3 Strategic EdTech Priorities

How would you advise your president?

June 9, 2013

What strategic edtech priorities would you stress if you were given 30 minutes with your president, chancellor, provost, or trustees?

The 3 areas that I'd stress in such a meeting (and please critique or add your ideas) would be:

1.  EdTech as a Faculty Partner for Teaching and Learning:

Educational technology professionals and edtech learning platforms are a key element of improving the quality of teaching and learning on campus. Efforts to improve quality require close collaboration between faculty, librarians, and edtech professionals - including learning designers, media specialists, and developers.

This quality argument is particularly salient for large courses. Small seminars do not need much technology to be great. The goal for large courses is to make the lecture feel more like a seminar.  To design and run courses that maximize faculty/student interaction, active learning, and a sense of an intimate learning community. The way forward to create these immersive, personalized, collaborative, and intimate courses is blended learning, flipped classrooms, and learning designs that turn students into knowledge creators.

The quality argument is particularly important in the MOOC era. Courses that are primarily about information delivery are quickly dropping to a price point of zero. To justify our prices, higher ed will need to work toward courses that are built on relationships between faculty and learners and the co-creation of knowledge. Partnerships between faculty and educational technology professionals will be a key element in the evolution of post-secondary courses, and the improvement in the quality of teaching and learning that we will see over the next 5 years.

2.  The Opportunity to Leverage EdTech to Increase Revenues and Visibility:

Opportunities for revenue growth come in 3 areas: new degree programs; non-degree programs; and increased enrollments.     

The questions to ask on the new degree programs and non-degree programs are: What are the areas that the institution is the particularly well known for? What departments and faculty do we have that are world leaders in their fields? What do we do better than anyone else?  

The answers to these questions may reveal opportunities to create new degree or non-degree programs in this area of specialization. Often the best route for these new degree or non-degree programs will be online or blended learning programs, as the local demand for degrees or training in your narrow specialization may not support the programs. Online and blended programs allow for demand to be aggregated across geography and across a range of potential students - including adult working professionals.

Too many campuses have tried to chase the market for "popular" degrees, creating new programs (particularly master's programs), where they perceive a strong market demand. The right way to go about the creation of new programs to is identify and build on your campus strengths.  

New programs do not have to be very large to be self-sustaining.  In fact, small and intimate might be better. Building on your strengths will increase the likelihood that the program is mission rather than revenue driven, with passionate faculty, staff and eventually students. What can be learned from these small blended/online programs can be applied to other courses and programs, increasing the value of these programs for the entire institution.

Educational technology is also an important lever for efforts to increase institutional visibility. MOOCs are one area where the best teaching on campus can be made visible to the world community of lifelong learners. MOOCs, however, are only one area of potential - as there are amazing opportunities to extend the campus experience to potential students, alumni, and new audiences. Our campus community is no longer confined to only the people who happen to live on campus.

3. The Value Proposition of Investing In Educational Technology:

The growth of cloud services means that we are shifting away from producing and running our own campus technology applications to consuming these applications as a service. To the extent that we can accelerate this trend we can move resources up the educational value chain, closer to faculty and our students.

Our students will be coming to campus with increasingly high quality expectations. They will be acutely aware of the free or near-free courses that can be found online, and will expect classes they enroll in to offer high levels of engagement with both the faculty member and the subject matter.  

Students will also demand that both learning platforms and campus administrative platforms are robust, convenient, and increasingly mobile. They will be savvy consumers of media, financial, and entertainment services - and expect that higher education services keep up with the current state of the art.  

This does not mean that they will want a dumbed down or diminished higher ed experience. Quite the opposite. They will demand convenience and rigor, quality and flexibility - and will take their tuition dollars to those places that offer the highest quality experience.

How can edtech departments align with and support the mission of institution?

What opportunities are there for campus edtech leaders to play a critical role in long-term strategic planning?


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