Sunday, October 16, 2011

Colt '45

Enjoyed Waiting for Disruption post about #Open Class by @KateMfD.

She had a couple nice things to say about us:

This week’s excitement has been the announcement by Pearson of their shakeup of the LMS experience... @Sannier brings serious university research and administrative experience to Pearson’s push into the edtech market, and I’m confident that he knows what he’s talking about when he says that the standard LMS has “only ever been an ineffective administrative tool … it’s closed, it’s clunky to use, it’s costly.”

And this is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about me:
...his claim is a bit of a heartstopper for all the institutions who’ve woken up contractually handcuffed to the corpse of one or other dead LMS, for several years to come. It’s such a bold prediction that I’ve been distracted by visions of @Sannier delicately blowing the powder residue from the barrel of his Colt 45 as he enters the darkened saloon where the frightened townsfolk have been cowering.  Yup, the LMS as we knew it won’t be bothering us no more, no sir.
Though she did have some nice stuff to say, its clear reading her post I that while Kate is intrigued by the idea of OpenClass, she's skeptical we will do what we say and frustrated that we haven't shared more details. In fact she wonders why we announced it at all, until it was open to everyone.

This coming week at Educause we'll be demoing the first version of OpenClass and I'll be talking about it in my talk and in Google's booth. We'll capture the talk and post it too, so if you aren't in Philly this week, you will still get a chance to see it if you're interested. We'll be posting captures of the demos too.

OpenClass will also become available this week for download by Google Apps for Education institutions, through the Google Apps Marketplace. That will let us grow the number of institutions we've been working with beyond the our design partner institutions and systems that have been helping us so far.

We don't mean to be frustrating, we're just trying to proceed carefully. We want to make sure we create an offering that works for a broad swath of education and is attractive to institutions, faculty, students, and educational content/technology innovators.

Thought it has benefitted from years of Pearson technology investments, OpenClass itself is less than a year old. We started in January with an idea of our own, and went around to 50 or so institutions around the country, talking to their CIO's, presidents, provosts and academic technology teams to learn more. Everywhere we went, the ideas behind OpenClass got an enthusiastic reception.

In July, we deployed the OC to our design partners and we've been honing since, preparing to support the next wave of schools. We chose the Google institutions because we felt those schools would be most receptive to our free, cloud based offering -- in many ways we've structured the OpenClass offering around the Google Apps for Education model so it will be easy for those schools to begin using it.

In the first half of next year we want to continue to widen the community of institutions using OpenClass, and to expand OpenClass beyond just institutions to general availability. We will also be working with our growing community to understand:
  • how to best extend the social learning experience and 
  • how to best structure the LearningExchange, to make it a useful place for professors and other course creators to invent or discover best practices, to discuss and improve them, and to adopt and adapt them into their own courses easily.
  • how to best support the RESTful web services that underlay all of OpenClass's user experience and make them open to developers
Because I'm very interested in seeing OpenClass grow, I'm hoping enough folks will have patience with us while we prove our value proposition and grow our community. We are trying hard to listen.


Music for Deckchairs October 16, 2011 at 4:33 PM  

Hey there

The cautious approach makes sense to me, but here are a couple of quick thoughts.

First of all, I think the website is perhaps the problem. The video is exciting and encouraging, there's a place that looks like somewhere to sign up, there's colour and optimism, and then there's ... nothing. The explanation you've given in this post of the actual roadmap might be a bit more prosaic, but to me it's much more engaging because it shows the depth of consultation and testing and the appropriately conservative approach to rollout.

So it's the gap between the website and the practice that makes me a sceptic right at this moment, but I'm really a very low-level sceptic compared to those in traditional institutions who are finding the whole marketing-led approach is driving them away from edtech at all. I think Joshua Kim is right that a business plan that involves only talking to the converted might have some limits for building confidence among educators.

Second thing: George Siemens has predicted that some of the major growth areas in LMS use will be outside North America. So I'm really interested in the challenge this creates for LMS designers and vendors at the planning and testing phase, which seem still to be exclusively carried out in dialogue with US and Canadian institutions, or pitched at North American-based trade events etc.

In this way the current edtech development model seems quite similar to other bit of north American cultural industry activity, of which Hollywood is only the most visible: the product is developed and marketed according to the norms of one cultural framework, then sold on into the foreign market where it often has to be adjusted quite a bit, or the foreign market has to adapt -- and both of these generate their own kind of cultural friction.

I'm sceptically curious to know how Pearson will approach this.