EduCause, the higher-ed conference held in Denver last month, had a lot to offer the post-secondary education ed-tech crowd. Beyond the ever-present IT / Security / Infrastructure / HelpDesk / Cloud mantras, many display-related themes were also prominent in both the conference sessions and the exhibit hall. Here is an overview of these themes:
A number of themes clearly appeared as ‘darlings’ of this conference, including (in order of importance):
Analytics. The most popular topic in conference sessions, by far, revolved around the analytics arena: visualization, data mapping, and mining meaning from disparate operational and instructional data.
Communication and Collaboration. The most prevalent theme emanating from the exhibit hall fell clearly into the realm of communication and collaboration enhancement tools, be it furniture, integrated communications, or the “seamless video collaboration” of cloud-based video collaboration platforms like MASHME. The level of competition breeding in this arena is stunning.
The Active Learning Classroom. Better get used to that term. It’s the new description used in higher-ed for the most desirable learning environment and you will want to hitch your products to that star. The active learning meme—plus learning space redesign—could be seen and heard everywhere, even to the point of dominating booth design and message delivery.
XR (sort of). EduCause is the first education-specific conference I have attended in which the term XR has finally superseded the usual AR/MR/VR nomenclature. That certainly makes things easier. Still, peering deeper, the main darling here was VR, which held an unprecedentedly strong posture in both the exhibit hall and conference sessions. For that reason, I’ll do a deep dive on this in a later Display Daily article.
The Pain Points
Higher Ed continues to wrestle with some stubborn issues in technology and teaching, issues that just won’t slip silently away into the sunset: 1) how to provide a better online learning experience and 2) improving accessibility in higher ed courses (that is, how to make digital resources more accessible to students with learning challenges). These recurring “pain points” were well represented in conference sessions throughout the 5 day conference, although not-so-much in the expo hall.
I expected more delightful findings, but of course, EduCause is not InfoComm. For example, I anticipated greater interest in topics like artificial intelligence, but the stream of AI-related topics and resources was less than I presumed. And most was associated with the analytics theme. Similarly, I speculated that a greater emphasis on learning with mobility tools would be evident; that was not the case. The expo hall provided some wares, but the conference sessions treated the topic ever-so-slightly.
Most interestingly, however, augmented reality had a much smaller presence in the exhibit hall and conference sessions than did virtual reality wares. For the last several years, AR presentations and booth presence have slightly outnumbered VR ones in educational conferences, but in this case, VR seemed to have a 3-1 advantage over AR, numerically speaking. That was actually a surprise. I suppose this was just a situational exception, but I remain unsure. We’ll have to keep an eye on this. –Len Scrogan