15th Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference

students as partnersThe 15th Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference will take place on Tuesday the 6th and Wednesday the 7th of January 2015.

There will also be some “free” optional pre-conference workshops and user group sessions on Monday the 5th of January 2015 – See this Section for details.  Make sure you save the dates.

The conference will be held in the Calman Learning Centre at Durham University and at Durham Castle for our hospitality evening.

Please note that the conference closes at approx 4.00 pm on the Wednesday evening!  There will be a free bus to the Railway Station.

This is the confirmed full Conference Programme: 2015 Conference Booklet – FINAL

Conference Theme – Students as Partners

This year’s conference theme picks up an issue being discussed across campuses this year. We first looked at the student learning experience at #durbbu in 2005 when the conference title was “In front of the Blackboard: the learner’s experience“. We feel there have been significant developments that merit us re-visiting this topic, and doing so from a slightly different angle. It’s also something that members of the Learning Technologies Team here at Durham have been exploring, with a recent “Student-Led” project providing some very candid and perceptive feedback on the local e-learning experience. We know that others have been active in this area too, a good example of this is the report Engagement through partnership: students as partners in learning and teaching in higher education that Mick Healey, Abbi Flint and Kathy Harrington have just published via the HEA.

We feel this is a very timely topic, which offers a challenge to our assumptions, practices and beliefs about learning and teaching. Many of the people involved in delivering and enabling online education are trying to create an educational experience that is very different from the one they experienced themselves as undergraduates. Are our own experiences still valid reference points? Does embracing the concept of partnership mean we need to reconceptualise what it is to be a student, and/or a teacher? This view is not universally accepted –  what are the consequences of rejecting or ignoring this challenge?

Taking the conference theme to heart, we’re changing the format of the conference slightly this year based on our own experiences when presenting the findings of the Student-Led project together with students. We will be adding a strand for papers co-authored with students and we hope that students will be involved in the presentation too. We plan to offer funded places for a limited number of presenters who are current students at your institution – more details will be available shortly, but we hope this encourages you to get planning now!

A second change is partnering with students as consumers of and commentators upon the conference activities. We are in the process of inviting some Journalism students to attend the conference from a local University in order to blog about the sessions during the conference – let’s hope we can find some willing volunteers!

We are very excited about these changes and hope that number fifteen will be even more inclusive, energetic, insightful and engaging than those before. To make that happen we’ll need your support – as presenters, reviewers and delegates.


We have two invited Keynotes during the conference (one on each day) – plus a Blackboard keynote on the last day.


Abbi Flint

We are pleased to announce that Abbi Flint, Academic Practice Consultant at the Higher Education Academy will be our opening Keynote on the first day – Tuesday, 6th January 2015.

Dr Abbi Flint is a Consultant in Academic Practice at the Higher Education Academy. Abbi has 11 years’ experience of educational development and pedagogic research at both the institutional and national level. Abbi’s current role concerns student engagement and partnership in their learning experiences, curriculum design and quality enhancement. She is an active qualitative researcher and a Visiting Research Fellow in Student Engagement at Birmingham City University. She regularly presents at UK and international conferences and has published on a range of topics including: student engagement in quality enhancement, student surveys, and cultural change in HE.



Doug Belshaw

Doug Belshaw

We are also pleased to announce that Doug Belshaw has accepted one of our keynote invitations which will be delivered on Wednesday, 7th January 2015.

Doug is the Web Literacy Lead for the Mozilla Foundation, an ex teacher living in the NE of England. He was heavily involved in making Open Badges a reality. Enthusiastic about all things related to education, technology and productivity. Regular speaker and contributor at educational technology conferences and workshops across the globe.

He is responsible for a range of cleverly titled websites including:

Open Educational Thinkering | Literaci.es | Thought Shrapnel

Author of the book Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, which builds on his Ed D thesis (Durham). Normally a prolific digital sharer of his thoughts, for the last few years he has undertaken a digital hiatus over winter – the self styled “Belshaw Black Ops”.

He tweets as @dajbelshaw


Alan Masson - Blackboard

Alan Masson

Our final Keynote is Alan Masson, Head of International Customer Success at Blackboard.  Dr Masson leads a team of functional experts that support the realization of institutional strategic benefits through the adoption of Blackboard solutions. Previous to this role, he spent 10 years at the University of Ulster leading the development and delivery of e-learning and support services to enhance the teaching and learning experience.

While at the University of Ulster, Dr Masson led a number of large-scale, UK nationally funded education enhancement projects. These projects focused on a range of educational enhancement themes including curriculum innovation, assessment and feedback, digital literacy, learning design and the integration of library and VLE services. He has extensive experience of delivering curriculum innovation and assessment & feedback enhancement workshops at a number of UK Universities and has acted as a critical friend to the Quality Assurance Authority (QAA).


Panel Discussion

We will be following Abbi’s keynote with a panel discussion, involving a range of staff and students. Some of these documents may come up in the discussion, so we have added links here:

About the Conference

This is a conference organised by the user community, for the user community. Whilst we welcome the involvement and support of Blackboard and other commercial companies, they have no influence on the conference theme, the programme or the content. Delegates are free to offer constructive praise or criticism of any product as they see fit.

This long-standing e-Learning event regularly attracts over 140 delegates – a few years ago we had to move to bigger premises because we had exceeded the old venue’s capacity! The audience is a mix of repeat attendees and first time visitors: learning technologists, librarians, academics, administrators and even the odd manager. It is a great networking opportunity at a low price.

Hospitality Evening

On Tuesday, 6th January 2015 we will be hosting a Drinks Reception and Conference dinner in the Great Hall at Durham Castle.

6.00 pm – The Undercroft Bar in Durham Castle will be open

6.45 pm – There will be a Castle Tour on offer at a cost of £3.50 (tickets to be bought in advance from the Conference Registration Desk)

7.30 pm – Drinks Reception – Senate Room accessed through the Tunstall Gallery

8.15 pm – Dinner commences in the Great Hall

10.00 pm – Dinner finishes but The Undercroft Bar remains open until midnight!

The dinner options will be:

Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato Soup with Toasted Seeds
with Fresh Bread Roll and Butter (v)

Oven Roasted Breast of Chicken with Pan Haggarty,
Chorizo Croquette, Charred Baby Leeks and Madeira Sauce
Mediterranean Vegetable Wellington
with Sautéed Fine Beans, Roasted Shallots and a
Tomato and Truffle Butter Sauce (v)

Trio of Desserts: Mango Cheesecake, Pina Colada Parfait and
Passion Fruit and Orange Sorbet (v)

There will be a choice of Red or White Wine on the table along with Iced Water and Fresh Orange Juice

If there are any dietary requirements with the regards to the above – please let us know on the registration form or alternatively please give Julie Mulvey a call on 0191 334 2781 or email Julie.mulvey@durham.ac.uk to ensure that we can meet your needs.


Our thanks go out to Durham University and to Blackboard Inc for making this conference possible

Durham University

Durham University

Blackboard Inc


and also to our 2015 sponsors who help to keep Registration costs so low!









 Eesysoft logo





If you are interested in being a sponsor for our upcoming conference please drop an email to julie.mulvey@durham.ac.uk

Additional Information

Our Social Media Twitter Hashtag is #durbbu

For information how to set up your laptops/mobile devices please click on the following link: Link to Internet Connection page

Please note that Durham University has signed up to eduroam which you can use at the conference.  Delegates will also be given a temporary Conference ID when you arrive.

Here is a link to a map of Durham University

Check out our FAQ pages. If they don’t provide an answer then contact us by emailing julie.mulvey@durham.ac.uk or calling Julie Mulvey on 0191 334 2781.