It’s Not About the Technology: Reflections on the First Two Days of Running an Online Course

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This piece has been cross-posted from The Amani Institute. Read the original post.

You think carefully through the strategy for starting a new educational organization with an online course. You market the course and enroll more about 30 people from over 10 countries, with an exciting line-up of guest speakers. You prepare the content and syllabus for the course, working constantly and well with your partner organization. Everything’s set for the launch.

And then, five minutes into your introductory address, the electricity goes out and you’re disconnected from the web platform, leaving your partner and students wondering what happened to you. #typical #Murphy’s Law

Oddly enough, in the debris of that failed experiment lies an important learning moment about working with technology and working to solve social problems (which is in fact the subject of the course – “Technology, Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship“): no matter how much you plan ahead, there’s so much still outside your control, and just as technology can be a wonderful enabler, it can also be a serious disabler. As so many technologists and tech entrepreneurs love to say, “It’s not about the technology”. The human side is much more important, and we failed by not trying to limit the possibility of such a disabling moment.

We did not repeat our mistake, however. A few hours ago, we conducted a guest lecture in the online course. This time, we found a corporate office building with reliable electricity and internet connectivity. The subject was “Designing Your Tech-Enabled Social Enterprise” and our guest speaker was Adam White of GroupShot. Adam spoke candidly and insightfully about a number of key principles regarding designing tech-based social change initiatives, some common mistakes that people make, and some of the best organizations in this space. But just as pleased as we were with his talk, we were also just simply relieved that it went off without a hitch given that the hosts were based in Washington, D.C., the guest speaker in Boston, and we were moderating from Nairobi, Kenya.

#success #sigh-of-relief

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