Tag Archives: edu11

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!

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!

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.

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.