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Enterprise vs. Consumer Learning Technologies
July 26, 2010 - 9:03pm

The 7/22 article in the NYTimes, "Windows Upgrade Helps Microsoft to a Record Quarter," got me thinking about enterprise vs. consumer platforms in our world of learning tech. Microsoft is making tons of money on enterprise licenses, but its stock price remains flat because their consumer brand continues to erode. In a world of iPads and iPhones, apparently consumer sales are where Wall Street sees future growth potential.

What is the distribution and breakdown of consumer vs. enterprise technologies in higher ed? How has this distribution changed over time? How do we expect it to change in the future?

We will define "enterprise" technologies as any that we (the campus technology folks) provide. Consumer technologies are anything that the students arrive on campus with.

Learning Management System (LMS)

Current Situation:Enterprise

Evaluation: Edupunks may argue that we would all be better off with "small (consumer) pieces loosely joined," but I've yet to be convinced. I've experienced the disappearance of Web 2.0 tools and services that I was relying on for teaching. The changes in Ning pricing may be a cautionary tale. I'm sympathetic to our students using consumer tools for learning that they will learn before coming to campus, and use once they leave. My conclusion is that we should work to integrate consumer Web 2.0 tools with a stable LMS, taking advantage of the LMS tools for SIS integration, enrollment, assessment, grade book, etc. etc. - and use consumer tools for collaboration and communication.



Current Situation: Consumer

Evaluation: Once upon a time we used to provide student computers through labs (and before that terminals, workstations, and timesharing). Nowadays we might make recommendations, but students come with their own devices. Some schools have instituted laptop requirements, a choice that I think pushes the student computer from consumer to enterprise. I actually sort of like laptop requirements, as I witnessed first-hand the benefits of teaching a class where I could count on all the students coming to class with the same machines and software. But for better or worse the required laptop is an outlier -- consumer choice rules.


Productivity Software:

Current Situation: Enterprise Morphing to Consumer

Evaluation: The Microsoft Campus Agreement may still rule, but I would not bet on its future. Google Apps, whether they be the official campus version or the Google Docs that students sign-up for, is simply too compelling of a product. Perhaps Microsoft will be able to offer a consumer, cloud-based free alternative. But no matter what happens, it will seem increasingly strange to students to have to pay for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software - or to get this software as anything but a service.


File Storage / Storage Area Networks

Current Situation: Enterprise Morphing to Consumer and Cloud Enterprise

Evaluation: Local file storage may be rapidly becoming a memory as the cloud and consumer productivity apps begin to dominate, but all campuses are investing and spending heavily on storage area networks (SAN's) and server disk space. Paying for storage is a big deal. But how much longer will the economics of local storage make sense? At some point the Google's and Microsoft's and Amazon's of the world will offer cheap and secure enough cloud storage that we will all transition. Certainly regulations and legal constraints will slow this process, but the move to cloud (with students managing their own storage) will change the providers of storage.


Multimedia Authoring Tools

Current Situation: Enterprise Morphing to Consumer

Evaluation: I think that authoring tools are still mostly purchased and provided by the institution - think iMovie living on high-end campus machines. But I'm betting this will change as authoring moves from the client to both the browser and the app. Students will complete more multimedia projects, as multimedia becomes as common as the term paper. They will use simpler tools, and upload their videos to consumer video portals. Wouldn't it make sense for Google to give students a robust but free editing tool that encourages direct upload to YouTube? Isn't an Android netback a great platform for a simple authoring tool?

What other academic tools or services can you think of that are morphing from enterprise to consumer (or vice versa?)


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