Ask 100 people, "what's wrong with higher education?" and you are bound to hear 101 different answers.
But if you press people, narrowing their focus to the most significant issues we face across all institutions, you can probably cull the list to a top 20.
In addition to cost, diversity, access, success, transference, learning, and other vital issues, you might hear that one of the biggest problems higher education faces is an inability to replicate effective practices. We (as a sector) are not good about sharing information, practical strategies, or successful initiatives. Some of the most successful work, primarily if studied or under a research lens, is gated behind journals most will never read or publications only small sub-groups pay attention to.
Even philanthropic groups such as the Gates Foundation have struggled mightily to share and reproduce the impactful treatments their donations have funded. Add to that the easy (although often overly dismissive) response by some leaders suggesting their school is somehow a unicorn with unique problems. It becomes apparent that we (higher ed) are not (generally) good about sharing nor replicating usable, viable strategies.
Enter the conference!
The conference's original purpose was pretty straightforward: share effective practices, ideas, and new ways of thinking/acting. Francis Bacon is attributed with the following quote, "Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man." In this context, the conference design helps the theory become practical; the academic become pragmatic.
Before the big announcement, let me (personally) say that I have been part of just such a conference.
While I have also been to many subject matter conferences that were not practical or pragmatic, seeing more faculty use it as a paid vacation than to network or find practical application within their field, I have also been to dozens (hundreds?) of "general" education conferences where each session is like playing Russian Roulette with your time. Will it be a good session? Unlikely, but there's always a chance! Come on, lucky 1 pm slot, Daddy needs a new initiative! 😊
When I was the Chief Academic Officer for eCollege (a Learning Management System), which was eventually acquired by Pearson, we put on a user's conference each year. I saw the conference grow over time from 100 people to 700-1000 people. And as someone who was integrally involved in the planning, presentation, and process of the conference, I was always pleased to hear just how practical and applicable the attendees believed it to be. We consistently listened to participants' lament that each session in the various tracks was desirous and likely held usable information, making it incredibly difficult to pick just one. We received copious feedback about our partners' gratitude who had gotten 3, 6, or 10 new ideas, which they would surely take back to their home institutions.
From the keynote speakers inspiring and pushing the envelope to the practical, sensical sessions from peers, the user's conference was the epitome of what a conference likely should be.
It is with tremendous excitement and anticipation that I announce the Campus (Inaugural) Conference: "Better Together" (2021)!
We have seen institution after institution try to find new and better ways to connect during the past year. Honestly, it is part of why our company has multiplied, even during the pandemic. Our platform, which is highly effective and "connective" during regular times, is precisely the kind of system institutions need now, allowing people to connect to people, tools, content, support, fun, etc. And why has all of this happened? Because, whether in the context of Covid-19 or not, we all know that our people (students, staff, faculty, etc.) need other people. In other words, we are better together.
And that is what we intend to both celebrate and bolster on February 25, 2021.
We intend to showcase what it is to be better together. Whether in person or at a distance, we have the tools and the capabilities to be better together, at scale.
Our (virtual) conference will lean-in to the current environment as a "drop-in/drop-out" conference. In other words, we hope that participants will treat our sessions like other meetings throughout the day, looking for those that seem helpful, practical, and engaging, and interjecting them into the rest of the meetings they might have locally. Because our partners are from many time zones, the conference will run from 8 am PST and end by 5 pm EST.
So, with that backdrop, let's talk about the day. We plan to start with a bang! We bring in author/speaker/organizational consultant Michael Lee Stallard to provide the opening keynote address. The author of "Connection Culture" will share specific examples and strategies for "connection" across higher education. His work has (literally) informed strategic planning agendas for colleges and universities for several years and might be an excellent session for your campus leadership. In our current pandemic environment, this discussion is extraordinarily timely and essential.
Following his presentation, there will be a facilitated conversation between our Chief Academic Officer and the author before we break off into individual sessions.
The sessions will be housed in one of three different tracks. There will be sessions dedicated to IT specifically (from integration to security, etc.), other sessions for functional, user-facing, experience-based best practices (communications, use of groups, internal marketing, etc.), with a last set of sessions that are Campus-centric (new Campus products, consulting, etc.).
Finally, we will all come back together for the last session of the day delivered by Chase Williams (Campus CEO) and Dr. Jeff Borden (Campus CAO) as we share where the platform and company is headed over the next 12 months.
We hope that you will join us for this exciting, inaugural event! Despite the virtual conference, we are working to ensure our time together is fun, includes some exciting announcements, and has a few contests with prizes. If you RSVP before the event, you'll even be sent your "schwag bag," including our keynote author's book!
Visit our Better Together Website (https://campus.app/lp/better-together-2021/) or talk to your Partner Success representative (or anyone from Campus, really) about attending. We'll see you on February 25, 2021, as we all work to be Better Together!
Dr. Jeff Borden
Chief Academic Officer