Top 5 Takeaways from SxSW Edu

Christina Balotescu

March 14, 2014

Many hands together with a heart painted on them, implying generosity

Last week I had the pleasure of attending one of the biggest education conferences of the year, SxSW Edu, on behalf of 360Alumni. With hundreds of sessions to choose from, thousands of people to meet, and plenty of opportunities to learn, I came away exhausted but inspired.

If you didn’t make it to Austin this year, never fear. Here are the top 5 overlying themes that were covered, and a smattering of my favorite messages from the conference. And in the spirit of making things social, I’ve kept most them in tweetable bites for you to share.

Theme 1: Tailor Education to the Job Market

Studies have shown that the number one reason students go to college today is to get a job.  Is your college’s curriculum and alumni network helping students to achieve that goal? We need to move beyond traditional lectures and homework assignments to help students generate the real-world learning that fosters success.

“Employers embrace highly individualized experiential learning that facilitates a specific learning outcome.” - Stephen Rae
“Immersive, experimental learning yields results. Pay attention to what employers want and be brave enough to change your curriculum.” - Stephen Rae

Theme 2: Web Accessibility Matters

In the era of technology, all students should have access to the materials they need to succeed. No student should be excluded because they learn in a different manner than others, or didn’t grow up with a privileged background. Beyond graduation, accessibility includes access to the alumni network in a manner that lets all alumni empower themselves and others to find outstanding careers.

“Schools are the ones with disabilities, not the students. Some of the ways we’re teaching are disabling our kids.” - David Rose
“We can’t achieve our economic best without connecting and empowering underserved communities.”  - John Holifield

Theme 3: Data Analysis, But Not Just For The Sake Of It

We’re surrounded by digital analysis tools, but is the information you’re gathering helping you, or slowing you down? Ensure you understand your goal before the data gathering process, and focus on only the information that pertains to it. Don’t maintain 500 data fields when you only care about ten.

“So far, a lot of validation for simplified data analytics. Data overload and rogue data projects do more hurt than help.” - Paul Smith
“We’re such data worshippers, we’ll change education to feed data needs, rather than mold data needs to good education” - Van Piercy

Theme 4: Ed-Tech and Education are Synonymous

There should no longer be a divide between education and technology. It’s difficult for schools to remain relevant without incorporating technology into the classroom. We should be giving students and alumni the latest systems with easy to navigate user interfaces to achieve their needs.

“Technology should support students and teachers, not the other way around."- Vivian Ming
“You’re doing it wrong if you’re sending out flyers and direct mail and hoping someone will come to your website.” - James Britton

Theme 5: MOOCs Benefit Universities In Multiple Ways

Regardless of course completion levels, massive online open courses can benefit the education system in many ways. Tying back to accessibility, moocs allow more students access to a better education. They allow students to taste a topic before signing up, and determine how interested they are. Moocs are also terrific for continuing education, when many adults don’t have the time or the resources to go back to school full time.

“MOOCs can help eliminate weeding courses. Students get a taste of the material to guide their decision.” - Coleman Tharpe
“MOOCs give unprecedented insight into how students learn, where they stumble, and isolate gaps in knowledge and skills” - Steven Mintz

Overall, SxSW Edu was a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend attending next year. In the meantime, if you’re wondering how you can keep your student and alumni network relevant, accessible, data-driven, and tech-friendly, click here to learn more about 360Alumni and schedule a demo today.

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