User talk:Leighblackall/PhD/2011

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Tomorrow's PhD[edit source]

I'll be joining a research forum being held at the University of Canberra on the 14 April, where a panel of 3 will be talking about the PhD of yesterday, today and tomorrow, where I'll be talking to the tomorrow.

Why?[edit source]

I'll refer to the discussion had at the Creative Research Group, called Why Would I do a PhD?

  • Through sophisticated use of the Internet, where connection with peers and experts (and surrogate supervisors) is immediate and extensive, what value does an institution bring to experience and learning called a PhD?
  • What is the criteria for a PhD, how is it assessed, and why is it not common to assess the work people do toward a PhD outside educational institutions? Is the institution and the structures set up for their the only way, even the better way, to do a PhD?
  • How can I develop and model methods, behaviors and processes, independent from an institution, and produce a body of work that would at least satisfy the criteria for a PhD, and so arguably be submitted for assessment?

How?[edit source]

I'll also refer to the presentation given to UC Research Students for the Research Services Office, Open PhD - Connecting Sharing Developing

  • My principles of an Open PhD are that the process and product be free, accessible, and reusable.
  • These principles in practice afford opportunity for valuable connection. Doing this by using the internet for iterative self publishing, leveraging social media to find dialog and connections
  • My practice is to read, engage, participate, and to document my experiences, notes and thoughts to my blog, then to process those into finished texts on a wiki, and to then represent those finished text in works of artistic metaphor, simplified text, and performance.

Looking at business models[edit source]

Leighblackall 03:20, 26 January 2011 (UTC) Peter Rawsthorne tweeted me a link to Josh Kaufman's recent article on CopyBlogger, Has the Internet Made Teaching Lucrative? adding the question:[reply]

why even go down the working for a university route?

Josh's article is a nice addition to conceptualisations of independent teaching practice, from someone who IS doing it, and claims to be making a fair living doing so.

My initial investment in some basic digital publishing training and equipment has produced the highest ROI imaginable: a debt-free, global, six-figure teaching business. I’m making more than most college professors with a fraction of their schooling.

The business model

Josh mixes his skills in marketing and promotion with his ability to empathise with his target groups, to produce a self-help flavoured learning package of subscription emails, blog based articles, reading lists, short videos, a book, and courses.

  • The book sells on Amazon for nearly US$16 plus postage.
  • The courses are chunked into 6 tax deductible fees of US$297, or a discounted one payment of US$1497
  • The blog articles and subscription emails are free, as are the videos that preview his ability to present and explain concepts in accessible and engaging language.
  • To be approaching a 6 figure income, Josh must be selling about 1000 books and 60 full course enrollments a year... as well as a little extra for writing articles and speaking, which would probably be largely part of the free/marketing work...

As Josh says in his CopyBlogger article:

Attracting students requires learning the arts of content marketing and sales — and using them every day.

Delivering quality training requires developing technical skills you may not yet possess. Above all, you must overcome your discomfort in charging what your services are worth, and learn to ask for the sale.

We can only take Josh's word for it - that he is happily earning a comfortable living in the US doing this, certainly he pushed the right buttons for me with:

I can work from anywhere that has a stable internet connection and a phone line. I operated my business on a dialup connection in the mountains of Colorado for six months. And I could easily move anywhere in the world at any time.

The marketing, enter Jim Groom

Josh markets and promotes everything he does, (it must suck trying to have an honest conversation with the guy ;) and that's the key point of difference to your average institutionalised teacher. Josh's website, products, and services are, at face value, well packaged, and sharply communicated, to a very broad audience, never missing a promotional opportunity, always on message. He has a tried and true balance between free access and paid for service and content, using the free to almost over-market the fee based stuff. I don't know many gaol house teachers (plain English for institutionalised) who have the skills and frame of mind to do this, but I do know one who could do it better than anyone - Jim Groom.

Where it all began

Jim Groom is also a natural marketeer, but with an obvious point of difference to Josh - working in a niche, establishing face value trust more easily, using a more sophisticated style of media and message, to market brand jimgroom, and more recently the course DS106, but not as yet attempting to make a living from it all like Josh does.

Jim markets himself and his teaching with a self mocking invitation to engage, a sophisticated handling of media and message based on cinema industry symbolism, and drawing on a loyal "fan base" who share in the vision and help with the marketing because its fun.

Jim's products and services are still developing, and it is in this that he could take a leaf out of Josh's set up. To achieve the 6 figures and be independent, Jim needs to set up a product line. EduPunk and DS106 t-shirts for $30, nude posters with a course calendar on em for $10, underwear for the highest bidder, and a textbook-comic for $40. Sell all this to 100 people a year and he's made $8000 without even blinking yet! Put a price on a corner of his teaching service, and he rakes in the rest (more on this below). 6 figures Groomy, and from anywhere you like!

But can Jim Groom and others like him, do this without forfeiting the trust and contribution of his fan base, or the authenticity of his brand? I think he can, with the open, self mocking honesty he naturally has.

Is Jim Groom's niche big enough to deliver his family a comfortable and happy living? I'm not sure, I think if he widened the scope, and targeted businesses wanting to develop their own marketing messages with more sophisticated story telling, bingo! Jimbo has a fee based corner to draw an income from, and he can start sending fat cheques my way because he wants me.

The precarity

There is precarity in this business model however. It relates to the balance between free and fee. Josh and Jim have established reputation to ride on for a time, but their competition is with the others, who offer more free and less fee, all-the-while building a reputation over time. What happens when the next Salmon Khan starts offering business skills tuition in his Kahn Academy? Digital Story telling even? As I type, my brother-in-law Chris is learning guitar for free from martyzsongs. That just put the next guy, offering some free and more fee, out of business. The balance between free and fee just keeps sliding to free.

So Josh and Jim need to stay nimble and keep quick. Get the next thing on the boil, leverage their existing reputation, and dominate the next available space. Develop product, set up courses, and rely on it for a year or 2 before going onto the next thing. Most of all, and as Peter suggests up top, get out of gaol free, work toward independence.

Further reading

My interest in this all began with Kathy Sierra's post, Marketing should be education, education should be marketing. I've posted a whole bunch of thinking drawn from that, but most recently was A crisis for institutions, opportunity for teachers. Linked from there are better articulations of why and how teachers need to get out of gaol: Out From Under the Umbrellas and What Would it be Like to be the Rain. But if you're really stuck on making the gaols work (like me) then, adapting Josh's approach back into the institutions might be more your style with, The role of marketing in educational development.

Recommended readings[edit source]

The following were suggested by MWS:

  • w:Paolo Virno - The Grammar of the Multitude. - but look to the concept of virtuosity also in Organised Networks (see below)
  • Ned Rossiter - Organised networks: Media Theory, Creative Labour, New Institution. NAi Publishers, Institute of Network Culture, 2006. ISBN 90-5662-526-8
  • w:Cult of personality

This from Brent:

Shifting focus[edit source]

Leighblackall 05:31, 25 January 2011 (UTC)[reply]

Recently I posted What am I doing? to my blog. I was questioning my direction and focus on open education, copyright and institutional change, wanting to instead focus on more positive and meaningful topics of what it means to network learning, both formally and more importantly, informally.

I've since reflected on my PhD now too. The only reason I have for submitting to this process is because I'm required to by my employer. I respect the process, and willingly go where my own research skills and learning may be improved, but have not been convinced that formal enrollment is any better to informally conducting a PhD.

Originally, I wanted to simply diarise my work with UCNISS, as they consider the open and networked teaching, research and learning practices I propose. Quickly I could see that significant barriers existed across the whole university, and so to progress work in UCNISS, I shifted focus to whole-of-university change agency. But this work would take far too long, and involve too many considerations for one PhD. Instead, I want to refine my understanding and awareness of the practice of networked learning as it is practiced everywhere and anywhere. This will enable me to stay closer to the writers and theorists I respect, and look further afield than the University of Canberra for examples and considerations.

So the topic of my PhD is focused on networked learning, what it is, how it is practiced, and whether it is creating change inside formal education settings.

Additional to this change in study focus, I want to follow something like a creative PhD. In a recent seminar on "why do a PhD" (see notes below), what is known as a Creative PhD was described by one of the participants as a body of creative work (in my case installations, mixed with traditionally crafted paintings, based on particular social theories) complimented by a "mini thesis" of 20 thousand words. Unfortunately I could find no information on the FAD website relating to this.

I have also started a PhD page on Wikiversity in the hope of attracting a number of people who share an interest in informally pursuing a PhD through open and networked means. As I come to terms more with what the requirements are for a PhD, I and others will add information there as well as on the Wikipedia entry for PhD. Once I have a more solid grasp on what is required, I will more carefully map out my course of study, and subsequent research projects.