Last week, we published a white paper on “12 Moodle tools to interact with your students online“. Unfortunately, it wasn’t originally published under that title. Instead, we called it the “Moodle tool guide for teachers.” As they say, the best laid plans…
I edited the paper, as did a few others of us here at WizIQ, and I think it’s actually a pretty useful document. I’ve used Moodle a fair amount over the years (I’m no guru, by any means, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to dive much deeper into it and explore it both as a content management tool and a teaching/learning platform for several projects with which I’m involved), but somehow managed to miss the fact that one of the most shared and useful Moodle resources, created by Joyce Seitzinger in 2010, was also called the “Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers” (PDF). I’ve been writing about ed tech (and, for that matter, living, eating, and breathing it) for long enough that I shouldn’t have missed that.
Fortunately, as Ms. Seitzinger pointed out in a related blog post about the tool guide, the Moodle community quickly stepped up and called us out on the oversight. Special thanks to Nathan Cobb, among others, for bringing it to our attention.
This actually brings up the larger issue, though, of content, resources, and tools, as well as open resources vs. those with some cost. Ms. Seitzinger released her tool guide (which, by the way, is a really outstanding infographic for navigating the many features and uses of Moodle – if you haven’t seen it already, it’s well worth a look) under a Creative Commons license. To download our white paper, you need to provide us with a name and phone number and, chances are, you’ll get an email along the lines of “Hi there! We noticed that you downloaded our white paper on Moodle. Would you like to hear about a great virtual classroom plugin for the LMS?” The paper is free, but as in beer, not as in speech, and, just as free beer usually means you need to help a buddy move or go to a party about which you’re not all that excited, so is there a small, non-monetary cost to downloading our paper.
So why don’t we just release ours as an open resource? Believe me, we’ve talked about this a lot internally here at WizIQ. However, for a company like ours, not only do we need to actively seek out sales leads (heck, even IBM makes you give them an email address and take a survey to download white papers), but we need to build a community who understands how our product can add value in the classroom. Folks already involved with distance learning understand it pretty well and probably knows the name WizIQ. Others who are just getting into e-learning and blended environments (the main audience for our Moodle paper) may very well not. So being able to email them, send them a newsletter describing innovative uses of WizIQ in a brick and mortar classroom, or even have an actual phone conversation with them has a lot of value for us, both monetarily and intangible.
Ms. Seitzinger asks in her blog
I wonder if what we are seeing is evidence of companies with pre-21st-century business practices. They don’t involve themselves in their field enough, to have an awareness of the existing community and its artifacts, yet blatantly try to interact with that community. Social media should make that easier, but unfortunately, many companies and organisations still seem to be in broadcast mode.
I agree with her that it’s all too easy to crank out some content and try to use it to sell a product. In my work as a freelance writer, I’ve been paid handsomely to write just that sort of content. It didn’t keep me from cashing the check and I can still sleep pretty well at night, but it is a problem that savvy educators (or members of any other community) should be able to sniff out pretty easily.
That said, companies like WizIQ have to balance strategies for actually making money with much more genuine engagement. I hope we’re getting there. I’ve been an educator and educational technologist for many years; it’s why WizIQ hired me in the first place. And it’s why we have educators (and, more recently, students) working with us on the content we create and the ways in which we engage with educators. With that, though, comes the ability of the community to keep us honest. We’re going to try to keep giving you reasons to visit our site and read what we have to say, right at the same time as we keep building what we believe is the most cost-effective virtual classroom solution available. I look forward to more feedback (and writing lots more) in the months to come.