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Highlights from EDUCAUSE 2017

Last week I attended the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with over 8,000 attendees from the higher education community around the world. The conference was three days long and packed with more than 300 sessions, 700 presenters, and 275 exhibitors. As a first-timer at EDUCAUSE I was looking forward to learning how technology and the cloud are impacting higher education. Here are just a few highlights from the week:

Security Remains the #1 IT Issue

EDUCAUSE released a preview of their 2018 Top 10 IT Issues. For the third year in a row the number one issue is information security. This was not surprising with data breaches appearing more frequently in the news.

Throughout the conference many higher education institutions shared stories about how they prevent and mitigate security risks. One key takeaway from these stories is that IT departments need to expect that a data breach will happen. This proactive approach will help them be prepared, as opposed to waiting for the foot to drop and having to scramble to rectify a security breach. Regardless of whether you are running workloads on-premises or in the cloud, security will always be a critical concern.

Migration to the Cloud is Top of Mind

As an increasing number of innovative features are introduced by public cloud vendors such as AWS, Microsoft, and Google, more institutions are adopting the cloud. Many stories were shared at the conference about universities that decided to migrate workloads from their data centers to the cloud to take advantage of the benefits the cloud offers.

One example of this was an AWS Consulting Partner panel session entitled “Helping You Migrate to the Cloud.” Featured partners included Enquizit, Infiniti Consulting, NorthBay Solutions, Unicon and one of our own partners, REAN Cloud. The speakers from each of these companies shared a migration story specific to education. Whether the customer decided on a hybrid approach or to go all-in, these institutions were seeking greater agility and scalability, and they were able to achieve it.

Digitization is the Future

A key concept introduced the first day of the conference was ‘Digitization,’ and how multiple industries are converting information into digital formats. The keynote speaker, Dr. Michio Kaku, Futurist and Physicist, introduced how the use of virtual/augmented reality and the Internet will revolutionize education around the world. Kaku predicts people will connect with the Internet via a contact lens. He claimed, “in the future memorization will mean less and less, because people will blink and have access to information.”

His presentation was thought-provoking, making attendees wonder how technology will impact higher education going forward. Kaku highlighted the concern with online courses and how they impact the student experience and faculty. He stated that “mentoring cannot be done by a robot,” and that the value of human connection cannot be overlooked, therefore faculty should not worry about keeping their jobs.

Online courses are just one example of how technology is revolutionizing education, and how institutions will need to adapt. The key takeaway from Kaku is that “prosperity hinges on technology,” and the success of students will be determined by how they can leverage technology.

Final Thoughts

Security, migration, and digitization are the three themes that stood out to me while at EDUCAUSE. If you attended, what were your key takeaways? Please share them with me on Twitter!

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