In the last 18 months, institutional leaders were laser-focused on making higher ed more flexible, equitable and engaging for every student. At EDUCAUSE 2021, your peers will share how technology is being used on their campuses to improve student and faculty outcomes. Below, we’ve rounded up five of the must-attend sessions at this year’s conference that will help you make effective use of educational technology to meet your institutional goals.

1. Meeting Student Expectations in the Next Normal

When: Thursday, October 28, 4:00 PM ET

Who: Joe Rohrlich (CEO, Top Hat) and Jennifer Sparrow (Deputy CIO, The Pennsylvania State University)

Viewing location: In person: Room 108AB

The shift to remote teaching over the past 18 months has put a spotlight on students’ expectations of the quality and value of their higher education experience, and that’s created a sense of urgency as institutions reassess and redefine their value proposition to attract, engage, and ultimately retain more students. 

In this presentation, institutional leaders will learn how to leverage the Hierarchy of Student Needs, a framework designed to guide faculty and institutions in creating the conditions for students to receive and perceive value from their postsecondary investment. Attendees will learn how Penn State University is addressing evolving student needs and upping the ante on value through the combination of excellence in teaching and technology and receive recommendations and best practices on how to prioritize accessibility, belonging and engagement on your own campus.

2. In Support of Equitable Student Learning Experiences, Starting with Assessments

When: Wednesday, October 27, 12:15 PM ET

Who: Demian Hommel (Senior Instructor of Geography and Research Faculty, Oregon State University)

Viewing location: Online

Amidst growing evidence that high-stakes assessments as a learning tool can be punitive for some student populations, many educators have begun looking for equitable alternatives that create deeper, more meaningful learning experiences. And as the pandemic has disrupted student access to educational resources and technology required to complete their studies, many administrators are increasingly concerned about the impact of traditional high-stakes assessments at a time when students are experiencing heightened mental, emotional, and financial strain. This session will provide strategies for administrators to provide the technology and instructional design assistance to support faculty to make the shift to equitable assessment methods at scale.

3. Student Device Access and Internet Connectivity—Data and Action to Foster Equity

When: Thursday, October 28, 8:00 AM ET

Who: Michael Berman (Chief Information Officer, California State University, Office of the Chancellor), Kate Miffitt (Director for Innovation, California State University, Office of the Chancellor), Orlando Leon (Vice President for Information Technology, California State University at Fresno) and Jenay Robert (Researcher, EDUCAUSE)

Viewing location: Philadelphia (in person)

Creating a level playing field should be the first order of business for higher education leaders today. The last 18 months have seen students grapple with connectivity concerns at home. Closing this gap starts with investing in resources that let students learn from anywhere, without IT restrictions. In this presentation, you’ll hear from leaders at California State University on how they’ve supported student access and connectivity over the last year. You’ll also leave with recommendations on how to best serve student needs at your own institution.

4. Student-Identified Benefits to Online Collaboration During the COVID-19 Pandemic

When: Thursday, October 28, 1:15 PM ET

Who: Margaret Merrill (Instructional Design Consultant & Educational Tech) and Fei Xue (Graduate Student Researcher, University of California, Davis)

Viewing location: Online

For many students, collaboration has been a key factor in maintaining a sense of engagement and belonging during remote learning. Collaborative critiques and workshops especially make up a large part of arts and design classes. In this presentation, you’ll explore findings from an original study on the benefits of collaboration from the perspective of students. These benefits will be broken down by psychological, communication and productivity factors and you’ll leave with a deep understanding of how to design courses with collaboration at the core.

5. Empathy by Design

When: Thursday, October 28, 1:15 PM ET

Who: Catherine Ford (Program Director for Educational Development, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities) and Ken Graetz (Director, Teaching, Learning and Technology Services, Winona State University)

Viewing location: Online

Students want to feel seen and heard in any course—and that’s even more true with online classes. Without seeing instructors face-to-face, learners may struggle to forge connections with their educators and peers. In this session, you’ll discover how to design courses that build emotional connections with and among students. You’ll also get the opportunity to explore Minnesota State’s Humanizing Your Online Course, with activities to help educators design their courses to lead with empathy in the classroom.

Don’t let your institutional challenges define your academic year. Top Hat is here to support you and we’d love to chat with you at EDUCAUSE 2021—book a meeting with us today.

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