Four Conferences: Four Sets of Live Viewpoints on Innovation

We’ve just come back from a series of unique conferences, each with a very different view of the world.  Given our overly connected digital world, the proliferation and expansion of live events is intriguing.  These were just the four we picked of the dozen or so going on during this same three week period of time.  Some are pricey — over $1,500 a seat before paying for room, board, and travel — and others are less than $100 for attendees.

Sponsors are abundant — is this the real sign that we are coming firmly out of the recession?

Or is it that in this crowded business-to-business marketing world that face-time for new brands is so essential?  I’m working with quite a few new educational technology brands right now . . . who each are having to rationalize how and where they invest their time and money to meet the right adventurous partners for trials.  A growing portion of my advisory time through Maremel is working with innovative leaders about this exact question set.

GSV/ASU Educational Innovation Summit

We had bypassed this event last year and was amazed by the 1,500 attendees at more than $1,500 a pop for three days.  This was a well-heeled crowd of investors and new educational technology ventures, as well as many leading voices from traditional firms, NGOs, and government forces.  The dance was intriguing, with 170+ short presentation pitches.  The more intriguing discussions were happening in the hallways and central seating areas.  Deals and gossip seemed evenly matched.  We overheard a lot of conversations about competitors about to run out of funds.

Viewpoints: Adaptive learning is the next new great thing.  Give our new company money and we will save the educational world (mostly US).  Selective viewpoint: We’re already an adventurous organization, doing cool things, and we are at this event quietly to see what is coming up the pike that doesn’t have revenue yet.

2013 IFTA Production Conference

Embracing the Small Screen: How Independents Are Defining Their Future in Television and Digital Media

We enjoyed this conference, run by what used to be the American Film Marketing Association, and was renamed IFTA (International Film & Television Association) many years ago.

The day was broken into the Buyers and the Sellers, and I could see why this was also a sell-out event.  The audience was filled with aspiringl producers, but the panels were filled with those really doing business in digital video production and distribution in a big way.

Viewpoints: The money isn’t there yet, but exciting things are afoot.  Big names were wondering how the money was being made.  Digital distributors were sharing some cases, but keeping some of the data close to the vest.

AERA

American Educational Research Association

How do you fit 14,000 educational researchers in a group of hotels in 5 days in San Francisco with thousands of presentations, and often more than 75 simultanous events?  With a phone-book sized guide with 7+ digit codes and a almost-connected App.

This group has seven different technology-oriented special interest groups, each with overlapping content and interests.  We spent time with both the TICL (Technology, Instruction, Cognition, and Learning) and TACTL (Technology as an Agent of Change in Teaching and Learning) groups, who call themselves “Tickle” and “Tactile” respectively.  There was intriguing research in cognitive load theory in teaching (making the content format decisions make the learning easier, not harder) and evidence-based educational design.

The conversations continued that started at GSV/ASU: Why does the research being done on learning science NOT flow into learning design, both in terms of products and content?

We ask the reverse: why should it flow?  What would be the connective tissue to tie it together?

Viewpoints: Our research is wonderful — why doesn’t the world want it?  Peer reviewed journal research is of value, not necessarily research happening by non-universities (undercurrent of conversations).

Business4Better

The Community Movement Partnership — http://www.business4better.org/

What a different perspective!  In Anaheim, CA, we caught the second day of this UBM-hosted conference that brought together community partners in social support from around mostly Orange County, each with little booths waiting for people to come by.  This was the most old-fashioned of the conferences, and the thinnest attended, but the one at which we had the most sincere conversations.

Viewpoints:  We are helping our communities.  How can we bring new awareness and resources in?

End Thought

All of these were valuable conversations — all local and all connecting ideas in the light of our digital world.  How do we connect the right resources, ideas, and different frames of mind?

Live and local becomes even more important in this overly connected age.

Blending the University at SXSWedu

Thanks to all who attended our 9 am presentation on March 6, 2013 at SXSWedu in Austin, TX, on Blending the University.  We had a full house of 125 seats plus folks tucked along the back wall.  We also had a robust conversation on the question of organizational challenges with blended learning design during the session and following throughout the day.

Please enjoy and share the presentation.

Listening for Change in the Music and Publishing Businesses

February has been the month for innovation conferences on music and publishing. Last week was O’Reilly’s Tools of Change Conference (in New York with amazing food). Yesterday was Brian Zisk’s SF Music Tech Conference, and today starts Ned Sherman’s Digital Media Wire Music conference in New York.

Recurring themes have been abundant start-ups facing creators to help them into continuing to shift distribution platforms, as well as various efforts in creating thoughtful fan data tools. Innovation on both coasts and with both industries is in the face of long-standing industry leaders, all embracing digital in workflow, marketing, distribution, and social media . . . to various degrees. We’ve been having a good time chatting with companies as they have been launching over the past year or so. One company eagerly approached us yesterday at SF Music Tech, eager to tell us that the company that they dreamed of last October is launching in April.

Revenue? Business models? The issue we find the most interesting is business development. How do you cost-effectively sell into these spaces, especially in working with traditional distribution and rights holders? We keep running into one frantically running biz dev person at many of these companies.

We’re seeing the issue with more startling contrast in the educational media and technology space, with biz dev people trying to sell one small product to many universities, and amazed they can’t get scale.

Week of Publishing Change in a Season of Educational Transformation

We’re getting busier and busier around educational technology change with many higher education organizations now.  In this season of MOOCs (“massively open online courses”) and other education innovation announcements, I am focusing with many organizations on how to plan educational design with all of this output.  How do we syndicate and create multiple use streams?  How do we interact with publishing companies and other universities with all of this multimedia content?  How do we collaborate and re-purpose what can otherwise be expensive limited use content?

This week, I’m heading to the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference to think about how multimedia distribution might fold into all this expanded production in higher education.  At least one university we’re working with is rethinking their academic publishing arm — what can we do with all of this media being produced in MOOCs and blended course environments?

Mixing Digital Business with Education — User Generated What?

For the past two weeks, we have been running presentations and workshops on education in the cloud and digital education in creative industries.  I’ve also been going to a variety of conferences, including heading today to Billboard FutureSound in San Francisco.

At last night’s event, several of us began to compare notes on all of the digital learning companies that we see launching.  One of our advisers, on the investment side, said that he had two companies just pitched to him yesterday.

What are the barriers to entry in this business, now that you can perch your new learning environment on flexible cloud-based tools and infrastructures-in-the-cloud?  Audience?

For many years, I have taught part-time at UCLA.  Every year, friends have come to me saying, “What I really want to do is teach.”  I have told them how much it pays (and they are taken aback), and they still want to do it.  UCLA does get picky, and has turned down many fine VPs of divisions of companies because they lack both the right credentials and teaching experience.  UCLA Extension provides a wonderful alternative, within their structure and fine teacher training, for a lot of this content to get out into the professional worlds.

Now we are mixing the abundance of User Generated Content with all of this unmet teaching demand.  I spoke with two start-ups last week.  Each is “allowing” the teaching faculty for their programs to invest all of their own time and recording energy to create their classes, and “only” taking 50% of the revenue for letting them teach on the platform.  Other older entities are more gracious to the teachers (some keeping 15-30%), but all of these seem to put the production risk onto the eager teacher with no guarantees or advances.  Many seem to offer deals to learners with deep discounts to drive continuing interest in the platform.

There are some great programs that do have nice revenue streams for the teachers online.  The newer models, mixing new abundance into education, seem to be taking willing content producers and promising them lights to shine.

Perhaps I’ll be less cynical when I see review structures come out and customers not flock to the next new freemium educational product.