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After spending the better part of a day traveling and with only 14% power left on my iPhone (I never like to get below 20%) and with only six minutes before the close of registration on Tuesday night, I checked in at the Educause 2009 registration station and collected my conference materials! For those of you who may not have heard of Educause, it is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. This year the conference is in Denver.

I’ve never been to Denver, and on the walk back to the hotel after registering, I discovered that since the blizzard last week things had warmed considerably and many other attendees were enjoying the weather and the 16th Street pedestrian mall near the convention center. I was wiped out after a day of travel and hit the bed early to be ready for the general session early Wednesday.

Wednesday began bright and early thanks to crossing two time zones, and this gave me a chance to catch up on email, exercise and plan my session strategy. Diana Oblinger, the president and CEO of Educause opened the general session, reminding us that Educause is not just a conference, but a community. The planners of Educause 2009 asked for feedback and listened. There are more on managing the enterprise in a tough economy and more sessions on sustainability issues. The Point/Counterpoint sessions are back as are the Lightening Rounds sessions where multiple presenters offer new ideas at a fast pace. As many of you at ZSR know, there is an online conference option this year and a new feature, Educause Central Online, where you can connect with colleagues and chat with Educause staff in the online conference virtual meeting hub.

The keynote speaker was James C. Collins Author of Built to Last, Good to Great, and How the Mighty Fall. (We have them all in ZSR!) Collins spent much of his time discussing the five step-wise stages of decline he found in his research and outlined in How the Mighty Fall. He also focused what makes some good organizations become great. He states that “greatness is not a function of circumstance, but rather a matter of conscious choice and discipline”, and that “good” is the enemy of “great”. His research focuses on the business sector rather than the social sector, but he states that the results are applicable and the two are both necessary for a successful country. He has some interesting ideas about leaders and leadership, and his “Hedgehog Concept” is an interesting model to determine where you can be the best based on skills, resources and values. I plan to read some of his work, but it isn’t currently available for the kindle reader!

During my first pass through the exhibit hall I decided to shoot some video and post it on YouTube!

The E-Portfolio Lightning Round was great! While it was familiar content it was good to see where various schools stand with E-Portfolios and to see that they are various uses. While some use them to show a student’s work to potential employers, many are only using E-Portfolios as an assessment tool. Some even used Google Sites to host the portfolios. Helen Barrett’s name always comes up when discussing E-Portfolios. She was described as the “mother of E-Portfolios” by one speaker. (Helen will be visiting WFU in the Spring.) Jeffrey Middlebrook from U of Southern California described their blog-based solution as a “blogfolio”. The University of Wisconsin is using the Desire2Learn E-Portfolio application. I also saw a demo of the open source portfolio add-on to Sakai.

In the Cloud Computing session “Cloud Computing and New Research Services: A Case Study”, The speaker. Beth Secrest, took a poll of the group before beginning, and there were only two librarians and many IT professionals present. Beth is the program officer for IT services for the Association of Research Libraries. She began with some definitions. “Cloud computing refers to the applications delivered as services over the Internet and the hardware and systems software in the datacenters.” She then defined “campus cyberinfrastructure” as serving the underserved and average rather than extreme scholar. It is flexible, agile, scalable, and sustainable. Needs to be implemented fast or users will go find these sources on their own! She described using SAAS Service: FormSpring. In the past a class or a researcher would send database specifications to IT and wait for a response. This method is much more interactive. There are challenges and policies to create. Questions come up such as who owns the data, and who can create the form. Newer tools include backup options and more export tools. In their pilot there was only one interruption of service for only a few hours and the service reported not only the outage, but which users were affected by it. The pilot collaboration with Ithaca went very well! The reason for using FormSpring for the study was that ARL did not have the infrastructure internally to manage the technology of this research project. Beth stated that “Cheap and Simple” can often be “Good Enough” (This is exactly how I feel about Google Sites!)

More to come in tomorrow’s post!