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Report from Educause 2012

Jeff Kuntzman
University of Colorado Health Sciences Library
Denver, Colorado
Educause 2012 Conference Logo

EDUCAUSE ( ) is a well-known nonprofit organization that focuses on the intersection between higher education and information technology. EDUCAUSE sponsors a two and a half day national conference every year; in addition to that there are also many regional EDUCAUSE conferences across the country. Thanks to the NN/LM MCR, I was able to attend this year’s national conference in Denver, Colorado in early November. This year the conference had 4,672 registered participants. Attendees came from all over the United States and there were 49 other countries represented.

A couple of themes were heavily represented at the conference. One was that of the increasing importance of cloud computing, and another was the recent rise and incredible success of free, online, but not-for credit “MOOCs” or massively open online courses (as offered by large institutions like Stanford and MIT).

The first keynote this year was given by Clay Shirky. Shirky is currently an adjunct professor in New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, and has been writing and speaking about the usefulness and revolutionizing force of online collaboration, social and distributed networks, and open-source software for many years now. Shirky’s talk touched on many topics but focused on openness and “crowdsourcing” – the practice of inviting an unlimited number of minds to the table to solve a problem. One example was a 2009 DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) experiment. Ten red balloon markers were placed in unannounced locations across the United States, and a large financial incentive was offered for the person or persons to first find all ten. DARPA expected the contest to run days and weeks; but a winning entry to the competition was submitted by an MIT team in under nine hours.

In addition I attended very interesting sessions on several recent trends in higher ed and medical education. The first, “flipping the classroom” is the recent practice some schools and faculty are adopting in putting lectures online in video format. The idea is that students watch the videos of the lecture prior to attending the class. Class time is then repurposed to focused discussion and Q & A, as well as labs and workshops. Early data suggests that this new method really works to increase engagement with today’s students, as well as increasing the ways and the means in which the students work actively together to learn in groups.

A second trend I learned about at EDUCAUSE was the movement in at least three medical schools to replace paper readings from the curriculum with iPads and online content. A hugely popular activity among the students is the annotation of PDFs and lecture powerpoints with software tools that are available for the iPad. Like flipping the classroom, iPads in the medical curriculum have proven to increase student engagement. Hugely popular with the students, these programs can often be run for the same amount of money or less than the previous  model which centered on producing paper packets and handouts for students.

Many of the presentations were recorded, and a significant number are now freely available and accessible via the EDUCAUSE web site. These include Clay Shirky’s talk, which I can’t recommend highly enough! Recordings include the presentations as well as speaker video, and can be browsed and viewed at:

My sincerest thanks to the NN/LM MidContinental Region  for giving me the opportunity to attend EDUCAUSE 2012!

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