Washington, D.C., United States
The Blackboard Innovative Teaching Series (BITS), launched in 2011, provides free monthly training webinars for higher education Blackboard clients, focusing on best practices, top strategies, and pedagogy for increasing educator efficiency, learner engagement, and learning outcomes. Now, BITS is expanding to reach the global community.
Seven years ago, BITS launched a new interactive experience for Blackboard clients: Through webinars – typically taught by Blackboard clients themselves – participants discuss topics such as course design best practices, strategies for plagiarism prevention, tips to personalize online learning, running successful breakout groups, gamification within courses, accessibility, humour as a means to engage students online, among others. On occasion, Blackboard’s product and services experts also teach the webinars.
In 2017, 16 webinars were offered to the community. Currently, 17 sessions are scheduled for 2018, including themes such as “Making the Most of Your Learn Upgrade: Top Features You Can Use Now!” by Blackboard, “Opportunities for OERs to Support Instruction” by Coppin State University, “Using Wikis as a Collaborative Tool for Online Student Engagement” by Odessa College, and more.
With tens of thousands of clients participating in BITS since 2011, the past year was a really exciting one for the program. “We kicked off 2017 with an event titled ‘Teach Online? You Need These 17 Course Design Best Practices!’ The program had 1,160 registrations – our highest up to that point. We provided a total of 16 webinars throughout the year, with a total of 12,000 registrations,” says Debbora Woods, Manager of Client Programs & Communications at Blackboard.
Clients, in the BITS context, are composed of an audience that often includes faculty, instructional technologists, course designers, online learning educators, and faculty trainers. “We strive to ensure that the information provided will be applicable to each one of those roles, as they tend to all work together with the common goals of instructor efficiency, student engagement and retention, and meeting learning outcomes,” Woods points out.
|Attendee Satisfaction Goes Up to 94%|
|At the end of every year, clients are sent out an attendee satisfaction survey. This survey provides Blackboard with over 17 different forms of client feedback, which help the company drive all decisions regarding the program. The first BITS webinar for 2018 hit another milestone with 1,409 registrations and an incredible audience response: 94% of attendees said they would recommend the BITS webinars to others.|
Expansion on the Way
Despite high approval rates, Woods says there’s always room for improvement. Taking a deeper dive into topics and promoting events globally are some of the developments planned for 2018. “We are currently working with our peers in Latin America, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Russia, and Middle East regions to develop a strategy for a successful expansion,” Debbora notes. This is being done with extra care, considering the particular educational challenges each region faces. The idea is to build BITS programs that are applicable and relevant to clients globally. The first global webinars are set for early 2019. “We know it will be a step-by-step journey, and we are up for the challenge,” she concludes.
Latin America is one of the regions already preparing BITS webinars. “Indeed, this is a new way to bring great and useful documentation and resources to our region which is only available in English at the moment,” says Abraham Lopez, a member of Blackboard’s Customer Success team in Latin America. “We think that all of these resources, once translated, will have a big impact in the region.”
Discover innovative ways to share important topics with large audiences while keeping them fully engaged.
What Do Clients Have to Say About BITS?
“BITS and the webinars have proven to be very helpful. You can attend the live webinars and/or view the archived recordings later as your needs and schedule dictate. The presentations are interactive/engaging with attendees able to use text chat with other audience members and submit questions throughout the presentations. The BITS content also provides an excellent opportunity to get connected to the larger, worldwide Blackboard user community. All this boundary-free, Blackboard-specific information is really not readily available anywhere else.”
John T. Thompson, Ph.D. Associate Professor Emeritus at the Computer Information Systems Dept., Buffalo State College
“The BITS webinars, no matter what topic, always give me something new that helps me do what I need to do faster, smarter, or more elegantly. I know that other faculty feel as if more and more administrative expectations take time from their actual teaching – and we don’t always have the time to research if there’s better ways of doing what we already do in Blackboard. I love how each webinar I’ve attended has a balance of technology and pedagogy. With each webinar, I not only become a better Blackboard user, I become a better teacher as well. What is also very cool about the webinars is the participation of the attendees. The chat flows freely, with questions and ideas from the participants – opening up another channel for great ideas and those little Blackboard hacks that come in handy.”
Graceful Beam, Assistant Dean, Business and Information Technologies Program Director, Logistics and Supply Chain Management, Advisor/Instructor, Business Management at Georgia Northwestern Technical College.
Want to Know More About BITS?
To attend a BITS webinar series, Register Here.
To access archived webinar resources, visit the BITS Community.
Have more questions? Reach out to the BITS Manager at Debbora.Woods@blackboard.com.
Debbora Woods, Manager of Client Programs & Communications at Blackboard.
Abraham Lopez, a member of Blackboard’s Customer Success team in Latin America.