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Educause Event Advocates for Greater Student Engagement


NERCOMP represents the Northeast Regional chapter of Educause, a community of IT professionals in higher-education. At this years’ NERCOMP annual conference in Providence, RI education professionals from colleges and universities in the Northeast were looking for ways to use technology to enhance the student experience. With tuition, books and fees skyrocketing, the “value” of a college education has been called into question in recent times. NERCOMP offered a variety of helpful sessions and captivating keynotes with the goal of improving education administration through technology and offering education professionals a slew of creative ideas that would help increase student engagement.

Students who grow up with laptops, tablets and smartphones have different expectations when they step onto college campuses and into lecture halls. Listening to professors drone on for an hour with little to no student engagement is not the type of learning the next generation is used to, can relate to or tolerate with much patience. The reason is because it does not excite the senses the way apps, videos and games do.

The traditional lecture asks students to participate in a session of intense listening. A tall task even when the professor is a dynamic speaker. Traditional presentations look like note cards projected on screens that rarely create visual interest. K through 12 is making great strides with technology in the classroom, however, colleges and universities seem to be a step behind and this contributes to the disappointment felt by some arriving freshmen.

Therefore, to transform the classroom, professors need to transform their approach. To overcome this modern challenge, they must apply the same critical thinking and problem solving skills that they are attempting to instill in their students. This requires the convergence of creativity, knowledge, personal experience and common sense. If these muscles have atrophied, then professors and administrators need to go back to school themselves to sharpen their skills.

This is why organizations like Educause and NERCOMP are so valuable. They expose education professionals to the emerging trends and concepts that will equip them to meet the needs of hyper-connected students who need all five senses to be stimulated in order to feel engaged. It’s a difficult challenge because it stretches many of us to step outside of our comfort zones. The irony is that this is precisely what many professors would hope to do to their students because they know that discomfort, in the spatial sense, can promote engagement and learning.

The higher education landscape is changing rapidly. This is due to the rate at which information can be sent, received and absorbed in a hyper-connected world. While students may have the tools they need to tap into this reservoir of information, they lack something that campus universities can offer and convey in a meaningful manner: wisdom drawn from life experience.

Both teacher and student must adapt to change. Those who are able to adapt most quickly will give both their universities and their students a competitive advantage.

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