Can We Talk About Money?

Money has been much on my mind in recent days.

November 11, 2009

Money has been much on my mind in recent days.

We are all thinking about our work in terms of a new normal when it comes to available resources. Times of fiscal constraint can create opportunities for learning technologies to bring new efficiencies and savings. For instance, moving more learning, collaboration and communication tools to cloud-based consumer services can accomplish twin goals of saving money and increasing relevancy. We should favor campus technology tools and platforms that students choose to utilize on their own, are comfortable with once they are on campus, and will want to use once they leave. The good news is that consumer, cloud-based tools are often cheap - and these days cheap is a good thing.

But sometimes we can't use the consumer tools. Sometimes we need enterprise tools that are centrally managed by campus I.T.

So one thing I'd like to see more is great transparency and discussion around the costs of centrally managed, enterprise level learning technology platforms. This transparency should start on the vendor web sites. One thing I respect about what TechSmith does is that it puts pricing for Camtasia Relay, its presentation/lecture capture system, on the Web in an easy to find area. Go look.

Is pricing as simple and transparent for all the players in the lecture capture market? I'm hoping that someone who works at all the lecture capture companies will provide the links (and the navigation necessary) to their pricing on their websites. I'm not trying to pick on lecture capture companies. In my experience, it is rare for all pricing, maintenance charges, and other costs to be explicitly spelled out on the Web pages of educational technology companies. Is this your experience as well? (I'd love to hear about counter examples). Maybe someone who works on the sales side of educational technology could enlighten us about how pricing communication works, and why companies seem reluctant to share this information on their sites.

When talking about money transparency we shouldn't stop with the companies. At EDUCAUSE I heard lots of talk about different platforms and solutions, but seldom did people put dollar figures on their systems. I don't know about you, but I'm always curious. Perhaps it is not thought of as polite to talk about how much systems costs. Or perhaps pricing contracts are under NDA - I don't know. The result is that we don't talk enough about dollars. Should we?

Should campus I.T. units make public the costs of enterprise system licensing? Should the costs of the LMS vs. the SIS be put up on our pages so members of our community can understand where the dollars go? I'm honestly not sure about how this should work, and curious about the pros and cons of this approach. Does anyone do this? How transparent are institutions about the costs for their learning technology tools and platforms?

Can we talk about money?


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