Been reading an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about Northwestern University closing their own email system. Instead students get their email hosted by Google Apps Education Edition.
This article gets me thinking because often in Learning Technology Development we use similar freely available or relatively low cost services to create learning resources and experiences, or as easier to use tools than the ones available in an all-in-one VLE solution.
The things that we have to consider are:
Extra administration - Students might need accounts setting up (will the process put any of them off from doing this?). Can we support any problems the students have when using the service (the institutional VLE takes a massive amount of time to support just by itself)?
Here today... - How long with the services be around for? Can we back up what is created (for reuse, migration to another system, in case it needs to be shown in the future during an audit). If you created things in a more closed environment (e.g. Second Life) you might not be able to back them up as such. Materials in an environment like this won't have the lifespan of those 10 year old OHP slides that were still in use when I was a student. Is that seen as acceptable by the academic staff who use them, and those in management positions who will be allowing people time to keep creating resources?
This extra work can put people off using technologies, and that's not bad if it means the benefit of using the technology isn't worth the effort. I think some of the best and most innovative use of technologies in Teaching and Learning is done by people who are passionate about what they think can be done, and therefore put a lot of time, effort and focus into integrating it into their teaching. The worst uses of technology are probably by people who are told they have to use something, don't want to or know how to use it, and therefore don't integrate it's use into a larger strategy. There's nothing wrong with choosing to use 10 year old OHP slides over a Second Life meeting area, if they fit in with what you want to achieve.