DEPM 622: Module 3, Differentiation and Competition — Organizational Design and Positioning

Module 3 Reflections and Learning Activities

  • What is the status of the business trend you have been following on Twitter? Have there been any changes? New developments?

There have some important developments related to OER, both at the national level and at the level of my institution. At the national level, the recently signed omnibus spending bill includes $5 million in grant funding for open textbooks, a development which I first found out about on Twitter.

(SPARC, 2018)

At the institutional level, a new OER@UMUC program was announced at a meeting of The Undergraduate School. This announcement included a mission and vision, objectives, and an outline of activities to be undertaken as part of OER@UMUC. This was exciting to me because it indicated that the institution is moving forward with plans to contribute OER under Creative Commons licensing. It also encouraged me to continue with my business case, focusing on the role of collegiate faculty in OER processes, because the role of subject-matter experts is an aspect of the initiative that does not seem to have been adequately addressed yet.

  • Reflect upon your understanding of distance education and e-learning as a business. Do you still consider DE, or education in general, to be a business (or not)? What specifically has influenced your understanding of DE as a business?

I suppose an underlying question is what is meant by “business.” The most relevant definition from Merriam-Webster is “a commercial or sometimes an industrial enterprise” (Business, n.d.). “Commercial,” in turn is defined as “viewed with regard for profit” (Commercial, n.d.).

I expressed at the beginning of the course that I recognized some reasons one might not want to view education “with regard for profit.” I still think these are valid concerns. Excessive preoccupation with profit can lead to disregard for the true mission of an organization. But this is true of any organization. Drucker (1973) explains that profit is necessary for a business, but it is not the business’s reason for being. Education, for-profit businesses, and non-profit organizations all have this in common: They need to attend to solid financials as a means to ensure their ability to fulfill their mission, but making money should not, itself, be the mission.

I was convinced by Greenberg (2004) that it would be foolish to deny the ways in which business processes can benefit education. On the other hand, last week I read Understanding and Facilitating Organizational Change in the 21st Century (Kezar, 2001), which addresses some of the unique cultural features of higher education that one would have to account for when introducing change, including new business processes. One will likely not get good results by simply walking into a new job at a university and announcing that we will now run like a business.

Overall, I’m not sure there is a black-and-white answer to whether or not we call education a business. Education can benefit from some approaches that are traditionally found in for-profit businesses. At the same time, leaders need to retain focus on institutional mission and consider the role of tradition in educational institutions when implementing change.

  • Imagine you have just boarded the elevator with your primary stakeholder—the one who will decide if and how your business case will move forward. What would you tell this stakeholder about your case? Practice writing an elevator pitch that will convince your primary stakeholder to buy your business case, and post the elevator pitch to your journal.

UMUC has committed to creating OER with a strong connection to the curriculum. This is great for UMUC and all the potential users of the material it releases under Creative Commons licensing. We have collegiate faculty who would be in a prime position to contribute subject-matter expertise to OER creation, but their current roles have them spending over half their time on teaching. UMUC can get a better return on investment for collegiate salaries by reducing their teaching loads and using them for OER creation and maintenance.

  • Again, consider the objectives defined for this module. Have they been met? If not, where are there shortcomings?

Identify the opportunities and threats that are changing the identities of post-secondary education providers and factors that influence the viability of businesses in this industry

 This objective was met in the discussions relating to for-profit universities and marketing.

Describe the factors in the external environment that have led to the emergence of the private sector

This objective was also met in the same discussions, particularly “Competition and the Rise of the Private Sector” and the associated readings.

Describe the impact of managerial change and accountability on the workload, work styles, and identity of academic staff and educational developers

I do not think this objective was met by the content of DEPM 622, but I have done some reading outside of the course related to change, including Kezer (2001).

Argue the impact of financing approaches on the growth of the DE and online learning industry in different countries

Though it was part of Module 2, Keegan, et al. (2007) helped meet this objective.

Appreciate the scope of the consultancy process, the diversity of business models and the scale of the consultancy service worldwide

Jarche (2011) was a nice resource for this objective.


Business. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from

Commercial. (n.d.). Merriam-Webster. Retrieved from

Drucker, P.F. (1973). Chapter 6: What is a business? In Management: Tasks, responsibilities, practices. London: Heinemann. Retrieved from,%20Responsibilities,%20Practices%20by%20Peter%20Drucker%20e%20book.pdf

Greenberg. M. (2004). A university is not a business (and other fantasies). EDUCAUSE Review. Retrieved from

Jarche, H. (2011). So you still want to be an eLearning consultant? [Blog post.] Retrieved from:

Keegan, D., Lossenko, J., Mázár, I., Fernández Michels, P., Flate Paulsen, M., Rekkedal, T., Atle Toska, J., & Zarka, D. (2007). E-learning initiatives that did not reach targeted goals. Megatrends Project. Retrieved from

Kezar, A. J. (2001). Understanding and Facilitating Organizational Change in the 21st Century. Retrieved from

SPARC. (2018). VICTORY! Congress includes $5 million open textbook grant program in FY18 #omnibus bill set to pass this week [Tweet]. Retrieved from


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