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Editor’s Note: An exquisitely functioning learning experience in a vibrant organization is the desire of every learner and teacher. Read about this successful learning community!


SLATE: A Community of Practice for Supporting
Learning and Technology in Education

Anthony A. Piña, Kenneth P. Sadowski,
Carol L. Scheidenhelm, Paul R. Heydenburg


Communities of practice are an effective and economical way to provide up-to-date training and resources for those who lead and support learning management systems, instructional design and professional development efforts at schools, colleges and universities.  In this paper, the authors will 1) provide a definition of communities of practice; 2) document the establishment, characteristics and growth of SLATE, a dynamic and successful community of practice and 3) provide ideas and recommendations for those wishing to establish a professional community of practice.

Keywords: Community of practice, learning management systems, course management systems, instructional technology, distance learning, e-learning, Blackboard, professional development,  collaboration


Professionals who provide instructional design support, faculty technology training or supervision of learning management systems (LMS) at schools, colleges and universities, often find themselves in a solitary position.  In many instances, providing leadership and support of educational technology may be the purview of a single individual on campus (Born, 2007).  Decisions about adopting or upgrading hardware or software, troubleshooting systems, training new users or supporting existing users, are often difficult to make in a vacuum.  Even when an institution is fortunate enough to employ an educational technology group with several members, there are many instances where experience and expertise outside of the institution may be needed.

A myriad of books are available to assist the educational technology professional in the planning and management of technology (Picciano, 2006), administration of distance learning (Shelton & Saltsman, 2005), learning management systems (Southworth, Cakici, Vovides & Svacek, 2006), training design (Carliner, 2003), multimedia production (Golding & Ray, 2007), and general technology issues (Shelly, Cashman & Vermaat, 2008).  Although these may be useful resources, the nature of book publishing makes them less helpful for up-to-the-minute technology needs, such as the latest hot fix or an upcoming upgrade.

Conferences and formal training sessions can also be important sources for upgrading one’s skills and gathering current and essential information.  However, in the era of shrinking travel funds, these may occur infrequently—if at all.  Sauve (2007) points out that “Most organizations are trapped in the economics of formal learning approaches, which can be expensive, time consuming, and inflexible” (p.23).  “The reality is that in many industries in which situations change rapidly, formal learning once or twice a year doesn’t provide employees with the experience or knowledge they need to find ongoing success on the job. This means that organizations must revamp their budgets and shift their resources from formal learning settings to informal situations in which the majority of learning actually takes place” (p.22).

One source of effective, economical and up-to-date informal learning is a local or regional community of practice.  These entities, which can include user groups, special interest groups or meetings of people with similar interests, can be invaluable resources for educational technology professionals.  In this paper, we will document the establishment, characteristics and growth of SLATE, a dynamic community of practice for those who lead and support learning management systems, instructional design and professional development at schools, colleges and universities in the U.S. Midwest.

Community of Practice

The concept of a community of practice is most closely associated with the work of social learning theorist Etienne Wenger (e.g. Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002).  While the idea of learning as a result of social activity has been around for many years (e.g. Bandura, 1977; Bandura & Walters, 1963), Wenger’s community of practice “challenges intra-individual, transmission models of learning that posit a largely unproblematic event in which teachers speak and students learn—the success of such events being dependent on the competence of both the learner and the teacher. Instead learning is positioned as embedded in wider social and historical practices, which interact to generate valued practices within a given community” (O’Donnell & Tobbell, 2007, p. 315).

Defining a Community of Practice

A community of practice can be understood as a group of people who are united by a common interest or expertise (Wenger, 1998).  These people form a network that allows peers, mentors and subject matter experts to interact in order to address common issues and concerns (Sauve, 2007).  Communities of practice are further characterized by activities that establish, extend and maintain relationships between individual members, such as organizing informal meetings to support mutual information exchange (Zboralski, Salomo & Gemuenden, 2006). 

Wisker, Robinson & Shacham (2007) identify the three key principles of a community of practice as:

  • Enterprise: Shared goals, mutual accountability and fluent communication.

  • Mutual engagement: Individual and/or group connection.

  • Shared repertoire: Pooling of resources, both material and emotional.

According to Sauve (2007), “The peer-to-peer environment of CoPs fosters employees’ natural trust in advice from someone in their situation.  It also encourages emotional as well as instructional support.  CoPs focus on context-specific information sharing rather than advice sharing.  Because users seek to solve immediate problems, on-demand information availability is enormously beneficial” (p. 23).

In a survey conducted by the American Productivity and Control Center involving over 700 participants in communities of practice (Vestal, 2006), respondents reported that the most valuable benefits of participating in a community of practice were:

  • Quick solutions to problems

  • Ability to ask & answer questions of peers and subject matter experts

  • Best practices transfer

  • Ability to participate in discussions with other members

  • Innovate new solutions

  • Documentation created by the community

Legitimate Peripheral Participation

One of the most oft-mentioned aspects in the community of practice literature is the concept of legitimate peripheral participation proposed by Lave & Wenger (1991).  As explained by Schlager & Fusco (2004), “Newcomers gain access to the community’s professional knowledge tools and social norms through peripheral participation in authentic activities with other members.  New practices and technologies are brought into the community by leaders, newcomers, and outsiders, and are adopted by the community through the discourse of its members and the evolution of practice over time.” (p. 3).  In this way, the new member (or novice) becomes acquainted with the knowledge base and culture of the community and eventually becomes an experienced and “full” participant (Wiessner & Sullivan, 2007).

Context of Communities of Practice

Much of the literature looks at communities of practice from within the context of a single organization (e.g. Zboralski, Salomo & Gemuenden, 2006).  However many communities of practice “are distinct from, and frequently extend beyond, formal organizational structures, with their own organizing structures, norms of behavior, communication channels, and history.  Members often come from a larger professional network spanning multiple organizations, drawn to one another for both social and professional reasons” (Schlager & Fusco, 2004, p.3).  Active communities of practice can be found in business and industry (Allee, 2000; Sauve, 2007), higher education (O’Donnell & Tobbell, 2007; Wisker, Robinson & Shacham, 2007),

K-12 schools and districts (Schlager & Fusco, 2004), professional associations (Wiessner & Sullivan, 2007) and the Military (Dixon, Allen, Burgess, Kilner & Schweitzer, 2005).  Initially, communities of practice were usually portrayed as self-organizing networks in which anyone can participate.  However, a new trend has emerged in which organizations strategically support existing informal networks and deliberately establish communities of practice with managed memberships (Zboralski, Salomo & Gemuenden, 2006).


SLATE, an acronym for “Supporting Learning And Technology in Education,” is a local community of practice, consisting of technology leaders from research universities, comprehensive universities, community colleges and K-12 school districts.  Although recognized by Blackboard as one of its premier user groups (Pattinsky, 2005), the focus of SLATE is not exclusive to a single learning management platform or technology (Piña, 2006).  One important reason for the success of SLATE is that it does exist independent of Blackboard as a means for members to assist each other with issues related to Blackboard, specifically, but also to online teaching and learning in general.

The professionals involved in SLATE include administrators, faculty and classified staff, all of whom are involved in the use of technology for learning and teaching at their institutions.  Titles and job tasks for SLATE members vary greatly and include department or program administration, technical systems management, instructional design, online course development, multimedia production, faculty training, client support or faculty.  Many members perform several of these duties. 

Wisker, Robinson & Shacham (2007) describe the stages of development for communities of practice that can be used as a framework for an investigation of SLATE as an example of a successful community of practice: 

  • Potential—initially there might be quite a loose network of people with similar issues and needs.

  • Coalescing—people come together, finding value in learning activities.

  • Maturing—after time, the community itself takes charge of its practice and grows, developing a learning agenda, joint activities and shared commitments. It is likely to produce changes and artifacts.

  • Active—the community goes through cycles of activities. To remain buoyant and engaged, it needs to sustain energy, renew interest, recruit novices and gain influence.

  • Dispersing—the community can come to the end of its usefulness and people move on.


Conditions Leading up to the Formation of SLATE

The genesis of SLATE occurred in March, 2002 at the Blackboard Users Conference in Phoenix, Arizona (Blackboard Inc, 2002).  Kenneth Sadowski, then Associate Director of Academic Technologies at the University of Chicago, was seeking answers to various questions regarding operations and support of the U. of Chicago’s new Blackboard LMS.  Speaking with individuals from several colleges and universities, he found that other institutions were experiencing the same difficulties as his own.  Often, there was only one individual on a campus that was assigned to administer the LMS and—more often than not—the person had no prior experience with this type of system.  Blackboard was still a new company that was in the process of establishing itself and was years away from becoming the dominant LMS player in higher education.  Opportunities for customers to receive individualized support, documentation and training were very limited.

Upon returning from the conference, Sadowski approached Chad Kainz, Senior Director of Academic Technologies, University of Chicago, about the idea of holding meetings with other institutions to discuss common learning management issues.  Kainz encouraged Sadowski to proceed with his idea, and Sadowski began contacting colleagues at a dozen Chicago-area colleges and universities.  There was a great deal of interest in getting together and a meeting was scheduled for May, 2002 at the University of Chicago.


Meeting Together

Representatives from eight institutions of higher education attended the first meeting: DePaul University, Joliet Junior College, Moraine Valley Community College, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Northwestern University, Purdue University at Calumet and the University of Chicago.  Most had been using Blackboard for less than two years.

Sadowski began by discussing the conversations that he had with Blackboard User Conference participants and the meeting concluded after 2 ½ hours of brainstorming.  It was decided unanimously that this had been a productive experience and that another meeting should be scheduled for the following month.  At the next meeting, the discussion focused on strategies for connecting and helping each other and it was decided that a regular monthly meeting would be most effective.  The group began to grow, as each institution began sending multiple people to participate.  Word soon spread among other local institutions, who were welcomed into the fold.

Naming of SLATE

At the third meeting, held at the Calumet Campus of Purdue University, it was decided that the group needed a unique identity and name.  Several names were suggested, most containing the acronym “BUG” (for Blackboard User Group).  Neal Holman of Moraine Valley Community College suggested the name “SLATE,” as it was a word play on both “Blackboard” and “Chalk” (the name given to the University of Chicago’s implementation of Blackboard).  The fact that “BUG” was not adopted as the group’s name, helped to clarify that its activities would not center exclusively upon a single application or technology.  The secondary title, “Midwest Blackboard User Group,” reflected the intent of SLATE to reach beyond the metro Chicago area.

Mission and Focus

Although the name “SLATE” was chosen as a word, it was soon transformed into an acronym for Supporting Learning And Technology in Education to fit the group’s mission “To support learning and technology in education through communication, collaboration, and innovation while developing a community of practice” (SLATE, 2008).  Initial meetings focused upon the questions and problems that users were experiencing in operating and supporting Blackboard: how to perform different actions and procedures on the system, and how to use instructional and administrative tools.  Later meetings began to focus on a wider range of topics, such as documentation, help desk procedures, training of faculty to use technology and student support.


Growth of SLATE

In its first five years of existence, SLATE has grown from eight to 60 institutions.  These include four K-12 school districts and three honorary member institutions from England: Oxford University, Durham University and University of Teesside.  While the bulk of membership resides in Illinois and Indiana, SLATE counts among its members institutions located in Missouri, Kentucky, Oregon, St. Thomas and Antigua (SLATE, 2008). 

The group’s growth has been primarily by word of mouth by members while attending conferences or visiting other institutions; a growing percentage, however, have found the group through the website and via referral from Blackboard representatives.  SLATE members routinely bring colleagues to one of the monthly meetings, and those colleagues return to become participating members of SLATE—following the pattern of Lave and Wenger’s legitimate peripheral participation (Lave & Wenger, 1991).  The group has repeatedly discussed the need to keep membership free and open to all institutions interested in joining the discussion of best practices for supporting teaching and learning online.

Meetings are held typically on the third Wednesday of each month (excepting January and August) and are hosted by one of the member institutions, which usually provides coffee, juice and pastries at the beginning of the meeting and lunch after the discussions and presentations.  Following lunch, there is generally an informal time created for networking and interaction.  Topics and presentations at SLATE meetings vary according to the interest of members.  Presenters at meetings include SLATE members, invited guests demonstrating best practices and vendors.  Attendance at monthly SLATE meetings varies slightly by location, topic and member availability, but is usually in the range of 20-35.  The May, 2008 meeting at Northern Illinois University was attended by over 50 participants.

SLATE Website, Listserv & Blog

The SLATE website, located at http://slategroup.uchicago.edu, serves as a central repository for resources and information of interest to the group. Links include:

  • Calendar of dates, locations and topics of SLATE meetings and event

  • Information about the SLATE Conference

  • Descriptions of SLATE initiatives (Hey Blackboard, K-12, SLATE University, Documentation Repository)

  • Link to SLATE Blog

  • Community Profile


Figure 1:  SLATE website (slategroup.uchicago.edu)

Of particular note is the Community Profile which gives a description of member institutions, including a brief history, student enrollment, number of faculty, and contact information of SLATE members.  At the suggestion and with the assistance of Jack Corliss of Loyola University, the profile was recently expanded to include specific information to help SLATE members connect with those whose LMS implementations are similar to their own.  The profiles now provide information about:

  • the version of LMS in place

  • other LMS’s deployed by the institution

  • third-party vendor applications integrated with the LMS

  • the campus ERP system (Banner, Peoplesoft, Datatel, Jenzabar, etc.)

  • whether the LMS is hosted onsite by the institutions or offsite by a vendor

  • the anticipated timeframe for the next LMS upgrade

  • Names of campus contacts

SLATE Listserv

In addition to the website and monthly meetings, SLATE members communicate with each other is the SLATE Listserv, hosted by Yahoo Groups.  SLATE members have used the Listserv to conduct surveys and research, ask specific technical, policy and procedure questions, solicit ideas, advertise open positions at their respective campuses, and publicize SLATE meetings and events of interest. Additionally, the list is frequently used to provide follow-up information on issues raised at the monthly meetings, adding to its relevance and timeliness. Many members of SLATE also participate in the Blackboard User Listserv (http://lists.asu.edu/archives/blkbrd-l.html) and Blackboard Administrator Listserv (http://lists.asu.edu/archives/bbadmin-l.html) hosted by Arizona State University.


In order to find a richer and more interactive alternative to the email-based listserv, the SLATE Blog at http://slategroup.blogspot.com was conceived and created by Jason Rhode of Northern Illinois University.  The Blog provides a forum for SLATE members to view and comment on minutes of SLATE meetings and announcements of interest.


SLATE Conference

Early in SLATE’s existence, participating members determined that a local conference should be organized as a way to expand the group’s activities and benefit faculty members and others unable to attend the monthly meetings.  SLATE members, with support from the University of Chicago, worked out the conference logistics, sending e-mails and publicizing the conference at their institutions.  A major accomplishment was to secure the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center as the conference venue; this has proven to be a versatile and conveniently-located conference site close to hotels, public transportation and Chicago’s many amenities.

The first SLATE Conference was held in October, 2003 and was deemed a success, with members presenting 12 sessions to over 100 attendees; the conference was a one-day event.  Three keynote speakers at the conference included Chad Kainz, Senior Director of Academic Technologies at the University of Chicago, David Yaskin, Vice President of Strategy and Quality at Blackboard, Inc. and David Thornburg, Director of Global Operations at the Thornburg Center.  For the fifth anniversary of the SLATE Conference in 2007, the event was expanded by an extra half day, to accommodate the increase in the quantity of quality sessions.  Nearly175 attendees participated in 35 concurrent sessions.  The registration fee has been kept to a minimum, allowing the conference to break even on the cost of the Gleacher Center venue.  Keynote speakers at the SLATE Conference have included Matthew Pittinsky, Chairman of the Board of Blackboard, Inc., Gordon Freedman, Vice President of Education Strategy, Blackboard, Inc., Gregory Jackson, Vice President and CIO of the University of Chicago and Stuart Lee, Head of Learning Technologies at Oxford University.

The most positive thing about the conference is that it addresses the needs members found lacking in larger conferences, such as Blackboard World and Educause; sessions tend to address best practice issues relevant to faculty and support personnel alike. Each year, the number of session proposals has grown, indicating that interest in not only attending but also presenting is perceived as a benefit to the SLATE community. Since the conference is sponsored, organized, conducted and attended by community members, topics are timely and relevant to the group’s immediate needs.

SLATE Star Award

The SLATE Star Award was established in 2004 as a way to recognize an individual who has shown leadership, demonstrated initiatives, presented new ideas, improved procedures, established effective relationships or provided substantial resources that have affected the success and promotion of SLATE, the educational experience, and/or the general Blackboard Community of Practice.  Nomination and selection of award recipients is done by a vote of peers; one award is given annually.

SLATE and Blackboard

Other than the SLATE website, which is hosted by the University of Chicago, SLATE maintains no formal affiliation with Blackboard or any other entity.  This “external and independent” relationship has proven to be advantageous to both Blackboard and SLATE.  SLATE meetings are not perceived by members as complaint sessions, but are undertaken as an open exchange, with the goal to evaluate and improve both the product and the way that it is implemented at members’ institutions.  About 1/3 of the SLATE monthly meetings are attended by one or more Blackboard representatives, who solicit feedback and dialog with SLATE members.  SLATE members provide to Blackboard representatives honest input and constructive criticism from the “front lines” (Piña, Green & Eggers, 2008).  “Hey Blackboard,” a feature on SLATE’s website, provides a list of features that its members would like to see it future releases of the LMS. 

Blackboard executives have recognized SLATE as one of its premiere users groups (e.g. Pattinsky, 2005) and have sent a wide range of representatives (including account executives, technical support managers, product development engineers and Vice Presidents) to meet with SLATE members. This acknowledgement is based on SLATE’s composition; member institutions represent a broad user base of Tier 1 research institutions, comprehensive universities, community colleges and K-12 districts and it is an active and thriving entity.

Recently, Blackboard developed a template for user profiles based on the Community Profiles section of the SLATE website.


Keeping SLATE Growing & Vibrant

According to Vestal (2006), the true value of a community of practice comes from the ongoing interaction and work of the group.  Sustaining the value involves moving into a sustaining and evolving mode to match the changing needs and goals of the community’s members. Here again, the monthly meetings and SLATE conference help the community to remain in touch with issues and changing goals of individual member institutions as well as the SLATE collective.

The Members   

Interviews with various SLATE members about what keeps the group vibrant yield very consistent answers, the most common being that SLATE is composed of members with a vested interested in moving online technologies forward.  The founding SLATE members and those that have followed and who continue to participate are committed to their profession, committed to their institutions, and committed to enhancing the role of online teaching and learning in the global campus environment.

Give and Take

Dr. Steven R. Covey, in his widely acclaimed book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People (Covey, 2004), introduces the idea of an emotional bank account, where one must make “deposits” of trust and service before “withdrawals” can be made.  The SLATE community has created its own large account, where members may “deposit” information, resources, ideas, advice and best practices and may “withdraw” when they need these services from others.  Success of the community is evident in the significant number of positive exchanges among community members, both during meetings and through the listserv. Members understand that the “bank” of knowledge created by SLATE provides “interest dividends” far beyond any initial “deposits” made. 


SLATE is an egalitarian organization; since the original cadre included both research and teaching institutions, it has been understood that all SLATE members are on an even plane

This inclusion also applies to technology.  SLATE is not exclusive to a particular technology or to a single LMS.  Angel, Moodle and Desire2Learn are being used by some SLATE members, who have similar issues of training and support as those using Blackboard. As a result, SLATE’s inclusiveness supports the community’s main goal: to provide a forum for the understanding and improvement on teaching and learning online. Before the acquisition of WebCT by Blackboard (Piña, 2007), members who were running WebCT at their institutions regularly attended and presented at SLATE meetings.

SLATE Retreat

The American Productivity and Quality Center suggests that the working norms of a community of practice be assessed yearly and realigned to ensure that the best results are being achieved (Vestal, 2006).  In 2005, SLATE members accepted the invitation of Floyd Saner of Goshen College to host a session at their Indiana campus. Goshen College representatives were regular attendees at the Chicago-area meetings, travelling to and from meetings in one day. But since the trek to central Indiana was more substantial than locally-hosted meetings, members decided to make the Goshen trip a two-day event designed for reflection and planning. The SLATE retreat has become an annual event. During this time, SLATE members perform a review and evaluation of the year’s activities, determine goals, strategies and modifications for the upcoming year and prepare the “last minute” arrangements for the upcoming October SLATE Conference.

Outreach Activities

A number of SLATE members have engaged in professional outreach activities based upon contacts made during SLATE meetings or conferences.  Although many of these activities have been “pro bono,”--as in cases where SLATE members have visited other institutions to help with LMS issues or to help other user groups establish themselves--some have been hired as professional consultants and/or trainers for projects outside their home campuses.  Blackboard recently arranged for Ken Sadowski, SLATE founder, to meet with customers in Japan about how to establish a SLATE-like community and provide a keynote address to a group of potential community members.  Anthony Piña of Northeastern Illinois University (now with Sullivan University) and Julian Scheinbuks of Chicago State University, collaborated on a grant funded project to establish online faculty team-teaching partnerships among three institutions (Piña & Scheinbuks, 2008). 


The last phase of Wisker, Robinson & Shacham’s model of communities of practice is dispersion, where a community comes to the end of its usefulness and its members move on (Wisker, Robinson & Shacham, 2007).  Although it is possible that SLATE may disperse sometime in the future, there appears to be no indication that this will occur anytime soon. In fact, new institutional members continue to join at a steady rate and monthly meeting membership climbed to an all-time high in May, 2008. New members are becoming more active in the community’s activities and additional ideas interspersed into traditional meeting agendas.

Ideas & Recommendations for Communities of Practice

What can be learned from SLATE as a model for a successful community of practice?  Informal discussions with Slate members at monthly meetings and the annual conference have yielded the following ideas and recommendations:   

Get a Group of Committed Individuals

Most SLATE members attribute the group’s success to the level of commitment of those who plan the meetings, host the meetings, share resources, give presentations, answer inquiries and perform all of the “behind the scenes” work to make the various components of SLATE work.  Members give the lion’s share of the credit to Ken Sadowski, affectionately referred to as “Mr. SLATE,” but Sadowski is quick to point out the significant and constant work done by other members of the group. 

Focus Upon the Needs of Group Members

During the first few SLATE meetings, an assessment of the needs of the participants helped to determine the direction that the group should take.  Those needs became the topics for future meetings.  As members’ needs have evolved, so have the meeting topics, the website and the conference.  Reflection and planning at the annual retreat serve as a renewed needs analysis for each upcoming year. SLATE meetings are always productive because there are clear topics and goals identified and there is never a situation where the group meets just for the sake of meeting.

Buy-In and Support from Institutional Leaders

One of the critical early steps in establishing SLATE was the ability of the members to convince their supervisors that participation in SLATE would be a worthwhile activity, one that would provide a good return on investment.  Nearly all SLATE members are able to attend meetings while “on the clock” at their institutions.  Had members been required to take days off to attend SLATE activities, it would, at best, have had limited participation and, at worst, would have stifled it completely.  Campus leaders at member institutions host SLATE meetings, fund the lunch expenditure and periodically provide an official welcome to SLATE members at the start of the meetings. 

Meet Regularly and Predictably

SLATE meetings are usually held the third Wednesday of each month--except during January and August--at a member institution.  This consistency allows for members to reserve the meeting on their calendars.  Meetings start typically at 10:00 am, include a lunch (provided by the host institution) and end at approximately 2:00 pm, allowing members to miss the heaviest traffic while going to and coming from the meeting.  Members frequently remain after the official session to pursue informal networking opportunities.

Although SLATE members have found it advantageous to travel and meet face-to-face (making it more difficult to be called away on other campus business), smaller communities of practice in more geographically dispersed areas may take advantage of online virtual meeting environments, that allow for synchronous audio, video and desktop sharing widely available on many campuses. SLATE has experimented with having guest presenters at remote locations speak to the assembled community with a moderate degree of success.  

Make Everyone Equal

Although most SLATE members hold a leadership role, no one in the group is a top executive at his or her institution.  This may influence both the type of interacting among group members (i.e. the executive is usually in charge of the group) and the focus of discussion (the executive may be more concerned about budgets, staffing and other “top level” issues).  In SLATE, members representing K-12 schools, community colleges, small colleges and large universities have an equal voice. 

Research Existing Communities of Practice

Many new members of SLATE were initially unaware that a group that could meet their needs already existed.  Practitioners interested in joining a community have many regional options available that can be discovered with a bit of research. Contacting a vendor or spending some time searching on Google for an existing user group or community of practice may prevent having to “reinvent the wheel.”


The benefit of SLATE participation has been recognized by its members almost since its inception. SLATE’s success is evident in its growing membership, increased attendance at meetings and participation in the annual conference (both in number of proposals submitted and number of interested attendees); additionally, Blackboard Corporation has cited this organization for its mission and contributions to the larger Blackboard community. This success comes from a variety of sources, but focuses on the open nature of the meetings, the input and sharing among members, strong leadership and regular meetings with set agendas. As with any vibrant organization, new ideas and a continual refresh of goals and needs are essential to keep SLATE a viable and productive addition to its community members. Through the efforts of its members, the future for SLATE and its contribution to the academic community it serves is positive and promising.


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About the Authors

Dr. Anthony A. Piña is Dean of Online Studies for the Sullivan University System, Louisville, KY.  He may be contacted at apina@sullivan.edu.

Mr. Kenneth P. Sadowski is Director of Instructional Technology and Design at the University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.  He may be contacted at sadowski@uchicago.edu.

Dr. Carol L. Scheidenhelm is Director of Learning Technologies and Assessment at Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL. She may be contacted at cschei1@luc.edu.  

Mr. Paul R. Heydenburg is Learning Technologies Specialist at Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago, IL.  He may be contacted at p-heydenburg@neiu.edu. 



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