When is a conference not a conference? When it’s an EDUCAUSE Connect event. The Connect event series, which started its rollout last week in Portland, Oregon, February 11-13, continues on to Chicago (March 17-19) and closes out in Baltimore (April 30-May2). The learning reinforced by the event was this: the structure of an event and the process used to shape it make a big difference in the end user experience.
You can still count on the same great EDUCAUSE organization and planning for the logistics, but get ready for a whole new professional development experience. Everything about the Connect events is more intentionally designed to deliver a deeper, more meaningful professional development experience. The event is organized with four content tracks (Elevate Your Game Career Development, Enterprise Systems/Admin IT/Cloud, Mobile/BYOE and Online Learning) and attendees were strongly encouraged to pick a track and stick with it, so that they could develop a learning cohort. Speakers (sage on the stage variety) were replaced with content leaders whose job was to design highly interactive, practical sessions that attendees could find immediately applicable.
There was also a bead game in play to help attendees meet other people on their track and within EDUCAUSE. Attendees could earn beads by completing ‘missions’ such as “meet an EDUCAUSE staffer” to add to their groovy necklaces to show off their ‘connectivity’ with the event. Content leaders and facilitators and new IT managers could all earn digital badges as well, communicating their skills to others in a tangible, coherent way.
In talking with the attendees of the Elevate Your Game track, it was clear they enjoyed the learning cohort model and felt they got to know people better than they usually did at other conferences. As one person put it, “You could always spot a few people at the end of the day and know that you could get in on a dinner plan that would include better quality conversation.”
I kicked off NGLC’s contributions to the Elevate Your Game track with a 45-minute session on Using Design Thinking to Elevate Your Game. So rather than talk about Design Thinking, one of the key components for the NGLC Breakthrough Models Incubator, I embraced the content leader role and we did Design Thinking. Attendees paired off and took turns moving through the Design Thinking process pioneered by IDEO at a quick clip, trying to generate some new thinking about existing challenges at their institutions. Contrary to most problem solving sessions in higher education, we had music, fun and a lot of laughs. Attendees at Chicago Connect and Baltimore Connect can look forward to an NGLC session on the Elevate Your Game track with Nancy Millichap (Chicago) and Kristen Vogt (Baltimore). Everyone can look forward to a really re-energized experience of learning, sharing and networking.