May/June 1999 // Faculty and Staff Development
Professional Development: A Key Focus for EDUCAUSE
by Richard Katz and Ruth Sabean
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Richard Katz and Ruth Sabean "Professional Development: A Key Focus for EDUCAUSE" The Technology Source, May/June 1999. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

Richard N. Katz is the Vice President of EDUCAUSE, which was incorporated in July 1998 after the merger of CAUSE and Educom. He is responsible for developing and delivering the association's educational program through international conferences, workshops, seminars, and management institutes. Katz also develops member and corporate relations, and he oversees EDUCAUSE's research and development, publishing, communication, and outreach activities.

Ruth Sabean is currently the Faculty and Staff Development Section Editor for The Technology Source.

Ruth Sabean (RS): CAUSE had a national reputation for providing excellent professional development for IT professionals. Will this emphasis on professional development be maintained by EDUCAUSE?

Richard Katz (RK): Absolutely. In an August 1998 planning retreat for the EDUCAUSE Board of Directors, professional development was identified as one of the Association's highest priorities. In fact, the Board approved a Program Plan which officially affirms that EDUCAUSE will continue to focus on professional development. Our vision is ambitious: EDUCAUSE will be the educational provider of first choice among campus professionals and leaders who are responsible for managing information technology in higher education. Our offerings will be viewed as indispensable elements of our members' professional development and will be timely, relevant, and accessible. Our programs will be known for their quality, attention to detail, and emphasis on logical applications. Finally, we will demonstrate new learning principles by incorporating educational technologies in appropriate and cost-effective manners.

RS: What do EDUCAUSE's member institutions identify as their primary concerns about and goals for faculty and staff professional development?

RK: EDUCAUSE is working hard to develop and refine our programs based on a combination of formal and informal feedback from our members. In October and December, we convened focus groups at Educom 98 and CAUSE98 (annual conventions), respectively, to elicit feedback from our member institutions and corporations. Thankfully, most said that we are generally "on the right track." Moreover, we recently sent a survey to thousands of our members. We hope to use the results of this survey to suggest directions in which to grow the EDUCAUSE professional development program. One key area of growth will be the delivery of EDUCAUSE offerings in more technologically-intensive and diverse fashions. Given our overall mission of transformation, we have a special obligation to evaluate and deploy new learning technologies. The burden is on us to experiment aggressively, then share our experiences with members.

We have, however, heard concerns from individual constituencies that want EDUCAUSE to reconfirm its commitment to them. Members whose responsibilities revolve around administrative IT issues want us to stay mindful of their interests. Colleagues whose dominant professional concerns revolve around academic, library, or related IT concerns want us to be attentive to their educational needs. The advanced technology constituency wants to continue to benefit from timely information on advanced networking and high performance computing. The challenge for us is to provide educational support to an increasingly diverse constituency. We are eager to foster synergy among members, but we also must remain mindful of the diverse educational needs and perspectives of our membership. We must address these disparate needs while retaining a fanaticism about quality.

Another concern we have heard is the need for EDUCAUSE to provide support for institutions that lack the resources necessary to assume positions of technological leadership. These can be institutions that serve traditionally underrepresented students, community colleges, or other types of campuses. Service to member institutions in need is a high priority of the EDUCAUSE Board of Directors and its staff leadership. To this end, our Net@EDU and NLII programs facilitate professional development for institutions that aspire to the leading edge. We are working closely with the National Association for Equal Opportunity (NAFEO), the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC), the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), the Northwest Academic Computing Consortium (NWACC), the College and University Personnel Association (CUPA), and other organizations to make our programs more broadly accessible to all educational institutions.

Finally, we have heard clearly that no organization is engaging adequately the interest of our younger colleagues in the profession. We are committed to assessing the professional development interests of young IT professionals and developing programs that accommodate their varied learning styles and preferences. We also are working on programs that will help identify and develop the future leaders of our profession. Because these leaders will be drawn from a heterogeneous professional crucible, they will need to integrate and celebrate the diverse skills, cultures, and perspectives.

RS: What criteria will EDUCAUSE use to determine which areas of development to provide?

RK: The first criterion is to determine whether EDUCAUSE is uniquely qualified and positioned to deliver the development in question. Many organizations, including our member institutions, offer professional education. In many ways, the market for such education is crowded. If we cannot offer educational experiences that are uniquely relevant and of distinctive and recognized quality, then we should leave the development to more suitable organizations. Related to this is the notion that we should not act alone. The EDUCAUSE educational program has grown—and will continue to grow—through a strategy of partnering. Today, we have relationships with a variety of organizations, including CUMREC, Nercomp, SAC, NACUBO, AACC, and CIC. By associating with a number of partners, we are enhancing our ability to remain relevant to our members.

Our consistent mission is to deliver educational excellence in our professional development programs and products. This does not mean that we will, or even are able to, deliver such excellence alone. What we can to is: (1) identify the best of breed in needed program areas; (2) negotiate favorable pricing and access for our members; and (3) integrate program offerings into educational frameworks that make sense to our members. In that effort, we are working with the New Media Center, the Association for Research Libraries, the Council for Library and Information Resources, and other organizations.

RS: Does EDUCAUSE plan to collaborate with corporations and with higher education institutions that offer professional development programs?

RK: If by this question you mean, "Will EDUCAUSE partner with Institution A to deliver program X?" the answer today is that we have no explicit plan to do so. Will such relationships emerge in the future? Probably, because these institutions are our members and, as such, they drive our educational agenda.

The same answer is true for corporations, which already play a pivotal role in the professional development mission of EDUCAUSE. The sponsorship and exhibitions corporations provide, for example, greatly enhance EDUCAUSE conferences. Furthermore, corporate dues and sponsorships enable EDUCAUSE to offer the Jane N. Ryland Fellowships, which make our professional development programs accessible to economically disadvantaged institutions. Finally, it is important to recognize that publications are also an integral part of what EDUCAUSE considers to be professional development. Corporations underwrite much of the cost of producing the books and monographs that educate thousands of EDUCAUSE members. In the future, we plan to work with member corporations to deliver programs that meet our members' educational objectives and simultaneously showcase emerging technologies. As new, technology-enriched learning paradigms become available, our corporate collaborations will become increasingly diverse and complex.

EDUCAUSE also is developing interesting plans to deliver an intensive educational program oriented to corporate professionals and leaders. High turnover in corporate positions—combined with the intrinsic complexity of higher education—indicates that corporations need to be educated about the idiosyncrasies of serving higher education markets. Our institutional members report that they are frustrated by the constant need to educate corporate sales professionals about higher education; meanwhile, our corporate members have expressed a keen interest in our developing intensive programs for their staff. A program designed to enhance corporations' understanding of higher education practices likely would benefit all of our members.

RS: What measures of success does EDUCAUSE use to assess new professional development services and refine existing ones?

RK: I believe that the market provides the greatest means for delivering feedback. Stated simply, people vote with their feet. Our success in part is measured by the attendance at our educational events, by the purchase of our books and monographs, and by the responses people give on the evaluation forms that we distribute at every EDUCAUSE event. We also use the results of our professional development and readership surveys to establish baselines, and we measure member satisfaction regularly over time. Furthermore, we evaluate our programmatic and financial performance against our peer associations that also serve higher education.

Remember that our goal is nothing less than becoming the provider of first choice within our educational niche. We have a dedicated and active Professional Development Committee and Board of Directors, both of which oversee the quality and direction of our programs. Their evaluations constitute another facet of the overall program evaluation process at EDUCAUSE.

There is also a less tangible sign of success that I call the "WOW" factor. I want EDUCAUSE professional development programs and offerings to stun, provoke, and delight people. We are all too busy to settle for less.

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