If you’re at all interested in higher education innovation and technology, the annual EDUCAUSE conference is a must-attend. And EDUCAUSE 2016 didn’t disappoint its over 7,000 attendees and 1,800 institutions from 46 countries thanks to a relevant focus on student success and campus-wide collaboration.

Held in sunny Anaheim, Calif., the sessions, poster presentations and keynotes seemed more inclusive than usual, spanning topics that weren’t necessarily IT-department specific, but could have implications for IT as mission-oriented institutions become increasingly focused on student services that demand excellent technological support.

With a conference that brings together so many attendees, “it’s difficult to identify any single stand-out topic, since those attending are each so unique,” said EDUCAUSE president, John O’Brien, in an interview with eCampus News. “The main strength of the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference is the depth and breadth of topics we delve into that are important to our community.”

Georgetown University's Head of Library IT Services has fun with EDUCAUSE sidewalk art.

Georgetown University’s Head of Library IT Services has fun with EDUCAUSE sidewalk art.

For those that weren’t able to attend EDUCAUSE 2016, or would like to know more about the conference, here are 10 major takeaways from Anaheim:

EDUCAUSE Organization News

1. Student Success is Everything

Though O’Brien said it was difficult to nail down any one specific standout theme above the rest, he did mention that one theme was especially powerful: “Student success and, related to that, the crucial connections needed between IT and academics on campus to gain traction in this important area. Whether we’re talking about maturing iPASS (Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success) systems, emerging technologies, or completely fresh innovations, there is a lot of buzz around this topic.”

2. Collaboration and IT are Besties

According to O’Brien, there is a national demand to address higher education challenges, including retention, affordability, and student success, and it’s clear that technology offers considerable promise in many of these areas. “To make a bigger difference, it’s never been more important to make sure IT is working collaboratively across the higher education community, and events like this make that happen,” he explained. “At EDUCAUSE 2016, we have more faculty and staff from outside of IT attending the conference than ever before, all contributing to a broader and deeper conversation about how IT connects in meaningful ways across campus, and this [was] something reflected in the sessions offered.

3. A New Competition

EDUCAUSE introduced the Pitch IT! Challenge, which gives colleges and universities an opportunity to present to corporate partners a significant need they feel is not currently met and creates deeper dialog, collaboration and partnership among higher education leadership and the industry. Four institutions have been chosen to participate in this inaugural competition, and the EDUCAUSE community is invited to participate in the Q&A segment and ultimately partner with these institutions to collaboratively create solutions.

4. A New Plan and New Services

This year EDUCAUSE is rolling out a new 5-year strategic plan. Through the plan, “EDUCAUSE will evolve and transform to better prepare the community to tackle their toughest challenges,” emphasized O’Brien. “Our strategic priorities are personalization, professional learning, and partnership/collaboration, and there will be a lot of noteworthy activity in these three areas. I’m convinced that the directions outlined there reflect what our members want. They want more personalized experience through targeted resources, and they want reimagined professional learning designed to stay ahead of the curve and address challenges. And they want us to advance partnerships and collaboration, both providing resources to them to help move in this direction and doing it ourselves, connecting in meaningful ways with other associations and organizations.”

O’Brien noted that he is also very excited about the EDUCAUSE Benchmarking Services and the Leading Academic Transformation initiative.  “Mainly, I just urge folks to get involved in the EDUCAUSE community,” he said. “What I think is noteworthy is less important than the value individuals bring and find here, and that is different for everyone.”

(Next page: Takeaways 5-9 in big news released within sessions and surveys)

Big News within Sessions and Surveys

5. Higher Ed has Massive Misconceptions about Low-Income Student Success

New data released at EDUCAUSE by vibeffect challenges the commonly held perception that low-income students have a categorical deficit and cannot thrive in a variety of four-year college ecosystems. It reveals that students from low-income households ($35,000 household income and below) have an equal probability of earning a “high-thriving” designation on all dimensions of thriving, and often are equally represented in the highest-thriving group. Read the full story here.

6. The Great Recession Still Lords over Campus IT

A sweeping Campus Computing Survey shows that most colleges and universities are still undergoing budget cuts in the aftershocks of the struggling economy. 8 years after the beginning of the Great Recession, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of the CIOs and senior IT officers who participated in Campus Computing’s 2016 survey report that IT funding at their campus “has not fully recovered from the budget cuts experienced over the past four-six years.” And it’s this lack of recovery that’s currently affecting multiple IT issues, such as personnel, instruction, security…and a growing angst with analytics. Read the full story here.

7. The Top 10 IT Issues in 2017

According to Susan Grajek, vice president of data, research, and analytics for EDUCAUSE, there were three new issues mentioned by higher ed panelists this year: strategic leadership, higher education affordability, and next-generation enterprise IT. Read the full story here.

8. Students Want Institutions to Use Their data to Transform Their College Experience

A new survey released at EDUCAUSE 2016 reveals that students believe personal data use will transform higher education. The Ellucian survey, conducted by Wakefield Research, defines personal data and personal student information as any data a school manages about a student, from application to meal plan. 93 percent of students said they expect to only have to provide personal information to their institution once. 77 percent of surveyed students said they believe institutions should use their personal data to improve their college experiences in various areas. Read the full story here.

9. Ransomware Plaguing Higher Education

A recent report found that Higher Education Institutions have now become the number one target for ransomware and other malware attacks. The report revealed that that one in 10 education organizations have found that ransomware has infected their networks. Academic institutions must maintain an unusually open cyber environment to ensure access for all, which makes them a target for cybercriminals and leaves their research and student data at risk. Hackers launch ransomware attacks that target faculty, staff and internal resources. The attacks usually start with a phishing campaign–the type that lead to the Olympians’ medical data being leaked–featuring a variety of lures that are irresistible to students and faculty, tricking them into clicking on a malicious document or website that automatically downloads a variety of ransomware and malware. Read the full story here.

(Next page: Takeaway #10 in big news within vendor releases)

Technology and Vendor News [Listed in alphabetical order by company name]

10. Some of the country’s biggest and most innovation companies released news specifically for EDUCAUSE 2016:

About the Author:

Meris Stansbury

Meris Stansbury is the Editorial Director for both eSchool News and eCampus News, and was formerly the Managing Editor of eCampus News. Before working at eSchool Media, Meris worked as an assistant editor for The World and I, an online curriculum publication. She graduated from Kenyon College in 2006 with a BA in English, and enjoys spending way too much time either reading or cooking.

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