Last week I spent two enjoyable days at Durham University for the 10th Annual Durham Users Conference. The strap line for this year’s conference was Anti Social? I went along to the meeting partly because here at Dundee we upgraded to Blackboard (Bb) v9 in the summer and I was hoping to meet and hear how other medical schools were getting on with the upgrade. Also as I have an interest in how Web 2.0 type tools can be used to personalise learning my attention was hooked by the antisocial theme. I plan to write two posts summarising my reflections on the Conference, this first one looks at Bb issues and the second will pick up on the other presentations.
One of the most interesting sessions of the meeting was the panel session with representatives from several UK universities, including Durham and Liverpool that had upgraded to Bb 9 over the summer. All of these universities with the exception of Northampton, which has an externally hosted Bb platform, experienced significant issues with the upgrade. We certainly did at Dundee and in the College of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing these issues persist with web browser issues for staff and students using NHS IT networks, where IE6 is the standard browser. Bb was not terribly popular with clinicians before the upgrade and it is even less so now. Jake Gannon from Liverpool reported that some teaching staff there too were no longer using Blackboard following the upgrade. The discussion from this session was recorded in the conference twitter stream, which you can find by searching for #durbbu10 or by visiting the conference twub. Jo Badge has also written an excellent post summarising the panel session on her DrBadgr blog and Terry Wassall from Leeds provides a helpful twitter derived report.
The following day the team from Blackboard had their opportunity to respond. The presentation was headed up by Jan Poston Day and the key message was that Bb were changing and wanted to listen to what their users/customers were saying. It was rather startling to hear that there was only 9 weeks of beta testing on Bb 9 but I guess this exaplians why Dundee and other institutions that have upgraded have experienced significant issues. It was clear from Jan’s presentation that Ray Henderson’s arrival at Bb from Angel is clearly cultivating a listening culture and that they want to hear from us. They are setting up a ‘bug squad’ to help determine client priorities, ensure clients have a voice in Bb software maintenance and undertaking quarterly satisfaction surveys. Users can also get support via Bb Twitter accounts and there’s also Blackboard Connections where Bb users can connect with other users, share best practice etc. We were also told about NG Playground, course level access to a live development build of Bb allowing users to try out features that are currently in development. The Playground is also a place to exchange ideas, get feedback on development roadmaps etc and for users to have input on future development. So Blackboard want to listen to us and reflecting on this on the train back to Dundee an old TV advert sprang to mind for the Midland Bank, which had the strap line, ‘Come and talk to the Midland, come and talk to the listening bank’. Blackboard clearly want us to talk to them and they want to be the listening the VLE. I managed to find the Midland Bank advert on YouTube and you can take a look at it if you want to hear a blast from the past.