Bellco Theatre
Bellco Theatre

Educause 2018 – day one

If you haven’t been following my series of posts, then I’ll just mention that this year I was one of the very lucky recipients of the UCISA bursary scheme, which has allowed me to be in Denver for the 2018 Educause conference.

Today is the big day, when Educause 2018 opens to everyone. My day started at 7:30am with the first in a series of “brain dates”. This is a new concept for the conference this year, very simple but very effective (in my opinion). The idea behind a brain date is two fold. Firstly, you can search through the “market” of existing brain dates, where conference attendees post topics that they are knowledgeable about, or topics that they want to find out more about. Secondly, you can add your own topics, and offer yourself up for brain dates. This was my approach, and I had offered myself up to talk about lecture capture and Moodle use.

So this morning, at a rather unfamiliar hour (I’ve usually just got out of the shower at 7:30am), I found myself in a little corrugated cardboard booth with someone from Arkansas State University, talking about lecture capture, and my experiences of our summer 2017 project to migrate to a new lecture capture system, roll it out across all pool teaching rooms on campus, and then introduce a new “opt out” lecture capture policy. All in three months. If you can avoid doing all of those things at once, you’ll probably have less grey hair than I do 🙂

Educause booths

We had a really good chat, and it was interesting to learn about the receptiveness of the staff from Arkansas State University, and their willingness to try this campus technology for themselves. Our half an hour was over in a flash, and it was off to the main “Bellco Theatre” for the opening keynote.

Bellco Theatre

As you might be able to tell from the photo, this is no ordinary “large lecture theatre” that you might normally go to for an opening keynote at a UK based conference. You don’t normally have a venue with a capacity of 5,000 that has seen Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Elton John, Neil Young and Tori Amos taking to the very same stage.

Michele Norris was today’s opening speaker, talking about the Race Card project, and how six word snapshots can paint a vivid picture of American attitudes to, and experiences of, race at this fascinating moment in American history. A lot to think about!

After a first brief visit to the Exhibition Hall (we’re talking Birmingham NEC size as opposed to a few tables around the side of a dining room), it was time to get immersed into the full conference programme. Just 27 parallel sessions to choose from for the first part of the day. I went to a session on learning analytics dashboards, a hot topic here in the USA, to hear about the approaches from three US institutions, and how they are using analytics to help with student retention.

After another session, it was soon time for lunch. At 11:30am. It runs for 2 hours, but that’s far too early a start for me, even if I’ve already been awake for 5 1/2 hours. There’s plenty of time to meet and talk to new people and share stories, as well as exploring the vast exhibition hall. It will take several visits to get around every stand in a logical and methodical manner.

One other quick observation about lunch. Despite there being thousands and thousands of people here, the queue moved with alarming speed. They really know how to cope with mass catering and keep things organised and moving along.

After lunch it was time for more sessions, this time on student data and then accessibility. There’s definitely an emerging them around retention coming through, and there’s lots of work being done around spotting students who might be at risk of dropping out of university or college here in the US.

The conference day finishes with a networking opportunity in the exhibition hall again, the chance to meet more exhibitors, and chat to those exhibiting posters in a dedicated area of the hall. Lots of interesting stories being shared in the poster session, from really technical stuff about SSL to innovating with an online information literacy course. Definitely something for everyone.

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