​Knowing—and Reaching—Your Edtech Audience

Higher Education

​Knowing—and Reaching—Your Edtech Audience

By Bridget Burns     Dec 15, 2016

​Knowing—and Reaching—Your Edtech Audience

This article is part of the guide EdSurge 2017 Personal Statements.

Dr. Seuss was a master at speaking to multiple audiences. His silly creatures captivated children, while whimsical wordplay and social undercurrents entertained the parents that read to them. They were intended to be giggled at, read aloud and remembered.

In 2017, I’m hopeful that entrepreneurs and developers will take a page from the Seuss playbook by engaging with a multiplicity of stakeholders to understand and anticipate the implications and application of their work. Where can instructional technology inform analytics efforts? How will data-driven insights transform instructional practice? What challenge is technology solving for? Can it serve many masters?

That’s where I see community playing an important role in 2017. The surefire way to get to know your audience is to ask questions and listen to the answers. Spend time getting to know the challenges your audience is facing. Learn about the current systems and technologies that are in place and the trials they present. Find out what a university’s top priorities are—what the university president and other leaders want the school to be known for—and then think about how you can help administrators and universities improve their processes and reach their goals.

I’m hopeful that in 2017, we’ll hear more thoughtful questions—and fewer solutions in search of problems.

The recent shift toward cloud-based technology can reduce barriers to implementation. But it doesn’t necessarily accelerate the culture shifts that allow technology to take hold and scale. Savvy entrepreneurs focus on generating buy-in and supporting institutional champions as they mobilize a cross section of stakeholders. They spend time with the people who will be using the technology. They ask what they need the new technology to do; what their existing technology does or doesn’t do well; what other systems the new technology needs to interact with; what tasks users need to perform on a regular basis; what reports they need to run; and so on. They fine-tune solutions to meet the needs of end-users.

I’m hopeful that the venture capital community will challenge the industry to focus on transformation as much as “disruption.” Because entrepreneurs and developers who sell technology respond to incentives. If the incentive is to make a sale, they’ll work hard to make the sale. But as more investors measure returns in education outcomes, and the long term transformation of process and practice, vendors will ensure that good customer service doesn’t end at the sale that it persists in ways that usher a more fundamental shift in the business of higher education.

So where will the edtech community go in 2017? Hopefully back to campus, where it can follow Dr. Seuss’s lead and get much more in touch with its audiences.

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