Tag Archives: educause

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.

EDUCAUSE 2011 Speaker Spotlight: Tammy Clark, Chief Information Security Officer at Georgia State

In a little over a month, EDUCAUSE 2011 will be in full force at the Philadelphia Convention Center. There will be networking, knowledge sharing, cocktail parties, and plenty of great interactive sessions — all led by today’s thought leaders and pioneers in higher education IT.

As a lead-up to this year’s conference, we’ve interviewed some of the speakers who will be sharing their knowledge and experiences at EDUCAUSE 2011. It’s our hope that these interviews will spark conversation and give conference attendees a better sense of this year’s speakers. (To check out all our EDUCAUSE-related posts, click here).

For the first installment of our interview series, we spoke to Tammy Clark, the Chief Information Security Officer, at Georgia State University. She’s leading a session atEducause called “Developing a Standards-Based Information Security Program Using ISO 27002.” Tammy was nice enough to answer a few of our questions via email about information security programs, recommendations for first-time EDUCAUSE attendees, and more.

1. What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? The most challenging?

The most rewarding aspect is working with a diverse and large group of people (staff, faculty, and students) in a very creative, innovative and collaborative environment that constantly challenges me to think outside the box and embrace non-traditional ways of thinking about information security due to being within a higher education environment.

The most challenging aspect is building a culture of security awareness and helping the university community to determine the best means of  protecting critical and sensitive information that is processed, stored, or transmitted electronically, in ways that support their desire for transparency, convenience, collaboration with colleagues worldwide, academic freedom, and innovation.

2. According to your bio, you “joined Georgia State in 2000 with the initial charge to start from ‘ground zero’ in creating an information security program.” What were some of the greatest lessons you learned in the process of creating that program?

Some of the greatest lessons I learned early on were:

1) Embrace small successes and don’t focus too much on the length of time it takes to make a big impact
2) Effective communication with students, staff, and faculty is important and requires a flexible and often creative approach, rather than attempting to enforce, mandate, or dictate
3) Find information security ‘champions’ among the students, staff and faculty populations and work with them to build a strong base of support for information security initiatives
4) Strategic planning is essential in order to build support and gain funding for information security solutions—using established best practices and standards, as well as information and toolkits provided by organizations like EDUCAUSE to build a well-defined ‘roadmap’ for University leaders, so that they can better understand that effective information security programs are critical success factors in accomplishing academic, business, and information technology goals and objectives
5) Never give up—the road ahead is not always a ‘freeway;’ sometimes, it’s more like a craggy hill, but as long as you keep finding the path that moves you forward, you will get to your destination!

3. Your session this year is about creating a standards-based information security program using the ISO 27002 standards. What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing information security officers as they strive to create and maintain comprehensive security programs?

Some of the biggest challenges we face as information security practitioners are:

1) Dealing with a threat landscape that has evolved far beyond viruses and worms that can be easily remediated, to advanced persistent threats and bot networks that are often difficult to detect, bypassing our traditional controls and protection mechanisms, and making it more challenging and time consuming to protect our critical IT systems and devices from compromises; 2) Trying to do more with less as our user populations are large and we have a lot of ground to cover
3) Compliance requirements continue to proliferate
4) Mobile device exploits and attacks are looming large on the horizon and as of now, not many security solutions out there to assist
5) Our data is starting to move out to the cloud and that presents a whole new set of risks
6) Security awareness is an omnipresent issue and as so many of today’s malware attacks target our end users—helping them understand how to protect themselves from identity theft, and their personal accountability to protect internet connected devices and data is always a critical challenge we face.

4. As a veteran Educause presenter, do you have any recommendations or suggestions for first-time attendees? What is your favorite part of the conference?

My recommendations for first time attendees would be to immerse yourself in the ‘EDUCAUSE’ experience and all that it offers in the form of peer networking opportunities; finding out how other universities may be handling challenges that you find yourself confronted with (i.e., not having to reinvent the wheel); the exhibit arena is huge and there will be unfettered access to many vendors who understand the higher ed sector and the unique needs; the Higher Education Information Security Council has a general meeting that is always well attended (I’m a member) and I strongly encourage everyone to get involved and contribute ideas and best practices they’ve discovered!

Recommended Reading before EDUCAUSE 2011

The 2011 EDUCAUSE Annual Meeting in Philadelphia isn’t until next month, but if you’re already itching to get into conference mode, we’ve compiled a few helpful resources and articles to ensure you’re prepared for #edu11 (official Twitter hashtag!). Check out the links below to learn about this year’s speakers, get networking tips, and more. For more EDUCAUSE related blog posts, click here.

General information:

EDUCAUSE 2011 Program – This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Check out the speakers and pick out the sessions you don’t want to miss.

Conference tips:

10 Hints for Making the Most of a Conference – This EDUCAUSE Quarterly article may be from 2002, but its thoughtful tips are definitely still applicable today.

“At Least One Way” to Add Value to Conferences – Another EDUCAUSE Quarterly article, this one springboards off “10 Hints for Making the Most of a Conference” and focuses on trying at least one new strategy or approach.

How to Get the Most Out of Conferences – Scott Berkun offers concrete and general advice on making the most of conferences. Tip #1 – Conversations are more important than sessions.

The Shy Connector’s Guide to Getting Ready for Conference Awesomeness – Sacha Chua actually created this list of tips for the Instructional Technologies Strategies Conference, but the fun Slideshare presentation is definitely still applicable to EDUCAUSE. Just substitute #edu2011 when she talks about following #itsc2011 on Twitter!

Speaker info:

You can check out individual session leaders’ bios in the EDUCAUSE program.

You might also want to learn more about the general session speakers. Check out Seth Godin’s website and blog, danah boyd’s website and blog, and Michael McRobbie’s “Office of the President” website. Even if you’re already familiar with their work, doing a little background research before the conference will help refresh your memory and ensure you’re able to contextualize and/or challenge elements of their speech as necessary.


#edu11 is the official EDUCAUSE 2011 hashtag, and it’s bound to heat up as the conference draws closer! Be sure you’re following @educause, too, and stay tuned for a future post about must-follow EDUCAUSE Tweeters.

See you at the conference!