As it does every year, HighEdWeb brought together thinkers, makers, shakers, and doers of higher education along the axes of content, development, design, user experience, accessibility, social media, and more. This year we enjoyed lovely (and unseasonably warm) Hartford, Connecticut.
Certain themes arose in conference sessions this year, and I've rounded them up.
Storytelling and Data
The most prevalent theme was around storytelling, data, and how to use that data. From “7 Habit(at)s of Successful Student Storytelling" to “Online Reputation is Your Reputation: Are You Listening?” to “Au Contraire: Debunking Myths and Hippos with Google Analytics,” HighEdWeb 2017 covered the stories to tell, how to tell them, and how to measure both the performance of those stories and the more task-based areas of your site.
Storytelling has been on everyone’s radar for awhile, but this year more than ever before we talked about how to measure those stories. Are they helping you accomplish your goals? And on the task end, can you use Top Tasks to measure against, as seen in “Taskonomy vs Taxonomy: Improving IA and UX with Top Tasks”? Once you have that data, how do you best apply it: via iteration, via a section redesign, via an overhaul?
At HighEdWeb there was an emphasis on recognizing that yes, the times they are a’changin’, and we need to change with them — not just pushed along by them. This popped up in sessions such as:
- “Nevertheless, She Persisted” (which I’m proud to have represented in as its only non-binary member)
- “This is Not Fine: Working on the Web in Higher Ed During Uncertain Times”
- The keynote by Tatjana Dzambazova and her description of robots taking over (some) design tasks
- “The Mote in Our Eyes: Maintaining Empathy and Connection with Our Clients”
- “A Clamor for Grammar,” which in part covered the singular “they” and Brown’s use of it well before other institutions (along with the pushback they experienced)
Universities are agents of change. How can universities move society forward rather than just get shoved around by trends?
The last significant theme was definitely community. Felicia Day taught us that if we all wear top hats, we become a more powerful force than if just one of us wore our top hat out and about. And given how many hats we often wear, it was a terrific metaphor.
As head of HighEdWeb’s photography team, I also took a lot of photos, many of which you can see on HighEdWeb’s Flickrstream (though certainly not all there are mine). The attendees who got photos with Felicia Day will also be able to find their photos there, once I work through them all! Watching our community through the lens was amazing, and we hope you think so too.
#heweb17 was a great opportunity to connect with our people. And if you want to connect with your people, HighEdWeb is a great option. In the meantime, let us know if you need help! We’re your people too.