Category Archives: Educause

Educause Session Recap: Vendor-Higher Ed Software License Partnering in the Cloud

One of the sessions I sat in last week at Educause was regarding software licensing issues between higher education clients and vendors. I believe this session could have been an opportunity for some high drama, but the presenters kept the conversation positive and constructive. There are presentation bullet points available here and I encourage you to look them over if you are involved in purchasing from the school side or the vendor side. Here are my notes/recollections of the presentation:
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Speakers: Sharon P. Pitt, Executive Director, George Mason University
Henry E. Schaffer, Professor Emeritus, Coordinator of Special IT Projects & Faculty Collaboration, North Carolina State University
Sarah R. Stein, Associate Professor Communication, North Carolina State University

Budget is an issue when it comes to higher education purchasing. Vendors need to make money, and open source isn’t always going to be the best option. Vendors and HE need to work together to come up with models that work for both of them. The “cloud” is bringing up both challenges and opportunities when it comes to software licensing.

  • Cost: it won’t necessarily cost LESS for the license – but it might cost less for the overall infrastructure, especially hardware. It stretches not only the hardware purchasing dollar, but also lengthens the time hardware installation is useable when compared to desktop use.
  • Students can access software anywhere they are – at school, at home, at any campus – anywhere they have broadband.
  • Software in the cloud lends itself to software evaluation and decisions – especially when considering moving from a specific site (or department) license to a full institutional license.
  • Different versions of software can be used by different people, which allows you to serve both cutting edge and slow adopters.
  • Software as a service or in the cloud also allows institutions to really see how/when/where people are using it. You can also see which versions of the software are being used more (longtail environment).
  • Virtual labs allow HE to be “agnostic” when it comes to device use.


  • SW licensing criteria changes depending on the vendor. Some license by FTE, some by concurrent users, some by institution (or site) count.
  • Any cloud software worth using helps institutions track usage detail and tells institutions how usage is comparing to licensing – institutions want to remain compliant.
    • One interesting example: a vendor licensed content based on seats (concurrent users) at 50 users. When the school hit 51, the vendor sent a graceful email suggesting that the campus move to 75 users. This allowed the school to meet demand and remain compliant by anticipating users.
  • CPUs don’t matter anymore. Usage is by seats – student could use 3 devices, reality is that it’s one student.
  • HE is price sensitive but they are willing to pay for what they use.

Vendor challenges

  • How do we make money?
  • What happens if model changes?
  • How do we auditing license use (standards)?
  • HE sends mixed messages, even at the same institution.
  • Multiple levels of licensing (when a vendor has to pay another company for a sub-license, that can affect prices).
  • HE client must be educated on issues with any particular software licensing.

Advice for Vendors

  • It’s important to have predictable costs for licensing because of the HE budget cycle.
  • Bundles that don’t meet HE needs build resentment.

Example: A school has 800,000 students, an FTE of 250,000 and about 100 use the cloud concurrently, a few thousand in total use the software. HE clients do not want to pay for 250,000 users at this usage level. What makes sense for this example? What doesn’t?

Working together:

  • HE and vendors must work together to come up with what works and what doesn’t. Often, interactions with vendors are more fruitful when schools work together by state/organization or other affiliation.
    • One challenge – often vendors will enforce an NDA on pricing making it difficult to share licensing costs with others in the HE community.
  • Vendors need consistent feedback from HE to come up with licensing that works.
  • Compromises must be affordable for HE but HE must pay for what they use.
  • Generally this group preferred use licensing and concurrent licensing over access licensing. They will monitor and stay compliant.
  • If HE cannot afford license because of unrealistic expectations of access licensing, they will find other products.
  • HE wants to use your products! HE trains your future clients. Vendors and HE need to work together.


So, my thoughts.

My background is in sales and marketing for an HE focused software company. I am pretty darn pro-corporation! Just because someone makes money making tools for HE doesn’t mean they are any less passionate about education.

BUT I understand that HE institutions are bound by budgets and must choose the option which gives them the biggest bang for their buck. Corporations need to be fair. Why NOT offer concurrent user or actual usage-based licensing? It would give HE the opportunity to grow software use on campus while paying for no more than what they use. And it encourages HE to stay with your company rather than moving to an open source solution (not that there’s anything wrong with that!).

So what to do?

When I lived alone, milk was a problem. When I purchased a gallon, I never drank it before it went bad. But I was annoyed at buying a pint because it was so much more expensive when compared to buying a gallon. But I bought a pint anyway – I’m paying a premium for NOT buying in bulk. It’s a fair compromise.

I believe this is fair in software licensing too. Institutions would pay more per seat for fewer users, but they would only be purchasing what they actually use. This is probably why consortium licensing works so well for some institutions. It allows them to get “bulk” pricing while only purchasing what they need.

Just my two cents of course! I’m sure it could get more complicated. Can companies (especially smaller ones) survive making high-end cloud-based software at lower licensing levels? Will they need to put a minimum # on licensing? How will costs compare to open source options? These are all good questions.

I’m glad that George Mason and NC State started the conversation!

Educause Wrap-up Part II (I know…I know…) and Seth Godin’s Keynote

It’s a little embarrassing, but even in this day and age it happens. I don’t like to talk about it…but last week, at Educause, I didn’t have….I didn’t have…internet at my hotel.

Oh it’s terrible, ladies and gentlemen. Awful. They promised me internet. But it didn’t happen.

So while I was able to tweet extensively during the show using my phone, blogging just didn’t really happen. So here I am now, with apologies and some recap of what was a most educational week.

There’s a lot jangling around in my head. I got to see lots of great technology – some brand new, some that you might know. So I’ll do a bit of a ‘company update’ separately. I also went to a few great sessions where I took extensive notes, so I’ll share those. So…here’s my first in a series of blogs sharing some of the awesomeness I saw at Educause.

Seth Godin’s Keynote @ EDU11
(Sadly this is not available streamed post-conference.)

I’ll be honest. I went in with low expectations. (As I saw @gsiemens tweet: “Getting ready for #edu11 keynote by @thisissethsblog. I’m a cynical bastard. Not convinced he has much to say relevant to education.”)

But WOW. I thought he was excited and exciting, compelling and he set a tone that encouraged exploration. He seemed to talk off the cuff; his slides were very funny and immediately made his point without excess text. It was about inspiring people to do extraordinary things, rather than telling people exactly how to do it – which is appropriate, I think, for a keynote.

It would be impossible to give you a summary, but here are a few highlights many of which were culled from my tweets or the tweets of others during the keynote to augment my memory. Note that these highlights and quotes are not necessarily in the same order as Godin’s speech. I’ve tried to recreate something closer to the story Godin told – I think it’s a bit easier to understand it this way, considering each bit is so out of context. There are also a few editorial comments, usually in the form of a RT quote in italics.  I just want you to know what you’re getting here!

  • RT @twarmbro: educause general session! Hoping @EDUCAUSE_HULK makes an appearance – maybe he could bench press Seth Godin!  <OK that wasn’t from Seth Godin – just a tweet I thought was funny>
  • Competence is no longer a scarce commodity.
  • Mass marketing by definition is average stuff for average people. No choice but to make average products. The college-industrial complex is no different – its object is to keep growing. BUT the world has fundamentally shifted. Mass marketing is broke. Our customers, students are over-saturated. We have branded ourselves to death. We can no longer continue selling average stuff to average people – even if that stuff is a college education.
  • Public schools were created for the industrialized system, for compliance. If you get a defective batch, repeat the grade. They do what they are told so we can ignore them.
  • Give me a map- I’ll do it.” We’ve trained to be competent. But competence is no longer a scarce commodity. What if there is no map?
  • If you can write it down, I can find it cheaper. So there is no future in higher education (with all the costs it entails) if all it’s going to be is high school with more binge drinking
  • Never again is someone going to pay you to answer a question that they can look up on Wikipedia. School is really for solving interesting problems. (@GardnerCampbell adds “finding interesting problems, too.“)
  • Revolutions destroy the “perfect” and enable the “impossible.” Example: the music industry is dead, but there is more music available to more people than ever before.
  •  But now, the means of production have shifted; person who owns means of production keeps the money. “Everyone” w/ computer now owns the means.
  • The first person to install a urinal was an artist, the second was a plumber. We can all be artists with a connection to the world. Art is a human being doing something different that touches another human being. Art means working without a map.
  • RT @GardnerCampbell (Colossal ironies here. Higher ed keeps building maps.)
  • World is getting weirder. Reinforcing their edginess. More weird is more normal. Edge cases are finding edge cases online. The curve is melting. Perfect is now boring. We’re looking for something extraordinary.
  • There is no more mass marketing, in the new model there is engagement, respect and connection.
  • Students need to learn how to solve a problem that has never been solved before.
  • This generation is not looking for a boss, not waiting to be picked. They are just doing it. The people who want to make a difference in the world are not looking for a boss. Education must support these people.
  • If failure is not an option, you have to accept that neither is success.
  • Ignore your lizard brain (the part that tells you not to do something because it’s not safe). It tricks you into meetings and into waiting for someone else to do something before you do.
  • The action of being the one that will be missed is a choice.
  • Stop listening to your inner critic. Move.
  • “Art is about gifts not favors.” Care more about the art not making a nickel. Do art – make change. Give it away.
  • Free range kids is the only way to go. Put them on the subway when they’re 12 & hope they come home at the end of the day.
  • We have to blow up this notion of curriculum. Except for cardiovascular surgeons.
  • You don’t have a job. You have a platform.
  • Lead, connect with people, and know the destination even if you don’t know the directions.
  • RT @GardnerCampbellThis is the chance of a lifetime.” – S. Godin (Is higher ed looking for this? Do we even believe this? I worry; I wonder.)

A few thoughts:

First, I think it’s true you can find information for yourself now. Maybe college isn’t as important anymore. Lots of kids are going out there and finding their own path. But I think there is value in lessons from the past. If they don’t have the discipline to learn what’s come before them – art, literature, business, history – will they have what they need to be successful? Maybe. Maybe not. I think there is value in traditional education. I’m not sure I completely agree with his assertion that school is for churning out workers that fit the system so that we can ignore them. But I do love his idea that education can be a place for students and teachers to work together to solve interesting problems. I think that’s already happening in the most exciting classrooms.

Secondly, I love the idea that you don’t have to wait for someone else – you can make it happen. I know my lizard brain is strong – I have to work hard to silence my inner critic. But that work is worth doing.

Lastly – and this is an area worthy of discussion I think – the idea of “giving it away.”  Open source, open content, open universities – I think it’s awesome. Some of that will be top notch. But…and this is a big but…I think that people need to make a living. In the long run, will “free” resources be able to maintain the quality if no one is paying the authors?

I think about one of my favorite organizations – my roller derby team.  Everyone involved loves it! But only about 20% of our members are willing to put in an extraordinary amount of time to keep the ship afloat.  Sure, everyone helps out to some extent. But the vast majority of the work is done by a few. That’s the nature of volunteering. And that 20% tends to get burned out quickly. After all, they have to have some energy left to go to work, which is where they get paid.

What do you think? Maybe I’m not thinking big enough!

Day One Wrap-up at Educause 2011

Yesterday, when I stepped into the Educause Exhibit Hall for the first time in 2 years I realized how much I’ve missed it! The noise, the color, the people – it’s overwhelming and exciting and familiar all at the same time.

This is my eight time visiting Educause. (I think. It could be seven, but I’m pretty sure it’s eight. Either way, I’ve been to the con a few times). I know Educause is putting on a great online program for those who can’t attend this year, but I thought I’d share what I’m finding out.

If you don’t attend the pre-conference sessions, Educause kicks off with a reception in the Exhibit Hall. It’s a chance to see old friends and connect with new folks and new vendors. I don’t know about everyone, but I think a lot of folks spend the first evening talking to exhibitors whose products they already use. I know I spend the evening connecting with old Blackboard pals (some of whom have moved onto their own companies or joined new ones) and former clients I have known for years.

That’s not to say I didn’t meet anyone new! Here’s a recap of my time at the Exhibit Hall.

  • CLOUD is the word of the day, kiddies. Everyone has an booth session on something happening in the CLOUD. Write it down.
  • MoodleRooms has the best footwear – orange chucks.
  • Gilfus Education Group has a really great line-up of speakers in their booth. If you haven’t checked them out – do so. Some of the topics look very informative.
  • David Yaskin from Starfish seems to be everywhere I look at the conference. You’ll want to find him if you’re thinking about student retention. And who isn’t?
  • Connect Yard is interesting – its software that helps instructors connect with students on social networks, using whatever tools the students/instructors prefer. So an instructor can email something out and it will go to the student via Facebook/Twitter/whatever. And if the student responds back from that network, it will email the teacher. Interesting. And somewhat weird! But not in a bad way! I’m going to go to a session Thursday at 8am in room 105A/B about how a school is using the tool. I’ll report back.
  • Knewton – making a splash on Twitter with their Educause Twitter Guide – has adaptive learning tools on their minds. They gave me an Arizona State University case study to review. Seems to be a smart group.
  • Nuance offers printing solutions on campus. Not sexy, but probably important for many institutions. 🙂
  • Unanet has project management tools for IT departments and other groups on campus. Again, not so sexy – but a tool to look at none the less, especially for larger departments with multiple, multi-year projects.
  • Pearson, of course, is drawing folks into the booth with their new OpenClass offering. They’ve started to answer questions that the community is asking and there are a few sessions today that I’ll attend to get more information.
  • Blackboard is talking about CourseSites, their free course offering. One thing I have to say – Blackboard has some of their best education-focused people working on CourseSites. Jarl Jonas and George Kroner are two of the most dedicated advocates for educators within Blackboard. It will be interesting what they do with CourseSites over the next few months. I’d keep an eye on it.

Today – full schedule, lots of sessions to report back on!  By the way – TweetUp! Thursday, at or in the lounge at the back of the exhibit hall to the left of start-up alley, at 9:50am during the break. Come join us!

PS – forgive any grammar imperfections or typos – I’m blogging this on the fly here at #edu11 🙂

What sessions are “must see” at Educause 2011?

I’ve made my reservation. I’m attending the face-to-face Educause 2011 program this year. It’s been two years since I last attended and in the seven years that I attended before that, I never went on my own! I’ve always gone with a company (ok, I always went with Blackboard). For the first time, I’m going to be able to make my own schedule, see the sessions I want to see, focus on what I want to focus on.

Ok. So. What do I want to focus on?

Ha! Yes, it’s exciting to have freedom. But it’s a lot more work! While I don’t have the restraint of a booth schedule or required events, I am going to have to spend some time working through the Educause schedule to figure out what I want to learn.

I’m also thinking about this blog and how I want it to develop. Obviously, two posts in, I’m still in the early stages of figuring out exactly what I want this blog to be. Heck, what do I want to be? 🙂

So I’m starting on the themes and domains page. I’m also taking a good look at the speaker list. A very early look at the sessions that jumped off the page, in no particular order:

There are many, many more and as I make my way through the program and refine my plans I’ll share what I’m thinking. I’d welcome your suggestions! Which sessions and meetings are “must see” for you?

PS:  I wish the program could be customized by non-Educause members. I’m an independent – so I don’t have access through a university or college and I’m not at a point where I can afford a corporate membership. But I am paying to attend so it would be great to be able to use the program planner tools.