Competition and Sharing in Learning Technology

4 Ideas about why we share.

July 20, 2015
Learning technology is a networked discipline. Our community is small. Careers tend to be long. Over the length of our professional lifetimes we get to know our colleagues at other institutions really well. Our learning technology community is highly motivated to understand what our peers are doing. 
The wonderful thing about higher education is that we are simultaneously competitive and transparent. We compete tooth and nail with peer institutions for the best students and faculty.  We compete for status, resources, and mindshare. 
In the midst of this competition we also do everything we can to help each other out. This openness and sharing is particularly true in the learning technology community. We share with each other our best practices and our methods.  We help each other understand how to develop, design, execute, and communicate around our initiatives and projects. We share what works for us and what does not.  We counsel, mentor, and support each other.
How is it that our institutions can both compete and share?  
Why is it that transparency, openness, and sharing as value can coexist with competition? 4 ideas:
1.  We Practice Non-Zero Sum Thinking:
Those of us who work learning technology believe in our potential to create a bigger educational pie. We think that improving the quality and value of higher education will increase the people and resources that flow to our campuses. We believe that we can leverage technology to improve postsecondary productivity. Driving down costs while improving quality will increase the higher ed pie.  
2.  We Are Mission Driven:
We share a core educational mission with all of our peer institutions. There success is our success, as we are all working for the same goals. We have dedicated our careers to the proposition that education can transform lives. We believe that opportunity flows from learning. Sharing what we know and what we are learning with colleagues at peer institutions is a natural outgrowth of our common belief system, values, and goals.
3.  Sharing Is Supremely Self-Interested:
The reason the learning technology community shares so freely is that we need to share to do our jobs well. We don’t have enough experience and data from our own campuses to always know how to operate. We need to learn what works and what does not work from our peers if we are going to be effective in our own daily work.  The only way to learn what is going on with peers is to share what is going on with us. The more open we are, the more our colleagues at other schools will be open with us.  
4.  We are Taking on the Norms of an Academic Discipline:
This last idea may be more controversial. I have this idea that learning technology is an emergent academic discipline.  We share a common set of values, language, methods, and theoretical frameworks. Our loyalty is extending from the institutions that we work to the discipline that we belong. As with any academic discipline, our closest colleagues are often at different institutions.
What has been your experience with sharing what you are learning about learning and technology with peers?
Can you contribute other reasons why we share with our competitors?


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