UBTech 2016: Shaping the future of higher education

More than 1,100 campus tech leaders and innovators found insight and inspiration

“Don’t just believe in UBTech, believe in something higher—your pursuit of education excellence.” And with those words, University Business Group Publisher Matt Kinnaman kicked off UBTech 2016.

More than 1,100 campus tech leaders and innovators from across the nation flocked to Las Vegas for the June 6-8 event, descending upon The Mirage Convention Center for three days of insight and inspiration.

Attendees explored a wealth of learning opportunities in special interest groups that ranged from student retention and cloud infrastructure to 3D printing and digital signage.

They also found professional enrichment in keynote presentations addressing student and institutional success, 70-plus breakout sessions, and a busy exhibition floor that buzzed with more than 70 solutions providers.

Best practices and cutting-edge answers were available at every turn, as was the spirit of collaboration—educators enthusiastically shared ideas during sessions, but also huddled together informally in meeting rooms following presentations, comparing notes.

Old colleagues and new friends convened to discuss technology trends and to discover how practical applications could be implemented at their own institutions.

Attendees could follow session tracks covering the active classroom, AV integration, policy and practice, campus IT, instructional technology, or institutional and student success.

Those unable to be in Las Vegas could watch UBTech highlights courtesy of Titanium sponsor Sonic Foundry, which streamed the opening and closing keynote addresses live online via Mediasite Cloud.

During the Harman Innovation Awards ceremony, also captured on video, conference Diamond sponsor Harman awarded $25,000 of products to five institutions demonstrating innovation in the use of technology: Arizona State University, Belmont University, Loyola Marymount University, University of Houston, Downtown and Laval University (Canada).

Here’s more of what attendees learned and experienced at the conference.

Keynote connections

How did a small, undistinguished college once criticized as an “admissions bottom-feeder” transform itself into a selective university that attracts applicants from around the world, sends students to Ivy League graduate schools and produces a healthy share of Fulbright scholars? 

In his opening keynote, Elon University President Leo Lambert said it’s all about campus culture. 

“We’re a restless place, but in a good way,” Lambert said. “At Elon, you’ll never hear the term ‘We’ve arrived.’ We are always in the process of becoming a better version of ourselves.” 

During Lambert’s 17-year tenure, the North Carolina university has spent handsomely to rebuild its library, revitalize the foreign languages department and expand faculty research, among other initiatives. And, Lambert says, the school also keeps funds in reserve to support grassroots innovations that spring up around technology and other areas. 

Such a transformation requires leadership that can maintain and balance competing interests from faculty, administrators, students and others. 

“Running a university and tuning a Stradivarius are not dissimilar acts,” Lambert said. “Can we tune these tensions carefully to make beautiful music—that is, to support a culture where innovation can thrive, rather than allowing too much tension to cause a string to break?”

Speaking of innovation—well, it’s not the same thing as invention. 

So said closing keynote speaker Michael Nelson, a former White House advisor who is now a visiting professor of internet studies at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

“Innovation is taking an idea and making it useful,” Nelson said. Too often on college campuses, “theory is the ultimate goal,” he added. “Practical products or new practices are not as important.”

Barriers to innovation in higher ed include the tradition that those who don’t rock the boat get promoted and the misperception that innovation is always a logical, orderly process.

Advances in technology allow collaboration between a wider range of people with a diversity of ideas, he said. “What really matters is risk-taking, and getting people in different fields talking to each other.” 

Session highlights

UBTech 2016’s five Distinguished Speakers represent some of the highest-rated veteran presenters from past years. Among them is Darin Kapanjie, managing director of Fox Online and Digital Learning at the Fox School of Business at Temple University in Philadelphia.

In “The Force Has Awoken: Time to Suit Up,” Kapanjie discussed how to create an academic video library worthy of student consumption. “Students should have a consistent and consistently high-quality experience with academic video,” he said.

Spencer Graham, manager of operations for information stations and digital signage expert at West Virginia University, gave tips for “Creating and Maintaining a Digital Signage Network.” He encouraged digital signage novices to budget for touch-screen replacement costs every five to seven years.

Linda Cresap, an associate professor at Minot State University in North Dakota, delved into the whys and hows of flipped learning in “Enhance Student Learning: How to be a Flipping Success!” Attendees discussed the latest in flipped learning trends within higher ed.

When an email from a trusted colleague sounds a little “off,” university employees should be on alert for social engineering, warned David Carson, vice president for business services and CFO at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

In “How to Prevent Social Engineering Hacking of Campus Information Systems,” Carson focused on training employees to spot the signs of this particular form of hacking. A session highlight was a smartphone demo on how hackers use apps to mask their true phone number on caller ID with a number of the recipient’s friend or loved one.

Six-time UBTech speaker Brian Klaas, senior systems designer for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is an annual conference favorite.

In “More Spielberg than Shakespeare: Designing for the YouTube Generation When Flipping the Classroom,” he explained—and demonstrated through his own lively presentation style—how “narrative techniques help us remember information long after reading or viewing.” Klaas recommends borrowing tactics from classic storytellers to make lectures more memorable to students.

Other UBTech program highlights included the collaborative workshop and large-group discussion sessions. Attendees learned from expert presenters and each other in “The Flexible Classroom: After the Breakup (Beginning Again with Student-Centered Instruction)” and “How to Build an Affordable Active Classroom.”

And those new to the UBTech experience had the opportunity to meet each other and get some navigation tips during a session for first-time attendees.

At UBTech 2017, conference attendees can count on similar sessions and others on instructional technology, AV integration and campus IT. June 12-14 will see the conference at Omni ChampionsGate Resort in Orlando.

For more information on joining us, including signing up for an alert when registration opens, please visit www.ubtechconference.com.  


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