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IMS GLC Public Forums and Resources » IMS GLC News » Google Meets IMS ... (again)
Topic Title: Google Meets IMS ... (again)
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Created On: 11/11/2009 11:21 AM
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 11/11/2009 11:21 AM
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Article from The Chronicle of Higher Education : Google Uses Educause Meeting as Focus Group for Wave

Google Uses Educause Meeting as Focus Group for Wave
 11/12/2009 07:54 AM
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Well, I have to admit that I missed "all the excitement about Google Wave" at Educause. So, this morning I reviewed the most incredibly nerdy video by the creators of Wave at Google - apparently at the launch event at some Google conference - to understand Wave. Is Wave some sort of breakthrough for education?

Wave is a collaboration "platform" that is a combination email, wiki, instant messaging. It is, of course, a hosted service. So, as opposed to private email messaging it is a "new" model of communication in which people communicate through their browser to the hosted content. So, it's a snazzy bulletin board, forum, wiki sort of thing.

I spent about 20 years cutting my teeth in the high tech world of silicon valley. Recently I was back there and was talking business models at dinner with a good friend of mine for many years. He said to me, "Google is amazing because even if someone only spends $10 they can make money from that!" Translation: Because Google owns search and they facilitate and charge for transactions in which there is literally zero marginal cost incurred to Google, they can make profit on even the smallest of transactions - a feat impossible prior to the pervasive web and e-commerce. When your marginal costs per transaction are driven to zero you have infinite scale. So, compared to say billboard advertising on the highway - in which there has to be at least enough of a return to justify putting up the billboard - the Google model has no barriers to participation.

All elements of the Google model support this strategy. For Wave it is no different:

1. The software is open source "so that we can get help developing this product"- translation: we can get armies of well meaning technologists proliferating our business model.

2. We have open APIs "that we hope you will start using"- translation: we can get armies of well meaning technologists proliferating our business model.

3. It's a centralized, hosted model "that is better than the old email model which replicates snail mail"- translation: because all the communications are centralized, it enables a centralized point of interface through which targeted advertising can be conducted.

So, back to education. Is Wave particularly innovative with respect to education applications? Not on the surface. I have no doubt that many bright and innovative folks will find creative ways to use it, just as they have with other collaboration platforms.

My biggest concern with Wave is the business model. We need to understand that by embracing this "technology" we are, more importantly, embracing a business model. Because that is what Google is all about - a business model. Taken to the extreme, everything associated with education could be free, but "brought to you" by our sponsors (where the sponsorship comes from the transactions of people buying something that is advertised to them). Personally, this model has always struck me as a poor fit for education. In the late 1990's, early 2000's, higher education institutions soundly rejected it when given the choice in considering the portal business model from Campus Pipeline and others. However, institutions can not weigh in on direct to consumer approaches.

Do we want information pathways in education dominated by commerce or something else? You decide. There are certainly arguments on both sides. Commerce supported models might increase competition and reduce some costs - positively affecting affordability and access. On the other hand, how will a move toward commerce supported models impact quality of the educational experience?

-Rob Abel

Edited: 11/12/2009 at 08:25 AM by RobAbel
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