Tag Archives: educause speaker spotlight

EDUCAUSE 2011 Speaker Spotlight: Link Alander, Associate Vice Chancellor

As a lead-up to this year’s EDUCAUSE conference, we’re interviewing some of the speakers who will be sharing their knowledge and experience at the conference. It’s our hope that these interviews will spark conversation and give conference attendees a better sense of this year’s speakers.

Link Alander is the Associate Vice Chancellor of the Lone Star College System. He is giving a presentation at this year’s conference entitled “The Lean and Green by Design.” Link was kind enough to answer a few questions about the most rewarding aspects of his job, the importance of green design, and more.

For more EDUCAUSE-related posts, click here.

1. As Associate Vice Chancellor of such a broad school network, what are the most rewarding aspects of what you do?

The most rewarding events of course is the fall opening and graduation. From a technology standpoint the most rewarding aspects are when faculty use the technology foundation to teach in innovative ways. Using technology to engage students and challenge them is impressive. The faculty know how to reach students using technology we, Office of Technology Services, have to be able to support and sustain these initiatives.

2. Why have you chosen to make green design a priority at Lone Star College?

The best answer to this is on our green IT initiative’s charter:

As the trends of the Technology Industry move toward a more energy conscience, sustainable model; the LSCS Office of Technology Services has committed to being a leader in this arena by engaging in more Eco friendly practices.

There are two major factors that lead to this shift in focus.

As an institution of Higher Education, we have the social responsibility to address this issue and be a leader in the community.
As stewards of tax payers’ dollars, we have a fiscal responsibility to manage costs and improve efficiencies.

3. What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned from your use of virtualization? Are there any particular companies or consultants you would recommend to a colleague who is attempting to follow in the footsteps of Lone Star College?

We have learned a lot from our use of virtualization and the cloud. Our key objective to start was to replace aging hardware and improve service availability. The end results support our 5-nines up-time initiative and have significantly improve our ability to meet our institution’s needs – enterprise agility. It doesn’t take months to bring new services on-line anymore.

We focused on key strategic partnerships with industry leaders. When moving to a highly virtualized environment, currently 93% to include our ERP, you must have the best in class solutions. We partnered with HP, VMware, EMC and Cisco on the hardware/software solutions. We also partnered with SHI on the conversion of the campus servers from physical to virtual.

4. What do you feel are the most significant issues/challenges institutions face in developing sustainable, cost-efficient IT management models?

Once the direction is set it is not a problem. The biggest issue is that this is an on-going “best practice” not a onetime project. To be successful green needs to be part of every IT decision.

5. Where do you see the future of lean and green IT headed?

This is a hard question because there are so many directions to go in. From a pure IT standpoint for us it is to reduce the power cost even further on the endpoint (computing) devices. The other item that has to expand is the institutions involvement – expand to reach all areas of the campus, especially students. Another direction that we have also been perusing is a regional green consortium that consists of K12, CC and universities. This has been making headway as a sharing group for successes and failures.

6. Are there any other sessions or events you’re looking forward to attending at this year’s EDUCAUSE Conference?

I always enjoy the EDUCAUSE sections and typically go to many sessions that are not directly related to what I do. The reason for this is to see other perspectives. Since I mainly support infrastructure and operations I like to attend technology in the classroom sessions. Often I get the opportunity to bring back ideas to discuss with faculty members. So far I have not had a chance to plan my schedule but I’ll let you know if something jumps out.

EDUCAUSE 2011 Speaker Spotlight: Carlyn Chatfield, Manager of IT Technical Communications

As a lead-up to this year’s EDUCAUSE conference, we’re interviewing some of the speakers who will be sharing their knowledge and experience at the conference. It’s our hope that these interviews will spark conversation and give conference attendees a better sense of this year’s speakers.

Carlyn Chatfield is the Manager of IT Technical Communications at Rice University. She and four other IT leaders are conducing a session at EDUCAUSE 2011 entitled “Effective Project Deployment: Six Steps to Keep Them Coming Back.” Carlyn was kind enough to answer a few questions via email about her role at Rice, EDUCAUSE and more.

For more EDUCAUSE-related posts, click here.

1.What do your day-to-day responsibilities entail?

Managing IT communications for Rice is both interesting and rewarding. Today, I distributed a message about a service that was temporarily off-line, continued refining plans for an undergraduate study break to raise awareness about IT services and support for students, designed a student newspaper ad about the new mobile app for our course management tool, and helped create a web site for information about a security initiative.  I love being the connection between our technology gurus and our customers!

2. What was the inspiration for your presentation on Effective Project Deployment? Without giving too much away, why do you think IT leaders and project managers should concern themselves with the “business value” of their projects?

Many of us in the EDUCAUSE IT Communications constituency group work in positions that were created in the last 5-7 years.  Because our role is a relatively new one, we are always interested in helping administrators learn how they can leverage our experience.

As far as inspiration, Dana Hoover at Pepperdine said it is “everyone’s job in IT (not just the CIO or VP) to communicate the value of IT to University administration and to the end user community.”   We can easily communicate IT value through the projects we facilitate for the university, so this is a logical starting point to successfully influence our peers’ and leaders’ perceptions about IT. In today’s environment, IT projects must be both efficient and effective. I believe that good communication is at the root of both values.

3. What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in the process of implementing IT changes at Rice?

All of us are resistant to change to some degree. For example, I still struggle with our growing adoption of ITIL best practices; I thought “my way” was working and wondered why I have to learn something new and different.  More recently, I realized I am good at my job because of my attention to detail, but I don’t see the big picture.  Two of our directors looked at the big picture and saw how implementing ITIL could provide a cohesive platform for growth – something that was missing when each individual was singing “My Way.”  Communications play a strong role in ITIL, so as the communications manager I need to get with the program!

4. Since you’ve presented at Educause before, do you have any recommendations for first-timers (presenters and/or attendees)?

Join an Educause Constituency Group (CG) and find out when they meet! Connecting with colleagues who face similar challenges and opportunities is one of the most important aspects of the conference.  In addition to our CG meeting during the event, a lot of the IT Communicators try to meet casually at meals during the conference.

5. What’s your favorite part about EDUCAUSE?

In the past, it was our IT Communicators Supper Club, but I’ve heard EDUCAUSE has added a “lounge for CGs” this year. That sounds ideal for those of us who want a quiet place to chat about specific issues but can’t make meal meetings due to conflicts with other EDUCAUSE groups or teams.

EDUCAUSE 2011 Speaker Spotlight: John Foliot, Manager of the Stanford Online Accessibility Program

As a lead-up to this year’s EDUCAUSE conference, we’re interviewing some of the speakers who will be sharing their knowledge and experience at the conference. It’s our hope that these interviews will spark conference and give conference attendees a better sense of this year’s speakers.

For this installment, we spoke to John Foliot, Manager of the Stanford Online Accessibility Program. John is speaking on a panel at EDUCAUSE 2011 entitled “Developers View of Accessibility: Pitfalls, Gotchas, and Solutions.” John was gracious enough to speak to us via email about the ins and outs of online accessibility and EDUCAUSE.

For more EDUCAUSE-related blog posts, click here.

1. What do you see as the greatest challenge to improving online accessibility?

In many ways, the answer to that question today is the same answer we had five and even ten years ago: education. Due to the decentralized publishing environment that seems to thrive in higher education, getting to the actual content authors is often the biggest hurdle. It’s not that these authors are deliberately creating inaccessible content, but rather often they are unaware that doing “this” (whatever “this” might be) is inadvertently introducing access issues. In my experience, most content creators, when informed of an issue, are both apologetic and willing to correct or modify their work, which is gratifying. Only rarely do I hear “I don’t have any disabled students in my course” or “what about academic freedom?” – again these issues are often addressed with educating that person on the advantages that ensuring accessible content brings to them, often due to increased search-ability (SEO), or simply a better user experience for all users.

2. What guiding principles inform your work with SOAP? How, if at all, have these principles changed or evolved in your 5 years leading the program at Stanford?

Education and Outreach has been a significant part of my efforts to date, along with evaluation and reporting. I’ve worked hard at establishing myself as a credible technologist on campus, one with a goal (for sure), but also one who also understands the complexities of a rapidly evolving and changing user-base and requirements. I like to joke that I am more like the fireman (racing to fires when needed, but more focused on fire-prevention), rather than the “accessibility police” chasing after developers and slapping them into hand-cuffs.

I’ve found that grass-roots initiatives on campus tend to see the most adoption, as real people have a real and vested interest in seeing their favorite solutions thrive; I’ve striven to be part of those activities on campus since I first arrived. The Drupal CMS adoption at Stanford is a classic example of that, and Drupal has now become the CMS of choice by most of the tech folk on campus – to the point that a new division within our IT Services department is being established this September to both provide robust on-campus support to Drupal, as well as to steer and enhance the Drupal eco-system at Stanford.  Drupal is succeeding because the technologists on campus believed in it early on, and grew support organically, via peer-to-peer support using tools such as a campus-wide Drupaler’s mailing list, volunteer “drop-in days” (where the gurus helped the newbies), and organizing an on-campus Drupal conference and other developer initiatives. It’s been exciting to see Drupal take root, and I’m pleased to have been part of that effort since it first began.

My personal strategy has also been to be part of the larger technology discussions on campus, where I bring the “accessibility perspective” to the table; however I have taken pains to ensure that I keep up with all the emerging technologies, so that I am not seen by others on campus as a one-tune fiddle. Web accessibility is important, but cannot live inside its own little bubble – it needs to be part of the larger whole, and so being involved in the bigger tech discussions has helped keep me relevant and related to most initiatives on campus.

Of course the POUR principle (Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust), which is at the heart of the W3C’s WCAG2, is also a core mantra for me: helping developers and content producers understand what POUR means to them helps them understand what real accessibility entails.

Finally, I believe in what I call the Path of Least Resistance – which translates to: “Make things easier for people to do the right thing, and they will do the right thing”. Campus life is busy and moves quicker than many believe, and there is a constant struggle to get things done in time for yesterday. Ensuring that tools, processes and other forms of support exists so that “accessible” development is as easy – or easier – than inaccessible development is important for success. Our in-house captioning system for videos is an example of that philosophy at work, and we are proud that other higher-ed institutions have shown interest in our system since we launched it.

3. In what ways do you think web accessibility will improve in the next 5, 10, 50 years? Who or what do you foresee being the driver(s) of these changes?

I think that the web moves way too fast to try and predict where we will be in 5 years, let alone 10 or 50 years. Less than 4 years ago, “mobile” development was barely, if even, on the radar of many higher education institutions, and now it is *the* hot topic. Even institutions that jumped in early by developing dedicated mobile apps are now looking at “web apps” as a more sustainable and cost effective way of reaching their student body, and with advances in the technologies, even “off limit” mobile tools such as the camera and phone accelerometers will soon be available to HTML5 developers. I am watching and participating in that space quite actively, as it will continue to be a growth area for a number of years to come. Interestingly, many accessibility best practices also have real and tangible benefits on the mobile platform, as the confines and restrictions that mobile brings to web development force content creators to focus in on the key issues: scalable text, good structured documents, brevity of text, abandoning distracting “sidebar” content, clear navigation (and hopefully the demise of “flyout navbars”), etc. As an example, mobile phone users will have a hard time if a website’s navigation requires the use of a mouse because they typically only have an alphanumeric keypad or a small touch screen.

Of course, HTML5 is now emerging as the new standard for web development, and with that comes better integration of ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications), a slew of new form inputs and landmark elements, and new advances in multimedia (with the <audio> and <video> tags) that will make the next generation of web content leaner, more robust, and significantly more accessible – at least that’s the vision. Having been involved with some of that emergent Standards work at the W3C, I believe we will succeed – all-in-all HTML5 will make creating accessible web content that much easier as it too is using the “path of least resistance” principle. I am watching with particular interest the continued emergence of video on the web as being an exciting new frontier: I don’t think we’re anywhere near where that technology will take us in just a few more years, and with it will be new challenges with regard to accessibility, and new solutions too. So watch that closely.

4. Are there any sessions or events you’re particularly looking forward at this year’s Educause conference? If you’ve attended Educause before, do you have any recommendations for first-time attendees?

There are a number of interesting accessibility-related sessions coming up this year at EDUCAUSE 2011. I am looking forward to Tuesday’s Preconference session on “IT Accessibility Law, Policy, and Implementation”, “Beyond Compliance: Strategies to Increase Online Accessibility and Engagement for Students with Disabilities” on Wednesday, and Thursday’s “IT Accessibility in Higher Education, Present and Future”.

Of course, I am also looking forward to being a panelist at “Developers View of Web Accessibility: Pitfalls, Gotchas, and Solutions” on Wednesday, and I invite anyone interested in web accessibility at Higher Ed to stop by for one of our “Ten-Minute Tune-ups”, offered by myself or one of my EDUCAUSE Accessibility Constituent Group colleagues in the CG Lounge  (Wednesday afternoon from 3:30-4:20pm, or by chance at other times during the conference).

As for tips to first-time attendees? Network, network, network. Ask lots of questions (remember, there is no such thing as a dumb question), and pace yourself.  EDUCAUSE is a huge event, and there is a lot to see and learn. Trying to cram it all in is understandable, but I find that focusing on a few key topics proves to be more useful than running from session to session to session, seeing lots but retaining little. Spend the time in hallway chats, they have the most value (at least for me), as they are true dialogs and not just “info-dumps” – and if you see me, stop me and say hi, I love to meet new people.

EDUCAUSE 2011 Speaker Spotlight: Jude Higdon, Director of Innovative Learning and Academic Technology

As a lead-up to this year’s EDUCAUSE conference, we’re interviewing some of the speakers who will be sharing their knowledge and experience at the conference. It’s our hope that these interviews will spark conversation and give conference attendees a better sense of this year’s speakers.

For the second installment of our series, we spoke to Jude Higdon, the Director of Innovative Learning and Academic Technology at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy. He is leading two sessions at the 2011 EDUCAUSE Annual Conference: one on “Engaging Learnings Across Time and Space: Models for Distance Learning,” and another on “Opportunities and Challenges in Leveraging and Supporting Cloud Computing and Personal Devices.” Jude was gracious enough to answer our questions on cloud computing, the challenges of his position at the University of Minnesota, and more.

To read all our EDUCAUSE 2011 related posts, click here.

1. You’ve held a variety of roles at different higher ed institutions. How are your current responsibilities as Director of Innovative Learning and Academic Technology uniquely challenging?

Working in the College of Pharmacy is uniquely challenging in that it is the first time in my career where I’ve worked in health care education. This is also the first position I’ve had in quite a while where I am not surrounded by technologists. It is a strange position for me to be in to be one of the technically most proficient people around; I’m used to being the psychologist in the room. So I tend to do a lot more technical work than I’m used to doing, because the College is smaller and we wear a few more hats than I’ve worn in the past.

I think there is also a long tradition of distance learning in health care education, too, which presents both opportunities and challenges in my current role. The language of putting course materials online is very much a part of the culture in health care education, and that general direction seems to me more accepted than in, say, a College of Liberal Arts. However, many people have seen online health care modules emerge over the past years and have been relatively unimpressed, so there is sometimes a healthy skepticism about the quality or even potential of online learning. One of the fun challenges of my position is to help people dream about (and then execute on) ways in which online learning can be as good or an even *better* experience than face-to-face courses, both for instructors and for learners.

2. What are some of  the ways the College of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota leverage cloud computing and personal device technology, and what were the greatest lessons you learned from their implementation?

We have given our students iPod Touches in the past, which creates a sort of elegant infrastructure against which to experiment. If you know that your students all have a standard device, there is quite a lot you can begin to do in the cloud. The small form-factor of the Touch precluded some uses that instructors were interested in exploring — such as using eTextbooks and digital annotation of course notes — but allowed for other types of uses, such as cloud-based student responses (we have a home-grown tool called ChimeIn as well as TurningPoint clickers), using Twitter during class to create dialogic backchannel, and investigating drug databases using tools like Lexicomp and Facts and Comparisons. Students have also found the use of their Touches to be helpful while on rotation, particularly for researching drug information as part of a care team.

Over the past year we conducted a fairly exhaustive evaluation of mobile tablet devices (like the iPad) to determine if we should scale up to one of those devices. After asking students from the current curriculum to use a tablet in their coursework over the semester, evaluating the myriad devices exploding onto (and then often falling off) the market through a rubric created by our faculty-led Technology Committee, and ongoing conversations with eTextbook vendors, our conclusion was that the market was too nascent for us to standardize on a single device at this time. Instead, we chose to create a simple series of standards and work with our bookstore to identify devices that met those standards. Students were given store credit that they can use toward the purchase of a device of their choosing that meets certain standards.

I think the biggest lesson is that the space is nascent, and we are going to have to rethink our ideas about support and standards in order to be flexible enough to move with the currents. Precisely how that looks is still unclear, but we have put a stake in the ground and I believe we’ll be able to do something interesting over the coming year given our current standards and infrastructure.

3. Where do you envision the future of cloud computing and personal devices in higher ed heading? What are the greatest barriers to the realization of that future?

If I had to prognosticate, I would guess that we’ll have some bleeding edge adopters who have lauded successes in the space (Arizona State’s early adoption of Google Apps and Purdue’s HotSeat, for example) and maybe a few situations where we go headlong into the cloud and bump our heads in high-profile ways over the coming years (imagine protected data in the cloud during the four hours of “password optional” access to DropBox last June, for example). Higher-education has very talented system admins and programmers; I’ve worked with many of them. That being said, we aren’t Google, and we aren’t likely ever to be Google. So it will make sense for higher ed to figure out some type of relationship with the cloud and cloud-based services, because their technology is going to outpace what we can build internally. That relationship, however, will need to be thought through fairly carefully, and will likely emerge uniquely at each institution. Regardless, I imagine that our IT professionals will likely begin to move away from being the security and technology owners and builders, and move more toward being technology gatekeepers and guiders, helping to design and educate around best practices regarding individual decision-making about when and how to evaluate and utilize a range of tools. Technology as a service from the institution will likely begin to fade (but will likely not go away entirely) to some degree; protocols for determining when, if, and how to choose a tool to meet a specific need will gain in importance.

Similarly with devices, I think the idea of locking a device down and mandating the make, model, and overall specs for devices is likely to begin to evolve into a series of general features and functionalities that a device will need to comply with in order to leverage the infrastructure of the University.

There are definite down sides to this, but the fact is that individuals are becoming very used to the app ecosystem and the low-cost, esoteric software environment that drives mobile devices. If we simply forbid the use of cloud-based tools, or, worse, ignore theses shifts and pretend that people aren’t already beginning to migrate toward the cloud, I’m not sure we’ll like the outcomes. I think that a thoughtful dialogue that involves administrators, faculty and technical folks (including academic technologists) should happen to help develop policies and guidelines to help make the integration of an emerging cloud-based world thoughtful and compliant with our legal and ethical obligations to learners.

4. Have you attended EDUCAUSE before? If so, what’s your favorite part of the conference? Do you have any advice for first-time attendees?

This will be my first Educause, but I attend the Educause Learning Initiative each year. I love the poster sessions, because you can really get into some fun discussions and do some intellectual sparring with very bright people.