Tag Archives: equality

Getting the best out of Educause

Richard Goodman
Learning Technology Team Manager
Loughborough University

Conference round-up

As I sit on the A-Train (officially called the University of Colorado A Line for sponsorship reasons) from Denver to the airport, I’m reflecting a little on the events in Denver at Educause, which I was able to attend courtesy of a UCISA bursary. It has been the most rewarding conference experience. The younger me would have been overawed at the sheer size of this event, but after having presented at and attended conferences for the last 20 years, I felt ready for it.
The backdrop to this conference is of a world which has various parts in chaos. In the UK HE sector, it’s been a tricky year, with a once-in-a-generation strike affecting much of the sector (concerning pensions), and institutions looking for more and better systems to support and improve their student experiences. Blockchain is background noise. Cloud is commonplace now. The MOOC bubble has burst a bit (in the UK at least).
One of the big themes of the conference was around diversity, equity and inclusion. These are areas that have resonated in many places in the last few years, with politics in the UK and the US appearing to veer off in the opposite direction to this right now.
I’ve thrown myself in headlong to each day, up at silly o’clock every day to take part in “braindates”, sharing experiences of learning technology with international colleagues from universities, and a nice guy from a start-up who are looking to get into the world of online learning with an interesting web tool. The tables and chairs inside the corrugated cardboard booths were perfectly pleasant. The 1970s “Barbarella” style swinging chairs were less conducive to a friendly chat.
However, nothing was as bad as the chairs made out of skis, which were massively uncomfortable and almost impossible to get out of! You might also spot some swings in the background – it’s hard to talk about serious subjects when wobbling around on a swing.

 

 
The conference schedule was absolutely crammed with loads of conflicting sessions, and it’s the sign of an engaging conference when there’s so much to go to and too much to choose from. I hope I made the right choices, but I’ll never know. Sessions on learning analytics dashboards, student data, accessibility, ITIL, change management, projects and relationships, privacy and ethics and onboarding were certainly a varied bunch, with a good mix of listening and more interactive sessions.
The exhibition was enormous. There were 333 of them to choose from, with multiple Google stands (including half a basketball court), an enormous Service Now stand and plenty of the usual suspects with massive stands. Technology has become a tool which guides change.
Far more interesting to talk to the smaller providers and those in “start-up alley”. Once you’ve seen the latest laptop from Lenovo or Dell or a Microsoft Surface once, you’ve seen them enough. Some familiar faces on the Moodle stand and there were a few other suppliers there to chat with about existing projects. It was very handy for one project we were currently working on, as I could show something to the supplier which they could relay back to their implementation team, as we both happened to be in the same time zone for once!
There’s so much still to reflect upon and that will happen naturally over the next year when thinking back to some of these conference experiences and the presentations that were shared. There’s been a very lively social media community on the #edu18 hashtag too. Communication and collaboration have been key themes that I will try to take into 2019.
I’ll leave you with a last image of Colorado, a slightly blurry view of the Rocky Mountains that have always been visible from somewhere each day. This was the view from the train on the way to the airport.
A fantastic conference experience in an amazing city. Before coming here I would never have put Denver on my “cities to visit” list. Having been here, I’m eager to come back and explore more. It’s very much an “outdoor city” with so much provision for walking and cycling, far more than I’d been expecting. You can explore so much on foot, or catch trains, buses and trams.
Au revoir Denver. Thanks again to UCISA and the UCISA bursary scheme for giving me this opportunity. Look out for the 2019 edition of the scheme around February/March for your chance to attend an event that you might otherwise be unable to attend. You can read all of my posts here.
This first appeared on the East Midlands Learning Technologists’ Group blog.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

The importance of networking for women in IT

Rhiannon Gillespie
Service Desk Advisor
Cardiff University

CISCO Live 2018, Orlando

Preparing for CISCO Live

As a UCISA bursary award winner for 2018, I had the opportunity to visit CISCO Live in Orlando, Florida.  CISCO Live is CISCO’s annual customer and partner conference with sessions, hands-on training and an exhibition. With just three weeks to prepare before setting off, I registered for the conference and got to work choosing which sessions I’d attend. There were hundreds to choose from, so I stuck to one area: the ‘Leadership and Equality’ track. I had to register on the sessions before arriving and some I wanted to attend such as the ‘CISCO Live orientation’ were unfortunately fully booked.
I downloaded the CISCO Live app, which held my schedule, helpful information like meals and shuttle times, and general information about the conference. This was very useful while at the conference to keep on top of where I was supposed to be.
I arrived early to allow myself to acclimatize before the conference started.  The conference was just a shuttle ride away, so on the Saturday before the conference I got the shuttle so I could find where the stop was for when the conference started and went to pick up my badge to beat the Monday morning queues.  On the Monday morning I got to the conference early to take advantage of breakfast. I could tell how big the conference was just by how long it took to walk from the shuttle stop to the dining area!
I attended two or three sessions a day and spent the rest of the time wandering around what CISCO dub the ‘World of Solutions’.  This was an area with various technical labs, ‘DevNet’ developer area and a trade show type floor where CISCO partners conduct talks and demos of their products.

CISCO Empowered Women’s Network

The track of talks I attended used to be a four-hour session called CISCO Empowered Women’s Network or ‘CEWN’ on the Sunday before the main conference. This was the first year they had spread it over multiple sessions over multiple days. A newbie to networks and the only female in the IT Service Desk team, I sometimes lack confidence. There were more technical sessions, which matched all levels of technical ability but owing to my lack of confidence I didn’t attend any of these.  The CEWN sessions, however, really helped with my confidence. They discussed varying diversity issues and how to overcome them, and some sessions were presented by women who work in different areas of CISCO discussing their roles. They also discussed how to create more diverse teams and the benefits this can have, this included a talk from the main person behind ‘CISCO men for inclusion group.
My favourite talk was about ‘Women on the Front line of Disaster Response’ which consisted of three managers from separate teams (one a different company, NetHope) discussing how they approach disaster response and help bring back networks to disaster areas. This included man-made disasters, natural disasters and refugee camps (pictured the CISCO van and inflatable satellite they take to disaster areas).
It was interesting learning how they managed this as well as the results from completing the work.  For example, one of them discussed how when speaking to some refugee children, it transpired that they had learnt how to speak English by watching videos on the Wi-Fi.
If anyone is ever thinking of attending CISCO Live, I highly recommend it. If you are a woman thinking of attending, definitely go for it. Only 8% of attendees this year were women, but this was up from 6% last year – we need to keep pushing that number up! The conference really did help with my confidence and it was just generally really good fun (especially the party they held at Universal Studios!).

 Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.