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Blackboard World Conference – NN/LM SCR Professional Development Award

by Cathy Montoya, MLS (AHIP), Director – Education Resource Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX

Through funding from the NN/LM SCR Professional Development Award, I attended the Blackboard World conference – 2007 in Boston July 10 – 12. This conference represents some of the states’ most wired colleges and universities as well as institutions from other nations. For the first time, Blackboard integrated its foreign users with state-side clients. The conference offers clients of Blackboard and its new acquisition, WEBCT, an opportunity to be exposed to innovative ideas and best practices in the rapidly growing technology of electronic course management. About 2500 people were in attendance, representing 18 countries. Blackboard was also celebrating its 10th year. Ten years does not seem like a lengthy history; however in the competitive environment of electronic course management, it is a significant milestone.

The Education Resource Center (ERC) of Baylor College of Medicine is the sponsor and System Administrator for the three schools on campus, Residency programs and staff training for the electronic medical record system for the Baylor Clinic. The College is licensed to use the Basic version of Blackboard, which we have named BECON (Baylor COmputing Network). Attending the conference is one way I have been able to obtain training; explore techniques; meet people who have been in our shoes; and examine best practices for system implementation and faculty development and training.

The Blackboard conferences are well organized with opportunities for integrated learning through interaction, leadership, or session attendance. Blackboard provides a forum for user groups by location and area of interest. Texas has a well-organized group called T-Bug. Areas of interest include K-12, Higher Education, System Administration, Course Development strategies, and Course Design using pedagogically sound principles.

Carefully selected Keynote speakers kick off each day of sessions. Stephen Leavitt, author of Freakonomics; a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, launched Day One of the general conference. Leavitt referred to several examples in his book about the economics of education. Leavitt was recently named by Time Magazine in 2006 as one of the “100 People Who Shape Our World.” Guy Kawasaki provided the inspiration for Day Two. Kawasaki is a visionary, venture capitalist, technical innovation consultant, early Macintosh marketing guru, and author of eight books.

A presentation given by Boston University Medical Campus on their use of Apreso Lecture capture system was especially helpful. Since many medical schools are organized similarly, parallels in use and implementation of systems can be inferred more easily. From this session, I also gained a valuable contact from the medical school who invited me to set up a telephone appointment for further discussion.

Texas Woman’s University (TWU), veteran Blackboard users, presented an excellent session on benchmarking and measurement of Blackboard use among faculty. They discussed the decision points which led TWU to survey the faculty about their use of the system; shared the survey instrument used; and what next steps the Office of Lifelong Learning will take in using this information to help faculty become even more comfortable using technology in teaching.

The Blackboard product has steadily integrated many aspects of campus life into its learning system. Social networking tools, wikis, content storage, bookstore purchases, and library reserves are just a few of the integration points of the system. Systems at an institutional enterprise level require departments to understand how a system affects it staff, work flow, faculty and patrons or students as well as other integrative information systems on campus.

The NN/LM SCR Professional Development Award is provided to individuals interested in attending professional seminars, conferences, and other continuing education opportunities in areas of health science librarianship or related disciplines. The award is a new funding opportunity in the 2006-2011 Regional Medical Library (RML) contract to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). The contract for the RML for the South Central Region is held by HAM-TMC Library. The application can be found easily through the Regional Medical Library website.

The award provided more than half of the costs of registration, airfare and hotel for the Blackboard Conference. The Dean of the Medical School provided the remainder of the funds once I made a “business case” for attendance. I am sure that I could have found a conference or activity that would have fit into the grant stipend. However, because of the work on this campus, Blackboard’s venue offered me an excellent opportunity to extend my knowledge in an area that addresses the unique aspects that make up my position at Baylor College of Medicine – medical librarian and instructional technologist.

This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal funds from the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, under Contract No. N01-LM-6-3505.

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