The conference itself is spread over three days, the first of which is a half day of pre-conference sessions. This year I joined the Blackboard Ally usergroup session to get a deep hands on with this really useful tool. Ally makes available various different accessible formats for content in a VLE like MOLE and it's a tool I've really wanted to be able to put into action for a couple of years now. It's continued to develop and we got the chance to try out a brand new feature at this session. It was a great way to kick off the conference. That evening we continued the discussions (some of them even work related!) over a very nice curry.
Day one of the full conference began, as ever, with introductions from Durham's Malcolm Murray and then the opening keynote this year was from the OU's Rosie Jones talking about play. She soon had all of us engaged in lots of activity, including making farm animal sounds 😄
Then it was off into the parallel streams, and the line up for me on day one was:
- It’s All About the Base (Navigation) - Northumbria University’s Move to Blackboard Ultra
Kristen McCartney-Bulmer, Lee Hall & Harriet Walshaw - Northumbria University
This session was about Northumbroia's move to the new Blackboard Ultra platform and talked about the challenges and positive outcomes from the move.
- The future starts today, not tomorrow
Neil Cocklin – Aston University
This presentation explored the range of approaches that Aston has developed for supporting staff in Technology Enhanced Learning development and took a look at attitudes of staff towards how this provision has made a difference to them.
- Fail, Fad or Flexible Friends? The impact of Online Submission, Feedback and Grading on the Marker Experience
Emma Mayhew, Madeleine Davies & Vicki Holmes – University of Reading
This session outlined the results of an extensive survey of staff undertaken in three large schools within the University of Reading, following adoption of institution wide online submission, feedback and grading during 2017-2018.
The Ultra experience for Learn
Ashley Wright & Richard Gibbons - Blackboard
This last session of the day took a look at the new Ultra experience for Blackboard Learn (the VLE MOLE runs on) and gave us a live demo of some brand new features.
|I'm really bad at darts! (photo by Ross Parker)|
Mixed in that day was some breaks and lunch, which is always a good time to get to talk to people and this is always really useful time to make the most of.
The evening was spent continuing the conversations at the conference dinner, as ever, held in the wonderful grand hall in the castle, followed by a few drinks in the castle bar and a very bad, but funny, international (England, Scotland and The Netherlands were represented) game of darts 🤣
Day two kicked off with the keynote from Blackboard's Chief Portfolio Officer Kathy Vieira and Chief Product Officer Tim Tomlinson. Picking up the theme of the conference and also introducing some playful elements with some audience participation paddles, they took us through their views on the fads, fails and futures surrounding EdTech.
The day's parallel streams were:
- The Big Blackboard Pub Quiz
Katie Piatt, eLearning Manager – University of Brighton
We had a whole lot of fun in this team game workshop that tested our knowledge of Blackboard Learn. I wasn't on the winning team!
- An Allied comparison of Ally
Claire Gardener (Derby), Kristen McCartney-Bulmer (Northumbria), Maria Papaefthimiou (Reading) & Susi Peacock (Queen Margaret)
This was a collaborative presentation from four universities who have all recently implemented Ally. Individually, they explained their approaches, challenges, opportunities and goals.
- Open Badges in an Academic Context
Graeme Redshaw-Boxwell & Patrick Rosenkranz – Newcastle University
This presentation guided us the through the process of running a badges project in the School of Psychology, the different badges created, the software used, and the evaluation of the project including student opinion on digital credentialing.
Away from the parallel session on this second day I took the chance to chat with some of the suppliers at the conference and had the annual Blackboard Usergroup leaders meeting, which is always useful for us to come together and share some of the things we've been doing with the groups across Europe over the last 12 months.
And that was it. Another great conference that gave me some really good things to think about. Already looking forward to next years!