Web 2.0 Tools: Rolling the Dice With the Cube

Face #3 – Who is the buyer?……When its free!!

For a change of pace, I thought I might focus on one aspect of the cube and raise some issues around the current economic meltdown and implications for  web 2.0 learning technologies.  In particular, I thought I’d focus on face #3 “Who is the buyer?”.  For many of the web 2.0 tools the buyer isn’t anyone.  There are no “buyers” only users. The services are offered free.  There are countless examples of such tools offering  presentation, video, slideshow, music, etc…. The thinking behind many of these ventures is to create a vast user base and then monetize this user base by offering paid premium services or by leveraging the potential of this user base to obtain a buy out by a larger company.  This model has been a driving force behind much of the innovation and creativity we’ve seen over the last few years.  However, in some ways this parallels the attitudes in the greater economy that have led to the current economic meltdown.  Web startups are borrowing time and money today with little or no ongoing revenue security going forward.

The End of Web 2.0 as We Know It?

With no real revenue model these ventures are hollow and highly exposed to external economic variables.  When the economy dips, the likelihood of converting non paying users nurtured on “free”  to premium paying users falls and the likelihood of obtaining a buyout by a larger, but now more cautious company also falls.  The short term “free” model now  becomes a long term charity service.  If I’m the owner of a web 2.0 startup operating on this model, do I stick around and support this venture and devote my time to non-paying users?  What happens when the first prominent web 2.0 tool pulls the plug and leaves users standing at the login page.  Will we loose faith in the reliability of small web startups to maintain our data and thus do we eliminate the “free” business model as a viable web model?

The Golden Age Of Web 2.0

Perhaps we are not only seeing the end of an economic boom, but the end of the web 2.0 boom of online tools where the business model of “free” will be seen as a golden era of creativity and innovation.

Any comments?

September 17, 2008   8 Comments

Moodle and the cube

I chose to look at moodle for my analysis since I work with it often.

Face #1 Market Focus

Moodle’s market focus is to provide people that need learning management software in all three of K-12, Higher Ed, and Training, with a free, open source solution. I’ve seen it utilized in the MET, university of Waterloo counseling, K-12, and as a training LMS/CMS in various situations where a group needed something but couldn’t afford a paid solution such as blackboard or d2l.

Face #2  Types of Offerings

Moodle as an organization offers the software as well as community driven, created, and monitored support. Moodle does license other for profit groups for paid training, hosting, and certification. (http://knowmoodle.ca). Moodle does organized conferences (moodlemoots) but users by and far create and share content freely through groups such as http://www.olearn.org/dev/ (BC Curriculum)

Face #3 Who is the Buyer

The purchasing buyer of a moodle national/regional license provider is for profit educational group. The rest of us happily purchase moodle software for free. Mostly the people involved are teachers, technologists, school authorities that are looking for a free solution to an LMS/CMS

Face #4 Global Markets

Moodle has multi language support that has been created through social networks. I’ve added the french component for some of my immersion teachers that come to my district with sometime low english technology vocabular. I’m thinking about adding the german and russian for some of our ESL students as well. This social contribution has made moodle accessible across the globe. Moodle runs on the free Apache server as well so the software infrastructure is free as well.

Face #5 Development of Market

Looking at the four categories of the development face I would say that moodle plays nicely in all the markets saving the one that does not have the physical infrastructure. I would enjoy playing with one of the xo laptops from the OLPC and see if it could host an apache server (which I believe it will) to load a moodle instance on it and serve to other xo’s in the wireless range.

Face #6 Competing with other forms of Learning

Moodle in my school district has been used to replace some f2f reporting for graduation requirements. While there is a teacher available there is no scheduled brick and mortar classroom time for this required four credit course. Moodle is also competing with commercial offerings such as blackboard/webct, and desire 2 learn (d2l). Moodle has facilitated the creation and sale of learning objects to other school districts. It enables us to compete in the DL market for students in a newly legislated, increasingly competitive market for distributed learners.

Moodle has been used in hybrid learning environments where there is a f2f and computer component. It can also be used in f2f and distributed or purely distributed environments. It plays well with others.

September 17, 2008   3 Comments

“Articulate” superimposed on “the cube!”

I’ve chosen Articulate as my e-learning product. This software suite is intended for users to deliver “rapid e-learning to any community of choice” and comprises a set of authoring tools, a flash-based presentation tool imported from Powerpoint, (WOW!) a quiz making tool to assess and conduct surveys, a means to create interactivity and an LMS.

 The essence of this product is to hand over the reins of development and delivery to the user. In the words of one of their sales support rep, “we provide the hammer and nails, you make the house!”

 1. Market Focus:

Articulate is found in all three vertical markets, K- 12; Higher Ed, Corporate and Government. Given that their focus is to provide the tools all markets are of interest to them. A key element of their success lies in the infrastructure in place to support the tools for each market.

 For example: there is a highly successful blog, created by Tom Kuhlmann who has done a fabulous job of pushing creative instructional design tips out to the marketplace. He has over 10,000 subscribers making it the most read blog in the e-learning industry.

 http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/

 

 2. Types of Offerings:

As Articulate is out of the content/customized content game entirely; they only provide the tools, support, and LMS infrastructure to the user.

 3. Who is the Buyer:

The majority of buyers are found in the corporate setting, with academic institutions and government representing the other key client base. Purchasing is largely made centrally by larger corporate headquarters, and with IT departments at University and government levels. Larger non-profit societies such as the Canadian Cancer Society and The UN are also clients of Articulate.

http://www.articulate.com/company/clients.php

 4. Global Markets

The market focus for Articulate is represented broadly with the exception of areas where there is poor quality internet service. They are represented in 115 countries, including North/South America, Europe and Asia and in more than 12,000 organizations. Now that is serious market penetration! They are also represented in military and maritime organizations.

 5. Development of the Market

This facet of the cube looks to developing the market in a quadrant of possibilities. Articulate is not in markets which have poor internet infrastructure or marginal languages, but flourish in markets which support custom work. They thrive in markets where content can be developed at any level, from the individual through to the corporation and government. It knows no real boundaries other than those with marginal technological infrastructure.

 6. Learning Technology Competing with Other Forms of Learning

 Again, given that Articulate is a tool which can be manipulated to serve many masters, it can fit within other forms of learning, albeit not always optimally. The real question is how to engage the learning communities to see the value that this learning technology brings to the table and make allowances for its shortcomings by adding instructor led involvement.

 

 Certainly Articulate can work within a well developed learning system. Articulate Online has recently been added to their suite of software tools to track e-learning activity, as their LMS equivalent.

 

 As well, it could serve as the other form of learning technology for a region, however it may not be optimal if this is the only modality for learning.

 

 Articulate is by far one of the most flexible learning technology components, and while it may compete with an existing learning system, it can easily be geared up or down depending on the political circumstance.

 

September 17, 2008   3 Comments

Jag’s thoughts on Recombo and Ingenia

First off, I enjoyed watching all the ‘pitch’ examples and the use of video technology has definitely made this course more personable.

The two venture’s that I reviewed were Recombo and Ingenia.  I found both companies focused on offering e-learning services to traditional companies that are trying to digitalize their training or product offerings.  These clients have a choice in how to enter the e-learning  marketplace.  Either they develop the platform and resources ‘in-house’ with intrapreneurs and hire ‘IT’ specialists, or they contract out to a 3rd party entrepreneur who will develop and manage the technical infrastructure.

Recombo – offers clients a technological infrastructure that will allow the clients applications to be shared and used across other applications.  The company has made the transition from multiple product offerings to strictly being a service provider and a manager of the technical infrastructure that Recombo would customize for their clients.  A major client of Recombo is the traditional publisher Mindleader, and through this major client, Recombo is hoping to gain further clients.

Ingenia – specializes in e-learning applications and is focusing on the developing S.E. Asian market, specifically Vietnam.  Locally, this company has many government clients (SFU, ICBC, to name a few), yet when looking to establish overseas they are concentrating on multi-national corporations.  The e-learning applications for corporations could be for internal training or for accreditation.  In order to compete for government contracts in Vietnam, Ingenia did partner with a local software firm…ensuring that jobs and wealth are being re-invested back into Vietnam.

As an investor, I found both CEOs to be credible and knowledgeable about the industry.  That being said, I found it interesting that Recombo’s VP, Brad MacPhee, was wearing an earring.  I know that earrings are no big deal and apart of today’s norms, however I come from a traditional family and if Recombo is looking to venture into foreign markets,  it would be worth investigating how other cultures  perceive piercings and even tattoos for that matter.

In terms of the business model, both ventures revolve around large-scale contracts with major companies or with various levels of government.  Information technology and software architecture is a huge business, what is stopping giants such as Microsoft or Google from entering this market?  How would these companies respond and/or survive with greater competition?  Or is the goal of these ventures to be bought out by one of the larger companies allowing all investors to cash out?

In regards to the e-learning industry, are these programs being used for accreditation or are they being used by companies for internal training?  As an investor, I don’t see continuous cashflow in these businesses without the large scale contracts from major clients.  From my senses, it seems as though these companies are relying on large multinational corporations or governments to supply them with that ‘home-run’ contract.  Outside of these contracts, there are no external sources of revenue.  While I wish both entrepreneurs success in their ventures, I would not invest in either of these ventures…but than again, I never invested in Microsoft, Google, or Apple for that matter.

September 17, 2008   1 Comment

Fun cube tool

Some Flash Guru wrote a script to take a cube and spin it around with 6 arbitrary images around the cube.  I’ve just adapted to our 6 pictures.  It’s not terribly useful, but it makes for a neat visual.

http://www.unitorganizer.com/myblog/node/310

Check it out, it may give you some ideas.  I may even take my responses to this exercise and add them as images to the faces.  Too bad I can’t then embed the flash here…

September 17, 2008   7 Comments