Start-up pivot points

I’m involved in a university spin-out company to be formerly launched soon. Brynn Evans has an interesting post on pivot points as points of significant change in a product and its positioning. Even though we’re essentially in pre-start mode, we’re already facing a potential pivot point of deciding whether to focus on a specific niche or to development a broader menu of products and services.

Interesting days of discussions ahead.

Globalisation, walled gardens and higher education

An interesting post here from George Siemens on Blackboards partnership with McGraw Hill and Pearson’s acquisition of TutorVista. George concludes:

The integration of publishers, teaching content (i.e. video lectures, tests, not only textbooks), LMS, synchronous classrooms, and evaluation (see Knewton) is the most significant trend in education today. The financial crisis is assisting in a move in this direction. It’s a huge opportunity for some. A nightmare for others.

George describes this trend in terms similar to the emergence of other walled gardens in the online world:

Fairly soon, the system will require small colleges and universities to partner with the big content providers because they (colleges) simply cannot provide the technological infrastructure and content needed to attract students. Blackboard is developing end-to-end learning systems. As is Pearson.

Some questions arise: to what extent is a single distribution channel going to be central to higher education provision? – see the death of the VLE debates; or will a lock-in with the content providers secure the strength of the VLE? Alternatively, as with other content industries, will alternative sources of content undermine the business model being suggested here?

Future work and career planning

Came across an interesting post here on skills for employability from Lynda Gratton. The emphasis on deep skills does tie in with what I’ve been seeing in the local job market of generalist skill sets being desirable for more junior posts while “deep” skills are required for the higher value/ better paid jobs. Also, this finding does seem to suggest that the notion of the icicle based skill-set is currently less desirable than I previously thought. Or is it a question of presentation whereby an icicle person presents themselves as t-shaped (on the basis of targeting your application) yet the icicle skill-set remains desirable for the longer-term career as it enhances the individual’s adaptive capacity?

learning management system: managing what?

A great post from Jane Knight on LMS adoption – the comments are great value too. The concept of workscapes as spaces where work practices and learning practices are enmeshed I particularly like. As the Internet Time Alliance state:

Work and learning have become one and the same. Networks rule. Nothing is certain. Simply doing things better no longer guarantees prosperity or even survival.

In my working life, I would say that a LMS has had at best (worse?) a small space in supporting my personal professional development. This reflects two factors: (a) much of my learning occurs through interactions that span the boundaries of, or occur outside, my employer; (b) I’m not expecting an employer to employ me for ever so why tie my learning (for how else to I keep myself attractive in the jobs market?) to *that* employer – doesn’t make sense. Similarly, being tied to a specific ‘product’ for my Personal Learning Environment/ Network is also unattractive. The flexibility of loosely coupling the best tools for the task at hand – be it doing, reflecting, collating experiences etc. – just seems to work in ways that I’ve never found replicated in a single ‘product’. My sense is that firms seeking a socialised LMS are looking to impose management 1.0 (command & control) on a world of working and learning 2.0 (apologies for the point zero tags but time is short 😉

e-learning market

Clive Shepherd has highlighted the e-learning centre report on the market for e-learning in UK and Europe. A free summary is available here. As Clive’s post points out, the UK market is expected to grow by 4.76% to £472m in 2010 – slower growth but a bigger market than France or Germany. As a sort of comparison, Datamonitor recently identified the UK market for consulting services at averaging 7% between 2010 – 2014 and growth in the UK economy as a whole being around the 2% mark. Yet a recent report from Boston Consulting Group on e-commerce in the UK is interesting in that it finds that:

The U.K. Internet economy contributed £100 billion in 2009, representing 7.2 percent of U.K. GDP—more than construction, transport, or utilities.

and also predicts a 10% growth rate per annum up to 10% of GDP by 2015. So how well is the e-learning industry really doing?

A few other things to note on the report summary is the positioning of different facets of e-learning in relation to one another. In particular, that web 2.0/ e-learning 2.0 is placed (I think – but tell me if I’m wrong) on the broadcasting side of a continuum with learning at the other end while VLEs are placed more towards the learning end. This typology seems strange given the interactional nature at the heart of web 2.0 while VLEs, in my experience, tend to be used as course management systems, file repositories, etc. This highlights the difficulty of defining the e-learning industry. What software or SaaS should be included and, more importantly, excluded. Should Twitter or WordPress or Drupal be included on the basis that a lot of learning occurs through these tools that were not formally designed for learning purposes. While analysing the size of the formal e-learning sector as represented by VLEs, course management systems and formal learning content creators is a useful exercise, this is a very different proposition from mapping the economy of e-learning activities as a whole, eg, across the value chain. So it is possible, and possibly desirable, to see the “industry” as defined by formal providers declining while the scale and scope of e-learning activities continues to grow.

maturity or a loss of edge?

While I’m admittedly a bit behind the times, was intrigued by this piece of news that Nielson and McKinsey were coming together to form a joint venture

to create a new company today called NM Incite, which builds upon the industry-leading social media and online brand metrics, consumer insights and real-time market intelligence of Nielsen BuzzMetrics to transform business operations including product development, marketing, communications and customer service.

While obviously a sign of “maturing” of social media for business, there should be concern social media becomes part of the intelligence, market segments, metrics and management discourses that suggest procedure, process and control – rather than dialogues with and between different stakeholders that interact with and through an organisation. However, this will be interesting to follow for signs that such a venture is able to nurture the best of the Enterprise 2.0/ social business whereby the boundaries of organisation become blurred or disintegrate. These can be the boundaries between customers, suppliers, partners, distributers, advertisers or the internal boundaries, especially between silos of knowing. Or will we see the use of the “social” rhetoric as a veneer to traditional patterns of managerialism – lipstick on the face of the gorilla?

week(very-ish) notes [271010]

OK really monthly notes. The ‘joys’ or work have intervened so I’ve posted even less/ read even less and interacted with the world even less than normal. As you may guess, I use the term ‘joy’ quite incorrectly. Just for clarification, a change in job role has meant I’ve been head down and churning through bureaucracy for the last too many weeks. Not fun but will hopefully loose this role soonest.

As could be expected, there has been little progress on my PhD work of late but this will have to change as I have a progress board approaching. I’m looking at stringing together an Actor Network Theory inspired approach involving a combination of CMC interaction analysis of twitter based learning events with “following the actors” [micro-texts and people] through other online presences – as the ‘actants’ shift to more private realms then the research should shift from pure online observation to direct interviews of key informants. Currently grappling with some of the ethical issues here – when does virtual ethnographic observation become some form of cyber stalking?

While its an ambitious methodological project I think its realisable (or am I a fool?)! Even if I’m being a fool, its still damn interesting at this stage.