You wake up on Wednesday, October 30th. It’s a crisp and chilly morning; a great day to go shopping for technology solutions — both software and hardware — for your institution. And while you’re at it, why not also explore what’s up-and-coming in the space?

Good thing you’re in Denver, CO, where the EDUCAUSE Annual Conference is happening – the region’s largest ed-tech conference in higher education. It’s three very, very busy days: 8,000 attendees, 400+ exhibitors, 300+ sessions – good luck!

Where to start? What to attend? Who to see?

My Experience & Takeaways from EDUCAUSE

Across the three-day program, it was good to see ‘Student Success’ again top the EDUCAUSE’s Top 10 IT Issues list. According to panelists of one session, “IT has a huge opportunity to help institutions support students.”  

I know many people I spoke to spent the entirety of their three days discussing traditional IT infrastructure and how they mesh with changing ways institutions define, support, and measure student success.

EDUCAUSE’s Top 10 IT Issues for 2018:

  1. Information security strategy
  2. Student success
  3. Privacy
  4. Student-centered institution
  5. Digital integration
  6. Data-enabled institution
  7. Sustainable funding
  8. Data management and governance
  9. Integrative CIO
  10. Higher education affordability

Technology at EDUCAUSE

Touring the vendor floor, even as a vendor myself, it was hard to clearly discern the different goals and solutions of the many companies. Everyone is talking about “solutions to increase student success” — which is a good thing, of course, and I believe it reflects a greater market-wide desire to solve classroom-level challenges in learning and teaching.

Just a few years ago, IT leaders were focused on looking for the right technology for student management (e.g. LMSs). Today, we’re encouraging these same people to take the next step forward and seek the best technology for learning experience design. IT leaders are trusted to bring great technology into their institutions, and as such, they hold a responsibility to empower blossoming courseware development teams (faculty members, SMEs, instructional designers, and developers) with the tools that will allow them to double-down and deliver on student success initiatives.

What made many meanderers stop at our booth seemed to be two things: the word “NEW” in our backdrop, plus a very flashy, upbeat teaser video looping on a 60” screen. This signaled one very important thing for me – education is ready for new technology to change their world and deliver a more impactful, innovative way of capitalizing on the promise of digital learning.

Our role

This is why we created and launched aero – Smart Sparrow’s new learning platform — to the higher education leaders attending EDUCAUSE.

aero is a first-of-its-kind learning design and courseware development platform, built to meet the needs of the transforming education ecosystem. We can see how education is evolving, even just looking around conferences like EDUCAUSE — there is a growing participation from high tech companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, IBM every year, helping push the education system forward.

We believe aero will play a key role in evolving the ecosystem around a new software architecture that separates the tasks of management (enrollment, administration, access control) from the tasks of designing the experiences themselves. How? aero makes it possible to focus on designing great digital learning experiences, enabling greater productivity and complete pedagogical creativity as learning design teams collaborate to bring online education to life.

If you haven’t heard us say the phrase before, think about these two words together: “pedagogical creativity”… what does that mean?!

For us, it means removing barriers and freeing instructors from the limitations of the technology currently used to teach. It is empowering educators to design learning experiences exactly the way they want. It will no longer a matter of if you can, just if you will.

It also means greater ability to think about the future — what you would like to accomplish as an educator, where you would like your teaching to grow, and how you would like to mold your students to prepare them to step into the world next. Deciding how you would like your students to learn, and then creating exactly that experience.

With aero, the first step is to imagine what’s possible. The second step is to believe it’s possible. And the third and final step is to make make it real.

Here are some of the (actual!) responses from people who stopped by the Smart Sparrow booth:

“This is beautiful!”

“You guys are showing us the future here!”

“This is the reason I came to EDUCAUSE.”

We came, we conversed, we demoed. We had a great time gathering feedback and talking to education leaders about their hopes for the future. The result: a successful launch of aero and an exciting road ahead.

If you’re interested in learning more, visit the preview page.