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Embracing the Academic-Industrial Complex
August 2, 2010 - 9:15pm

The NYTimes may not be convinced that our academic leaders should serve on multiple corporate boards, but I'm a big believer in participating in the academic-industrial complex.

My participation with corporate America may be not resemble the experience of E. Gordon Gee of Ohio State ($472,846 for sitting on the boards of Hasbro, Bob Evans Farms, and Massey Energy), but I value the opportunities nonetheless.

How can educational technology professionals participate in the academic-industrial complex?:

  • Sit on strategic product advisory boards (if you can be invited).
  • Participate in product roadmap discussions at conferences.
  • Run pilot programs for new platforms and technologies.
  • Give talks and webinars on your experience with the product or service.
  • Write case studies of your campus experience.
  • Actively participate in user groups, listservs, and company/product specific conferences.
  • Develop and share open source modules and code for vendor products.

Why should you participate in the academic-industrial complex?:

  • To contribute to best practices and lessons learned within our higher ed community.
  • Because our best sources for evaluating vendor products are our peer institutions, and higher ed works on a reciprocity and open economy.
  • The direction of the vendor product roadmap is in your interest to understand and influence.
  • The best way to have your requirements prioritized is to be an active contributor to the vendor's user community.
  • We can learn a ton from the people who work at educational technology companies, as they are dedicated to improving teaching and learning.
  • The ed tech world is a small one, and people move back and forth from schools to companies. It is a good idea to build positive relationships across our industry.

What are some guidelines that we should follow when participating in the academic-industrial complex?

  • Never take any money or other compensation for our participation. Our work with companies should benefit our institutions, not ourselves.
  • Never get too close to the people at a company that you are afraid to publicly critique their products or strategy.
  • Always remain independent and autonomous from the companies that you may work with, so that there never can be any questions or concerns about motivations for recommendations and analysis.
  • Always treat the people who work at companies as colleagues and fellow educators. Remember that they are most likely driven by the same motivations that originally got you in to the educational technology business.

How have you managed your interactions with the academic-industrial complex? What advice would you give to academics who want to work more with companies, or companies that want to work more with academics?



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