Thursday, January 08, 2009

Worldware: To the Cloud and Beyond

"Worldware" is a concept I developed in the 1990s, as part of study that a group of us did under the aegis of Educom (now EDUCAUSE). The question we were addressing: what kinds of software were having a noticeable impact on higher learning. We undertook this study of "Valuable, Viable Software" because of increasing anxiety that, despite a couple of decades of investment in courseware development, computer software might not be making much difference in teaching and learning. Our "aha!" moment came when we realized that technology developed for non-instructional purposes ("worldware") was sometimes having quite an impact: personal computers, word processors, research software, the Internet, ... There were several reasons for worldware's surprising value and viability, including
  • the amortization of development, upgrade, marketing and support costs across a large market,
  • the fact that faculty and at least some students were already using it and thought it valuable to learn more about, and
  • the comparative likelihood that, if the original vendor or developer disappeared, curricular materials based on that worldware would not need to be discarded; some other provider would be able to use the files.

Recently, "Academic Technology" invited me to engage in a panel discussion to explore and extend this idea of worldware in the age of data clouds and social networking. I think the ideas extended in some rather nice ways. Judge for yourself.