13th Durham BB Users Conference

The 13th Durham Blackboard Users Conference took place on Tuesday & Wednesday, 8th & 9th January 2013  located again in the Calman Learning Centre at Durham University and in Durham Castle.  Optional workshops were offered on Monday, 7th January 2013.

Theme: Make Do Or Sp£nd?

Make do or Spend? In a time of tightening budgets and with the greater scrutiny from students paying large fees, university and college online learning systems are coming under increased internal and external scrutiny.

Institutional responses vary. Some are looking to migrate to other systems with a lower up front cost. Others are re-prioritising developments in response to student demand (e.g. for mobile access). Some are still waiting to see how things pan out. We hope they all are remembering the learning and teaching aspects too! At this year’s Annual Durham Blackboard Users’ Conference we encourage presentations, panel discussions and workshops on any topic that relates to this theme. We’d love to hear your stories about how institutions choose to respond – to “make do or spend”. Remember that the spend may be in staff time, rather than hard cash and we welcome stories of responses at any scale.

Our full Conference Programme can be found HERE in PDF format.


This year we are once again lucky enough to have two keynote presentations.

Allison Littlejohn

Professor Allison Littlejohn will deliver the keynote presentation on day one: ‘The learning ecology: why the promise of an economy of scale has not been achieved‘.

Allison is Director of the Caledonian Academy, a research centre exploring technology enhanced professional learning in the public and private sectors, and is Chair of Learning Technology at Glasgow Caledonian University, UK. Her area of specialism is technology enhanced professional learning. Within this field, her research interests are focused on four broad areas Professional learning, exploring how expertise development can be supported and enhanced by information and communication technologies, including social media. A unique aspect of this research is exploration of learning at the intersection of the individual and the collective. Sustainable learning, analysing tensions between cost-efficiency, effective pedagogy, and continuous innovative practice. Learner literacies, investigating how learners can be better prepared as lifelong learners. This research links literacies to knowledge curation, while more recent work questioned current thinking around what constitutes ‘literacies’ and how these might be integrated within the curriculum to ensure learners are better prepared for the workplace. Organisational learning, examining how group learning can be translated into organisational effectiveness. Recent work with Shell and BP has examined how individuals, teams and organisations can learn from incidents to improve health and safety in highly hazardous environment.

Allison is leading industry-academic research partnerships with multinational companies, most notably Royal Dutch Shell, for whom she was Senior Researcher 2008-2010. She has led research funded by the UK Joint Information Systems Committees (JISC), the UK Higher Education Academy (HEA), the Scottish Funding Council (SFC), the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) and has been a senior scientist on projects funded by international funding bodies such as the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Australian Research Council, the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the European Union (EU).


Jeremy Knox

Jeremy Knox will be giving the second keynote: MOOC pedagogy: the challenges of developing for Coursera.

Jeremy is developing one of the first Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) to emerge from the University of Edinburgh’s recent partnership with Coursera. ‘E-Learning and Digital Cultures’ is being designed with colleagues from the international MSc in E-learning distance education programme, and is due to launch on the 28th of January 2013. The team have acknowledged the challenges and potentials of experimenting with the much-publicised MOOC format, and see this course as a way of engaging meaningfully, critically and productively with the changing landscapes of educational provision.

Jeremy’s research offers a critical perspective on open education, highlighting assumptions about the inherent value of technology and questioning calls for the restructuring of higher education around supposedly self-directing learners. He has spoken recently about the ambivalence surrounding Open Educational Resources (OER) and MOOCs, suggesting a need for further theoretical considerations of the open education movement. Jeremy teaches on the MSc in E-Learning programme at the University of Edinburgh, and is a PhD candidate with the Moray House School of Education.


Our Sponsors

Our thanks go out to our 2013 sponsors who allow us to run this conference.


Durham University


Durham University

Blackboard Inc





Learning Objects


Learning Objects






Day 1 Presentations

Day 2 Presentations

Conference Blog Posts & Stories


Conference Feedback

This wordle image shows the best features of the conference, identified by the 2013  delegates:

Blackboard Conference feedback 2013

We asked delegates “what does attending this conference mean to you”:

I prefer this conference to ALT-C because of how easily the approaches and lessons learnt transfer to ‘on the ground’ practice by TEL support teams. The focus is on practical advice from experience, not bogged down in the theoretical detail, hence DurBbU is essential in helping small projects make a wider impact beyond their institution.

I’ve always felt that the Durham conference offers the same quality as the Bb European conference but much better value and retaining all the virtues.

It allows me and colleagues within the team to attend a highly relevant user led conference within our existing budget. It’s inspirational to see what can be achieved by other e-learning teams and makes us want to raise our games.

It is definitely the best opportunity of the year for networking, keeping up-to-date with the latest developments and ideas within the Blackboard community, and renewing the enthusiasm and ideas after Christmas, ready for the new term!

It’s the only viable opportunity for us to meet with colleagues from other institutions and represents excellent value for money for participating institutions. The User presentations have improved year on year.

Keeps me up to date with elearning developments, provides an opportunity to catch up with people I know and to meet new people.  It’s interesting to find out who is doing what and with what degree of success.  Extremely useful when considering changes and if needing to speak to someone who can offer an insight.

To gain a good understanding of what we as educators face when trying to implement TEL and hearing that I am not alone when facing these issues.