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EDUCAUSE 2012: day one

I'm at the EDUCAUSE conference in Denver, learning about how other universities are using their IT.  This conference is a broad church, covering everything from corporate systems to learning technologies, with sessions on leadership and user engagement as well.  It's a useful forum to informally assess how well IT at the University of Edinburgh compares to other institutions around the globe (particularly in North America).  On the whole, we seem to be pretty good.

The sessions on the first day were a bit of a mixed bag.  Clay Shirky gave a good opening talk about the power of open data in a connected world - the sort of thing he covered in his TED talk but covering more material.  The main point I took from his talk was that you can't judge what value people will put on your data before you make it available, because you don't know who will be interested in it for what reasons.

The best talk was about change management at the University of Kansas.  Which sounds a bit dull from the summary but was really helpful in showing how to engage users in big projects so that their needs are addressed and they are involved in making the projects work.  It's the sort of thing that I've learnt in theory on leadership courses and it was good to see it in practice.

I was disappointed by a session entitled "Making the case for Open Source".   What I was looking for was suggestions on how to judge the impact of adopting various open source solutions, such as the effort needed to engage with the community and feed back local changes and developments.  Most of the session was actually repeated rather old (and flawed) arguments about the advantages of open source; hardly the up to date experience that EDUCAUSE should be presenting.

The last session of the day was so bad that I won't comment any further.

Of course, part of the benefit of conferences is all the side conversations and chance meetings over lunch and after the formal sessions.  It's interesting to hear what choices other people are making regarding the choice of tools, cloud-based solutions, innovative learning technologies, managing operating costs, and so forth.  It all gives ideas and context for the decisions we have to make back home.

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