After making it to the Educause conference for the first time in my instructional design career, I have to say that I am very impressed by the presentations so far. Although most of the attendees seem to be IT professionals, but I feel that I am among kindred spirits hearing the questions and participating in the discussions surrounding higher education.
Starting the conference off (no pre-conference for me) was a keynote by the Harvard Business School scholar and author, Clay Christensen. I had read his books Disrupting Class and The Innovative University, so I was pretty familiar with his “disruptive innovation” theory. This was important because I felt that to truly understand the point of his presentation, it helped to have “done the reading before class.”
He did not say directly how higher education is changing, but alluded to it by giving examples from other industries such as auto manufacturers and personal computers. For instance, Dell, in selling itself out, had outsourced its business to Acer, who ended up being a competitor.
The question started to stew in me: what components of higher education are being outsourced? It is easy to offload some of our services, but we need to realize the difference between a partner-client and an instructional replacement. The first thing that came to mind was the use of publisher testing/instructional tools such as Pearson’s MyLabs or McGraw Hill’s Connect among others. It is easy to outsource instruction using these tools, but is this just a piece of disruptive innovation that is taking the market share? The point being, in our industry’s need to lower costs, we might be selling ourselves out, leaving nothing but a brand – like with Dell.
At lunch I had a fascinating discussion with a gentleman from Boston University, who leads an instructional design team. He shared a similar type of inquiry, framed with the notion of we need to pay attention to budgets more than ever.
Tying into the MOOC discussion group I attended in the afternoon, which might also be considered a disruptive innovation, I found how our industry is attempting to innovate something that is controlled by the faculty and designers – at least to a point. We are dependent on MOOC development tools to deliver the courses, similar to the LMS, but this is not outsourcing per-se. The development time and effort is still dependent on the institution, not a publisher. What I found interesting about this group was that some saw MOOCs as an easier way into eLearning than the LMS approach. It is because of the low stakes of MOOC. So, does this mean that the eLearning that has taken place is somehow more of an example of education outsourcing than a MOOC?
Let’s see where these ideas take me today at day 2 of Educause 2014.