Characteristic of the Educause annual conferences, E2010 was packed full of information and networking opportunities. Some of the discussed topics were mobility, classroom technology & support, collaboration, and faculty/student engagement in technology. Below is a summary of the conference. Questions, observations, etc. are welcome and can be sent to Mark Staples, IS Director of Academic Technology Services, at email@example.com.
Mobility has become more than just a buzz word; it’s a reality in the lives of nearly every faculty, student, and staff member. Most of us have laptop computers and a growing population is investing in tablet devices (i.e. iPad) and smart phones. Our need to have access to core applications and data, from everywhere and at any time, is growing. Many institutions are centering their mobile strategy for teaching & learning around their learning management systems.
Expanding and enhancing technologies in the classroom (i.e. lecture capture, web conferencing, clickers, etc) is no longer cutting edge, but is considered to be a commodity. The challenge, however, is identifying effective ways to maintain and support more moving parts. Other classroom enhancements include increasing the density of wireless networking to enable every student to connect to the network simultaneously. These infrastructure enhancements make it possible to turn a traditional classroom into a lab enabling faculty to administer online/electronic tests and for students to access software, like SPSS, through virtual delivery.
Collaboration can be defined as systems and services to facilitate sharing of information and data. Web 2.0 tools like Wikis, discussion boards, and cloud storage have been around for a few years. The newest challenge is to develop more seamless ways of dealing with inter-institutional authentication (log in IDs) and improving ways to appropriately authorize users. As more research and activities are with personnel from other institutions or with systems “in the cloud,” simplifying the process and improving security is a part of federation technologies.
Faculty and student engagement was discussed in many seminars and networking sessions. The key is not to “push” technology – making technology central – but to make these technologies easy to use, consistent, and rock solid. It’s no secret that faculty don’t have the time to “insert” technology into their teaching and learning workflow. So, identifying ways to provide training and support for our faculty and students on the use of appropriate technology to enhance and improve learning is a great incentive.
Finally, many institutions are identifying ways to leverage students bringing their own laptops to campus. Essentially, we become more about providing services like software, printing, remote processing, and connectivity, while the student provides the hardware – laptops, netbooks, and tablet devices. There are still challenges around electronic textbooks and software licensing, but as we continue to lay a good foundation, once these barriers are removed, we’ll be prepared.
While the conference allowed attendees to gather important information regarding the future of technology on campus, it also confirmed Northeastern is on the right path, as we are currently investing in mobile services, enhanced classroom services (i.e. lecture capture, clickers, and web conferencing), printing from anywhere, virtual applications (myApps), and federated ID for inter-institutional collaboration.