Technology Implementation in Higher Ed: What do GRCC and Carnegie Mellon Have in Common?

On Friday I got a chance to pick the minds of two great individuals: Eric Kunnen of Grand Rapids Community College and Jay Brown of Carnegie Mellon.  The two might seem like they wouldn’t share too much in common, Kunnen is Coordinator of Instructional Technologies at an outstanding community college, and Brown is a Director of Marketing for Web Communications at a top research university.  However, both share a passion for the social web and edge technology… and aren’t afraid to pursue it.

You might know Kunnen for his well circulated GRCC blog, his visible involvement is edge uses of Blackboard, and his early and loud adoption of Coursefeed on Facebook (full disclosure, they are theoretically a competitor of ours).  Carnegie Mellon recently pulled off effectively riding an authentic instance of “viral content” – that rare combination of keeping the content ( “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch) authentic, genuine, and “free” while integrating the phenomenon into their overall communications strategy.  CMU’s presentation at the AMA Symposium on Higher Education was, IMHO, the best example of rubber meets the road at the conference.

Equally as important to their passion is that their institutions and the leadership at them actively encourage them to experiment with utilizing new technology.  Brown described Carnegie Mellon as an “Entrepreneurial Atmosphere” that bled into institutional practices.  He had mentioned in his AMA presentation that the best angle in edge marketing is to just put stuff out there – if there’s no kickback, move on and get even more courageous. All campuses that get great attention for their use of technology, like our founding partner ACU, seem to have this sort of culture – a culture that’s shorter on conversation and longer on execution, and by nature experimental in its analysis of all things new.  As Kunnen put it: “We don’t want to sit around and talk about it meeting after meeting.  We just do it.”

This reputation for technological gusto rubs off as a “Je ne sais qua” factor.  However, the method is always the same: the institutions hire good people, give them or embrace an existing sense of mission, and let them do their job.

As someone who thinks about overcoming barriers to innovation in education, I commend Kunnen and Brown and their institutions for living on the edge.

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