EduLib - Education, Libraries, Publishing & Technology

This is a very occasional blog on education, libraries, publishing and the technologies that support these activities.

The rules that I try to follow when writing this blog are:
1. Try not to waste the time of the reader (hence the long Subject headings).
2. Be informative.
3. If not informative, be provocative & controversial.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why Campus Management Systems Cost Ten Times More Than Library Management Systems

Rob Abel made some interesting comments in his Higher Education Insight blog a while ago (October 2005), on the question "Why Won't We Pay for Learning Technology ?".

He asked "Why are institutions willing to spend $300K to $500K or more on student information systems when it is like pulling teeth to invest $25K-$50K in a course management system? " He had some interesting thoughts on whether this is due to resistance to change by tenured faculty, and also on why institutions feel it is acceptable to charge students for textbooks, but not for learning management systems.

My experience is similar in the library world: Bob Walton, former VP at Innovative Interfaces, Board-member of Dynix, and current VP for Finance at Wooster College, recently said that a college like his typically ends up paying ten times more for a campus management system than for a library automation system (RMG panel at Midwinter ALA in 2005).

I think much of the problem is with the 'benefit case' – both with the figures themselves, and with whoever is preparing them. For administration systems, it is relatively easy to compile financial benefits from the proposed systems – tangible or not. Management will come up with a report that says how the new system will save 5% of this and 10% of that, and will show that only a 1% increase in enrolment, due to better systems, means $xm more income.

But if you sit an educator or a librarian down and say, "So exactly how much cash would we save/gain by replacing/upgrading our learning/library system ?" you might get blank faces all round. Partly, it is just hard to do. Partly, these people do not have the skills to do it. Partly it is sort-of not 'right' to put a price on better learning or research.

Yet it needs to be done. Sure, if higher prices are paid the money will have to come from somewhere. And, sure, some of it will end up in the pockets of the owners of the vendor companies. But think how much better these systems would be if they cost only twice as much as they do now.

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Mark Carden is a business development executive, consultant and recruiter, who has 30 years of experience in project management, software engineering and technology sales.

In the publishing, education and libraries sector he has held international Vice President positions at Publishing Technology, Ingram Digital, Innovative Interfaces, and Dynix.

Mark's career started in software development, project management and consulting; he has worked for several 'blue-chip' companies including Accenture, NatWest Life and Barclays Bank.

He has a BA in Philosophy & Psychology from Oxford University, and has also attended executive education programmes at the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University and the Saïd Business School at Oxford University.

Mark's special interests include: Publishing software, library automation systems, e-books, campus & enterprise portals, hand-held computing, business strategy, how time factors affect company & management behaviours, and the transition of owner-managed businesses into professionally-managed companies.