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EDU Gigs and the Movie Business
March 24, 2011 - 9:45pm

I read somewhere a few years ago (maybe in Pink's Free Agent Nation, maybe somewhere else), that many jobs would soon resemble movie industry jobs. None of us would work for a single employer. Just as the studio system is dead in Hollywood (except perhaps at Disney), the time when actors and directors worked for a salary and made the movies the studio bosses chose, soon the "salary model" would also be a memory.

"Talent" from different disciplines would come together to work on projects, get paid for the gig, and disperse once the job was done. Some teams might move from project to project, and the free market for talent would both raise wages and productivity. The Web would grease the wheels, lowering transaction and search costs, and serving as the medium (and often the product) of much of this work.

This future never quite arrived. How many of us are incoming packaging from multiple sources, jumping from project to project, team to team? Or more to the point, how many of our projects are completed by free agents? Perhaps it is because the world is broken down into services and projects, and much of our time is spent on delivering these (critical) existing services. Services do not conform to the movie business model of production. The studio system, at least in my world of academic tech, seems to be entrenched.

But lately I've been wondering if we are seeing signs of a change? Ed tech and teaching/learning creative types seem to be spending less time in any given job. People seem to be moving from one project to another. Institution to institution. Ed tech company to ed tech company. Publisher to publisher. Some are indeed becoming free agents. Consultants and free-lancers.

What is going on? Some guesses:

Not A Real Trend 1 - An Illusion: Perhaps the flex and fluidity that I think I'm seeing is an artifact, a false positive, a series of random events that I'm falsely putting into a pattern. People are not changing jobs or employers or locales or ways of working any more frequently than 2 or 5 or 10 years ago, and it is a mistake to generalize from what I think I'm witnessing.

Not A Real Trend 2 - A Cohort Effect: Could be that I am indeed seeing people change jobs, employers, titles, institutions, and cities more frequently - but the overall rates of employment change are staying consistent? Maybe what I'm seeing has more to do with where I am in my career than any change in the overall structure of ed tech employment.

A Real Trend 1 - Growth of Opportunities: But, perhaps something is going on. Maybe we are seeing some maturation of the ed tech space, and a growth in opportunities and needs across schools and companies. Ed tech is essential to both save dollars and create opportunities for new dollars. If your school or company or non-profits is part of the higher ed world, and don't have a project underway that somehow involves technology, you probably will not be around all that much longer.

A Real Trend 2 - Growth of Networks: The 2nd reason why I think that this trend might be real is the Web has made it much easier for the people in our community to connect and collaborate. We work with people at other institutions, know what is going on at other companies, and hear about opportunities that might have been hidden in the past. The ed tech community is truly a very small one. At some point we start to know the players, and these networks lead to job offers and new projects.

What do you think?

Have you changed jobs or switched your model of working lately?

Are you now income packaging, freelancing, or consulting?

Are you going Hollywood?


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