Profiles: Berkeley lets there be light at EDUCAUSE 2016

February 22, 2017

A flashy promo video invites you to apply to a conference where over 7000 participants gather to present, share, and network with like-minded individuals. It is billed as the “premier convening of IT professionals and technology providers across the diverse higher education landscape.” The keynote speakers promise to deliver inspirational talks that you will take with you back to your home institution. At the same time, panel presentations await that will invite you to stay on the cutting-edge for your school’s students and faculty. It’s the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, and for those who call higher education IT their career, it is a Mecca for three days in late October. This year, thousands of technology providers, administrators, and vendors descended upon Anaheim to share with each other what they’ve been working on and to present it to an audience of fellow peers. Here at ETS, we were fortunate enough to be able to send a team down to talk about all the innovative projects that we’re working on and find inspiration from our peers.

The ETS delegation of Judy, Daphne, Meggan, Noah, and Jenn, remarked that a major benefit of the conference was to network with their fellow colleagues. Whether it was a sharing with other UCs implementing clickers or trying to get an endeavor like the Academic Innovation Studio off the ground, the collaboration was evident in all reflections on the conference. The vast range of college IT was represented at the conference, from large public research universities like the University of Michigan and UT-Austin, to small liberal arts colleges, as well as community colleges from around the nation. In addition, all aspects of the IT community are represented, from the technology itself to the student success initiatives involving pedagogy and teaching & learning. The perspective gained from the diversity at the conference allowed the staff to develop professionally and also gave ETS a chance to shine and promote the incredible achievements that Berkeley is known for. Unique narratives shined and each ETS staff member that we spoke with noted the value of discussing what works and what doesn’t with others to find the best solutions for our campus.

ETS’s team had the opportunity to take on the dual roles of being presenters and being listeners, soaking up the entire conference experience. These are the stories of what they brought back to Cal’s campus from Anaheim.

Judy Stern (Instructional Technologist and User Experience Designer) & Daphne Ogle (Service Experience Designer)

Role at EDUCAUSE: Pre-conference workshop and poster presentation with Meggan

Biggest takeaway: Connected with colleagues at other UCs to create a network of support, information, and experience

As a User Experience Designer and Service Experience Designer respectively, Judy and Daphne had a wealth of knowledge to share with attendees in their pre-conference workshop titled User Experience is for Everyone: Identify Users' Needs to Create Better Product and Service Experiences. Their goal was to illustrate the benefits of design practices that lead to a greater understanding of users. Using hands-activities and drawing on research from the field, they came away feeling that they had achieved their goal of encouraging other campuses to keep the user experience at the forefront in their work. When asked what their favorite moment was, Daphne recounted it was an outcome of the workshop exercises: They had participants go out into the conference, do user research with which they were able to make an experience map that allowed them to identify opportunities for improving EDUCAUSE itself. At the end of the three and a half hour workshop, while everyone was mingling and discussing their work, the COO of the Annual Conference along with other conference designers joined the group.  Daphne puts it, “they were so excited about the findings that they requested our experience maps to find ways to improve the conference moving forward!”

More than anything, Judy and Daphne appreciated the chance to discuss the similarities that Berkeley shares with other UCs as well as the differences that make us stand out.  They expressed a sense of value in sharing experiences and utilizing each other as a sounding board for ideas. The contacts they made have been and will continue to be resources they can call upon in future endeavors. They were grateful for the opportunity to present as well as learn from colleagues around the nation.

Meggan Levitt ~ Deputy Director of Educational Technology Services

Role at EDUCAUSE: Poster presentation with Judy and Daphne

Biggest takeaway: How innovative the Academic Innovation Studio truly is

Along with Judy and Daphne, Meggan presented a poster on the second day of the conference that highlighted the incredible work being done in the Academic Innovation Studio (AIS). Appropriately titled Designing and Launching a Collaborative Services Space to Support Faculty, she spoke about getting the Academic Innovation Studio off the ground last semester. She pointed out that many of the conference guests who spoke to her about getting similar initiatives started at their campuses provided useful ideas and feedback for further tweaks and improvements. She comes back to Berkeley after EDUCAUSE with a fuller perspective on the AIS, particularly how the need for a space for faculty to collaborate is endemic to higher education. Cooperation is at the heart of AIS’ early success and she looks forward to seeing how it grows after the feedback.

Beyond the poster presentation, EDUCAUSE is a vehicle for professionals in the field to solve problems together. Meggan spoke about partnering with other universities to be one voice with a vendor or campus partner when talking about what works and they need.

Looking back, Meggan applauded the networks and connections that lead to a swap of ideas at the conference. Whether it was conversations about learning analytics or how to leverage the massive amounts of data to help students succeed, for her, the conference was ultimately a reminder that education—especially higher education— is oftentimes a matter of getting out of our own way. By sharing with each other what works and what doesn’t, we can take a step back and see that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

Noah Wittman ~ Teaching and Learning Services Manager

Role at EDUCAUSE: Coordinated a panel presentation with colleagues about developing of spaces for academic innovation

Biggest Takeaway: A sense of the breadth of offerings from vendors and partners right now in higher education

The new Academic Innovation Studio was further highlighted in Noah’s presentation to attendees in conjunction with other administrators from Stanford, University of Virginia, and Lynn University. He primarily spoke about the research and development necessary for the implementation of the new space in Dwinelle Hall with a focus on AIS’s focus to provide faculty a space and resources something new. Noah, like Meggan, received excellent feedback from conference-goers about the initiative finding it productive to trade success stories and potential pitfalls with each other. It was heartening to see that there is potential for an innovation space at a wide range of institutions from large public universities like Berkeley to small liberal arts like Lynn.

By attending conferences like EDUCAUSE and engaging in conversation with peers and colleagues, Noah remarked that he can put a finger on the pulse of what is interesting and where there is activity in the field. It is an opportunity to meet people and hear from individuals as well as present what is going on here at Cal. It’s a gathering of all the different aspects of college IT from the cerebral folks working on new services to the high-level administrators that take an overarching view at it. The dialogue that often results a the workshops and open forums is an organic and beneficial way to tackle problems together and share success stories. As Noah puts it, “there is something for everyone and not necessarily everything for everyone.” The value of EDUCAUSE is that from the macro scale to the micro level, there is something to be gained in the inherent collaboration between colleagues.

Jenn Stringer ~ Associate Chief Information Officer and Director of ETS

Role at EDUCAUSE: A number of advisory boards for EDUCAUSE itself

Biggest Takeaway: Berkeley is leading in so many areas and we’re seen as a place to look to as an example

In contrast to the other team members that went down to Anaheim to present projects, Jenn is involved with several of the advisory boards for EDUCAUSE itself. As the Associate CIO and Director of ETS, she takes an overarching view of the conference and spoke to us about what she felt stood out particularly about last year’s conference. Beyond the professional development that occurs every year, she remarked the ETS team made her so proud with all the incredible projects they’ve been undertaking. The conference was a place where they could share all the places where the team is showing leadership but it was also an opportunity to see places where there is room for learning and growth. In the past, she noted that universities didn’t share as much and collaborate on their mutual challenges. These days, Berkeley and the UC system as a whole is talking with fellow partners across the country and listening to all the different ways to approach a problem. Jenn values the different viewpoints that EDUCAUSE allows IT professionals to glimpse. The benefit is two-fold; the individual gains a new perspective and the team as a whole gets a chance to promote and enhance Berkeley’s reputation as a leader on the cutting-edge of the field.

Like many of the other ETS members that attended, Jenn spoke about the Academic Innovation Studio and how it is more than just a simple space for faculty to innovate. It is a comprehensive programmatic approach that draws partners from all across campus. In any one meeting, an instructor can have a consultation with professionals from the Library as well as the Center for Teaching and Learning to develop a plan. The AIS isn’t just a room in Dwinelle, it’s a place for faculty to bounce ideas off of each other and craft a unique and personalized approach to their goal. By bringing together various aspects of campus into one room, there is an innate level of trust being built with each new innovation. At a time when higher education can feel isolated or far-flung, the AIS is unique and distinct from spaces at other universities because it acts as a builder of bridges between disparate stakeholders.

Jenn also spoke about the incredible collaboration between organizations and institutions in student success initiatives and integration. She pointed out that the field is changing rapidly and whereas before there was a focus on building infrastructure from the ground up and adapting to needs, nowadays we can partner with a vendor to implement a platform and build on top of it in a cost-effective and innovative way. More than anything, EDUCAUSE showcases the interesting developments going on in the field and as Jenn says, Berkeley is a leader as well as a partner for anyone attempting to best serve the IT needs of students, faculty, and staff.