5 EdTech Vendor Hopes for 2014

What do you want from your technology partners?

January 2, 2014

What are your edtech vendor hopes and wishes for 2014?

Here are a few of my own:

Hope #1. That Higher Ed Decision Makers Insist That EdTech Vendors Get More Transparent in Their Pricing:

Do you know how much your school is paying for your LMS, your lecture capture system, your e-mail, your media management platform? Can you quickly compare prices across different vendors?   

The answers to all these questions is most likely “no”.  

The blame should not be placed on the vendors. We, as edtech purchasing decision makers and community members sitting on governance committees, have the power to insist on edtech vendor pricing transparency.

We should refuse to sign any contract where prices are not publicly available. Why should TechSmith be alone in publishing prices for its wonderful Relay product? 

For too long we have relied on “special deals” and offers in exchange for signing NDA’s on our contracts. We have traded short term gains for a regime of opaque pricing and cloudy understanding amongst our stakeholders about the costs of providing tech services. 2014 should be the year of transparent pricing.

Hope #2. That EdTech Vendor Partners Move More Aggressively Toward Value Based and Shared Saving/Revenue Models:

Higher education has a productivity crisis. In the last 3 decades both our quality and our costs have gone up, but cost increases have dramatically outstripped quality gains. Unlike every other information industry that has been able to move their services largely from scarcity to abundance, we have inevitably fallen into the cost disease trap of of service industries that rely on highly trained labor.   

The good news is that higher ed is a very people intensive business - as authentic learning depends on educators and learners forming relationships.

The bad news is that higher ed is a very people intensive business - as we cannot increase productivity by submitting capital for labor.

The solution is to combine people and technology. We need to spend resources on people, but those people should be the right people. More money on educators, less money on everyone else.   

Edtech vendors can help us make this transition. They can offer services that allow campuses to re-purpose employees closer to courses, closer to faculty, and closer to students. Edtech vendors can work with us to reduce our administrative computing costs so that we can redirect resources to academic computing. 

I think that a good understanding of higher ed economics, combined with a goal of increasing campus productivity, can result in new types of edtech vendor contracts. We can pay our vendors based on the the savings that their services provide. If a cloud e-mail or LMS system enables us to to redistribute X dollars away from people who run the infrastructure to people who partner with faculty then some of those savings can flow back to the vendor.  

Edtech vendors should be incentivized to help us increase our productivity.

For this change to occur we will need to form much closer relationships with our edtech vendors. We will also need to locate vendor partners with a strong grasp of campus economics.   

Outside of the online program for-profit / not-for-proift space do we have example of these sorts of partnerships?

Hope #3. That Someone Create a Killer Mobile Learning App:

Will 2014 finally be the year that mobile learning moves from hype to reality?   

Sure, our students are already using their smart phones and tablets to access course materials, assignments, discussions, and sometimes even assessments.

The problem is that these mobile learning experiences still do not approach the web learning experiences.

Do you know of an LMS platform that you’d rather access on an iPhone than a browser? I don’t.

The problem is that the LMS was designed first for the browser, and only then retrofitted for the app. This approach has its limitations, and for many learners is probably backwards.   

How many of our students would prefer to do everything on their mobile devices?   

What would an LMS designed first for mobile look like?   

Hope #4. That Google Comes Up with a Coherent Education Narrative:

I don’t understand how Google thinks about higher education.

I have not been able to deduce any coherent plan, much less overarching goals, for Google’s approach to higher education.

I’m not even sure who is in charge of thinking about higher education at Google.   

This is too bad, as a Google serious about higher education could do some amazing things.

Google has most of the pieces in place to populate a postsecondary ecosystem. Google has the potential to partner with schools to improve quality while lowering costs.

Think about it.  Google now has the range of software, devices, and services that can be leveraged into the new infrastructure of learning.

What if Google decided that they could build on their partnership with edX to offer a free, high-quality cloud based LMS? Why not? Such a move would instantly disrupt the entire LMS industry. Such a move could offer every educational institutional hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential savings in licensing fees.   

Google could easily turn YouTube into a killer campus media management platform. Lots of money going to Kaltura, Ensemble, and Sharestream could be repurposed to making an educationally focussed YouTube platform serve all of campuses media management and curricular video needs.  

Why shouldn’t Google purchase a media capture company (one that relies on software for capture - such as Panopto or Techsmith), and offer this platform for free? Captured media could flow into the new YouTube education media management platform.

What would it take for Chromebooks to become the only piece of hardware that any student would need to get through college?    

How far are we from Android offering the best mobile learning experience?

The point is that Google has a history of making once scarce goods abundant. Email, documents, storage, and mapping all used to be expensive. Now we can get high quality services for the cost of sharing our (anonymized) data. This seems like a good trade to me.  

Google has reset the economics and competitive landscapes of many industries. Google should do the same for higher education.

Hope #5.  That Blackboard, Adobe, and Microsoft Communicate A Higher Ed Vision:

Blackboard, Adobe, and Microsoft are all very important companies in our edtech space.  

How many of you do business with one of these vendors? 

What is the footprint of these companies on your campus?

Each of these companies have rich endowments of smart and passionate educationally focussed employees and the resources and scale to make significant contributions to higher ed productivity.   

They are incumbents in the enterprise education space, and on many campuses they enjoy long term relationships with higher ed decision makers.

But is Blackboard, Adobe, or Microsoft beloved on your campus?

If polled, what would be the attitude of students and faculty about the quality and relevance of the platforms and services that each of these companies provide?

This is not meant to be overly critical of these 3 vendors.  Rather, I see enormous potential for Blackboard, Adobe and Microsoft to step-up with an aggressive vision and serious resources to change higher education. An opportunity to build on their existing product lines and user bases to do something different in the edtech space.

What sort of higher ed vision would you like to hear from Blackboard, Adobe, and Microsoft?

What changes in these companies do you think would be necessary for each of them to gain the excitement and momentum that each once enjoyed in higher education?

What are your edtech vendor hopes for 2014?


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