Thursday, March 10, 2011
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Dearest Blackboard Collaborate Customers (and anyone kicking the tires),
This is just a quick reminder that the deadline for the Call For Presentations for our user conference is tomorrow, Friday March 11, 2011.  We’ve already received a number of terrific submissions about everything from adoption tips, best practices, effective instructional design, and ROI of collaboration, but I look forward to receiving many more in the next 37.5 hours! 

Submit your presentation proposal here:  http://www.connections-summit.blackboard.com/2011/content.asp?id=1898


 


Sincerely,


Matt

Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Posted By mwasowski      Category

To read the original blog entry by Maurice Heiblum on blackboard.com, click here


Hi all,

It’s been 3 months since I last blogged and a little over 6 months since the merger – I can’t believe it.  Time has flown by!  In that time we have been busy merging two competitors into Blackboard and executing on the priorities I outlined after the merger:

    * Customer experience – Ensuring that our customers continue to have the exceptional client experience that Elluminate and Wimba have always provided.
    * United team – Bringing Elluminate, Wimba and Blackboard teams together into a single, cohesive unit so we can carry that high standard of client care forward.
    * Product Roadmap – Creating a vision for how our collective solutions come together to help you better engage students to improve outcomes and save time while trimming cost.

Let me share a few recent developments:

Customer Experience.

It is very important to me that our customers continue to have a positive experience with our products and our company.  As we evolve the integration of our business, we do so while helping to ensure that our customer experience is not negatively impacted; rather we hope that the integration enhances customers’ experiences.  Organizationally, we have integrated our support, hosting and services organizations to streamline the delivery of service to our customers.  We continue every day to examine every process that touches our customers, while looking for ways to improve.

The results so far are encouraging.  Our customer satisfaction ratings are high, customers are renewing our products at a fast rate, and we have greatly grown the business for both product lines in the months since the merger

In addition to ensuring a positive customer experience, it is important for us to partner with our customers as we develop solutions to meet their needs.  To that end, we have created a combined Product Advisory Council (PAC).  Both Wimba and Elluminate had very strong and open partnerships with customers to get continual feedback about products and services. We launched our combined PAC in December and have been having meetings with about 80 of our closest customers every two weeks.

In addition, we announced our user conference, “Connections Summit 2011”.  Our goal for this event is to build upon the success of the Wimba user conference from years past to provide you with a forum for networking and idea sharing.  I am personally excited to hear how our customers are using Blackboard Collaborate to achieve their institutional goals and I am looking forward to attending many sessions.  The deadline to submit proposals is March 11th so submit today via Connections. For inspiration, check out some archived presentations from 2010 here.

New Team

When I last blogged, I was still not completely comfortable saying “Maurice from Blackboard Collaborate.” Now, it feels natural.  Our team has really come together as one organization.  The first indication of our unification occurred when members of the team, regardless of whether they came from Blackboard, Elluminate or Wimba, joined together to make fun of my pastel colored shirts! J

I am so proud of our team.  They found common ground and have been executing to perfection since the merger. Combining the three entities – Blackboard, Elluminate and Wimba resulted in a team with the most extensive knowledge about educational needs and how we can meet those needs through collaborative technologies.

Product Roadmap

At Educause, we announced Project Gemini (http://www.blackboard.com/sites/collaborate/index.html), which will bring together the best of Elluminate and Wimba. Our development teams have been hard at work and so has the Product Advisory Council.  The feedback we have received has been extremely positive and we are on schedule for a mid-year delivery. I’d like to thank our customers for their time and input; together we are transforming education with new ways to collaborate and learn.

Looking ahead, I am excited to share the details around Project Gemini and all the other facets of our business.  Other Blackboard Collaborate team members, as well as some customers, will join me on this blog to give you a flavor of how we’ve gone about building Project Gemini.

So, lots more to come in the months ahead. Stay tuned and as always reach out to me if you have any feedback at Maurice.heiblum@blackboard.com.

Statements regarding our product development initiatives, including new products and future product upgrades, updates or enhancements represent our current intentions, but may be modified, delayed or abandoned without prior notice and there is no assurance that such offering, upgrades, updates or functionality will become available unless and until they have been made generally available to our customers

Friday, January 21, 2011
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Hello and Happy New Year!

I’ve sure most of you have heard already, but in case you haven’t, yesterday we opened the Call for Presentations for our first annual Blackboard Collaborate Connections Summit 2011!  The submission deadline is March 11, 2011.

This will be a terrific way to put your institution in the spotlight by sharing your experience, expertise, and examples at the 2011 Blackboard Collaborate Connections Summit, our first-ever combined Wimba and Elluminate user conference. Customers representing all academic disciplines and departments are welcome to submit proposals for concurrent session presentations. 

Some potential presentation topics could include:
    * Comprehensive use of Blackboard Collaborate for instruction, help, and meetings
    * Adoption, implementation, and faculty training
    * Newest uses of Elluminate Live!® V10, Wimba Classroom™ V6.1, Wimba Pronto™, and Wimba Voice™
    *  Lecture capture via MP4, MP3, high-resolution archives, and more
    * Non-instructional uses of Blackboard Collaborate
    * Best practices and/or tips and tricks
    * Lessons learned
    * Effective instructional and/or curriculum design

Don’t wait. Proposals are due by March 11 so submit your proposal NOW at http://www.connections-summit.blackboard.com/2011/content.asp?id=1898

Online registration opens soon.

*And I do have to add that the program committee probably won’t be able to accept every presentation proposals, but I hope you all throw your hats into the ring!

Matt

Saturday, January 08, 2011
Posted By mwasowski      Category

The acquisition of DimDim this week has set off lots of talk about the importance of Web conferencing and collaboration tools. Salesforce.com will use DimDim’s technology to enhance their Chatter platform. However, DimDim’s current customers will see their access to the service end starting on March 15, 2011.

For educational institutions who had built their courses and business workflows around realtime collaboration using DimDim, this might cause some disruption and Blackboard would like to help. For those who’ve been using Elluminate and Wimba for a while, you know that we are dedicated to meeting the needs of educators by providing stable solutions that are supported by a clear roadmap and a dedicated team for development. 

For those customers who want to make the transition before their annual contract ends, Blackboard will credit the cost of any unused portion of a pre-paid DimDim contract towards the purchase of Blackboard Collaborate solutions (up to a maximum of $10,000).  Please email  BbCollaborateInsideSales@blackboard.com to get the details around this offer. For monthly subscription customers, Elluminate vOfifce s an affordable and full featured offering. For free DimDim customers, please take a look at Elluminate vRoom.

For more on Blackboard Collaborate, check out our page at: www.blackboard.com/collaborate and Elluminate’s recent coverage in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Conferencing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

2010 Global Education Conference
November 15-19
Totally Free. Completely Online.

What if we held a virtual conference on global education? What if we could impact education on a scale never tried before? What if we made it easily accessible and freely available for educators all over the world to attend?  What if we focused on encouraging not just attendance, but participation…

These were just a few of the question posed by Steve Hargadon, Elluminate Social Learning Consultant, founder of the Classroom 2.0 social network, and host of the Future of Education interview series, and Lucy Gray, an Apple Distinguished Educator, Google Certified Teacher, and founder of the Global Education Collaborative network.

Fast forward to almost a year later, and their vision has become a reality. The ground-breaking 2010 Global Education Conference kicks off on November 15th for 5 days, providing unprecedented opportunities for connecting education activities and initiatives worldwide. A strictly volunteer effort, the conference quickly garnered incredible worldwide support, with almost 95 partner organizations, over 120 global educator advisors, 50+ keynote addresses, and more than 350 sessions about globally connecting students and educators.

“We’ve been blown away by the response,” says Steve Hargadon. “It’s been like building an airplane while flying it, and we’ve accomplished so much with so few resources. It immediately became clear that this conference will be the first of many. Global education will be one of the great EDU themes of the next ten years.”

“We want to re-inspire teachers, helping them to be more motivated about helping students,” adds Lucy Gray. “Today, there’s really no excuse for teachers not to use technology to connect students across borders to develop a global perspective. It’s the right idea at the right time.”

Multiple time zones. Multiple languages. Multiple tracks.

The conference will be held online via Elluminate technology. Sessions will be free, broadcast live in multiple time zones and multiple languages, and available in recorded formats afterwards. Presentations are organized in six categories: Teacher, Student, Curriculum, Policy and Leadership, Global Issues, and Learning 2.0. Here are just a few highlights.

•    “Connecting Modern Language Classes Around the Globe” with Andrea Reinsmoen, American School of Bombay (India)
•    “Mastering the Moment: Reimaging Learning in Times of Economic Crisis” with Keith Krueger, Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) (USA)
•    “Utilizing Web-based Learning Environment in University Teaching” with Satu Alaoutinen, Lappeenranta University of Technology (Finland)
•    “Global and Multicultural Citizenship” with Gary Shaw, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (Australia)
•    “Exploring the Informal Future of Higher Education” with Philipp Schmidt, Peer 2 Peer University (South Africa)
To see complete listings of all the keynotes and track presentations, visit the conference site today at www.globaleducationconference.com. And be sure to tell others about this first-ever conference. Don’t miss being a part of global education history!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category


Dear Elluminate and Wimba Communities,

When Wimba and Elluminate joined Blackboard in July, we committed that we’d share our vision for the road ahead at EDUCAUSE. We want to be as transparent as possible about our product strategy, which was informed by input from many customers we’ve listened to in recent months. As our companies come together, they’ve asked us to focus on three principles:

•    Support the products we have now and allow us ample time for change management, if and when needed.
•    Focus resources on delivering easy-to-deploy, easy-to-use, educationally-focused products that bring needed innovations and enhancements.
•    Support openness and integrations with other technology platforms.

We’ve taken these mandates to heart, and I believe we’ve honored all of them in our go-forward strategy. Here’s our roadmap for the road ahead:

Instant Collaboration
We have two solutions that let you see the presence status of others you want to collaborate with and easily start a collaboration session if they’re available: Wimba Pronto and Elluminate VCS. They will both be supported through the end of 2011. At that point, Wimba Pronto will be our go-forward core product. Pronto provides a native MacOS-supported client, advances in accessibility, CMS integrations, and the ability to deploy in a SaaS model, and we’re excited to continue development of this robust solution. This week, we announced availability of the Universal Integration for Wimba Pronto to many other CMS/LMS/SIS products, reinforcing our commitment to openness across our product sets.

Anytime Collaboration and Content Creation
All of our products in this category, including Wimba Voice, Wimba Create, Elluminate Plan!, Elluminate Publish! and LearnCentral, will continue to be sold and serviced as they are today.

Scheduled Collaboration
Wimba Classroom and Elluminate Live! are our two main products for Web conferencing sessions for meetings, events, virtual classrooms and other uses. Both have many users and deep functionality sets but investing in both over the long term would prevent us from focusing resources on innovations our customers want. So we will invest in a single platform, based on the foundational architecture of Elluminate Live!, that incorporates core features from both systems, user interface enhancements planned as part of the Wimba LiveX project, and new innovations not found in either solution today.

Dubbed “Project Gemini,” this effort will be managed in a way that limits any disruption to the current work you’re doing and provides ample time and flexible options for any future transitions. We will support, maintain and host the current versions of Wimba Classroom through January 2014 and host Wimba Classroom archives through August 2015. We will also support, maintain and host the current version of Elluminate Live! until 2012. When the new platform is ready, we’ll provide parallel access to releases to help build familiarity and to ease transitions.

We’re sharing this news here on the blog and in person at EDUCAUSE this week.  More detail on our plans can be found at our Web site and in a series of Webinars we’ll be hosting next week.

I hope you are as excited about our plans as I am. By combining the resources of Elluminate and Wimba, we are able to create efficiencies to better position us for innovation over the long-term. Project Gemini is our first example, which along with Wimba Pronto, will form the key pillars of our new collaboration platform. One that will allow us to innovate faster and farther in the next decade and to better realize the promise of collaboration technology to support teachers and learners. I hope we can count on your support in the journey ahead, and thank you for your continued partnership to date.  

Maurice Heiblum, President
Blackboard Collaborate


Statements regarding our product development initiatives, including new products and future product upgrades, updates or enhancements represent our current intentions, but may be modified, delayed or abandoned without prior notice and there is no assurance that such offering, upgrades, updates or functionality will become available unless and until they have been made generally available to our customers.

Friday, October 08, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

 Elluminate/Wimba Booth #1101

Stop by for one or more of our in-booth sessions to earn how to get the most from your Elluminate and Wimba products. Here’s just a sampling of our featured presentation. Click here for complete schedule.

Tuesday, October 12th


* 4:45 – 5:00pm: Keep it Live! with Drexel University

* 6:15 – 6:30pm: Increase Retention Rates and Save Time and Money via Collaboration Technology with University of Utah

Wednesday, October 13th

* 10:05 – 10:25am: Accessibility overview with Valerie Schreiner, Sr. Director, Product Management. Learn how Elluminate/Wimba can help you ensure there’s no user left behind.

* 10:15 – 10:30am: Best Practices for Introducing Wimba Pronto to Faculty and Students with Ivy Tech Community College

* 4:30 – 4:45pm: Growing Collaboration at a Public College with Broward College

There will be Wimba Classroom and Elluminate Live! demos throughout both days. Plus, you could be a winner! Drawings will be held Wednesday at 1pm for an iPad and Thursday at 12:05pm for a GPS. You must be present to win.
Special Events – Wednesday, October 13th

Join Blackboard executives at 3:30 – 4:20pm at the Anaheim Convention Center in room 210B for an overview of company future plans, including a report on Blackboard Collaborate.

Who do we appreciate? YOU! Join us at the annual Blackboard Client Appreciation Party at 7:00 – 11:00pm at the House of Blues Anaheim. Attendance is limited. RSVP now.

We look forward to seeing you at EDUCAUSE!

PS. If you miss us at the conference, join us on October 18th at for a webinar review of the Blackboard Collaborate vision and strategy. You’ll be receiving an email invite next week.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

With the promise of keeping you updated about the progress of Blackboard Collaborate, here is a new statement from Maurice Heiblum, President, Blackboard Collaborate:


To the Elluminate and Wimba Communities,

My name is Maurice Heiblum and I’m the President of Blackboard Collaborate, the new division of Blackboard created by the acquisition of Wimba and Elluminate on July 7. (I’m hoping this isn’t the first that you’ve heard this news, but if it is, please click HERE for more details.)

Since that day, we’ve been hard at work on our three most important goals:

1.    Customer experience - Ensuring that you continue to have the great client experience that Elluminate and Wimba have always provided, especially during this back to school time.
2.    New team - Bringing Elluminate, Wimba and Blackboard teams together into a single, cohesive unit so we can carry that high standard of client care forward.
3.    Roadmap - Creating a vision for how our collective solutions come together to help you better engage students, improve outcomes and save time while  trimming cost.

As we make progress on these goals, I want to make sure you receive frequent communications from me and our team.  I’ll start today by providing an update on how the teams you interact with most have come together.  I’m happy to say that the headline is very consistent with our vision going into this new stage.  We thought we could build even stronger teams together than apart, with relatively limited change overall, particularly in the areas closest to delivering you a great customer experience.  You’ll ultimately be the judge of whether we were right, but I’m feeling good about our first steps. 

Customer Support – The people who supported you before will be the same ones who support you moving forward.  Zemina Hasham will lead a combined Wimba and Elluminate support organization that continues unchanged.

Professional Services – Led by Aaron Bond, we stand ready to help you implement our solutions and provide training and certification programs on our products.

Sales and Customer Success - The combined Sales and Customer Success teams will also continue to be led by familiar faces – Paul Roberge, Kristian Photopoulos and Thomas Jepsen.   While we have attempted to maintain consistent points of contact, there might be some change in your individual account teams.  We’ll inform you of those in email within the next few days.

As excited as we are about the new organization, combining the Wimba and Elluminate teams under the Blackboard umbrella has not been easy.   As is inevitable when joining similar companies, we’re losing some of our team members who have been like family and have helped build our companies.   We are deeply grateful to each of them for their contributions and wish them all the very best.  They will be missed. 

Lastly, know that we’re also continuing to make progress on the longer term product strategy we committed to start sharing at Educause in October.  The combined development organization for Blackboard Collaborate is of course bigger and stronger than either of our development organizations were on their own so we’re eager to start sharing our view of the road ahead for their work.  The integrated product strategy and marketing teams, led by Annie Chechitelli, Mike Mabey, Steve Kann, Rajeev Arora and Valerie Schreiner are hard at work on the roadmap and look forward to sharing more detail with you in October.

I’ve shared all the names above because of the personal relationships that many of you have built with our Sales, Support, Services, Products and Customer Success teams. We value these close relationships immensely and I hope the continuity in our leadership team above will showcase our commitment to continue our philosophy of always putting our customers first.

If you attend the Educause conference, I hope to see you and talk to you there.  If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to email me directly or the team at CollaborateLeadership@blackboard.com.

Thanks,

Maurice


Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

As more than 500 of you know, there has been a groundswell in the last 12 months about wanting to use virtual classroom technology for lecture capture.  This was never more evident than yesterday when I had half-a-thousand educators from schools of all shapes, sizes, and locations register to learn about how they can conduct lecture capture via Wimba

Though it has always been possible to archive live online classes, help sessions, or meetings held in virtual classrooms, the definition of ‘lecture capture’ means a few different things depending on who you ask.  I’ve found three pervasive definitions:

1) To capture activity in a face-to-face classroom
2) To capture activity in a live online classroom
3) To simultaneously capture activity in a face-to-face and live online classroom (with students attending the same class either in-person or live online)

For years, many schools have purchased separate software applications to satisfy definitions 1 and 2.  Most schools purchased a hardware-based system that allowed them to capture audio and video of instructors in a physical classroom, while the same schools also purchased a software-based system that allowed them to conduct real-time virtual classes – and subsequently archive them.  But now that pennies are tight as budgets get stretched, it seems that many schools are finding ways to utilize virtual classroom technology to satisfy all their capturing needs.

Most schools already have a bevy of microphones, speakerphones, and video cameras.  Now that Wimba Classroom inputs can accommodate countless a/v devices, schools are now figuring out that they can use their existing a/v equipment, hook it into Wimba Classroom, and suddenly be able to not only capture in-room classes, but can even pipe those classes live to online students and record all that activity as well.  Truly killing two birds with one software.

Though several schools (most notably California State University Chico) have been capturing face-to-face and live online classes for years, the majority of institutions worldwide are just starting to explore this now.  However, if the high volume of interest in yesterday’s lecture capture presentation is any indication, Chico State’s going to have a lot of company sooner than later.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

“Who is your main competitor?” an attendee asked my boss at the Training 2000 Conference.

“The airlines,” replied our CEO.

This was an actual exchange at the first trade show I ever attended as an employee of Wimba (well, then HorizonLive).  I thought our CEO’s response was a bit snarky and/or presumptuous and/or way too boastful, and I quickly dismissed his reply. 

So here I am, nearly 120 months to-the-day, and I just happened to recall this conversation.  You see, a few minutes ago I wrapped up a Wimba Distinguished Lecture Series presentation that featured Randy Wald of the North Dakota University System and Scott Swanson of North Dakota State University as they not only discussed their myriad uses of Wimba throughout the state, but also the savings they’ve derived.

It turns out that the North Dakota folks are saving time and money left-and-right by using Wimba for everything from instruction (from music composition to architecture) and help, to meetings (from Extension Services meetings to disaster preparation sessions) and other non-instructional uses (from candidate job interviews to virtual conferences) – all without asking its dispersed staff to drive to face-to-face meeting sites or to a few hardware-based video conferencing sites. 

For any of you who have made the 400-mile drive from Williston, ND to Fargo, ND – especially in the winter – you know it’s no picnic and that flying is definitely the preferred method of transportation.  Therefore, now that so much travel is being Wimba-ized, maybe our CEO in 2000 was right all along when he made that boastful statement.  Maybe we are competing against the travel industry in some form or another.  I just hope I don’t have to start doing competitive research and analysis against the airlines.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Hi Everyone,
I apologize in advance, but this posting will likely be quite brief as I only have about 14 free minutes to write this.  The reason why I’m so rushed?  Because we’re all swamped here at BbWorld 2010 in Orlando.  

Obviously the question that everyone here first asks me is, “So Matt, what do you think about the acquisition?"  But what’s most interesting about this question is the different backgrounds of those who ask it.  For instance, I’ve had several long-time Wimba customers ask me this question and it seems they ask it out of genuine curiosity and excitement because they’ve seen Wimba/HorizonLive/Horizon Wimba go through many iterations in the past.  I’ve had several customers former ANGEL – and now Blackboard Learn – customers ask me this question and it seems they ask it out of genuine excitement and curiosity because they saw ANGEL go through a similar process last year and were mostly pleased with how smoothly everything went.  And I’ve also had several customers show concern about the changes out of concern because we’ve developed such deep relationships and they want to ensure these relationships remain strong.  This has floored me!  Allow me to explain.

I’m not much of a hugger.  I prefer a handshake or a wave, but for some reason hugs just don’t sit well with me.  I’m not exactly sure why, but I’m just wired to stay away from physical contact.  So the fact that I’ve had countless customers in the last 24 hours run up to me and hug me and thank me – and the entire Wimba team – has been more gratifying than I can begin to explain in the remaining 6 minutes I have to finish this post.  I always suspected we made a meaningful impact on our customers, but never could a suspicion be more confirmed than this one has since I arrived.  Our customers have come out of the woodwork to show their support and to thank us for all the work and care we’ve demonstrated.  So for that, I can’t thank them enough.

However, I do want to add that what’s been even more gratifying is that I’ve seen a similar number of hugs happening at the Elluminate booth as well.  I had a hunch for a long time that Elluminate’s customers were just as happy and loyal as ours, and that hunch too has been confirmed.  I’ve seen Elluminate’s blue-clad staff receive hug and after hug after hug.

The reason I’m pointing out all of this hugging and complimenting – along with the positive comments we’ve heard from so many former ANGEL folks – is that the future keeps getting brighter and brighter.  Blackboard Learn President Ray Henderson and the rest of the Blackboard Collaborate transition team is going out of its way to ensure that this customer devotion remains priority #1 .  And for that, I want to hug Ray myself – and encourage all of our customers to do so too.  Watch out, Ray, hugs (well, handshakes in my case) are closer than they appear!

Friday, July 09, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Let me begin by catching my breath.  Phew.  What a week!  Definitely one for the record books.

As many of you know, even though I’ve always worked for Wimba here in New York, my heart is still in Cleveland where I was born-and-raised to be a die-hard Browns, Indians, and Cavs fan.  So when this week began, I was already anxious enough as I anticipated ‘The Decision’ by LeBron James.  My friends and coworkers and I exhausted countless hours speculating whether or not my beloved Cavaliers would take the floor this fall with or without its all-time greatest player.  I practically gave myself an ulcer thinking about it.

And then just as my anxiety was nearly at its apex, along came the news on Wednesday that Blackboard was acquiring both Wimba and Elluminate.  A double-whammy! 

I realize that many of you may be having a difficult time understanding how I could possibly compare the stress of being a sports fan to the stress of corporate changes, but I do so under the guise that these are dramatic changes to two of the most deep-seeded loves I possess.  I grew up a die-hard Cleveland fan and will stay with my teams through thick-and-thin, and similarly, I essentially grew up with Wimba and will stick with it through its future as well. 

I believe the basic values of loyalty and hard work are what make Cleveland sports fans so respected (even though we whine a lot, but can you blame us?) and I also believe those same values epitomize the character of Wimba.  Our team is undyingly loyal to our customers and we work our tails off to ensure they’re getting the best experience we can possibly give them.  Even though the name on the front of our Wimba jersey will soon change, the heart inside the jersey will not. 

Go Cavs!  Go Wimba!  Go Blackboard Collaborate!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

As many of you know, last month I celebrated my 10-year Wimba anniversary.  My dear colleague – and only other 10+-year veteran – Annie Chechitelli, organized a nice party for me last week at which a slew of current and past Wimbians celebrated my tenure at the company.  And as it naturally happens at any reunion, we all reminisced and told stories of the past decade and remarked about how much things have changed.  In fact, you can read a lot about my tenure at Wimba in my end-of-the-decade blog posting.

I’ve been here for the gamut; from HorizonLive and Horizon Wimba, to acquisitions of Silicon Chalk, Connected Learning, and Brownstone.  I was even here as we welcomed a new management team a little over a year ago.  So yes, I’ve always known that if there is one constant at Wimba, that that constant is change.  In fact, a lot of us who have been here for several years always enjoyed the fact that we’ve seen the company grow and grow and grow.  

Which brings us to today – our biggest change by far. 

As you’ve probably heard by now, not only has Blackboard acquired us, but it also acquired Elluminate so it can begin a new collaboration division which it will call Blackboard Collaborate.  Like many of you, I too have known numerous Blackboard and Elluminate staff for years, so I look forward to working with both of them in a vastly new, well, collaboration.  Here we go!

Thursday, May 20, 2010
Posted By mwasowski      Category

I’m going to keep this short-and-sweet, but the last 7 days have seen us on an awards roll.  Last week we heard that Janice Selekman, professor in the School of Nursing at the University of Delaware, has been named the School Nurse Educator of the Year by the National Association of School Nurses. She was honored at the spring meeting of the Delaware School Nurse Association (DNSA) in Dover on May 6.  She won primarily based on her unique use of Wimba.

But we also just heard that we won our 2nd-consecutive SIIA CODiE award!  We won for ‘Best Collaboration Solution’ by defeating hundreds of other entrants.  And then yesterday we found out that the Stevens Institute of Technology (in New Jersey) won the United States Distance Learning Association’s 2010 International Distance Learning award, again, primarily for its innovative use of Wimba!

If this keeps up, we’re going to have buy a new trophy case - a good problem to have!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

As January 1, 2010 quickly draws near, we’re inundated with countless recaps of the first decade of the second millennium  (A.D., of course).  Apparently Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was the best movie of the aughts, and I now know that, according to most pop-culture aficionados, reality TV marred the decade and has potentially ruined television as we know it.  Well, what you’re about to read has nothing to do with the large or small screens of the 2000’s, rather I’m here to share my own unique perspective on the aughts; my decade at Wimba.

As most readers of this blog know, I’m essentially a Wimba lifer, and therefore fall on the high end of the scale that measures how long employees typically stay at the same job.   I started at Wimba in June 2000 as the internet bubble had mostly deflated but hadn’t entirely burst.  Luckily for me, my previous employer went bubble-up soon enough that within three days of its demise I was able to find one of the few “dot-coms” that was in the black and that, more importantly, needed a savvy software marketer.  Thus, I landed here at Wimba.  Well, HorizonLive.

In terms of technology and/or Moore’s Law, a decade may as well be a century.  In June 2000 the idea of technology-enabled online learning had only been a handful of years old, and the dominant definition at the time mostly comprised of creating a webpage onto which an instructor of a face-to-face class could house his or her syllabus and perhaps a few study resources.  Companies like Blackboard, eCollege, and WebCT were on-par with companies like Prometheus and Mad Duck, and exhibit halls at education technology conferences were cluttered with myriad other fresh-faced start-ups all looking to secure a foothold in this potentially exhilarating market.   But HorizonLive had a different vision that then sat on the fringes.

HorizonLive knew that education thrives when interaction transpires.  Students interacting with classmates.  Classmates interacting with instructors.  Instructors interacting with administration.  Whomever does the interacting, it doesn’t much matter, as long as they’re engaged, enthusiastic, and human.  HorizonLive’s tagline was: Collaborate.  Interact.  Learn.  It was so simple yet so powerful.  After all, meaningful interaction leads to enhanced learning.  Truer words were never spoke – or tagline written.  HorizonLive knew that once a viable foundation for online instruction had been laid, that the human element would need to shine through in order for true success.  So when I first learned of this unique vision, it was love at first sight.

I spent the first half of the decade watching HorizonLive steadily grow, anxiously awaiting for schools across the globe to ready themselves for true, robust, more natural online learning.  Forward-looking early adopters such as CSU, Chico dipped their toes in the water and realized that an engaged community was a successful community.  I started the HorizonLive Desktop Lecture Series and, during the very second edition, found myself communicating with nearly 150 people from more than 40 countries, including Myanmar.  I hadn’t even heard of Myanmar!  The groundwork was clearly being laid. 

At one point in 2001, myself and a few co-workers shook nervously as one of the industry leaders, Carol Vallone, CEO of almighty WebCT, visited our offices because we were to originate a live webcast of her giving the keynote speech to her company’s Asia-Pacific users conference in Sydney.  As thunder cracked and lightning lit up the Empire State Building which was visible from the window behind her chair, we monitored the presentation, reveling in the fact that hundreds of Australians and New Zealanders were hearing and seeing Carol, just as we were, despite the fact that they were 10,000 miles away and that it was tomorrow for them.  It’s these memories that make me smile when I think of how far we’ve come.

But things weren’t always inspiring or smooth.  The most vivid memory I still have from my days here at Wimba is, like that of so many New Yorkers, my memory of September 11, 2001.  Our CEO’s balcony had a clear, unobstructed view of the World Trade Center, and on that clear, warm, late-summer day, my co-workers and I stood on that balcony and watched the second plane hit and the towers fall.  While some of my colleagues immediately headed for their homes by whatever means they could find, I remained in the office out of fear that something else could happen.  I remained holed-up for several hours until I headed outside for my eight-mile trek home to Brooklyn amid palpable fear, confusion, terror, and shock.  We closed our office the next day but returned back on Thursday the 13th to find each of us completely uncertain about our circumstances but absolutely certain about how thankful we were that many of us were physically ok.  And then, in true New York fashion, we got back to work.

Along the way for the next few years, as I occasionally distracted myself at work with crazy new things like Napster and Friendster, the ground swelled, and so did HorizonLive.   We merged with an innovative company based in the French Silicon Valley with a funny named that we liked, but since we liked our name too, we created a combined company called Horizon Wimba.  A name only a mother could love.  But apparently a growing technology company has many mothers, because so many of us indeed loved it.
 
As Horizon Wimba then grew by adding two additional tech firms under its umbrella, we watched more and more educators realize that collaboration is a necessary and critical element to a successful education - whether online or not.  We also watched more and more educators – along with millions of other regular folks – on a new-fangled website called YouTube and listened to the same people via ‘podcasts’ on iPods.  Ah, technology.
 
And we kept rolling along.  I traveled the globe pitching the good word of Horizon Wimba, along the way enduring an eight-week bout of poison ivy incurred at a conference in Georgia, and watched my toes swell to three times their size after stepping on a sea urchin while at a conference in the Virgin Islands.  The things I do for this company!

Horizon Wimba finally realized what was known all along – that its hideous name had to go.  Though at the time ‘Collaborate. Interact. Learn.’ had changed to ‘Reach Beyond the Classroom,’ we realized that technology doesn’t teach people, but rather, People Teach People.  And the rest as they say…is…well, Wimba.

Which brings me to today – 10 years later.  A once fledgling start-up, thanks to a sound vision, sounder technology, and scores of dedication, has become established.  Every day we help thousands of schools in nearly 50 countries inspire and reach their invaluable students.  Though our offices no longer have wires hanging from the ceilings, we still retain the same start-up mentality of never settling and always hustling (and we still, of course, have Annie Chechitelli around too..ha!).  We know the last decade has witnessed tremendous innovation no one thought possible in December 1999, so we’re trying as hard as we can to ensure that we’re still innovating 10 years from now.  I can’t wait to sit at my desk (or spaceship?) in December 2019 to recall my memories of the 2010’s. 

When we hire new staff, I often make a point of telling them that at Wimba they can make a meaningful contribution to people’s lives – that they’re contributing to the greater good.  I hope this makes them excited to work for Wimba and proud to tell their friends and family what they do.  It certainly does for me.  After all, learning, education, life; they’re all about relationships and making relationships work in a meaningful and productive way.  And it’s relationships (people not just teaching people, but helping, learning from, nurturing, laughing, and loving) that highlight my decade at Wimba.  While there are too many folks to call out by name – between my current and past colleagues, our thousands of customers, and the innumerable educators with whom I’ve interacted both online and face-to-face – I’ve been lucky enough to get to know so many people who care so much about advancing the lives of others.  And in turn, they’ve advanced mine in more ways that I could ever begin to describe.

Happy aughts, everyone.  Happy aughts, Wimba!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Yesterday I received an email inquiry from a graduate student enrolled in the Masters in Bioethics and Health Policy program through Loyola University in Chicago.  However, unlike most email inquiries I receive, this one had nothing to do with asking how to effectively use Wimba Classroom or what kind of headset we recommend.  Nope.  This one asked the simple question, “What does ‘Wimba’ stand for?”

Ah yes,  a question for the ages.

When I worked at HorizonLive in the first half of this decade, I was quite familiar with Wimba, which at that same time was exclusively selling what we now refer to as Wimba Voice.  I too wondered what this funny sounding word meant, and immediately Googled the term and first found a listing for the Wisconsin Mortgage Brokers Association.  That surely wasn’t correct.  As I next found the real Wimba website, I scoured its pages only to come up empty in my quest to find the meaning of the word.  But fortunately, a few months later HorizonLive and Wimba joined forces and I had instant access to those who knew the meaning of ‘Wimba.’  They happily passed it along to me, but I, like my new colleagues had done for many years, vowed to keep the meaning of Wimba close to my vest.

So, before you all get too excited and think I’m about to reveal the true meaning, I’m going to tease you a bit.  I’m curious to see if anyone out there knows the meaning of ‘Wimba.’  I’m accepting all ideas.  And for the record, unlike that grad student’s classmate thought, ‘Wimba’ is NOT a small town in Victoria, Australia that was a station on a narrow gauge railroad for transporting timber.

Any ideas?


Matt

Thursday, July 30, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

I want to solute Paul Lowe of University of the Arts London.  He has put together open-i, a unique network of photographers and artists across the world.  Paul has been using Wimba Classroom for a couple of years and just held his first online session for open-i which brought 25% of his network together.  In Paul’s words, “Our first webinar for the new photojournalism network, OPEN-i, was a great success, we had over 50 participants from all over the world, with a mix of industry big names, students, alumni and other academics in a 90 min session.  That’s about 25% of the current membership of the network, which i think is a fantastic responses rate everyone was very impressed with Wimba, and there was a fantastic back channel debate going on in the text box, which people picked up immediately.”

Paul’s network is truly worldwide, with members from every continent except Antarctica.  What a great way to bring the global artistic community together! 

Friday, May 08, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Of all the initiatives that the new administration in Washington DC has put forward the last few months, one that is being considered today just caught my eye.  The AP reported that President Obama has asked states to stop the practice of ending unemployment benefits if a person goes back to school.  I personally think this is a necessary idea.  Like so many of us, I too have been on unemployment and both times I considered going back to school - and both times realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford to if my unemployment benefits were simultaneously discontinued.  After all, education doesn’t come cheap, especially for someone who’s out of work and making at most $405/week.  Personally speaking, I hope this initiative gets the job.

 

 

Thursday, May 07, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

So my colleague Kathleen Matthews safely made it to New York this morning after a day-long celebration in San Francisco for our CODiE award victory.  Despite her plane being delayed 3 hours, she was still in good spirits when she showed up in our office a few hours ago just in time to send me these two pictures she took from the ceremony Tuesday night.  Being named ‘Best Education Solution’ is something of which we’re all extremely proud - and now we’ve got some nifty hardware to show off!  Enjoy the two pics.

Matt

Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

I was pleasantly awoken last night at 1:16am by Kathleen Matthews, our Director of Marketing Communications, who texted me the following message from the black-tie SIIA CODiE awards ceremony in San Francisco:

We won! Best Education Solution! (& last category of the entire awards ceremony).

Woohooo!  In the software industry, the CODiEs are the equivalent to the Oscars, Grammys, Emmys, or the Super Bowl, so we couldn’t be more ecstatic.  As a company that constantly prides itself on being 100% laser-focused on education, we’re certainly happy to have some affirmation.  So…

I’d first like to thank the eight CODiE judges who patiently sat through numerous demos of the entire Wimba Collaboration Suite.  They had to learn about Wimba Classroom, Wimba Create, Wimba Pronto, and Wimba Voice in a relatively short amount of time...but apparently they were blown away! 

Second, since I work with our customers every day, I’d like to thank all of our loyal and supportive users who have worked so closely with us for nearly a decade.  They’ve watched us grow and mature and have collectively become the most innovative institutions in the world when it comes to cutting-edge distance education.  Without our customers, we’d be nothing.   You’re the ones who find new and exciting ways every day to use the Wimba Collaboration Suite to increase engagement, improve outcomes, decrease costs, and increase revenue and retention rates. 

And finally, I want to thank our Engineering, Quality Assurance, and Product Development teams who actually make the countless components of the Wimba Collaboration Suite.  While our Marketing, Sales, Services/Support, and even Finance departments are the more visible departments of our company, our developers, testers, and product designers comprise the oft faceless engine of the company that keep things churning.  Without their unrivaled knowledge and dogged determination I wouldn’t be blogging about our CODiE victory today.  These guys don’t get enough recognition and their heads are usually too buried in millions of lines of code to look up.  So congrats, all...savor this one...it doesn’t get any better than this!

And to Carol Vallone and Barb Ross, our new acting CEO and COO, respectively,...looks like you’ve stepped into a great place! 

Now we patiently await for Kathleen to send us pictures from the ceremony (I promise I’ll post them soon...)

Woohoo!!!
Matt

Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Earlier today a colleague of mine sent out an email about preparing institutions in the event of a major swine flu outbreak.  This got us - and our customers - about what measures are already in place in case disaster strikes.  And I’m pleased that many schools have already thought ahead, and that they’re including  us as part of their plan.  From Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, disaster plans have been discussed and hatched thanks to being able to meet live online with Wimba Classroom and Wimba Pronto.  In fact, Chuck Wright of the University of Utah just made this great YouTube clip about the University of Utah could carry on if it had to close its campus

http://www.wimba.com/assets/images/Utah_YouTube.gif
Friday, May 01, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Earlier today, the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) just released its
2009 research report, Leadership for Web 2.0 in Education: Promise & Reality.  This report takes a thorough look at how Web 2.0 technologies influence and shape all facets of today’s K-12 schools.  And of course, several elements resonated with me, particularly with how they relate to Wimba.

First, CoSN reports that nearly three-quarters of respondents (superintendents and curriculum directors) said that Web 2.0 technologies had been a positive or highly positive force in student’s communication skills and the quality of their schoolwork.  Over 50% of those same administrators believe that Web 2.0 has had a positive impact on students’ interest in school, interests outside of school, self-direction in learning, sense of community and culture, peer relationships, relationships with parents and family, and homework habits. 

As a result, respondents feel that Web 2.0 tools help:
1.    Keep students interested and engaged in school
2.    Meet the needs of different kinds of learners
3.    Develop critical thinking skills
4.    Develop capabilities in students that can’t be acquired through traditional methods
5.    Provide alternative learning environments for students
6.    Extend learning beyond the school day
7.    Prepare students to be lifelong learners

Also, supporting the fact that Wimba Pronto is populated by and links to directly to a school’s existing course management system, over 60% of district administrators polled in the report believe that the use of Web 2.0 tools “should be limited to approved educational sites.”

Therefore, I couldn’t help but love how all of these findings support the rationale for adopting Wimba Pronto and the rest of the Wimba Collaboration Suite at K-12 schools.   The Suite is most comprehensive source of Web 2.0 and additional educational collaboration tools that help students learn in different ways.  Some students are visual learners, other are audible learners, and while some learn better in formal online settings, others need more informal instructional methods.  The Suite covers it all - and CoSN’s report definitely agrees.

Thursday, April 30, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Yesterday, Hollyanna White of Chattanooga State University and Kathrine Bailey of Austin Peay State University (TN) presented as part of our new ‘Brown Bag’ subset of the Wimba Distinguished Lecture Series.  While they both detailed how their respective institutions utilize the Wimba Collaboration Suite, what I thought was particularly remarkable was the sheer number of non-instructional uses of Wimba they’ve both found.  In addition to offering courses via Wimba, they’ve both truly considered the entire institution when planning on how to maximize online collaboration technology.  For example, Austin Peay alone uses Wimba for:


  • Virtual Academic Support
  • Faculty Training
  • Presidential Listening Meetings
  • Corporate Meetings
  • Depositions
  • Guest Speakers

So as you look for ideas about how to expand your usage, definitely look to the examples set by Chattanooga State and Austin Peay - think big!  The breadth of Wimba Collaboration Suite is far-reaching, so start reaching far!
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

In the latest online version of T.H.E. Journal, writer Dave Nagel explores a speech given at the FETC Virtual Conference & Expo by Steven L. Paine, state superintendent of schools for West Virginia.  According to Nagel, Paine noted that 21st-century learning is not an option; it’s a necessity for students who must go out and compete on a global level. “Students deserve it. The world demands it," Paine told the virtual audience, and to make it happen, he said that changes need to be made in the way K-12 institutions assess students and in the way teachers are developed. 

I thought this was particularly rousing for two reasons.  First, the fact that Paine was critical of himself and his own team in West Virginia was quite admirable.  As we know, change can only truly occur when one honestly assesses oneself.  It certainly appears that Paine has done just that and is now on the way to making necessary adjustments.   Second, the fact that Paine recognizes the imperative role that technology now plays was quite appealing.  While it’s easy to declare that technology is important, to have a specific understanding of why it’s important and what role it can play is the true test.  But I’m happy to report that West Virginia Virtual School is one of the leading technologically-based schools in the country, and even world-renowned West Virginia University utilizes Wimba not only for only classes, but even for recruiting students from all over the world as Rick Bebout explained last week during the Wimba Distinguished Lecture Series.

So my hat’s off to the folks thoughout West Virginia.  A little honesty and a critical look in the mirror can make quite a difference!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

A few days ago my long-time friend and colleague here at Wimba, Mark Bevenour, met with a large group of educators in the Baltimore-Washington DC area on the campus of University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).  He gathered several UMBC faculty, IT staffers, and instructional technologists for two hours to have open discussions about best practices of online collaborative learning - and it was all recorded and posted on YouTube.  All 2+ hours of best practices and real-life examples of using collaborative technology can be viewed here on YouTube.   Thank you so much, UMBC!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

For the many of us who live up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States, we’re still busy shoveling out our cars and slogging our way through a foot of snow on the way to work and school while enduirng sub-freezing temperatures.  Yep, it’s been of those weeks ever since we got nailed by a huge snowstorm Sunday and Monday.  So while I sit here in my home office (ok, my living room) waiting for my landlord to come and check my radiators - as I write this I’m literally wearing a hooded jacket and a blanket - I stumbled upon a wonderful blog posting about some folks in South Carolina who used Wimba because they couldn’t make it to a conference due to inclement weather.  Even though so many of us now take web conferencing via Wimba Classroom for granted, we tend to forget its true breadth.  While many predominantly use Wimba Classroom to hold live online classes, office hours, or meetings, a few of the presenters at the  The Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education Conference beamed out their presentation so others not at the actual conference could attend virtually.  Great thinking!

Ok, now where is my landlord?...If only Wimba could also be used to heat a New York apartment!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

I’m happy to announce that the Wimba Collaboration Suite has been named a finalist for the SIAA CODiE Awards in the category of Best Education Solution - Best Collaboration Solution.  We always like to crow about such good news!  According to SIIA President Ken Wasch, “The competition is particularly steep this year during the 24th Annual SIIA CODiE Awards, making selection as a CODiE Finalist a real achievement.” Wasch further added that “All the companies on this year’s list of CODiE Finalists should feel justifiably proud of their accomplishment in making it to this stage, and have much excitement to look forward to regarding the upcoming CODiE Awards voting!”

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Wow, I think this may be only my second or third posting in 2009.  But I have an excuse, and the title of this posting explains it all.  The bottom line is that we’ve been heads-down here at Wimba since the start of the new year, as all departments are cranking out numerous projects. 

For example, our Marketing team here at Wimba has been busy prepping for Wimba Connect 2009, sending out numerous newsletters, and organizing/leading numerous regional webinars and Distinguished Lecture Series presentations.  Our Engineering and Product teams are working their tails off getting new products ready, and our Services folks have been cris-crossing the globe in order to train and implement the Wimba Collaboration Suite at K-12, further education, and higher education institutions worldwide.  Phew! 

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Over the last few weeks we’ve been inundated with best-of-2008 lists as well as with what’s-ahead-in-2009 lists.  Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so I just want to quickly point out an interesting tidbit from Inside Higher Ed’s list of 2009 predictions.  Among other prophecies, the writer, Lev Gonick of Case Western Reserve University, believes that video conferencing and web conferencing will play an important role inside the classroom this year.  What better way to connect students and faculty while reducing one’s carbon footprint, saving travel time and gas, and increasing enrollment and retention rates?  I agree with Lev 100%!  You can obviously learn more about online video conferencing via Wimba Classroom here.  Here’s an excerpt from Inside Higher Ed: Smile, Interactive High Definition Video Conferencing moves from the Board Room to the Research Lab and the Lecture Hall Facing budget pressures and public pressure to go green, corporations around the world are investing in next generation video conferencing. Moving operating dollars into infrastructure investments in this collaboration platform technology has led to significant reductions in travel costs, better space utilization, and a growing conscientiousness about carbon footprints. As businesses continue to look for capabilities to support global operations, video conferencing has become a daily part of many companies. The logic facing corporations now confront the university community. Over the past 18 months some public universities have been mandated to reduce their carbon footprints. Most everyone else is facing growing operating pressures pinching travel and other budget lines. New students care about pro-active green initiatives as part of their university experience. Over the next 12 months look for double digit growth in campus adoption of next generation video conferencing tools, including integrated collaboration technologies.

Thursday, December 18, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

I once again want to thank Cory Stokes of the Utah Education Network, Diane Stonebrink of Estrella Mountain College (AZ), and Peter Lafford of Arizona State, each of whom gave wonderful accounts of their creative usage of Wimba during a presentation on Tuesday.

Diane talked about ESL instruction via Wimba Voice, Peter discussed language learning via Wimba Voice and even led the audience in a rousing rendition of the ASU fight song (he’s like a songbird), and Cory recounted the numerous ways that 15 colleges and 40 K-12 school districts in Utah use Wimba Classroom for everything from live classes to online meetings.  Cory perhaps made the most powerful statement of the 45-minute presentation when he mentioned how several autistic students better interact with their teachers now.

And on the non-instructional side of things, he told how the Blanding campus of the College of Eastern Utah - in very rural southeastern Utah - is saving a great deal of money because it no longer needs to have its staff drive 4-to-5 hours to get to meetings in Salt Lake City (which, of course, entails a 4-to-5 hour trip back and often an overnight stay).  He says that the savings Wimba has brought to that small branch campus has made Wimba a very compelling service to everyone throughout the state.  “The cost of a [Wimba] license saves the state more money than the cost of the license itself.”

Friday, December 12, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

I noticed that several of my recent blog postings have focused on our customers near our New York and Cambridge (UK) offices, so I don’t want our Western customers to feel left out.  In fact, there’s some remarkable stuff happening in the mountain states that everyone should know about.  On Tuesday, three of the leading instructional minds out West will co-present as part of the Wimba Distinguished Lecture Series as they give details about how their schools have been doing extremely creative things with Wimba.  Cory Stokes of the Utah Education Network will reveal how his team implemented Wimba at 15 higher education institutions and 40 school districts throughout Utah, Peter Lafford of Arizona State will discuss how he’s long used Wimba Voice for online language instruction, and Diane Stonebrink of the Estrella Mountain College will discuss English-As-A-Second Language (ESL) instruction via Wimba Voice.  The three of them are definitely some of the West’s heaviest hitters.  And this presentation will be even more exciting because Diane and Peter will both give longer presentations at Wimba Connect 2009 in April in Scottsdale - so this promises to whet your appetites.  Have a great weekend, everyone! Matt

Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

If you’re a K-12 teacher, student, or parent and have opinions about technology can shape learning over the next decade, then Speak Up!  You have 17 more days until Speak Up, an annual national research project and survey facilitated by Project Tomorrow, will be available. 

The purpose of the Speak Up project is to:
-Collect and report the unfiltered feedback from students, parents and teachers on key educational issues.
-Use the data to stimulate local conversations. 
-Raise national awareness about the importance of including the viewpoints of students, parents, and teachers in the education dialogue.

So please, Speak Up now!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

If you’re reading this entry, then you’ve obviously figured out that after five years we have a shiny new website here at Wimba!  Needless to say, we’re all quite ecstatic.  This new site is more clearly organized than its predecessor, is better laid-out and more visually appealing, and even features our brand new Wimba Connect Users Group, a replacement of HUG.  In fact, to encourage folks to join our new community group, we’re giving away an all-expense paid trip to Wimba Connect 2009, so you should definitely sign up now

Most importantly, this new website reflects tremendous teamwork here at Wimba.  Our website team worked across all departments and offices to ensure this new site would nicely reflect the diverse needs of our company, customers, and the entire education community.  It also reflects a significant milestone, as the last time we had a new website was back in 2003 when our company was quite different than it is today. 

So sit back, click around, and enjoy all the new resources we have to offer - and who knows, doing so just might land you in Scottsdale in April!


We even made a cake for our newborn site:

image
Friday, November 21, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Our closing keynote speaker for Wimba Connect 2009, Mike Wesch, was just named as one of the four “2008 U.S. Professors of the Year” by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching.  Wesch and his three fellow award recipients will be honored in Washington, D.C. today, as they were selected from a pool of nearly 300 professors from across the country.  Read the article in Inside Higher Ed.  I just want to take this time congratulate Mike and his fellow winners (Wei Chen, a professor of biomedical engineering a the University of Central Oklahoma; Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell, an associate professor of psychology at Lewis & Clark College; and Eugenia Paulus, a professor of chemistry at North Hennepin Community College).  Great job and keep inspiring!  ...and keep making those cool YouTube videos too.

Monday, November 17, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Last Friday I was fortunate to have the opportunity to give a webinar as part of the United State Distance Learning Association’s (USDLA) Distance Learning Week.  I spoke about using collaboration software to save - to save time, money, retention rates, and even the planet.  I’m always amazed at the numerous ways educators throughout the world are helping save valuable resources by creatively using new technologies.  Click here if you want to view the archive of my presentation.  Reggie Smith of the USLDA was instrumental in this process - as was my colleague James Rutkowski - so I want to thank them both for their help.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Owls at EDUCAUSE 2008?!? Last week represented my 10th EDUCAUSE Conference, and as they rarely say, the 10th time is a charm.  Or in this case, was charming.  Despite the cool weather in Orlando, the conference heated up Tuesday evening at our customer reception at Margaritaville on Universal City Walk where we got to mingle for hours with numerous customers who have meant so much to us over the years.  And though we had a few breakfast presentations at very early hours, we were pleasantly surprised by how many folks dragged themselves out of bed to learn about our upcoming product development plans.  Thank you, you early risers!  In case anyone missed us while they were there, I at least hope they caught a glimpse - or a hug - of our Wimba Pronto mascot.  Watch a video of Yarly dancing at EDUCAUSE 2008 and read a great blog posting by a librarian who snapped a picture of her with our owl.  Hooray for the land of amusement parks and giant fuzzy animals!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category Pronto

We can safely say that Wall Street is a bit roller coaster-like right now.  After losing more than 1,300 points last week it rebounded for a record day yesterday (though it still didn’t get up to where it was last Tuesday afternoon).  And while we’re all hoping yesterday’s surge is indicative of good things to come, we one know thing for sure - we don’t know for sure what to expect.  Therefore, if you’re concerned about cutting a few costs, take a page from from the folks putting on the Illinois School Library Media Association fall conference.  They’ll be streaming several conference sessions via Wimba Classroom in the event that would-be attendees can’t scrounge up funding to get to the event.  Just another wise way of making its material more accessible and cost effective.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Earlier this year we gleefully announced that Dr. Cris Guenter of Califronia State University, Chico won the National Arts Educator of the Year award for her work with Wimba, and that Dr. Sam Slike and Pam Berman of Bloomsburg University won a distance learning award by the United State Distance Learning Association for their accessible classes with Wimba.  Now the list has grown.

Today we celebrate the achievements of the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) for its award-winning French Language Simulation Program. This innovative online course was recently awarded the European Award for Languages.

The course, titled “The Creation and Everyday running of a French SME [small-to-medium enterprise]—a French Language Simulation,” aims to promote language skills through a ‘learning by doing’ approach. Participants gain real-life skills in technology, communications and leadership, all while learning French. Wimba Voice(TM), our web-based application for vocal instruction, collaboration, coaching and assessment is central to the learning experience.

Congrats to the innovative folks at DIT!  Tres bien!

Here are pictures of Michèle Boisbourdin and her colleagues receiving the award!

Thursday, October 02, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Over the years I’ve heard serveral theories regarding the optimal length of a live online class.  Some believe it’s 5-minutes while others think half-a-day, so needless to say there is no one truth out there.  This brings me to an interesting blog posting by Paul Lowe, a photography lecturer at the London College of Communication.  He explores this notion of ideal length and concludes that 2-3 hours is optimal for his online classes for grad students, as he says it’s easier for them to schedule one long block of time per week than multiple shorter sessions.  Let the debate continue....

Monday, September 29, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Our announcement of wind-powered Pronto has garnered attention throughout the world, and even royalty has noticed as well..well, kind of royalty.  The E-Learning Queen, one of the education industry’s leading bloggers, wrote this piece about using wind power to propel Wimba Pronto. 

Also, the Physics folks at the University of Western Ontario were lauded for their use of Wimba Classroom for holding live online tutorial sessions.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

I’m pleased to let you know that we took our first step toward creating a new blog here at Wimba...a blog will allow me to grant guest authoring privileges to the education community.  Though I might be a bit selective at first as we get up to speed, I look forward to reading the musings of educators worldwide.  More to come soon....
Matt

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

It’s day #3 of our Wimba Pronto roadshow during which my colleague Kathleen Matthews and I are traveling to numerous Ivy Tech Community College campuses all throughout Indiana.  After meeting numerous IT folks, librarians, instructors and students in Bloomington and Terre Haute earlier this week, today found us at Ivy Tech’s Meridian campus in Indianapolis...and it also found us speaking to its local ABC news affiliate!  Our work at Ivy Tech prompted us to be the lead story on ABC 6’s afternoon and evening news, as the reporter told how Wimba Pronto is connecting students, faculty, and staff at an instant.  And of course, she also mentioned that Wimba Pronto is now eco-friendly, gone green as it’s now powered by wind power!  Watch the 2-minute ABC news clip here! From the road.... Matt

Thursday, September 11, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Wow!  Who would have guessed that the blogosphere - and even The Chronicle of Higher Education - would be buzzing over our 48-hour-old announcement that Wimba Pronto is now powered by wind?  Our wind-powered announcement has been picked up in blogs as varied as Arizonalog and Contexts Magazine, though they’re a bit more excited that professors can stay in touch with students at all hours.  I just want to thank everyone for all the wonderful feedback we’ve already received...we truly appreciate it!

Matt

Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

We just gave Pronto a new twist ... twisting in the wind.  Earlier this morning we announced that Wimba Pronto™, our instant messaging platform designed exclusively for education, is now powered by wind energy.  In our latest approach to going green, we purchased renewable energy credits from eGreen certified Community Energy to subsidize the electricity consumption of the servers, routers, and other IT infrastructure that power Wimba Pronto. With Wimba Pronto already running at hundreds of academic institutions worldwide including Grand Rapids Community College, Ivy Tech Community College, University of Missouri–St. Louis, and all 11 public universities in the North Dakota University System, we’re excited that we’ve now given these schools yet another means of communicating in an informal, and now environmentally conscious, manner.

Beyond Pronto, hundreds of colleges and universities around the world reduce carbon emissions by using Wimba for their distance education programs, often reducing the need for students to travel to campus. In addition, students and faculty are able to save valuable travel time and gas money.  This has been seen at schools as varied as the University of Georgia (where by teaching 35 sessions online using Wimba it saved 2,328 gallons of gas and reduced carbon emissions by 5.7 tons in one semester), Midland Lutheran College in Nebraska (which launched an online program using Wimba Classroom to provide greater access to education for students who may not be able to afford today’s gas prices to travel to and from campus), and San Diego State University (where Psychology professor Mark Laumakis estimates that students in his Psych 101 course save in total $234 per class in gas costs by using Wimba for online learning).

And if you’re ever near the eastern border of Oregon and Washington like I was last week while on vacation, be sure to take a gander at the hundreds of windmills that line the mesa along the Columbia River...seeing so many windmills rising out of the rolling hills is quite a sight!  Enjoy new Wimba Pronto!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

Like anyone, we enjoy seeing our name in the news.  Therefore I was particularly gratified when the second part of Florence Kizza’s piece about Wimba Pronto at Our Lady of the Lake University (San Antonio) came out today in the Greentree Gazette.  Kizza’s article nicely conveys the role that dedicated instructors and IT professionals play at their schools every day to ensure student success.  Our hats go off to the entire team at Our Lady of the Lake!

Also, yesterday we were featured in an episode of Rod’s Pulse Podcast.  The host, Rodney Murray, Ph.D., Thomas Jefferson University, has been conducting these podcasts for several years and we were happy that he took some time to interview us while we were at the BbWorld Conference last month in Las Vegas. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Posted By mwasowski      Category

This is inherently a difficult situation to address, so I’ll try to handle it as carefully as possible.  Last month, Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) in San Antonio, TX fell victim to a devastating fire which took out much of its technology infrastructure.  As a result, it’s been using our new Wimba Pronto ever since for much of its on-campus communication.  Obviously we don’t want to harp on this, but the good folks at OLLU have allowed us to tell their story, and earlier today The Chronicle of Higher Education wrote about it.  Additionally, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) was featured today in an article by Campus Technology Magazine about how it’s utilizing Wimba to conduct virtual disaster preparedness meetings among its 14 universities.  Obviously these are tough things to think about and prepare for.  While we certainly hope our customers and colleagues don’t have the same misfortune as OLLU, we do hope they have OLLU’s same relentless spirit!