Leadership Summit - Part 1: Innovation Marketplace: Building a Community of Academic and Commercial Entrepreneurs


Brief Abstract

Collaborations between commercial providers and higher education are often inefficient, ineffective, bureaucratic, and poorly managed by both higher education and commercial providers. MERLOT-SkillsCommons and Partner in Publishing are leading a strategic initiative for commercial providers and educators to accelerate the sustained adoption of effective and affordable innovations in educational technologies.

This session is included in the Leadership Summit at OLC Innovate 2023, focused on the theme of The Engaged Leader: Attending To The Complexities Of Digital Learning.  With the rapidly-changing environment of online and blended education, it is essential to understand the complexities and impacts on teaching and learning in order to create digital learning environments that meet the needs of those they serve. Today’s leaders in digital learning must be attuned to the needs and priorities of many people: faculty, staff, students, executive leaders, vendors and business partners, and the community.



Gerard L. Hanley Ph.D. is the Executive Director of MERLOT (Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching, www.merlot.org) and SkillsCommons (www.skillscommons.org) for the California State University, the Director for the Center for Usability for Design and Accessibility and Professor of Psychology at California State University, Long Beach. At MERLOT and SkillsCommons, he directs the development and sustainability of the international consortium and technology strategy to provide open educational services to improve teaching and learning and continues to development the US Department of Labor's open repository of educational resources for workforce development. Gerry's previous positions include Assistance Vice Chancellor for Academic Technology Services at the CSU Office of the Chancellor, the Director of Faculty Development and Director of Strategy Planning at CSU, Long Beach.

Extended Abstract

The state of collaborations between commercial providers and higher education is inefficient, ineffective, bureaucratic, and poorly managed by both higher education and commercial providers. It is not unusual for an institution to take (one)1 year to decide they need to innovate their technologies, followed by (one) 1 year of planning and implementing their procurement process (e.g. RFP, review committees, etc.), followed by one (1) year of launching the innovation with early adopters and training, followed by 2-4 years of scaling the technologies. The 5-year process can be disrupted by personnel changes in the administration (including president, provost, CIO, CATO) and/or the faculty leadership, and/or the leadership and account representatives for the commercial providers.  Academic administration are frequently subject matter experts in academic disciplines and not experts in managing the complexities of planning, adopting, and sustaining educational technology innovations within a politically complex institution.  Commercial providers are frequently business process experts in their industry domains and not experts in managing the complexities of planning, adopting, and sustaining educational technology innovations within a politically complex institution.  Higher education institutions’ budget planning is typically bounded by a one (1) year financial planning and expenditure cycle while successful planning through sustaining EdTech requires a multi-year planning and management cycle.  Commercial providers, with their various funding models, often require multi-year agreements that provided predictable quarterly revenue streams while higher education is not driven to make quarterly decisions and make large scale financial commitments over multiple years without completing significant bureaucratic processes.

Successful collaboration between commercial providers and higher education is essential for both enterprises.  Higher education has neither the capacity or capabilities to plan, develop, adopt and sustain technologies effectively or efficiently.   Consequently, it must rely on commercial providers with the development and business management expertise to develop and support innovations in EdTech. Commercial providers require higher education as a customer for their products and services.   The $400B higher education market in the US provides significant business opportunities for EdTech. The consumer technology world is innovating in many ways and for higher education institutions to survive, they must progress in the delivery of their programs.   The COVID pandemic has been a monumental accelerator of EdTech innovations for educational institutions and the need to scaling and sustaining effective and efficient EdTech is pervasive.

Conceptually, effective and efficient collaborations between higher education and EdTech would be very beneficial for all involved, but the problem is that there are relatively few and relatively powerless organizations to facilitate the development of institutional and business capacities and processes to manage the collaborative processes.

The Innovation Marketplace: Managing the Lifecyle of EdTech Innovations for Win-Win-Win Outcomes

Innovation Marketplace Principle:  We work "at the speed of trust" - Steven Covey

  • Building trust between higher education and ed tech, along with professional societies can facilitate how each potential partner collaborates in more productive ways.
  • Trust is built by well-managed, collaborative communications and project-based programs that enable all the people involved to develop deeper and more transparent understanding of: (1) the challenges and environments they all must work within and (2) the strategies that will be effective and efficient in these complex environments.
  • Productive and trusted collaborations also produce significant cost efficiencies because you rely on your partners to do some of the work that needs to be done to design, deploy, and evaluate innovations in higher education.
  • The Innovation Marketplace is designed to provide this facilitating, trust-building opportunities for all partners

Partner in Publishing has built trust with many commercial providers over their 15 years of integrated marketing and sales approaches to design and launch solutions that address the objectives of educational leaders from the corporate and academic sectors.   MERLOT, SkillsCommons, and the United States Distance Learning Association has built trust with higher education institutions from community colleges to research institutions over their 25+ years of serving the professional development, educational content, and innovation needs of higher education and their K-12 partners. Given the well-documented success of corporate and academic partnerships and integrated marketing and sales approaches, Partner in Publishing was inspired to create and launch an all-encompassing solution that addresses the objectives of educational leaders from the corporate and academic sectors.  

The presentation will provide case studies of how the Innovation Marketplace has bridged the collaboration gaps and accelerated the abilities of both academic institutions, faculty, and commercial providers to investigate and adopt technology innovations for education.  Through the case studies, we will describe our strategies for building a community of academic and commercial entrepreneurs through:

  • Innovation Projects- Customized project that bring the academic communities to engage with innovative technologies and assess the effectiveness, efficiencies, and usability of the commerical providers’ products and services.
  • Higher Education Marketing Campaigns- To raise awareness about EdTech products and nurture academic and corporate relationships
  • Workshops and Consultations- To engage companies and faculty to cultivate effective, solution-driven products and services
  • Technical Assistance and Onboarding- To support the adoption of education technologies with help services, consultation, and professional development so people can be successful with the use of the technologies.