One of the best aspects of working an academic technology gig is the opportunity to work with edtech companies. Even if you are a hardcore roll-your-own / build it local / open source / edupunk true believer, eventually you'll find yourself scouting around for an edtech vendor partner to meet your campus IT needs.
The ability to work effectively with edtech companies, to evaluate and negotiate and manage relationships, will increasingly be among the most important skills of an edtech leader.
So how can academic educational technology professionals develop the skills to interact positively and productively with vendor educational technology professionals?
Did you end up in your edtech job via business school? I'm a social scientist. Maybe you are a humanist, or a life scientist. Perhaps you were a teacher or a trainer or learner designer or a candle stick maker before you became an academic technologist. Very few of us (us being academic edtech folks) have formal training in negotiation, finance, marketing, and all those other skills that people with MBAs and long business experience have acquired.
We know higher ed, we get learning, we love technology - but do we know enough about how for-profit businesses work? Are we equipped to manage our edtech vendor relationships and the selection of potential partners?
If anyone told us that effective course design is simply a matter of "common sense" we'd probably beg to differ. Effective learning design requires an understanding of how people learn, and how to translate our faculty partners teaching goals into effective practices - practices that are often (but not always) mediated by technology. My sense is that effective vendor negotiation, analysis, contract negotiation, and relationship management is also not merely a matter of "common sense". These tasks involve real skills, ones learned both in the classroom and from long experience.
Do you have time to get an MBA? Is an MBA the degree that academic edtech people really need?
Are there specialized degrees in higher education / for-profit company negotiation and partnership?
Are our educational technology professional organizations partnering with edtech vendors to offer training and mentoring to make us more effective in our work with company partners?
We would be wise to remember that all of us overestimate our own abilities, that we all think that we are better than average drivers and better than average teachers and yes better than average educational technologists.
I'm betting that all of us overestimate our own ability to work with edtech vendors.
How can we get better?
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