choices to develop their own learning paths and outcomes. The old model of come to a university, get a diploma, and get a job is not working as well as it once did. Today, students go to a university to gain academic information and skills, but they also supplement that learning with internships, mentors, free online learning centers, and help from peers to develop a portfolio of skills that will enable the desired job. Anya then showed off many examples of free online learning opportunities and rich communities of like minded individuals collaborating about their portfolios of work. In closing, Anya urged the audience to all think about how we can increase our graduation rates by adopting and encouraging a more open, flexible learning environment.

It was a pleasure getting to know Anya and learning from her inspiration presentation. Blackboard will continue to develop innovative enhancements for all Blackboard solutions and we will always keep in mind the importance of not only open systems but also of open learning paths.

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