NERDug

2017 Conference:
The Final Frontier

Greetings

We are writing with some serious news regarding NERDug, so please read this when you have time to contemplate things.

Brief History

NERDug is the oldest Colleague regional conference in the country, starting in the mid-80s. For the last 20 years, NERDug has been one of the premier regional conferences - we strove to embody a smaller, more affordable version of the national conference offering:

  • multiple concurrent tracks covering all modules of Colleague
  • a sponsor showcase featuring services and software to integrate with Colleague
  • contributed sessions from Ellucian
  • social events to encourage networking and camaraderie among attendees

This model worked well for many years but we no longer believe it is viable.

Why?

Over the past 5-10 years, things have changed.

  1. Changes at Ellucian have made it harder to get the contributed content many end users desire (less marketing/sales pitches, and more demonstrations or "how to" sessions).
  2. Cost cutting by Ellucian has led to more online/remote sessions from Ellucian which generally were not well received in 2017.
  3. We have been able to continue with a full slate of 60+ sessions each year, but it is increasingly harder to fill those sessions. For example, in 2015 we had 60 confirmed sessions as of May 20 whereas in 2017 it took until June 12. This may not sound like a big difference, but considering that our Early Bird deadline is around June 15, many clients are unwilling to register for a conference without seeing a full slate of sessions.
  4. We completely lost the Advancement track after the 2015 conference.
  5. The HR track is small (3 sessions) and would be non-existent without the contributed sessions of an Ellucian employee who happens to live in New England.
  6. The Admissions and Financial Aid track has also begun to shrink in the last three years.
  7. Following the recession in 2008 many colleges have curtailed professional development and conference travel and not surprisingly our attendance has waned during this period. Our total attendance in 2017 was 165, the second lowest attendance in the last 10 years.
  8. We have both a decreased number and consistency of individuals involved/interested in planning and executing the work of putting on the annual conference.

Action

The NERDug board believes we should step back and assess possible changes to the conference or pursue completely different avenues. Presently we do not have a firm timetable to consider changes - this may take a few months or more than a year. No decisions have been made but some ideas are being explored:

  • Scale conference down to a single day event, eliminating the need for an overnight hotel stay for many attendees.
  • Break the conference up into several smaller events. For example, the Student Services staff might meet for a single day in October whereas the Admissions/Financial Aid staff might meet at a different time of the year that is more conducive to their work schedule, and so on for each of the various tracks.
  • Move the entire conference online and have all sessions offered via webex or other streaming service. This would serve to eliminate hotel and meals costs, drastically decreasing the cost while opening attendance to virtually anyone in the country - not just New England.
  • NERDug has tried numerous times to discuss a joint conference with the New England Banner clients, but our previous attempts were rebuffed. We could try again to see if there is any interest in joining forces.
  • Keep the basic format as "small version of the national" but scale back to a day and a half - the format we had until expanding to two full days in 2009.

What's Next

We want your feedback. What would you like to see? What format would work to serve your interests? We need your feedback no later than Wednesday October 25 because the board needs to meet and make decisions well before the end of the calendar year.

Sincerely,
NERDug Board