Bloomfire Fuels Davenport University’s Collaborative Learning Culture

Davenport University is a private, four-year college in Michigan with more than 11,000 students throughout 11 campuses. Founded in 1886 in Grand Rapids, it is one of the most-affordable private schools in the state, providing a high-quality education through more than 50 dynamic undergraduate and graduate programs, with small classrooms and conveniently located campuses.

The university prides itself on keeping current with the real world and technology, while providing an excellent place to work for 1,500 faculty and staff. Davenport constantly looks for ways to integrate new information, technology and trends to ensure classes keep up with today’s demands and anticipate tomorrow’s needs.  The Chronicle of Higher Education named the university a “2013 Great College to Work.”

The Search for an Easier Way to Capture and Share Knowledge

Davenport needed to build a social learning environment that captured and shared individual knowledge online and across multiple campus locations and offices. University employees who were eager to share their experience and knowledge with others often posted screen captures in email or created videos on YouTube.

“A lot of screen captures were being pasted into Word docs and emailed,” said CIO Brian Miller. “So, for example, if someone wanted to show somebody how to do something on their computers, they’d use a screen recording tool to record their screen and send it over email.”

The university was also receiving a growing number of employee requests to create short “just-in-time” training tutorials and videos. Employees were eager to create content, but often lacked the time, expertise and tools.

Employees resorted to other outlets such as learning management systems, lecture capturing tools, shared drives and video sites that scattered across the network. Davenport needed a solution that would consolidate the capabilities of all these platforms online and allow employees to easily create, share and discuss content freely, with little training or support from IT.

Davenport discovered Bloomfire after it was invited to join the first group of beta testers in 2011. At the time, the university was considering building its own in-house knowledge base.

Upon completion of the beta, Davenport used Bloomfire to create an informal learning community that it dubbed, “INsite.” The program emphasized the “INformal, INnovative and INclusive” benefits of being “IN the know.”

“Our approach is unique in that we have initially focused on cultivating a single online community for all employees to share,” said Miller.

A Change in Learning Culture

As part of a single online community, Davenport is using Bloomfire to create a consistent experience and set of best practices for employees across departments to contribute content. This required a change in Davenport’s internal learning culture as well. To speed the transition, the University hosted posting parties to help employees acclimate to this new approach. Because Bloomfire requires little training, the sessions focused on collaboration, quality of content and presentation skills.

“Bloomfire helped us change our learning culture with a platform that made it easy to share expertise in an instant across geographic lines and departments,” Miller said. “Our employees quickly learned how to create content and share it with peers in the form of videos, documents, presentations, screencasts and comments. Bloomfire helped us create powerful learning interactions and minimize the barriers of time and travel.”

As a centralized solution, Bloomfire made it easier for IT to manage users, host content and perform analytics on usage. Built-in content authoring and recording tools alleviated the need to manage multiple software licenses and reduced the number of software applications to support.

“The best tool is the one that doesn’t require IT support,” Miller said. “You just need us to get it working, and then we’ll get out of the way.”

Supporting Various Learning Styles

After several years of using Bloomfire to run its INsite knowledge portal, Davenport employees have developed more than 1,300 pieces of user-generated content, including more than 250 videos, 12 training series, PowerPoint sessions, documents, spreadsheets and other resources. By supporting multiple document types, Davenport can appeal to various learning styles.

Employees continue to fuel Davenport’s content by creating videos or training sessions directly from their PC webcams after simply logging on to the Bloomfire application and starting the camera.

“Bloomfire empowers individuals to create a culture of teaching and learning,” Miller said. “ It helps us acknowledge the wisdom and expertise of every employee. It’s also helped us extend our entire learning community by connecting departments, individuals and campuses who may not have had the opportunity to learn together.”

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