Another dot in the blogosphere?

When the safe bet is dangerous

Posted on: August 3, 2017

Have you ever wondered why edtech vendor-developers (particularly those from large companies) like using buzzwords and claim to innovate, but play the same lame game?

The buzzwords might include learner engagement, personalised learning, flipped lessons, learning 24×7, etc. These sound progressive enough, but they are also vague enough to be defined and implemented in any way the vendor prefers.

Why do such vendor-developers operate like this? One main consideration is the cost of development, which can be defined in terms of research, time, and manpower.

Their operating principle is: As much and as fast as possible for as little as possible. To live up to this mantra, vendor-developers can only afford two of the three elements. For example, if a company actually decides to do decent research, it has to lose some development time and dedicate manpower. This is why rigorous research from this industry is rare.

Instead the vendor-developers might ride on the coattails of leaders. Such leaders might include bloggers who are researchers in academia, reknown speakers, or respected thought leaders.

Vendor-developers also take advantage of most clients’ preferences for the familiar and comfortable. For example, vendors will not suggest something outside the institutional LMS or CMS when they offer both, and the client has been conditioned to favour walled gardens.

But little if anything changes with such a conservative mindset. It does not drive a system forward. I picture a worrier on a rocking chair. There is lots of motion and sweat, but that person does not go anywhere.

Worry is like a rocking chair. Lots of movement that gets you nowhere.

Staying still and maintaining the status quo is comfortable and even profitable for vendors. But it is not necessarily impactful for education. To move forward, we have to get off the vendor rocking chair.

The safe bet is dangerous because it breeds complacency and an unhealthy dependence. The complacency is in thinking, e.g., not doing your own homework of what the edtech possibilities and consequences are. The unhealthy reliance is budgetary, e.g., locking your system to a subscription-based scheme that the provider periodically upgrades at higher costs.

The safe bet seems like a small risk at the start. When the game is over, you rediscover why the adage is “the house always wins”.

This is not the time to learn from such a mistake or to reflect on failure. Take the long view so you do not put your teachers and students at risk.

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