Thursday, July 12, 2012

#BbW12 Day 2 Wrap Up - My Full Run Down of the Product Keynote

Before we move on to Day 2...a brief addition to our recap of Day 1.  If you want to see/know more about Dr. Freeman Hrabowski's awesome opening keynote from yesterday our own Lacie's article was featured on the Blackboard Blog today.  Be sure to check that out.  Also, if you don't mind less than outstanding video (and videography) quality you can check out my YouTube playlist which features nearly the entire address.... (this video links to Part 1 - just find the full Playlist by linking to this video on YouTube)



 ...now back to our regularly scheduled Day 2 Wrap Up.

A highlight of Blackboard World every year is the Product Keynote.  This year's keynote was certainly a highlight, although it was presented in a more serious tone - Chasen's pee jokes notwithstanding - than any previous keynote I can recall.  I believe the address was moved from late morning/early afternoon (previous years) to first thing in the morning (this year). It is my experience that geeks (at least this one) are rarely fully alert early in the morning so I'm not sure I like the change in timing.  It also felt to me like there was far less build up/excitement from the stage which left a little bit of a feeling of underwhelm to what were some pretty outstanding announcements.  (And, yet again, the wireless died for Kayvon's mobile demo...perhaps next year just plan to simulate things so you don't have to deal with that?)

Here is my full recap for those of you who want more detail than you could get from the live twitter, instagram, and facebook posting.

The presentation opened with this great, quick video featuring "The Active Learner".  The video was a collaborative project between Blackboard and JESS3.  Active Learners aren't coming soon - they are coming NOW to all of our schools.

Michael Chasen kicked off the keynote by relating Blackboard's product and services in terms his kids could understand (the Chasen's welcomed their new daughter this past year and so Michael was inspired by his extended time off spent with his kids).  You may have seen this floating around (pun fully intended) on the Internet...social media explained in pee terms...which inspired Chasen's description of Bb's product suite in similar terms.  For your viewing pleasure...Chasen's descriptions of Bb's products and services...in "potty" terms.

Part 1 - The Products




and...Part 2 - The Services


In case you can't read/hear ... the first line says Blackboard Consulting "We Can Help You Install Your Toilets".  The last line, which you may not be able to read and/or make out what was said given I'm laughing so hard that the camera was shaking says..."Blackboard Managed Hosting...Let Me Hold That For You".  As a managed hosting client...that was just a little too disturbing...


Michael carried the pee theme into the announcement of the new Blackboard product - which has been code named "xp" (or xPee...just to keep the joke going a moment longer).  

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Joking aside...the first product coming out of the xp Project is a Learning Object Repository (LOR) name xPlor.  xPlor holds big promise for institutions who want to free their content from the LMS as it is a cloud based object repository.  That will let institutions with multiple platforms (or those who wish to change platforms) reuse content without having to recreate or transfer it.  The sample interface screens shown were clean and showed off the ability to easily add content to multiple courses. Since it is cloud based, content will likely be available from Blackboard's free CourseSites tool as well as institutional content repositories if that content is tagged as OER/Creative Commons content (that's a complete guess on my part, but seems logical).  The demo featured Khan Academy content, but it's likely to include content from hundreds of sources. xPlor features tools for creating content directly as well - excited to see that both assessments and assignments are a part of that content creation tool set.  Can't wait to get our hands on this to kick the tires.


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xPlor was called the first of many projects under the project xP label with calendars and discussions flashed quickly on the screen as potential future expansions...will look forward to next year's keynote to see where this project goes.

Chasen also highlighted the continued partner relationships (announced during last year's keynote) with the major publishers.  In addition to McGraw-Hill whose Connect tool because available last year, Blackboard delivered on the agreement announced from the stage last year that integrations with Pearson, Cengage, and Wiley have been added.  A highlight take away that I tweeted during this portion...


After that, Michael turned the presentation over to Ray Henderson.

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Ray highlighted improved ticket closure rates, delivery on continued commitment to openness, quality improvements, and transparency.  He used the example of the adjustment in release calendars based on client feedback to highlight this one.

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As is his tradition in has past two addresses (his first set the stage for what was to come in the future), Ray highlighted the Blackboard Performance Rubric.

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He took this one step further this year...adding a new category for reporting on next year...Innovation.  I was extremely pleased to see this addition - it's been needed for a couple of years.


Reorganization within Blackboard in the last year has Learn, Analytics and Collaborate all reporting up through to Ray so he covered a few coming changes in these areas.  Changes to navigation (they called it global navigation) will improve ease of use.  

An exciting announcement was improvements to assessment analysis tools.

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Enterprise surveys were also highlighted again. I seem to recall this being announced last year, but I could have been confusing that with it just being on the roadmap last year. That said...it's going to be delivered in a future product update. Speaking of the "when is it coming" question, Ray got "called out" from the audience and asked specifically when something would be delivered...he tried to dodge the question but gave the pretty quick answer of a Service Pack somewhere between 9 and 11...cute way to avoid the "legal eagles staring him down" from the audience when someone shouted the question at him.

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One of the more exciting announcements, in my opinion, is that one way text notification will also become a part of the core product in a near future release. Bb announced two way texting at the conference as a part of their Connect tool so they have added the original one way into the core tool...very nice!

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Analytics was covered briefly - more of in reference to the opening keynote yesterday - but still a brief mention.

Blackboard is trying their hand at social again...with a planned new tool by the same name. Over the last few BbWorld's we've seen a lot of different sample iterations of what this might look like some day...this is a to be delivered item now so whether it's service pack 10 or 11 is unclear, but it's coming. Bb took one of their attempts at Social - the Scholar tool - out of commission earlier this year. It will be interesting to see how this new attempt works. If I followed it all correctly, profile data will live in the cloud, but it didn't appear that this was tied to the xP project from the opening of the presentation.

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Social also comes with Spaces...informal gathering places for students and groups. Given the size and scope of our system...this one strikes the most fear into my heart.

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Collaborate announcements included Mobile - which we already are a part of the beta for, as well as some enhanced integration with Learn that includes grade book participation marking both for attending a session and watching an archive. I was a little surprised to NOT hear the words Echo Cancellation said from the stage as they were getting said pretty much everywhere else from Collaborate folks.

Ray handed off to Katie Blot, VP for Services. Katie talked about the entire stack of services available to help institutions in the education lifecycle.

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She highlighted some successes in leveraging these tools at places like University of Southern Mississippi and a pretty recent (I think) contract/arrangement in California.  Developmental Education got a mention as did Student Services.

The Keynote was running long (which is pretty much the norm) when Katie turned it over to Kayvon to present on mobile...(BTW...anyone know how he was streaming wirelessly from his iPad back to his mac to be able to project what was on his iPad or was that actually simulated? I assume it wasn't since his wireless apparently stopped work  - and didn't that happen to him last year too?)

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Big announcements from mobile...testing (which we're already playing around with) as well as a new model for deployment that lets students purchase the app - meaning the institution isn't paying for the service. Students can buy for $1.99 annual or $5.99 for unlimited use. I anticipate us staying with the institutional license that means students get the app at no additional cost to them, but this announcement and new approach garnered a lot of applause.

Overall, it was a great keynote with a number of exciting changes. That was just the first hour of the day so there was much more throughout the day here in NOLA.

 If you saw the keynote live...what did I forget? If you weren't here - have any questions?

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