Thought Leadership from Corporate EdTech

Topics on which leaders are needed.

May 16, 2013

Last night I listened to the audio from Wednesday's IMS Learning Impact Conference panel Rumbling Right Along: What's Next for the Thing Formerly Known as the LMS?  (It looks the USTREAM link is no longer working - in the future I hope that the conference organizers make the session available for download).

Any panel with Instructure's CEO Josh Coates is going to have some fireworks (nobody could accuse Josh of being a traditional risk averse CEO), and this particular panel (masterfully moderated by Scott Jaschik) had its share of high and low moments.  

The discussion swung (somewhat manically) from posturing to gracious, aggressive to thoughtful, but it was good to have all these smart folks in one place talking about the future of the LMS.

Of all points made by the LMS CEO panelists, the one statement that has stuck with me was Blackboard's Jay Bhatt's point about the need for higher ed thought leadership to come from the edtech sector.  

Jay's call for edtech thought leadership  got me thinking about this might look like in practice.   

I'll offer 2 suggestions ... and I hope you build on them:

1.  Leadership in Collegiality and Collaboration:

I'd like to see educational technology vendors that work in higher ed begin to adopt more of the cultural norms of postsecondary education. 

Amongst the most cherished of our values are an emphasis on sharing, open communication, transparency, and collegiality. Practicing these values does not mean that we do not compete with each other.  Colleges and universities fight hard for students, faculty, rankings, prestige, and even athletic victories.  

What it does mean is that we don't believe that the success of one of our peers diminishes us in anyway. Higher ed is not a zero sum game.  We share what we know and what we have learned with peers because we believe that we are all in the business of creating social good, and the benefits from sharing and collaboration far outweigh any competitive risks.

What would these academic values look like when transferred to the competitive world of for-profit educational technology? My guess is that they would actually translate quite well. The secret sauce of edtech is not ideas but execution.  

What I'm suggesting is that the leadership from our large educational services, technology, and publishing companies prioritize spending time on sharing what they are learning.  

What is working and not working from a technology side? 

Where are the successes and obstacles to moving from selling software to engaging in partnerships (to grow online programs or increase retention etc.) with colleges and universities?  

What would happen if the CEO's of our edtech firms saw their businesses as one element of a larger effort to create social value in higher education?  How would that change how the company went about its business?

2.  A Focus on Leadership Development:

Higher ed needs to change.  We need to find ways to increase both quality and access while lowering costs.  We want to make these changes in ways that are true to our values and our traditions.

For change to occur we will need to develop the capabilities of our existing and emerging leaders.   These leaders can be found both within the higher ed sector, as well as within the companies, government organizations, and non-profits that intersect with post-secondary ecosystem.

I'd like to see our edtech leadership put some serious thought (and resources) behind systematic leadership development.  

What sort of higher ed leadership programs and degrees can be funded, supported, or created?  

What role can edtech leaders play in helping to bridge the divide between schools and companies, non-profits and for-profits?

What are your ideas for what thought leadership out of the edtech world might look like?


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