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EduComm 2011: "A Lasting Effect"

University Business, Sept 2011

Most colleges and universities attending EduComm send one or two, sometimes three, people to the conference. Last June, Life University (Ga.) sent seven of its administrators and faculty to learn from the breakout sessions and see the latest higher education technology on the EduComm exhibit floor.

Ralph Davis, dean of Clinics at Life’s Center for Health and Optimum Performance, says it was a new experience for the group. In addition to Davis, Life sent the special assistant to the president; the dean of the undergraduate college; the dean of instruction for the college of chiropractic; the executive director of student services; the vice provost, and a faculty member who specializes in assessment.

“Most of us in the group are relatively new to the institution, and we’ve been working on a number of initiatives to bring our small university up to speed with the latest in education technologies,” he says. “Our plan was to increase the amount of active learning going on at the institution. We had a lot of ‘sage on the stage’ and not a lot of ‘guide on the side,’ so we wanted to move away from the traditional lecture format toward more active learning. That put us in a position where we were actively seeking technological solutions to assist us.”

Because EduComm 2011 was based at the Hilton Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, the trip—and the group discount—made economic sense. “When you are a small institution, as we are, dollars are tight. Being able to send a group of people to one location for this type of information was invaluable,” Davis says. “And to give you an idea of how tight we try to pinch a penny, all seven of us piled into a borrowed university van and drove seven hours each way because we didn’t want to pay for the airfare. Having that ability to go to one location and do all that information gathering and comparison shopping was an amazing opportunity for us.”

The exhibit floor was particularly appealing to the group, with more than 40 vendors presenting a broad range of higher ed technologies. “It was like going to the Best Buy of educational technology,” says Davis. “It was an overwhelming experience. We plan to do lecture capture, for instance, and we had the opportunity to walk around and meet with several vendors with different approaches. We’ve also discussed moving our students to electronic texts or electronic note sets, and we found a number of vendors for that too.”

The numerous breakout sessions were helpful as well, because they introduced the Life team to ideas that could help them fulfill their improvement goals. EduComm sessions covered a variety of topics from online learning and smart classroom design, to best practices in recruitment, social media, and learning assessment.

“One session, for example, was by some folks from Seton Hill [Pa.] called ‘We All Have iPads, Now What?.’ ” Davis says. “We’re a small private university. What they did seemed very scalable to us.”

Another was a session called “Unleashing Your Inner Spielberg,” by Brian Klaas of the Johns Hopkins (Md.) Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Teaching and Learning with Technology. “That session has inspired us to create a formal studio on campus where teachers could do a professional podcast or lecture capture,” says Davis. “We found that information invaluable.”

The group continues to meet to discuss solutions based on the breakout sessions. “It was a wonderful experience all around and really got the grey matter ticking with some great ideas,” he says. “We are still actively conducting what we call EduComm Debriefs to sort through it all. It had a lasting effect on us.” —Tim Goral

(Full disclosure: Life University won a promotion for the school that sent the most people to EduComm. They spent a free evening at EPCOT.)

NLS Summit

A group of 53 college and university executives from IT to planning came together for the inaugural New Learning Space (NLS) Summit.

The all-day lecture and roundtable event, sponsored by AMX with content partner Thorburn Associates, focused on the topics of innovations in automation and control, sustainability and the green movement, creating a safe and secure campus, and connecting with content capture and VOD in distance learning.

One of the liveliest discussions stemmed from a sustainability lecture led by AMX Director of Technical Sales Michael Carter.
“The greenest building we can build is the one that doesn’t get built,” said Carter. The question posed was how to make those that already exist more efficient.

Carter, who has vast experience in the green arena, educated attendees about two new standards that are in the works, pointing out that LEED has become fairly standard practice for new learning spaces. One is the International Green Construction Code (IGCC), which will mandate reporting energy usage and which Carter said is likely to become law. Another is the InfoComm STEP program, which he said is “like LEED for AV.”

Michael Peveler, vice president of education at AMX, pointed out some of the many ways to create a safe and secure campus, and said access control and theft prevention are good places to start. “Discouraging theft discourages other negative behaviors,” he said.

While most attendees agreed they had a long way to go in fully utilizing AV for security purposes, some shared their successes, like the ability to take over all campus displays in the event of an emergency, which Peveler said is something all campuses should aim for. –Kristen Domonell

CIO Summit

Once again, EduComm played host to the preconference CIO Summit, sponsored by GovConnection. Cloud realities and opportunities for higher ed was the topic of the day for Barb Goldworm, founder, president, and chief analyst of Boulder, Colo.-based FOCUS, which offers research, analysis, and consulting services focused on systems, software, and storage

She shared how the all-familiar mantra “do more with less” is about consolidating, optimizing, and automating. Consolidation began with server virtualization and is moving into storage, desktop applications, and networks. Once an organization is 30 percent to 40 percent virtualized, it starts to put too many demands on existing infrastructure, she notes. Besides private and public clouds, Goldworm is seeing hybrid clouds, a composition of two or more interoperable clouds, enabling data and application portability. Emerging are community clouds, which “cross university boundaries and share beyond the borders of the institution,” she said, adding that the federal government has expressed interest in a national higher ed cloud.

Is the cloud a campus IT implementation priority? Absolutely, according to responses to a FOCUS survey conducted last fall. The top priority for the next 12 months, the survey found, was IT security (55 percent), with other popular answers being server virtualization, upgrading the network infrastructure, wireless and mobility capabilities, and desktop virtualization.
A good reason for making the cloud a priority is efficiency. Gartner research (across all industries) indicates that by 2015, tools and automation will eliminate 25 percent of IT labor hours. Today, Goldworm said, “70 percent of IT dollars are spent just keeping the lights on”—that is, on operations/maintenance tasks. As the number of hours required to get the job done is reduced, the skill level of the IT administrator goes up and hopefully the delivery gets better.

Use of the cloud is now what CIOs report may make or break a career. “In studies we’ve done, [CIOs] tell us their success and failure is really dependent on how well they do this,” she said.

Goldworm noted several campus cloud possibilities, some already popular. She sees the top cloud candidates as email, calendaring, word processing, personal storage, and admissions. With security seen as the biggest barrier to cloud adoption, email’s popularity as a cloud application is interesting, she said. Web systems and portals for student records, registration, financial management, and bursar’s functions in the cloud should also be considered.

What’s the key to advancing virtualization? A well-managed, optimized, automated virtual infrastructure, she said.
“Make sure that as you move down this path—if you’re going to do desktop virtualization, get your desktop guys to talk to the server guys, and to talk to the storage guys ... because if they’re not talking to each other you are bound to run into those issues where you’re not going to solve your storage problem—you’re going to fail,” Goldworm cautioned. “This is the most important time to get your silo organizations working together if you want to succeed.” —Melissa Ezarik