Microsoft Conference for Higher Education, 19th - 20th June 2017 (Varunica)

Microsoft Conference for Higher Education 

 

Introduction 

 On the 19-20th of June, Microsoft had held a conference at their headquarters in Redmond, for higher education. This conference was focussed on bringing professionals from 23 countries together at one place to discuss the future of technology in education and how Microsoft can play a part in this. The conference was packed with innovative sessions focussed on the latest trends in educations, how to best prepare students for the modern workforce, and how to integrate Microsoft technology into higher education curiculum. 

 

Lightning Rounds & Concurrent Sessions 

 

Experts from around the world had gathered to share amongst themselves on how they are tailoring their curriculums to provide students with knowledge and experience of the state of the art technology. Many of the presenters had worked on using Microsoft-designed curiculums for fields of business, information systems, accounting, etc. Other presenters also shed light on integrating Microsoft tools to be used by students for their daily work and submissions. Amongst the experts of the field, I got the great opportunity to present my FYP work done on an in-class collaborative learning system (ClassNote) which had integrated Microsoft tools to faciliate individual and peer learning in a classroom setting. All of these was shared during lightning rounds where each presenter was given 15 minutes to present their work. These were happening concurrently in 2-3 venues. 

 

Microsoft’s Sharing Sessions 

 

This conference has definitely promoted educators to deepen their interest and academic research alike in the area of using Microsoft technology in their curiculum. With Microsoft’s applications for business, big data analysis, data science, and data analysis and visualisations, us attendees got a great overview of how these applications can be applied in classes and boost learning  in  areas  of  computer  science,  productivity  and  IT  infrastructure. Some of these Microsoft tools are Microsoft Cortana Intelligence Suite, Microsoft Dynamics 365, Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Power BI and many more. Speakers from Microsoft currently working on these tools and technologies had also come down to give us overviews on their capabilities as well as to share the upcoming features and functionalities that can be useful to everyone. 

 

Keynote Speeches 

 

Last but not the least, to wrap up the conference, we had keynote speakers who shared with us the broad overview of the future of education tailored to state of the art technology. So far we had seen and discussed how technology could be used to boost education, but the keynote speakers then introduced to us a new perspective of how higher education has to be tailored to teach students how to stay ahead of technology. One great example shared in the 

session was how technology is moving towards being interface-less. With devices  like  Amazon  Echo  where  no  interface  is  needed  for  humans  to interact with the device, many such devices will come around in the near future  and  students  need  to  learn  how  to  build,  programme  and  further improve these devices instead of focussing on making interfaces which may be a skill which becomes obselete. 

 

Learning Experience 

 

It was definitely a great eye-opening experience for me and I feel fortunate to be able to attend this conference. I had worked on my FYP over the course of a year and had strongly believed that ClassNote can be something of great use to students and instructors. However, I lacked the exposure of the global scene and the demand for such an application. Attending this conference gave me great insights on how educators across the globe are interested in adopting new strategies, tools and applications to enhance their teaching pedagogy. Being able to see various and unimaginable applications of our work was truly fascinating and motivating for me. With the use of technology, we can truly make a global impact. Some other learning points include:

 

- Networking meeting different experts during networking sessions to discuss how we can work together to further improve our applications and adopt in classrooms

- Application development after listening to different presentations, I realised that Microsoft provides many more tools which can be integrated into our classroom application to make it more usable by students and teachers.   These tools include Microsoft Cortana Intelligence and other cloud services. So far we have integrated Microsoft OneNote and Microsoft PowerBI into ClassNote. With the additional tools, capabilities of cloud storage and      aggregation and processing of data can be exploited.

Further expansion opportunities we had multiple experts showing great interest in ClassNote and they too wanted to adopt it in their fields. These experts hold backgrounds in higher education, academic research and     even the national army. Speaking to them I found scope for further expansions.

 

Overall, attending this conference has helped to hone my competency in presenting my work and networking to find new opportunities to carry our work forward. When starting off on my FYP, I had believed it would be a venue for me to improve my coding skills to deliver an end product at the end of a year’s time. However, having had the opportunity to submit my research paper for this conference and then being able to attend it and present my work helped me realise the power of envisioning the use of technology and its use can be much greater. I feel that this is the greatest takeway for me since I can apply it lifelong in whichever projects that I will take up. 

 

Acknowledgements

 

 I would like to sincerely thank Professor Bimlesh Wadhwa for providing her continuous guidance and support throughout this journey. I would also thank Professor Gary Tan, Ms Adele Chiew and Miss Arifah for helping me out with the CSDF/CAAA application and ensuring that I get through with it. Last but not least, I would like to thank SoC, NUS for providing me with valuable opportunities to learn and further improve myself. It was definitely an honour to represent SoC at Microsoft, Redmond with this project.

 

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