Friday, 22 October 2010

How far does uni education need to change its practice in order to successfully deliver digital scholarship?

    This is a big question.. I'm not going to answer it here, apologies. No, I recently attended a coffee morning asking that question. I'm just going to post my suggestion. It's about money. I know you'll think that's not really what is being asked and my answer is that unless you can pay for the idea you have then you're stuck. I don't see anything technically that can't be done. It's just what we can afford that matters. I want better research, better policy, better tools. I want the whole lot but unless I explain how I'm going to pay for it I won't get anything. Or I'll just have to accept what I'm given

If there's one thing I would do that doesn't seem to be getting talked about then it would be delivering a simple micro payments system that some one developing a solution to an educational need could plug into their project and thus monetise it. Removing the need to go begging for funding.

A major barrier to getting an idea out there is cost. We would support much more innovation if we could deliver ideas in the knowledge that monetising them was relatively simple. I've noticed how the business model of internet games such as farmville is based on micropayments. They have 80 million users and just aim to get £2-£3 from each. They've made the payment process so simple and the price so low that there's very little barrier to payment. If similar options were available to OU projects then more ideas could get off the ground.

I'd like a place or team I could approach that had expertise in monetising solutions that could advise and support the idea I have. This would provide a means to funding a project outside of current funding models. One that develops my institutions ability to attract paying customers and develop solutions customers will pay for. It also removes the barrier to innovation that I keep coming up against. That is, getting funding and the politics that are involved.
    Education is an industry that's used to having a patron. Generally the government. It's used to being a public good. But I also feel that this protection from competitive forces has inhibited innovation. I feel that funding for smaller, seemingly insignificant projects is hard to achieve because the process of getting funding is so tedious and has no guarantees. You're also stuck with needing to demonstrate a given benefit. You don't have to go far to find a situation where the people who have the money don't believe there's a need in the first place. Now you're in a catch 22. 
    So I just want the option to ask the customer directly. Would you pay for this. Give them paypal, world pay, mobile payments or which ever is appropriate or can be put in place. Let your customers decide what is worth paying for. So you focus on figuring out how to help your customers enough to make them want to pay. 
    I'm kind of tired of these people who have money who expect me to justify why I should get it so I can help some one that they don't even know about. Why should these money men get to make the decisions. That's not exactly and open and fair way of doing things. If an idea is good enough and the team providing the solution can figure out how to monetise it then doesn't every one benefit?

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