Why is the University Investing Resources on Semester Book

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Course Management Software Review : One Thread

Why is the University Spending Money developing Semester Book. I would value seeing a strategic analysis of this decision. Would we develop our own spread sheet package, word processor, statistical analysis package? Unless IBM is planning on giving us a lot of the revenue from the final product (and who would buy it anyway - how many Universities are using Lotus/Domino?), this seems like a very odd decision. It ties us more closely to IBM, assuming it is a joint project, and we are far too tightly tied now. If we are not doing this with IBM then how can we possibly hope to compete with CourseInfo or one of the other big players.

This is a resource issue that should be being made at the university level not the B-School level. That Semester book makes sense to us because we can get it for "free" and because they will not link CourseInfo up to the registration system just illustrates sub-optimization. Also, the network externalities here suggest potential benefits (or losses) that go well beyond the economies of scale of the software development cost. It is only a matter of time before we see excellent content and other services being distributed via these systems. For instance, we should fairly soon see college courses being offered via these systems to high school students, alumni, and others. We will also likely see these systems being used to sell courses between institutions or to sell the equivalent of online text books.

This is not an arguement about features, it is an arguement about futures. Unless the university has a big picture strategy for semester book, powerful allies, and a large potential customer base, this thing is doomed to extinction. Thus, the small benefits we might gain by using it now would be far overshadowed by the costs we will incur later by being tied to a dead end product.

-- Blake Ives (bives@acm.org), April 23, 2000

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