Should Every Ed Tech Project Include a Revenue Model?
Should every idea come with a funding source? Every new project with new dollars? An accounting of the opportunity costs for doing this project and not that? A list of what we will not do if we do something else?
We all have tons of ideas for how we can leverage technology to improve teaching and learning on our campuses. All of us can come up with lists of technology projects and services that we'd like to see offered at our school. We have ideas around mobile, around video, around data, and around social media. We all think that we should be doing more, pushing innovation, and taking advantage of the digital revolution to create a new higher education for the 21st century.
My question to you is: should all of our great ed tech ideas be paired with a revenue model? Should every idea come with a funding source? Every new project with new dollars? An accounting of the opportunity costs for doing this project and not that? A list of what we will not do if we do something else?
Revenue models can take a few different forms. These include:
New Direct Revenues: New direct revenues are the easiest form of dollars to talk about, but the hardest to achieve. Examples of new revenues could be increased enrollment and tuition dollars made possible with a move to a blended learning model, one that allows for greater utilization of classroom space by reducing the number of face-to-face class meetings by moving some of the teaching online. In this case, the revenue comes from more students, the technology innovations are the platforms and people necessary to develop and support blended learning. What other examples of technology enabled new direct revenues can you come up with?
New Indirect Revenues: Indirect revenues could be things like an increase in alumni giving. Or maybe an increase in applicants. Or a bump in the rankings. How much of both did MIT achieve with the Open Courseware initiative? How much free press did Stanford get with with its massively open online course (MOOC) this past fall? There is a real (and maybe measurable) bottom line impact for raising the profile of your institution among potential applicants, alumni, and donors. It may be possible to discover ed tech projects that contribute to teaching and learning for existing students and faculty, which can pay for themselves with the indirect revenues that come with attention.
Cost Savings: In the age of the cloud and the technology consumerization, new ed tech initiatives have great potential to (eventually) take costs out of the system. These savings may not be apparent right away, as transitioning requires an initial investment. But consumer technology as a service, and moving from a fixed to a variable cost model, will save dollars in the medium-to-long-term. Savings may also be achievable by sourcing technology services that are lower on the educational value chain, allowing campus technology professionals to spend their time on innovative projects that will yield new direct or indirect revenues.
What do you think? Should presentations at EDUCAUSE and other ed tech conferences explicitly spell out the dollar cost of the project or initiative being discussed, and tell the story of the revenues that the project expects to yield? Should communications around new technology or new systems on campus (from a new e-mail system to learning management system LMS to lecture capture platform) include information about costs and revenue?
To what extent should we talking about money when we talk about technology?
Read more by
Opinions on Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U
What Others Are Reading