Last week I participated in a type of web meeting that I hope becomes the norm for academic / vendor coloration.
The discussion was a "client-led Blackboard Mobile Learn Enhancement Requests," with participation from both the folks who run the Blackboard mobile division and clients (and prospective clients) worldwide.
A discussion between academic clients (existing or potential) and a vendor is nothing unusual. Nor is it noteworthy to hold this discussion using web meeting tools. What I think was innovative, and worth repeating, was that this discussion was:
a. Open to anyone who wanted to participate (it was communicated on a Blackboard listserve).
b. Designed around client requests and requirements, and not a standard company presentation.
Web meeting platforms make virtual meetings amazingly easy and productive. Our academic culture values openness, sharing and collaboration - we want to share what we know (or don't know) and learn from our colleagues. Why is it then that the we restrict most of our vendor demos and vendor discussions to within our own institutions? Why don't we open up these discussions to anyone who wants to participate?
The fact that this "client-led Blackboard Mobile Learn Enhancement Requests web meeting" was organized by Ed Garay, Assistant Director for Academic Computing and Director of the UIC Instructional Technology Lab at University of Illinois at Chicago, should come as no surprise. Ed is emblematic of people who find their ways into learning and technology, in that his path has been both non-linear and varied. Originally from Ecuador, Ed found himself at UIC (first as a student and then in administrative and teaching work), collaborating with faculty on language, math, Mosaic, HTML and hypermedia, teaching and learning technology, mobile computing, collaboration technology, social networking, and anything new of potential benefit to Higher Ed.
This work led into his current leadership role in ed tech at UIC, and his co-teaching of an online Health Informatics course. I'm thinking that Ed's somewhat non-traditional path at least partly explains his organizing our "client-led Blackboard Mobile Learn Enhancement Requests web meeting,",opening up this opportunity for the rest of us and setting an example to follow.
In an e-mail exchange about his push for an open model for vendor collaboration (Ed is organizing next a client-led discussion on lecture capture), Ed wrote that:
" Web 2.0 and social networking tools (like blogs, wikis, Podcasts, Google Apps for Education, Twitter and Google+) facilitate open fluid communication and collaboration among a myriad of folks in Higher Education. Vendors need to get over NDAs and controlled access to knowledge for their clients are talking and comparing notes more than ever. We can and will crowd-source what is best for our own colleges and universities."
Are Ed Garay and the folks at UIC on to something here?
What would be the practical constraint of inviting colleagues from other schools to our vendor web demos and discussions?
How can we move academic / company discussions into the realm of virtual meetings, complementing the traditional professional society (EDUCAUSE) or vendor sponsored (Blackboard World etc.) meetings that bring in a range of colleagues?