The Blackboard Communities of Practice has evolved from a partnership between Blackboard Users. Today, Blackboard User Groups have successfully formed in the US (27 total groups) and internationally (6 groups). These groups have organized as independent entities from the company Blackboard, Inc., while striving for an on-going partnership with Bb.
The communities initiative was driven from the need of Bb Users compelled to collaborate. The common thread of using Blackboard united colleagues in groups to initiate sharing information. Contributions by early pioneers such as Sandy Bryant (visit http://www.rollins.edu/it/sandy.shtml) with the BbSEUG (see http://aimcenter.scad.edu/BbSEUG2005 ) communicated the value of sharing resources.
The Blackboard Communities web site (visit http://communities.blackboard.com to enroll) provides a vehicle for Bb regional groups to communicate in a central area.
According to Adrian Alleyne, the Manager of Bb Communities, the overall purpose was to engage the community and find ways to get the community talking with each other.
The site offers an opportunity to use advanced features and capabilities of the latest version of Bb.
The strength of Bb User groups currently is reflected by well established communities including the Michigan Bb User’s Group (MiBUG see http://www.mibug.org) and SLATE – Supporting Learning & Technology in Education (see http://slategroup.uchicago.edu). Colleagues committed to adapting to the many changes presented by a changing educational environment using Blackboard, volunteered to start up user groups. Today, many user groups are hosting regional meetings and conferences. Thus, they provide a forum for enhancing the opportunities for sharing resources and best practices between members.
Today’s Bb User Community is evolving on a continuum. I have found participating in user groups to include many benefits such as engaging in dialogue for shared learning and experiences. With many challenges presented by using Blackboard, adapting to change is assisted by accessing a network. One example is implementing Bb Building Blocks. Before moving onto a pilot phase of a building block, I invited feedback from colleagues in the Bb user community. The immediate feedback and insights were very helpful to consider during this phase of the project. Overall, the “free-sharing” is a valued-added to members contributing in the Bb Community.
In the future, a recent discussion I participated in at a MiBUG meeting reminded me that there is still a path to be traveled. It’s important for user groups to meet and decide what specifically they need as a community. Asking questions such as the following: What is the benefit of sharing as a user group in a region? How is this unique to your group? Is there anything tangible your group can create to benefit your regional group? Thinking along these lines will continue progressing your Blackboard Community into the future.
Linda S. Wareck, Instructional Technologist, Lawrence Technological University
Interview with Adrian Alleyne, Manager of Bb Communities, May 2005
Blackboard Communities web site – URL: http://communities.blackboard.com
Michigan Blackboard User’s Group (MiBUG) web site – URL: http://www.mibug.org