You might not realize it, but right now you are part of a larger conversation.
This is a conversation about the future of higher education.
We participate in this conversation in many domains. Mostly, we speak directly to one another. Those conversations are private.
Sometimes, the conversation occurs across our various social media platforms. Those conversations are public.
My goal is to invite you to join this public conversation.
The reason that I need to invite you to join this discussion is that too many of our community are absent. We are largely missing the voices of all those smart, passionate, and experienced education professionals who happen to work for companies instead of colleges.
The people that we should be hearing from are not the muckety-mucks. We hear enough from the executives.
The people who should be in the conversation of the future of higher ed are those who work for companies in the postsecondary ecosystem, but who are not in charge of those companies.
We want to listen to the viewpoints of employees who are not communications professionals. We want to hear your thinking unfiltered by some notion of corporate message discipline.
I know. What I’m asking for is often not possible.
People could lose their jobs. Company policies often prohibit employees from giving their ideas, views, and opinions.
Even employees at more relaxed companies usually feel the need to put disclaimers on the blog posts and tweets - the opinions expressed here are my own and don’t represent my employer.
My message to you is that you have thought a good deal about the future of higher ed. You spend your days trying to figure out how to make that future better. You know lots of things, and you will know more if you find a way to share (and get critical feedback) on your ideas.
If you are an employee of a company that works in higher education, one way to join the larger conversation about the future of higher ed is to share your thoughts on other things besides your company. Not everything you say in a public space needs to be about how great your company is. You can respond, react, and inform on a range of issues.
Why should you engage in public online discussions and debates with the postsecondary community?
Why should you come to this conversation as yourself - someone who happens to work for a company - but whose identity and views are not subsumed by your employer?
My answer to both these questions is that, in the long-run, it will be good for both you and your company for you to be part of the conversation.
It will be good for you, because it is only through conversation that we learn anything. If you want to get better at your job of making the future of higher education better than it is today, then you will need to articulate and evolve your thinking. You will need to say things that some people will like, and that some will hate - and (hopefully) you will be able to listen and learn from all these responses.
By finding ways to join the conversation you will be going down the path of creating a network. It is not enough to have your entire network be within your company. Everyone might wish to spend their careers with a single employer, but that is no longer realistic. Your network will help you do a better job where you work now, and will help you find that next job should you end up moving.
The way to cultivate that network is through conversation, and the time to join that conversation is now.
As for your employer, if they are at all smart (never a sure bet), then they will want their employees to be part of the conversation.
Higher education in general - and the educational technology / digital learning sector in particular - is driven by relationships.
We do business with people, not companies and not brands.
The way we get to know people is through conversations.
Much of the conversation about the future of higher education has moved online - migrated to social media. Every person in your company should be a communicator.
An official corporate voice is inauthentic. Press releases are useless. Higher ed people are allergic to marketing speak.
If a company has done a good job in hiring and retaining the right people, then that company should want those people out there in the conversation.
To be sure, this will require both some training, and a tolerance for some friction. If the employees of companies working in the higher ed sector are able to say real things, then inevitably they will make some people in the conversation unhappy.
There is very little reason to say anything that everyone will agree with. This is as true about the future of higher education as it is about any subject -- perhaps more.
How do we get all those people who have the hearts and brains of educators, but who don’t happen to work for colleges or universities, into the big discussion about the future of higher ed?
How do we get you into the conversation?
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