UTRGV participants share and learn the latest at BbWorld 2015

BROWNSVILLE & EDINBURG, TEXAS – AUGUST 25, 2015Eric Silva, a junior computer science major at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is one of 26 Blackboard MVPs worldwide.

And, he is the only student in this elite group.

Blackboard MVPs serve as ambassadors for the product, sharing their proficiency and feedback, and communicating with users through various platforms, such as Silva’s Twitter account and online discussion boards. As an MVP, Silva also attends the annual BbWorld conference.

The BbWorld 2015 conference was held in Washington, D.C., from July 21-23 at the Gaylord National Convention Center. Silva was among the more than 2,500 Blackboard aficionados representing more than 930 institutions from 28 countries who took part in the event, sharing their experiences and ways to use Blackboard.

“Going to a conference like BbWorld is always amazing,” Silva said. “It’s so exciting to see passionate educators come from around the world to discuss education. I always return eager to share what I learned.”

Silva’s road to MVP status began a couple of years ago when he began using his Twitter account to share Blackboard tips and answer questions. Blackboard employees took notice of his expertise: he was nominated for MVP status, and attended the BbWorld 2014 conference in Las Vegas.

Since graduating from Science Academy of South Texas in Mercedes in 2013, Silva has been assisting faculty at his alma mater by familiarizing them with ways to use Blackboard. He continues to volunteer, conducting Blackboard training sessions for South Texas Independent School District faculty during in-service days.

Silva said training others and being available as a trouble-shooter for STISD teachers helps him learn more about the software, its applications and technology in general, and is another way to prepare for his future career in educational technology.

“I love going up to a teacher after class who may be new to the campus or Blackboard and saying, ‘You can do this with Blackboard, or, check out this cool feature,’” he said.

Along with Silva’s active participation in Blackboard and his full-time studies, he also works at the Brownsville Convention and Visitors Bureau as their Website and social media manager. 

Blackboard, which is used by organizations worldwide for online training, courses and notifications, is UTRGV’s one-stop shop for all online educational resources.


UTRGV staff members Francisco Garcia and Chris Jazinski also attended the summer 2015 conference, to give presentations and share their best Blackboard practices.

“Most institutions just use Blackboard for the delivery of courses, either online, hybrid or web-enhanced,” said Garcia, formerly the distance education manager at The University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and now the director for online learning at UTRGV. “However, we have been using Blackboard for other services, too.”

Jazinski, a Learning Management System development manager for The University of Texas Pan American and now for UTRGV, gave a presentation on Blackboard’s digital badges.

“We presented on how we utilize Blackboard to award faculty members badges based on different trainings, workshops and professional development courses that they go through in order to teach fully online or hybrid classes,” Jazinski said. “Our system awards instructors for these trainings, so we have a centralized hub to see what instructors have what badges and what trainings or certifications.”

Garcia and Jazinski’s teams have worked throughout the summer to set up UTRGV’s new Blackboard platform, pulling tools unique to both universities to tailor a multi-faceted platform especially for the new university.

“I’m looking forward to my junior year at UTRGV, and I’m curious to see the new UTRGV Blackboard,” Silva said. “Aside from concentrating on my studies, I will continue to tweet and blog about the latest Blackboard features and updates to share with the Blackboard community.”


Marci Caltabiano Ponce, UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications

Jennifer McGehee Valdez, UTRGV Director of Public Relations