A Feast of Complex Flavors at SXSWedu

Each year when I sit down to map out my SXSWedu schedule I feel like I’m at one of Austin’s local ice cream shops selecting unique and interesting ice cream flavors made with deliberate and thoughtful practice. Grapefruit with Champagne Marshmallows or Roasted Beets and Fresh Mint flavor anyone?

Likewise, the SXSWedu venue looks to showcase a wide spectrum of critical issues in K-20 and I think does so in a way that demonstrates the importance and the complexity of education, and the diverse stakeholders committed to making education work for the common good. I appreciate this holistic approach which makes obvious this complex ecosystem which is anchored to, and affects, most all aspects of society. There is something to be gained by everyone in sampling these different stakeholder perspectives.

With this in mind, I’m seeking sessions that build synergies, creative thinking, and problem-solving around supporting learners that face challenging economic, psychological, and social barriers which keep them from reaching their academic and professional goals.

My Top Picks:

Getting to College Graduation Summit:

Innovations in Adult Learning

Accelerating Excellence in Higher Ed

  • Student Success 101: Learn how The University of Texas at Austin researched and implemented student success programs that produced record retention rates.

Achievement Gaps and Educational Equality

Entrepreneurialism in Education

Big Data and Learning Analytics

Assessment, Accountability, and Standards

  • Economic Mobility Through Education: Discussion exploring what needs to be done to make the promise of higher education leading to economic mobility a reality for low-income students.

Cognitive Process & Design Thinking

  • Learning to Fail with Style and Grace: Explore how failure is a temporary and normal part of the learning experience and critical to creative problem-solving and a successful adulthood.
  • How to Stay Curious: Experience how to keep the mind open, to heighten awareness, and stay expansive and sharp as learners – with visual language – Doodling!

Policy & Funding

Special Events

  • The Backward Class film showing at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema: Experience the pressures and joys of being the first class of Dalit (‘untouchable’) caste students in India’s history to take the national high school exam to create a better life for themselves and their families.

Special Announcement:

  • The University of Texas System reveals their competency-based learning ecosystem, TEx, built to address challenges facing higher education.


Follow me on Twitter @hcustard .


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Holly Custard, Ph.D.

Holly Custard, Ph.D., came to Pearson Online Learning Services, Head of Academics, from the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Teaching and Learning where she led the design and development of online resources including MOOCs, hybrid, and online courses in collaboration with faculty and academic units across campus to foster increased educational opportunity and outcomes. For the past twenty years, she has researched, taught, and worked in educational media and technology, and online learning in the K-12 and higher education sectors. As Head of Academics, Holly collaborates with partnering institutions to design, develop, and evaluate programs and services that support institutional and faculty goals, and student learning outcomes. She is interested in identifying and creating new approaches to teaching and learning that foster contextualized, meaningful, and engaging experiences to guide learners in realizing their personal education and career goals. Holly lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two energetic and curious children.