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Collegiality, Online Discussions, and EdTech Vendors
September 15, 2011 - 8:45pm

Higher ed is tough on our vendors. We are a vocal bunch, we like to share our opinions, and with the proliferation of blogs, tweets, and listservs we have the ability to publicly express our strong opinions. The free exchange of ideas and opinions in our web communication platforms is a good thing, but the ability to quickly disseminate our opinions must be balanced against the requirements to be collegial, professional, and balanced.

For some reason, we feel that it is okay to talk about a company (or the people who run a company) with language that we would never use when writing about our academic colleagues and peer institutions. The online rhetoric around edtech companies seems to be more strident than anything one hears at conferences. Strongly worded online complaints get the most attention, where balanced (if critical) assessments are derided or ignored.

I propose the following cautions for the next time any of us write a blog post or comment, listserv post, or tweet about an edtech company that we work with.

Maintain Professional Communication: When critiquing a company, my rule is to not write anything for an online audience that I also would not say directly (face-to-face) to a person who worked for the company. This does not mean that our critiques should be any less passionate, it is just that the form of communication should be collegial.

Don't Criticize Anonymously: People who want to criticize a company in an online platform should be willing to put their names to the critiques.

We Are Not Perfect Either: Every company that I have ever worked with has made bad, short-term, and ill-informed decisions. But then again, so has every institution of higher learning. We should hold our edtech partners to high standards and be willing to critique, push and negotiate - but we should try to be a little bit more humble in our actions.

Critique and Criticize, But Be Constructive: If you are unhappy with a company, by all means make use of blogs, comments, tweets and listservs to share your complaint. But keep the criticism to the specific instance or specific failure, avoid non-productive generalizations.

Authentic Dialogue Is the Goal: Be clear about your goals in using online mediums for critiquing an edtech vendor. If venting is the goal, perhaps it is better to take a step back. If your goal is to start or motivate a dialogue, in order to attain an achievable outcome, then a passionate online critique is justified.

Can you critique or improve upon this argument?



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