Durham Blackboard Users Conference 2014

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Durham University held the 14th Blackboard Users Conference on the 9th and 10th of January. This is the second time I have attended the event and found it as beneficial as before. An extremely well organised event with a good variety of engaging presentations.
Dr Franck Michel and I presented a paper titled, “Using technology to support reflective learning – Newcastle University’s implementation of ePortfolio”. This was well received with very positive feedback from our peers. This is due to the hard work of everyone involved in this project from the development team through to the management and steering groups. It’s an exciting project that is enjoyable to b a part of and the positive results we are seeing is a testament to this.
There was two keynote talks as well as a Blackboard roadmap. The first keynote was from Professor Patrick Carmichael from the University of Bedfordshire who talked about his work with video engagement (Presence, Personalisation and Pedagogy –Using Digital Video in Online Environments). The highlight for me was when he described how a dance class use video as a self-reflection tool, but also to collaborate with other dancer to create a performance taking place in two different places at once, with two different audiences. Extremely creative, innovative and inspiring.
The second keynote was from Robin Goodfellow from the Open University. Robin discussed his career had moved through three stages (dialogue, design and data), each phase moving him further away from direct contact with students, but potentially having more impact on their experiences. It was a very engaging and entertaining talk.
There were two Blackboard specific talks that stood out for me. :
1) University of Derby detailed their VLE threshold standards – how they were created, and applied in their institution. It was refreshing to hear how the technologists looked at each threshold standard and considered how pedagogically important it was. For example, did having photographs of lecturers on the course have the same level of importance as good quality lecture materials?
2) University of Creative Arts (UCA) described their use of course templates to create standardised, graphically enhanced sections for courses. The sites were visually appealing, and it was no surprise that Maria Tenant presenting, had previous experience as a web designer.

One of the main benefits of the conference is the networking that takes place. I made some very good contacts with people from a University of Galway, Liverpool John Moores , UCA, and many more, as well as seeing old friends. It was great to see Lynne Hugill from Cleveland college of art and design, Ralph Holland from South Tyneside College, and James from Middlesbrough College, and all the NELE group members.

From this event, I have a renewed focus on our ePortfolio, knowing that this is a tool that can make a huge difference on students learning experience. I think we may try to have further contact with the presenters from the two Universities mentioned earlier, to investigate how we can apply some of the knowledge they have learned through their experience.

Finally a big thanks should go to Julie Mulvey, Malcolm Murray, and the rest of the team at Durham. A fantastic event that I look forward to attending again in the future.

Useful Links:

Ensemble project http://www.ensemble.ac.uk/wp/ (from Patrick Carmichael keynote)

Conference programme – http://community.dur.ac.uk/lt.team/conference/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/2014ConferenceBooklet_Final1.pdf


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