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Following the Lead of McGraw-Hill's Brian Kibby
August 9, 2012 - 9:00pm

We can debate Brian Kibby's vision that higher ed should go completely digital in 36 months. Many of us have already commented on his essay "Digital Deadline", and I'm sure that you will have some strong opinions as well when you go back and read his piece and the subsequent discussion.

What stands out for me is not so much KIbby's arguments, although I do think they are interesting even if I don't share all his beliefs, but that Brian Kibby is the president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Kibby's essay is the opposite of the bland corporate speak that we often get from employees of for-profits in the educational technology and publishing sector. I love the Kibby is willing to passionately lay out a vision for change in higher ed, one that many people will strongly disagree with.   

It is certainly true that Kibby is writing about his own industry in his essay, and that McGraw-Hill does have a stake in the digital transformation, but I do not believe that Kibby's article was at all a piece of marketing. One would hope that a leader in the educational publishing field would have strong opinions about the future of his own industry and the role that publishers can play in transforming higher ed.  

Perhaps "Prbanks" said it best in his comment to Kibby's article when he wrote:

"One should not be so quick to judge Mr. Kibby's motives simply based on where he works or what he may or may not stand to gain for taking such a bold position. Reading the article carefully reveals (at least to me), that his position is far more of a challenge than a prediction. Perhaps if we viewed the world more directly through the eyes of today's students - the ones that can type circles around most of us (including me) on a mobile device - Mr. Kibby's enthusiasm and passion wouldn't seem self-serving to so many folks on here. Just because he's involved in a for-profit endeavor doesn't mean he's out for pure personal gain".

I've always wondered why more employees of for-profit educational and publishing companies don't follow Kibby's example and publicly engage with our IHE community. When I speak to the professionals who work for ed tech, for-profit education, and publishing organizations I find them to be passionate, knowledgeable and article advocates for change. Unfortunately, the opinions of people who work in the for-profit sector are underrepresented both in the article and blog comments, and in the Views section. 

Why don't we see more participation from people in the for-profit edtech, education, and publishing sectors in our IHE community? My sense is that for-profit companies have not done enough to incentivize, train, and support their employees to participate in online communities such as IHE. Employees are concerned about expressing views that may run counter to corporate messaging. The idea that public communication is something that the public relations people do is deeply entrenched, and it takes an active and concerted effort from company leadership to empower professionals throughout the organization to engage in a public dialogue.

I also think that employees may be worried that whatever they write will appear "self-serving." That even if one's boss supports public participation within web communities such as IHE that the community itself will de-value any contributions. I think all of us who work in the non-profit education sector need to do a better job of inviting our for-profit, edtech, and publishing colleagues to all the communities in which we interact.   

Finally, we should recognize that thoughtful participation and contributions to our IHE community, contributions that I think Brian Kibby models, involve the investment of time and energy. The people I know who work in the for-profit sector are staggeringly busy.  They would like to write, blog, and comment more - they just don't have the time. This is an issue for the leadership of these companies, as they need to find build in the proper incentives and rewards for this sort of engagement.   

I don't know Brian Kibby, but after reading his essay I'm much more likely to want to speak with him and learn more about what McGraw-Hill is up to in the digital education space. Business in higher ed is built on relationships, and getting your company's people into the discussion is the very best form of outreach.

Does your company encourage you to follow Brian Kibby's lead?

 

 

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