photo by @nickdenardis
This past Wednesday I returned from Milwaukee, WI and the Higher Education Web Professionals (HighEdWeb or #heweb12) Conference. This year marked my fourth year of attendance and my first year as a speaker. But more on my presentation later.
I want to reinforce what I say every year: the people that work in higher education web marketing and development are the best. I think this year there was a lot of good said in the presentations. A lot of challenging words that everyone needed to hear came through. But there were also 11 (eleven!) presentations on going mobile. I mean... yeah, optimizing for mobile users is important, but it's also a topic several years old and I'm not sure that even then it would warrant 11 presentations in a 2-day conference.
There were some extremely practical presentations given, like the one by @mallorywood and @plautmaayan. And then there were some heavily theoretical ones, like @aaronrester's presentation on McLuhan and the tactile web. And then there was the Q&A keynote with Adam Savage (@donttrythis).
I think it's important for this conference to have a good mix of topical information and big idea content. After my first year of attendance at HighEdWeb, I was pretty excited to be a part of this community. There are a ton of brilliant minds (looking at you @pefnam) willing to speak and encourage and help figure stuff out. It's the most supportive professional community I have ever been a part of. But in 2010, as I was starting my master's degree in Media Studies, I had a cynical outlook on the content. I documented it at the time in my post My Take on the State of Higher Education ______ and got a good discussion going. I think we've gotten better. It took time for the heweb community to settle down and back away from the tools and focus on the goals (a lot of people, including @mallorywood and @ashleyhenn have been pushing this the past couple years at the conference) and outcomes.
But I also feel like there's still a group that isn't quite getting it. Higher Ed, as an industry, is slow to change and learn. I was appreciative of the slant toward topical "ways-to-do-stuff" presentations this year. My own was meant as an encouragement for schools to Fight to Do Cool Things while giving practical strategies to pull it off. I'm hoping that as people continue to show up to these conferences, they'll find challenging ideas that progress our industry.
I see it happening. I think the committee did a better job of crafting a diverse lineup of presentations this year – even with the mobile blind spot. And that's encouraging. So, a big "Thank You!" to the #highedweb organizers. I thought it was a great conference. And an even bigger "You guys are awesome!" to my friends and colleagues that were at the conference this year.