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October 2012

Pre Con: SACSCOC, Expanding Education

By Sarah Beauchamp, Assistant Editor

SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) 2012 Annual Meeting, scheduled for Dec. 8–11 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.  Dedicated to informing and connecting professionals in higher education across the southern United States, the meeting last year drew 4,200 attendees - including executive-level administrators, college presidents, directors, and faculty - to Orlando.  This year’s theme is “Higher Education in 2020: Emerging Trends in Pedagogy, Technology, and Student Learning.”

Challenges

In keeping with this year’s theme, Carol Hollins, SACSCOC’s director of institutional support, SACSCOC, Expanding Education is planning for the future.  With attendance on the rise, SACSCOC is working to keep all meeting participants within walking distance of each other.  “Our biggest challenge is that we’re growing 10 to 15 percent each year,” Hollins said.  “We need a place to meet our needs without spreading people too far out in the city, because it will preclude networking.”

Hollins added: “Then there is always the obvious challenge of cost when running an effective meeting.  We’ve found that certain cities are more expensive than others, and Dallas is going to be one of them.” To compensate, SACSCOC won’t cut any corners, but the organization will “utilize technology as much as possible,” Hollins said.  “... We've used the Internet to market the event, and we’ll once again employ a mobile app for smartphones at the meeting.”

Initiatives

In addition to three general sessions and multiple technology workshops - many of them focusing on the latest developments in online learning - SACSCOC is putting a spin on the traditional roundtable talk.  “For years we’ve had roundtable discussions in the form of 20 to 25 dialogues going on in one big room,” Hollins said.  “This year, we’re doing it differently.” Why? “A pretty large segment [of attendees] said the old way wasn't working.”

After listening to feedback, SACSCOC asked delegates to submit proposals for discussion topics; those chosen will be held in separate rooms.  “The challenge is trying to keep it informal and having more interaction among the participants,” Hollins said.  “More of an exchange rather than a presentation.”

Limiting discussions to one per room will decrease the chaos of multiple simultaneous conversations and, SACSCOC hopes, increase networking opportunities.  “There will be one or two facilitators in each room giving some direction,” Hollins said.  “People can have meaningful discussions without having to shout over a lot of dialogue in a big room - helping people break away from the competing voices.”

For more information: sacscoc.org/aamain.asp 

Convene’s Pre-Con/Post-Con series asks meeting planners about their challenges and how they intend to address them (Pre-Con), and then circles back around after the meeting has occurred (Post-Con) to see how well they worked out.

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