The Educause Annual Conference 2021, held in Philadelphia, PA from October 26-29, connected higher education institutes from around the country. Following nearly two years of event cancellations, this was one of the first educational conferences to bring back the in-person experience while also offering the flexibility of a virtual option. With a background in teaching and instructional technology, I’ve attended higher education conferences in the past. However, Educause stands out for a variety of reasons.
The first difference was the drastic decline in attendance. The last time I attended a conference at the Philadelphia convention center was for the ISTE convention, just months before the COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020.
Although the convention center wasn’t as active as I remembered, it actually made it easier to navigate to my destinations. I never felt crowded or distracted from where I wanted to go, which allowed me to manage my schedule.
Call for Equity in Education
I was pleasantly surprised to see the call for equity in education embedded throughout the sessions. The obvious response to the pandemic in recognizing that not all students were getting the same quality of education, is the necessity of change.Sessions included topics such as engagement strategies, diversity and inclusion, accessibility, and many more. I was also surprised to see a strong call for change to the IT infrastructure to meet the needs of all learners.
Hybrid Attendance Model
The hybrid attendance approach was another difference that could be the future for most large conferences. By offering the option for anyone to attend, regardless of location or travel restrictions, allows for educational organizations to grow and learn in these ever-changing times.
The hybrid model also offered a different networking option for small group video discussions. Although I was attending in-person, I had the chance to meet some of the virtual attendees in a Braindate. The concept was simple and effective to bring out discussion on topics of interest through collaborating with peers in a video chat. I hope to see more of these types of small group discussion opportunities in future conferences.
Identity Automation Booth
Educause was my first event with Identity Automation, whose mission is to empower educators and students with access to secure, reliable and flexible learning environments. RapidIdentity, the digital identity platform in education, delivers greater security and flexibility while lowering identity and access management (IAM) costs. Digital identities enable academic institutions to safeguard the learning environment, maximize instructional time, and minimize the load on technology teams.
I had the privilege of connecting with my colleagues for the first time in person. We collaborated every day in the vendor hall which was somewhat quiet, however, the Identity Automation booth was consistently engaged as educational organizations work towards digital transformation.
With the heightened awareness of ransomware, data breaches, and the rising cost of insurance, many educational institutions were seriously considering the new Compromised Credential Monitoring offering. The Identity Automation booth provided a free report to show potential threats to individual and institution accounts, initiating the discussion on next steps.
Insights from Our Pathfinders
I was honored to attend the event with two other Identity Automation Pathfinders. Dr. Marialice Curran is an expert on the topic of digital citizenship and is a former college professor and past Educause presenter.
“To be able to attend my first in-person conference last month at EDUCAUSE reminded me of all the lessons learned during the pandemic. What resonated with me the most was not just a raised awareness for the need for accessibility and inclusion, but a deliberate approach to personalize the learning experience for all. Having the opportunity to network with other Pathfinders during the conference allowed me to better understand the importance around Identity Automation’s mission to empower educators and students with a safe and secure
place to learn. This personalized approach aligns perfectly with the digital citizenship message to help students stay safe, solve problems, and become a force for good both on and offline.”
In addition, Kathi Kersznowski attended as an Identity Automation Pathfinder. Her role as an instructional technology leader was to learn more about the important role of digital identity that wholly represents students, connecting learning systems, and empowering responsive education for the individual. She was able to collaborate with Identity Automation around the convention center and posted some of her videos on social media.
“I was beyond fortunate to be able to attend Educause in Philadelphia this year! I came to learn the relevance and importance of digital identity— especially as it applies to education. I learned SO much more, especially from the folks at Identity Automation, and I’m excited to be able to share cutting-edge solutions with organizations that care about protecting their employees and students.”
Continuing to Engage in Education Technology Landscape
Of course, part of the conference experience is enjoying the evening events. The beautiful weather made exploring Philadelphia that much more special. From long-standing restaurants to the Terminal Market, the flavors of Philly did not disappoint. I loved the historical connections across the city and I look forward to returning to Educause Annual next year.
As more conferences begin to open up in-person events, I anticipate our future in education is looking brighter with an intention to a more individualized learning approach. Our practices, infrastructure, and curriculum will be more diligent to serve and support all our learners.
Up next, Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), January 25-29, 2022 in Orlando, Florida!