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UIC Makes Waves at EDUCAUSE Conference

Collage of photos of UIC attendees at Educause 2023

Over 20 UIC employees attended this year’s EDUCAUSE Conference held in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center from October 9th - 12th to learn about industry trends, discuss hot technology topics, and network with industry experts. The event gathered over 5,000 individuals from various higher learning institutions, colleges, and schools from all over the world, as well as over 300 exhibitors from service providers to consultation agencies. Several leaders responsible for transforming IT at UIC were invited to host sessions at this year’s EDUCAUSE.

A nonprofit association that helps higher education elevate the impact of IT, EDUCAUSE is a community of IT leaders and professionals working together to tackle challenges and leverage evolving opportunities.

EDUCAUSE hosts an annual conference that connects the best thinkers in higher education technology. It’s where professionals and technology providers from around the world gather to network, share ideas, grow professionally, and discover solutions to today’s challenges.

Modernizing the Campus Network to Support Student Success Heading link

Front of Student Center East buidling

Jelene Crehan, Director, Network Engineering & Infrastructure shared how UIC partnered with Vantage Consulting to evaluate campus network infrastructure; understand the major design elements in a modern network; and developed an actionable plan to pitch a modernized network to campus leadership that would transform campus infrastructure, in the interest of our institutional strategic goals.

In a full room, Crehan discussed what led UIC to modernize its network; current and future projects to upgrade infrastructure; identify a sustainable funding model, and insightful tips and lessons learned. Highlighted during the session was UIC’s Network Connectivity Modernization project, a significant effort to upgrade campus infrastructure to enhance wired and wireless connections.

Crehan’s session was fully packed and standing room only. As the next session began, attendees were forced out into the hallway to continue conversing with Crehan. Peers were eager to chat with Crehan and learn how UIC teams have been transforming network infrastructure at UIC.

The goal is to create a network environment with the capabilities to enable the institution’s research, academic, and administrative missions over the long term.  We talked about combining that approach with forward-thinking financial planning in hopes of eventually eliminating the historical cycle of accumulating technical debt and deferred maintenance.

Jelene Crehan  |  Director, Network Engineering & Infrastructure

Gearing up for an AI Revolution in HigherEd Heading link

Himanshu Sharma presenting at Educause

Himanshu Sharma, Associate CIO for Research Innovation co-hosted a session with Dell focusing on AI in higher education. During this session, Sharma shared the capabilities and potential of AI in research, healthcare, and operations and how it can really transform higher education.

Like many institutions, UIC wants to leverage AI to advance research, education and to support our mission, but there are many barriers to entry that institutions will need to overcome to realize the potential of AI in higher education.

There are increasing capabilities and potential of AI in transforming higher education but multiple policy, privacy, training and technology barriers need to be overcome to realize value of AI. Higher education institutions should strive towards strengthening and democratizing institutional and national AI innovation ecosystems.

Himanshu Sharma  |  Associate CIO for Research Innovation

The Genie Is Out of the Bottle: Unringing the Bell Heading link

Matt Riley presenting at Educause

The COVID-19 pandemic required new, creative, and potentially invasive uses of data. Matt Riley, Associate Vice Chancellor and CIO, presented at a session and shared his experiences, reflecting on privacy, ethics and best practices during the pandemic.

Riley experienced COVID-19 response and institutional decision-making at two higher learning institutions and was able to relate what he has seen, particularly around the care for student privacy. During this session Riley shared some of the differences in thoughts about student data privacy before, during and after COVID.

Riley reflected his thoughts on the choice to use access to the Learning Management System as a lever to obtain hard to get information on vaccination status from UIC students.  UIC continues to see opportunities in communication with students through their use of the LMS, but Riley cautioned about the overuse of this method, and that institutions should be very thoughtful about student data privacy issues in all of the creative thought we might have in regards to the data we have related to students.

Session was outstanding for the conversation that went in the direction of both the challenges of changed thoughts about privacy during and after COVID and the need and potential value of a Privacy Officer and associated processes, such as a ‘privacy impact assessments (PIA)’, to focus on privacy issues which has become much more important in recent years.

Matt Riley  |  Associate Vice Chancellor and CIO

Student Success Analytics and Data Heading link

Szymon Machajewski, Associate Director, Academic Technology and Learning Innovation with three female attendees at Educuase

Szymon Machajewski, Associate Director, Academic Technology and Learning Innovation at UIC, hosted poster sessions on a Rubric Accompanying the Student Success Analytics (SSA) Framework, and co-hosted a meeting with Unicon and D2L to discuss Student Success Analytics.

The poster sessions invited feedback and dialogue on the SSA Framework Rubric, a guide developed as a tool for institutions seeking to use the framework to inform student success analytics initiatives. Attendees were able to view the poster and share ideas, ask questions and network with Machajewski.

During a collaborative session with peers, We Are All Data People, Educuase attendees were able to gather and hear what others are doing to further student success analytics. Within this community forum, peers were able to explore ways to solve common challenges, share practices, and support each other.

Machajewski shared how UIC leverages Business Objects in an institutional data warehouse called Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) to surface analytics from Banner and the recently added Learning Management System.  Learning Analytics help to support student success by early detection of changes in student engagement or performance.  The audience was also invited to a UIC-sponsored webinar on Nov 15th about Data Governance: Who owns the student data?  This is a webinar by Educause Student Success Community Group. Register for webinar.

The session The Future of Generative AI: Take Action Today focused on research featuring contributions by University of Illinois Chicago.  The 2023 Horizon Action Plan: Generative AI is a publication connected to the 2023 EDUCAUSE Horizon Report: Teaching and Learning Edition, which identified generative AI as a trend that will shape the future.  The publication was authored by a panel of experts in a multidisciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration. Access publication.

Data Protection Redefined Heading link

Dean Dang, Director of Enterprise Applications networking with Educause attendees

Higher education IT departments have a huge task to manage and protect our institution’s most valuable asset – data. Dean Dang, Director of Enterprise Applications, was part of a panel on data protection. During this session, Dang shared insights on how UIC secures against threats before they happen, achieves cost optimization for cloud strategies, and minimizes risk and data exposure. UIC has always strived to protect its students, faculty and staff from cyber threats by utilizing the best practices and knowledge demonstrated by the many peers and vendors at Educause.

Educause is a great organization to learn from as well as inspire us technologists to provide the best possible service and solutions for our educational institutions.  I was honored to be asked to present this year on what strategies UIC has been taking to lead and protect its data.

Dean Dang  |  Director of Enterprise Applications

Other Educause Highlights Heading link

Additional sessions focused on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, student experiences, accessibility, DEI initiatives, professional development, and other technology topics. Below are some highlights submitted from UIC attendees:

EDUCAUSE 2023 Faculty and Technology Report finds students and faculty prefer on-site learning modalities

Educause published a study that measured faculty and student preferences on learning modalities. Based off the study’s findings, students and faculty prefer on-site modalities, and prefer choices in modalities to select what is best for the students.
Access EDUCAUSE Report

Technology & how it contributes to DEBJIA Initiatives

UC Berkley hosted a workshop that looked at the roles and responsibilities of IT leaders in advancing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Justice and belonging (DEIBJA) initiatives with a focus on positively impacting student success and academic outcomes. IT leaders have a responsibility to DEIBJA work and must be proactive to ensure technology is accessible. Access to tech resources is essential not only for academic success but for positive student experiences.
Access the presentation

Valuable generational insights with the closing speaker, Kim Lear

Closing Speaker Kim Lear, marketer and researcher from Inlay Insights, discussed changes happening within the workplace and the education system in the aftermath of the pandemic, along with the rise of a new generation of parents and students with evolving expectations and needs. Lear shared insights and thoughts on today’s different generations, how marketers can communicate with these groups, and how each group brings value to the workforce.
Access Presentation Follow Up by Kim Lear

Inspiring excellence Heading link

Attending the EDUCAUSE Conference was an invaluable experience for the UIC team, with over 20 employees actively participating in this global gathering of higher education and IT enthusiasts. From engaging with industry experts to fostering meaningful connections with peers worldwide, the conference has served as a dynamic platform for professional growth and team building.

Moreover, the inclusion of UIC leaders as session hosts or guest speakers reflects our institution’s commitment to transformative IT practices and inspiring excellence. As we reflect on the insights gained and relationships made at EDUCAUSE, it’s evident that this event has not only enriched our team’s expertise but has also strengthened our commitment to innovation and professional development.