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Being Open to Tension by Design
December 6, 2012 - 9:07pm

When I showed up at the EDUCAUSE exhibit hall last month to speak with Adrian Sannier, I knew that I had no idea where our conversation would go. Sannier, SVP of Product for Pearson Education, is the primary evangelist and lightning rod for Pearson's OpenClass Learning Management System (LMS). Sitting and chatting with Sannier on bright orange ottomans was an experience. Eating orange (there's a theme here) M&M candies and moving his hands at the speed of light, Sannier explained the current state of affairs with OpenClass.

With an emphasis on scaling education, incorporating big data, and enhancing learning, I asked Sannier if he felt that things were changing rapidly enough for some of the ideas that he envisioned. Keenly focused on a pace of change that would frighten most administrators, Sannier asked if he could borrow my iPad (okay, so maybe he just picked it up, I laughed). He sketched out a line that he said was the current pace of things in higher education. Then, he drew a second line that had a steep arc and said that this is where he wants to be. Innovating and amplifying the way that courses (mostly introductory) are delivered by way of leveraging the massive OpenClass hive.

Adrian Sannier is all about education and scale

Sannier is a radical visionary. In the flow that was EDUCAUSE, there aren't many in the crowd who can inspire, educate, and elevate at the rate that Sannier can. He might not get to where he wants to go, but at least he's willing to give it a shot. Having backing from Pearson can't hurt. It's like Sannier is head of a secret/not-secret skunkworks. Is there tension between the OpenClass idealism and the rest of Pearson proper? Maybe. However, I think it's a good tension. Differences in thinking and doing are healthy for a company like Pearson. However, it's time to up the ante. Sannier has a solid vision for how he wants to scale and grow the academic side of higher education, but what about Student Affairs? Where do we fit in the mix of scale and big ideas? When Sannier and Pearson decide to partner with, and possibly leverage, their Student Affairs connections, then, students will have a complete package for learning and engagement.


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