Saturday, August 27, 2011

If you build it...

A famous movie line goes as follows "if you build it they will come." My experience has taught me, as far as educational technology goes anyway, that if you build it they might or might not come. It just depends on their needs. Sometimes the problem is that students, and the faculty that teach them, don't know their needs and quite a lot of times he tools used transform their practices so much that they wouldn't have even known that they needed a tool when in fact they did!

This transformational capability of technology is something that business operations of educational institutions seem to not consider and it came to light in a recent set of emails at work. We just had our Blackboard Vista LMS upgraded to SP5 which enables blackboard mobile. Of course in order use Bb mobile on your device it has to be enabled on the server side and this wasn't done by our provider. The rationale was that there hadn't been a need expresses for mLearming; even though a lot of instructional designers asked bout the mobile capabilities of the LMSs we tested a few months back when we were doing an RFP for our Next LMS.

In subsequent emails it was revealed, or so goes my understanding of these emails, that it was the faculty that teach that hadn't expressed a need, and I'd we were to turn on Bb mobile capabilities it might not need the demands of our users.

This logic is flawed in two ways:
(1) we can't wait for faculty to express the need for a certain technology. Learning is a two wu street and we need to give our students the tools to learn on their own way and time. It's not a top down learning environment Any more. Also, the supply chain isn't a pull-chain as much as it is a "make it available" chain. This is the amazon model of making EdTech available - just put out your wares and let the faculty decide how to use it.


(2) by waiting for someone (or a group of people) to request a tool you are negating the transformational aspect of technology. By operating on the amazon model you are allowing students and teachers to redefine pedagogy in unforeseen and exciting ways. Sure some times things go awry, but happy accidents sure to happen and they benefit all. We need to be less concerned with service level agreements and we need to be concerned with innovation. If you don't have the amount of human resources you need to provide top notch service, just slap on a "beta" label and your users will understand - but for heaven's sake make the tech available.

As a side note, Bb mobile sucks when compared to instructure Canvas' and Desire2Learn's mobile offerings, but it's better than nothing! Besides, if our users think Bb mobile sucks, maybe next time we can go with a better LMS ;-) LOL


-- Post From My iPhone
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