Pitfalls of Vendor Selection and the Future of Higher Education

Jan 01

External vendors can be an effective business tool when internal expertise is unavailable or limited. In education, textbook publishers have been an essential external vendor for centuries. A recent experience has led me to question whether current trends in higher education, such as Internet based companion resources to textbooks which provide coursework and exams, are beneficial to the educational process. I believe that, when used properly, publisher resources can add to the educational process. When used poorly, these resources can result in a poor educational experience. When used exclusively, these resources are an insufficient substitute for highly trained and capable professors. A Tale of Two Classes My two classes last semester provided highly contrasting experiences. One class was taught by a practicing attorney with about 30 years of experience. He teaches in the evenings and had recently taken several years off before coming back to teach my class. The other class was taught by someone who has spent the past 11 years as a professor, during which time she completed her PhD. The outcomes from each class were surprising and provided me some insights into vendor selection and its effects on higher education. What’s interesting is that the first thing each professor said was how much he or she disliked the assigned textbook. That was the last thing the classes had in common. As a result of his displeasure with the assigned textbook, the instructor for my ethics class added two additional books to the required reading for the semester. For each class session he assigned a half dozen or more papers, articles or topics for study. These included some of the most profound writings on ethics from all time. This amounted to hundreds of extra pages of additional reading aside from the textbook. One of the papers he assigned us to write near the start of the course solicited a statement of personal ethical inclination. When he found that most of the class leaned toward one particular ethical persuasion, he adjusted the future course content to include critical analysis of that persuasion. I’ve had similar experiences with other professors. It seems that there is always something about a textbook that’s not to a professor’s liking and they supplement...

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Ethnographic Study of Outsourcing through oDesk

Aug 10

This semester in Organizational Dynamics we were required to conduct an ethnographic study. That means a study of the methods and means that drive communication within a group of people. On the largest scale this can include an entire civilization. In our case the focus was to be a company of our choosing. I chose my own software company, and since I employ primarily outsourced workers through oDesk, I chose to focus on the online communication that drives my business and enables me to compete in an industry where I would otherwise be under-capitalized. I think you’ll find it a worthwhile read. You can download the study as in PDF format here:¬†Ethnographic study of outsourcing through...

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