Lasting Impressions

Here, from Syllabus2004 attendees: What they really thought about this year’s gathering.

No doubt about it: Syllabus2004 Conference attendees were enthusiastic about their July 2004 experience in San Francisco and at UC-Berkeley, and they took the time to share their comments with us.

Erika Matulich, associate professor of Marketing at the University of Tampa (FL), remarked, “The Syllabus Conference is extremely beneficial and well run overall.” Cherie Dodd, Instructional Strategies specialist at Indiana University, agreed: “Overall, [the] quality of [the] conference was good; Syllabus staff and volunteers [were] extremely helpful,” she reported.

Standouts

“This was my first Syllabus Conference, but not my last!” said Cheryl Bielma, instructional designer at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. “The 2004 conference encompassed presenters doing innovative as well as systematic projects. I was especially impressed with Annie Stunden [CIO and director, Division of Information Technology, University of Wisconsin-Madison], describing her visuals of the technology infrastructure for Wisconsin Regents during the final keynote [“Wandering the Technology Universe”]. I liked the format of the conference sessions of various lengths/times, and the long break for lunch.” Another attendee reacted to the content by saying simply: “Sessions and conference content were great.”

Stuart Glogoff, senior consultant for Learning Technologies at the University of Arizona, told us, “I tend to go to [the] CNI, Educause, and Syllabus Conferences. This is my second Syllabus, and I hope to go to 2005. I also recommend attending to my teaching colleagues. I find the conference well-organized, and the speakers actually approached the advertised topic. That is not often the norm and I encourage the organizers to continue this. The keynote presentations were excellent!”

Keynotes and Sessions

Keynotes, in fact, were the focus of much enthusiasm—and much rumination. “I was especially excited by [“Cognitively Informed Online Course Design”] J'el Smith [vice provost and CIO of Computing Services, Carnegie Mellon University (PA)],” said Bernadette Howlett, instructional designer at Idaho State University. “It offered a new perspective on what we are about and what we need to be doing [and] has engendered many ideas and questions. For example: How well can we predict the results of a teaching intervention? Cost is our major problem, industry-wide. Can we reduce labor by developing shareable courses and content? I see this old question in a different light now.”

Erik T. Anderson, director of Educational Communications, the University of Idaho, noted, “Good, thought-provoking keynote speakers,” and then added, “The A/V and technical support for the conference was very good. Few problems. Good audio! The technology suites and technology classrooms were very useful.”

All in all, offered Amy Pate, an instructional designer at Thunderbird College (AZ), “I really loved the conference for the ability that it gave me to see the ‘big picture.’ ”

Peter Silzer, Distance Learning director of the School of Intercultural Studies at Biola University (CA), told us, “As a faculty member, I appreciated the regular emphasis on instructional design issues. [There was] a good blend of topics to help faculty and staff to work together to create better educational programs.” Gregory R. Cropp, Academic Support technician at Regis University (CO) added,

“We’re headed for a great technological future and Syllabus/Campus Technology will be the national lead for these events. Can’t wait to attend the next conference.”

Peers and Speakers

Networking with peers was a major focus of attendees. “Syllabus Conferences have been a great way to connect/network with others among the technical education field,” said one attendee anonymously. “I believe that communication with others within our field assists those in search of answers to their technical needs. A forum [and] software/hardware evaluation site is most needed today. We as educators and technical specialists need to have research resources to better offer today’s technology to students in today’s job market. Great conference! Will attend again.”

What about first-timers? “This was my first Syllabus Conference,” said P. Semrau, a professor at California State University-Los Angeles. “I’m really glad I came. Our campus director of Faculty Instructional Support recommended it to me.” And Barbara Boyer, another professor at CSULA, told us succinctly, “First Syllabus Conference; overall, enjoyed. Educational, well-organized. Was a speaker: audience responsive; interested; asked important questions. We had the appropriate group at our session. Services to speakers outstanding! Speakers prep room was exceptional! Congratulations!”

Field and Food

The day at UC-Berkeley was a high point for many. “Loved the visit to Berkeley,” wrote Darrell Bateman, director of Technology Assessment at Texas Tech University.” And Erik Anderson from the University of Idaho added, “I enjoyed the day on-site at UCB. That was a nice element not offered at most conferences I attend.”

For others, the food alone was worth the trip: “The food was incredible at the Hyatt Regency—really wonderful, at all events,” said Susan Spencer, professor of English, and Technology Research & Development Committee Chair, Liberal Arts, at the University of Central Oklahoma. Others commented on operations: “This is the most seamlessly run conference I have ever been to. The Syllabus staff as well as Hyatt staff are among the most professional in their field. (As a student at UCSB, I used to be a conference coordinator for Engineering, so I know.)”

What I’d Do Differently…

Of course, there’s always room for improvement, and suggestions from helpful and involved attendees ran the gamut. While many praised the length of the in-depth sessions, two attendees suggested shortening some of the sessions. (“One-and-a-half hours for morning sessions is too long; two 45-minute sessions would be better. ” “Sixty or 75 minutes should be the maximum.”) One attendee enthused, “Thanks for providing the e-mail kiosk stations!” Another was looking for a central place to find dinner partners (“Have a bulletin board where interested parties can indicate they’d like to join others for dinner”). Still another suggested “Birds of a feather ‘assessment’ group activities.” Attendees had various thoughts about the Exhibit Hall, too: “Expo of vendors was very worthwhile and useful, especially demonstrations of software applications,” offered one conference g'er. But, “Open it a half-hour before lunch,” said another.

Making a Difference

In the end, though, attendees went back to their campuses with plenty to think about. One attendee told us, “I did not feel like the conference missed the mark about teaching and learning with technology. Maybe as the field grows, there need to be different conferences and/or stronger stands on teaching and learning versus supporting teaching and learning.”

Another attendee remarked, “Given [that] I am with private industry [in the] corporate world, I wasn’t sure I could get a lot from the conference. I am glad to say, the translation to business was applicable. I took away many useful learnings and models for understanding online course development and delivery. The expo of vendors was very worthwhile… Conference information was excellent (Web site and packets)… Keynote presentations were very interesting, motivational. Size and location was excellent: compact; built for size of the audience; convenient; high quality. Great lunches too!”

All in all, the consensus was that time spent at Syllabus2004 was time well spent. Robb Fons, manager of Instructional Technology at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine summed it up when he left us with a simple: “Great conference.” Thanks, Robb!

Who Was That Masked Attendee?

Syllabus2004 Conference attendees hailed from all over the US
and the globe, and represented many sides of their higher education institutions, in myriad functions.

49%
of attendees were IT Management or Administration
24%
were technology-using faculty
88%
of attendees said they recommend, specify, or approve
IT purchases (hardware and software)
42%
of attendees knew the scope of their institution’s IT
budget, and of those…
55%
reported IT budgets from $1,000,000
to over $5,000,000
36%
reported IT budgets of between $1,000,000 and $4,999,999
76%
of attendees use course management software
54%
of attendees use content management systems
88%
of attendees use security solutions
54%
of attendees use tablet PCs or notebook computers
61%
of attendees use security solutions
73%
of attendees use Web publishing software
63%
of attendees use wireless technologies

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