We’re your friends

cartoon vultures representing evil vendors trying to sell Ed-Tech

Having friends in Australia, I have been privileged to have conversations with many of them as they have struggled with supporting students through the Coronavirus crisis. I just wanted to post (with their permission) some of those messages here as a way of signalling some of the things that don’t get reported.

The text below is an amalgam of the various conversations I’ve had, with my text added in italics and right aligned for some context.


2nd February

“Hey Lawrie, We are just about to go into a huge coronavirus clusterfuck. Basically planning an emergency move to university wide online delivery for 75000 students!”

Can you use Teams and Zoom, set up seminars and tutorials getting post-grads to support teaching staff?

“Would you believe teams and zoom are both blocked by the great firewall of china!”

VPN?

“Not for nearly 8500 students. I suspect using a VPN in China might be akin to being a dissident!”

3rd February

“We are a bit screwed here at the moment. Not even sure if Lecture Capture Company works. Might contact xxx, but you know what they are like, once they’ve sold it I don’t think they’ll give a damn about finding a solution to this!”

“OK! I am working on the basis that adobe connect seems to work, so if I can get ICT to make that happen in two weeks then we are all go!“
When pigs fly

Well this is a great opportunity to write a paper

“If I live to tell the tale! My stress levels are through the roof.”

“I have so far reprofiled the logistics for opening weeks and delaying semester start. Once I know what tools I have in play I can start to design the experience, I might ask you to sense check.”

No problem

“We have to wait for the provost to approve the plan tomorrow and then we can progress to stage 2”

“ICT are giving advice like “we think that zoom will be ok”, but we know there are firewall problems for stuff like Teams, and I don’t think we can VPN, the issue is that in China Microsoft is provided by a third party?”

Yeah, its a company call 21Vianet – there needs to be conversations with them about approving the VPN access for the students you need to – I am guessing that the barriers will be bureaucratic rather than technology focused.

6th February: Conversation change…

”VENDORS ARE VULTURES”

“Australia has 100k Chinese students Stuck in China. We have vendors approaching deans “offering their services in our time of need”

“We have been attacked by at least three vendors including one giant multinational!”

Yeah, but you are not surprised right?

I had Vendor offer to come and sort out our exam issues with students stuck in China and then my least fave vendor XXXX went straight to my DVC and offered their platform for free to students in China for three weeks, so they can get hooked. They’re like drug dealers!

7th February

“It’s fascinating to see the things we have been ranting about WRT to EdTech writ so large through the lens of a humanitarian crisis, 100k poor students missing the start of their study and vendors swooping like vultures on their weakened prey.”

Every crisis is a sales opportunity?

“I think we need a manifesto for how universities and leadership should engage with vendors because I saw it again yesterday – a free lunch and bonus Vendor stress ball for your desk had one manager shilling for the vendor like a trained parrot!”

12th February

”The fuckers are still circling and promising the world to solve our problems! VULTURES”

13th February

“Missive from above: So you will be converting every one of your 248 units for full online delivery for around 8500 students starting next week with no additional resources and Vendor A and Vendor B not working properly. You will make that happen right?

Oh cool! So you’ve solved it?

“Fuck off Phipps!”


Institutions around the world are supporting students through problems associated with restricted movement during the coronavirus crisis. And they are learning a lot about dealing with education issues at a distance. We need to record those experiences and share them.

But they are also dealing with vendors who are seeing this as a massive opportunity to exploit a crisis, as one of the senior manager’s I have been chatting to pointed out, maybe as a result of this we need a manifesto for how we engage with those vendors.

At ALT-C last year during our workshop, Peter Bryant, who is also in the midst of this Coronavirus Crisis, said

“EdTech vendors are not going to change their behaviour, to them we are a market to be exploited. So maybe we, those who work in the sector most closely with technology, need to change our behaviours.”

Peter’s words had resonance then, but now as we look at some of the behaviours associated with vendors through the lens of the current crisis, they seem like prophecy!

I’d love to hear from anyone else who is finding that they are being exploited when a crisis looms.

oh, and for the record, I am a huge fan of actual vultures!

2 thoughts on “We’re your friends

  1. I missed this post earlier. Pleased to say my leaders have been very effective in shielding us at the coalface/screenface from this guff and just let us set about finding solutions with current tools. I’ve had one vendor meeting only that had been arranged pre-crisis

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