Tag Archives: edtech

Session Wrap-up: Technology Project Selection and Governance at Loyola University Maryland

Technology Project Selection and Governance at Loyola University Maryland
Richard Sigler, Director, PMO, Elena Bozylinski, Senior Project Manager, Scott Sax, Associate Director, Loyola University Maryland

This was the most broadly applicable session I’ve attended at an Educause event, primarily because its subject – project management – is important to any business or organization. I learned quite a bit in the session that I plan to use for my own projects.

When a new executive stepped onto the scene at Loyola, she asked the IT department for a list of projects currently being worked. The team started writing – and realized they had long lists of unfinished, overlapping and redundant projects. They decided to implement a project management office (PMO). Most of the session focused on project selection, which seems to be the biggest problem for most. Here are highlights from my notes during the session:

  • The goals for a PMO are to invest well, increase success, lower risk, increase maturity and show progress (of projects)
  • And, to a great extent, simplify. Think of the directions for a kid’s playhouse and how complicated they can be. Now think about how IKEA simplifies those directions so that anyone can manage it.
  • The first step: Choosing the right projects. At Loyola:
    • Proposal: Organization member fills out an online form describing what they need (the pitch) – why, what, needs, benefits. The form outputs a proposal document for review by PMO.
    • Investigation: An IT director uses proposal to investigate project costs (both $ and people) and creates an estimate for project
    • Scoring: Data is entered into a scorecard. Scores impact (cost efficiently, regulatory important, transformative-ness*), risk (complexity, ongoing management, integration requirements, administration questions).
    • Check out their session’s PowerPoint and take a look at their scoring cards and PMO software choices.
    • Choosing projects for portfolio:
      • Class X – regulatory
      • Class 0 – project already underway
      • Class 1 – High impact, low cost = quick win
      • Class 2 – High impact, high cost = large, strategic
      • Class 3 – Low impact, low cost = nice to have
      • Class 4 – Low impact, high cost = declined (there is an appeal process, but generally, no can do).
    • Loyola schedules based on classification against resources (lower priority projects may fall off schedule).
  • Step two: Portfolio project scheduling. Loyola uses At Risk to do project and portfolio management. It allows high-level scheduling based on estimates. Both step one and two are great tools to help set expectations of organizations for IT requests.
  • Question: “Maintenance. How do you add it into the process?”
    • Loyola is still figuring maintenance out – with every project, the maintenance element grows.
    • However, use these tools to present data to justify new resources; also can show if project can make anything run more efficiently.
  • Question: “Emergency management?”
    • Loyola is still wrestling with it. However portfolio priority does help them make decisions. And IT directors have some level of flexibility within the system.

Great, informative session by Loyola University Maryland. A big thank you to them for presenting at MARC12. I’ll be thinking about how to use some of these steps in (of all things) managing my roller derby league’s projects. We have a lot to do this year 🙂

*Definition: transformative-ness: The quality that indicates the prospective amount of transformation something may bring about.” That’s my made-up word and I’m stickin’ to it.

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:

http://www.educause.edu/E2011/Program/SESS008 (resources)

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!

The Power of Twitter (A Follow-up Regarding OpenClass)

I love Twitter. I’ve said it before, I’m a huge fan. I like it because I learn something new every day. Sure Facebook is great, but Twitter is “where it’s at” for me. Why? Read on.

Thursday and Friday were busy days on Twitter, thanks in large part to the Pearson announcement of OpenClass, their new free LMS service. Obviously the announcement of any new LMS might be news, but one coming from such a large, well-funded and respected company as Pearson makes an especially big splash. And the fact that it’s free…well, start the presses. 🙂

There are tons of questions, of course, some of which I brought up in my blog post about the announcement last week. But the fact is, this is exciting – will Pearson’s OpenClass change the LMS landscape dramatically? Or just be another choice among many corporate and open source options, without enough of a change to make a difference?

So…why does Twitter matter? When I first saw and started tweeting about OpenClass, I found many others talking about it too. The community was interested – and searching for more information. At first, only two sources had any real information at all – articles from Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle. As the day went on, a few others offered commentary. Like my post, there was lots of speculation and lots of questions. We also heard from a few pilot school users: University of Wisconsin – Extension and Central Piedmont Community College.

The bottom line? If you wanted to learn more about OpenClass, Twitter was your best source

Pearson hasn’t released a ton of information yet. Most official communications brought you directly to the OpenClass page which had an engaging video with Adrian Sannier, SVP of Product. The video is fun and has some basic information, but doesn’t really tell you much beyond what we knew from those two initial articles. On Twitter, Mr. Sannier did tweet at me about content –OpenClass will accept content from all sources, not just Pearson. And @Joinopenclass did jump into the conversation, but without too many details.

It’s not every day that people come to you to ask about a product you want them to use. I hope Pearson uses Educause 2011 answer more of these questions.  I’ll be there and I hope to learn more!

On another note, one side effect of the OpenClass announcement was that several other open products were brought to my attention. First, @coursenetwork pointed me to their recently-announced LMS project:

“The latest brainchild of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis computer scientist and serial entrepreneur Ali Jafari, CourseNetworking (CN) is a free, online platform that connects teachers and students from around the world based on shared interests and class subjects. It combines the social component of popular networks such as Facebook and Twitter with similar functionality of existing learning management systems (LMS) used at many colleges and universities.”

And @nixty, another free LMS start-up option also tweeted me. They also wrote a blog post detailing some of the same questions many other folks have about OpenClass. From their website:

“NIXTY combines powerful technology with open education to meet the audacious goal of empowering education for everyone! NIXTY provides an educational platform that students, educators, and institutions harness to meet their learning goals. Primary products include ePortfolios, courses, and continuing education courses.”

Most of the questions I have for Pearson are applicable to these folks as well. Who will drive use? What about add-ons? What about internationalization? All important questions that “free” LMS systems will have to answer just as fully as those that cost real dollars if they want to compete at the same level.

See you at Educause! I’ll be tweeting and blogging throughout the conference. You can follow the back-channel at #edu11.

Pearson Announces OpenClass, a Free Learning Management System

Just in time for Educause 2011, Pearson announced a new offering, OpenClass, a free Learning Management System (LMS) in partnership with Google. That’s right. Free. But unlike most open source offerings, there are supposedly no additional costs – no hosting fees, no maintenance fees, no support fees.


I first saw the announcement via Kimberly Arnold on Twitter – sharing an article from Inside Higher Ed. Wired Campus also posted an article and since this morning many more have been written. And Twitter has been aflutter with speculation and information.

Wow! My brain is spinning. This will be a game-changer!


Or will it?

There’s a lot that goes into the LMS planning at institutions. Here are just a few questions and thoughts that came to my mind:

Who will drive use? Instructors or Institutions?  Instructor buy-in is hugely important when considering LMS choice. High adoption by individual instructors on tools like CourseSites** (by Blackboard) and other free or lost cost software often drives institutions to centralize e-learning under one LMS system.

Once they’ve made a centralized choice, institutions spend a huge amount of time and money to train their instructors on how to use the technology they chose, no matter how “easy to use.” They also spend money to customize software to meet specific institutional needs – integrating with student information systems, third-party add-ons like blogging, wikis and more. All this money and training translates into “stickiness” for the software. No institution wants to invest all that time, money and all those resources just to make a massive change later.

However, most institutions are loath to force a tool on a professor. So if instructor opinion sways dramatically on LMS choices, institutions will revisit the issue. Especially if those instructors start using different LMS tools individually, taking away the benefits of a centrally managed solution (single log-in for students, central grade collection, integration with campus systems).

So, will institutions move toward a free solution that doesn’t involve the maintenance and other costs associated with open-source options? Are they so entrenched in costly LMS solutions that the cost of changing would be too much?

But let’s ask a more important question:

Does any of this even matter?

Perhaps the very idea of a “Learning Management System” will change fundamentally. The LMS has become a huge administrative tool in addition to a learning tool. It’s not exactly a technology that’s ‘light on its feet.’

If OpenClass can provide meaningful learning experiences that instructors love, at little or no cost with little or no demand for central resources – well, that could actually be the disruptive technology everyone seems to want. Traditional LMS software, social tools, mobile devices all changed the way we think about learning – maybe OpenClass will do it again.

Check out the video at http://www.joinopenclass.com. Pearson’s Adrian Sannier, Senior Vice President of Product is speaking at Educause about OpenClass. Wednesday, Oct 19th, 3:30 PM – 4:20 PM in Meeting Room 104A/B.

I know I’ll be there to hear more.


I’ve seen many of my old Blackboard colleagues tweeting about CourseSites, essentially calling it Blackboard’s version of OpenClass. CourseSites is Blackboard’s free offering for instructors and institutions getting their feet wet with an LMS system.

An old idea (available to instructors when I first joined Blackboard almost 10 years ago), Blackboard shut down CourseSites a few years after I came onboard, then upgraded and re-launched it recently. Years ago instructors could use it for free and then pay a small fee to continue. Now completely free, Blackboard undoubtedly hopes that instructors will find their tools awesome and use their influence to affect intuitional buying. It is a great strategy – Blackboard’s tools are easy to use and there is a whole community of instructional designers and experts out there sharing best practices.

However, Pearson doesn’t need to sell LMS software to survive. Blackboard probably does. What if OpenClass manages to change the very idea of what an LMS should be? What if institutions do move from a centrally administered, heavily invested-in LMS to a cloud-based free tool like OpenClass? Things could change dramatically for a company like Blackboard.