How do we get to the Learner as Customer?

Jon Mott hit a chord here with his post on the institution as customer rather than the learner as customer.

As I posted here on Michael Feldstein’s blog, I think that ultimately there needs to be a change in the way schools (Higer Ed and K-12) purchase technology for their communities in order to liberate the marketplace to build solutions that satisfy the end-user (instructor or learner).

The Web 2.0 marketplace is filled with great solutions that generally focus on one feature or at least one concept.  Flickr does photos.  YouTube does videos.  Delicious does bookmarks.  WordPress does blogs.  Disqus does comments.  Digg does news aggregation.  Wikispaces does wikis.  Second Life provides 3D worlds.  Facebook does sharing with friends.  What this produces (besides too many logins) is an environment where teams of people are pursuing excellence at one element of information production and sharing.  The overall effect is that in the last 3 to 4 years the web has gone from a place where companies put up their marketing/info websites and you can buy stuff on ebay, to a place where people are participants in the largest groundswell of information production in human history.

In order to liberate this kind of marketplace for the academic environment, individuals must be encouraged to use products that work for them.  The idea that the school can purchase one single solution and force everyone to use it needs to go the way of the dodo.  We need to move the mentality of decision makers from “What are the consequences of forcing everyone to use this?” to “How can we provide more opportunities for our teachers and learners to find solutions that work for them?”

How do we turn the learner into the customer?  Any comments, suggestions?

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