I’m a big fan of surprise successes. And conferences. And Canada. So I was thrilled that all these meshed when I had the opportunity to speak at the first-ever Canadian Post-Secondary Web Conference at Brock University last week.
Steered by the terrific and tireless Melissa Cheater of the Richard Ivey School of Business, #pseweb started as a modest attempt at a #heweb regional, expecting perhaps a few dozen people. It grew into a very well-received conference with some 150 attendees from British Columbia to the coast of Nova Scotia and many points in between. They received some 40 program proposals and I’m pleased my presentation, Students: Your Secret Weapons for Social Media Success, survived the attendee-voted cuts.
I’m happy the conference focused on institutional websites as well as social media. In the end, social media should drive to your website and, as I found from interviewing incoming students, they consider our properties the best place for information. Thus emphasis on how to improve our own sites proved very helpful. Since we’re in the middle of a redesign — presenter Stuart Foss of eduStyle would say we all are in some way — that three sessions addressed this topic proved most welcome.
Doing my first international conference presentation, I culled additional intriguing observations about our marvelous neighbors to the north:
1. Emphasis on privacy issues. I generally see one or two audience questions about privacy, tops, at a whole U.S. conference, while most individual sessions at #pseweb had queries about privacy and the web. Landmark court cases in Canada famously emphasize privacy over right to publish, as the concern seems to transcend even the current Facebook-related issues. The conference even featured a (great) session by JP Rains of Laurentian University on Risk Management for Facebook that put many social media concerns into context.
2. The difference between colleges and universities. The USian lexicon uses the terms synonymously (if not 100% correctly). Perceptions of prestige notwithstanding, the bachelor’s and master’s degrees SUNY Oswego confers are every bit as accredited and credible as those of Harvard, Yale or any other university. But in Canada, universities generally refer to a higher eschelon of education where one can receive degrees, while colleges tend confer diplomas and certificates (there are exceptions, but how long do you want this blog to be?). So it helps to know, when talking to Canadians, that my institution would be considered a university, even if that’s not what we call it.
3. Canadians are awesome! OK, this wasn’t news to me. As expected, I met so many wonderful attendees with a marvelous span of talents, personalities and insights from across the Home and Native Land. But most telling was how a Brock student named Mackenzie (iirc) saw me peering cluelessly at a map as I navigated the occasionally confusing (aren’t they all?) campus and volunteered assistance. Beyond just telling me how to find my destination, she walked me through a few buildings to the residential quad. She wasn’t a tour guide or any such official thing, but is clearly a great ambassador.
I’ll have to save my favorite moment of the conference, which demonstrated the connective power of social media, for another post. But on every level, #pseweb proved a great experience!