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!