Dawn

Dawn

If you have been following along with some of my blogs, you will notice a recurring topic: REQUIREMENTS (Are Requirements Necessary When Purchasing IT Products , What Does Your System Require?).  I know I have written this before, but having good requirements is the foundation of any successful system. If you write really good requirements at the beginning of a project, you will have useful Test Plan by the end of it.

 

Requirements Development and Testing
In the System Development Life Cycle (SDLC), there are two areas that tend to be short changed, in both the time needed and details required:  requirements development and testing. These are the same two areas that cause the greatest issues if there is no commitment. If well written and easily understandable requirements are created at the beginning of the project, then the developers can build a system that meets those requirements and then those same requirements can become a clear and concise Test Plan. This will result in a Test Plan that thoroughly evaluates the requirements, thereby providing the client with a fully tested system that meets their needs.

 

Systems Development Life Cycle - Image Credit - Netlocity

Systems Development Life Cycle – Image Credit – Netlocity

Elements of a Test Plan
A Test Plan, in its simplest form, is a chart. Applied Research and Technical Services (ARTS) uses an Excel spreadsheet that includes the requirements, arranged in numerical order, and incorporates columns that let the Tester denote whether or not the system performed correctly.  For example, the requirement may be, “The System shall include a log in screen that contains both ’Username’ and ’Password’ fields.” If during testing, you go to log into the System and either the “Username” or “Password” field is missing, the requirement was not met and the failure will be indicated on the Test Plan.

 

Testing is an important part of any system development process; however, even with the best Test Plan and the most conscientious Testers, there is almost always some bug that no one anticipated.  That’s ok! Between the unit testing (testing done by the developers during development), using the Test Plan that is based on the requirements,  and the testing being completed by the client (User Acceptance Testing – UAT), most major issues should be discovered and corrected prior to the system “going live.”


susan steward

Susan

Loyalty programs have been around for ages. The idea behind them is to gain information about consumers, then tailor a store’s offers to them to increase their spending in store and to ward off competition. Often, these programs were done on a store-by-store basis and offers were targeted for their stores alone. However, in the last few years the economy has witnessed the emergence of cross-store loyalty programs. For example, gas rewards and grocery stores.

 

Currently there are several versions of this program.  For example, the grocery chain Giant has partnered with Shell and, similarly, Safeway has partnered with Exxon/Mobil. Under these programs, a consumer purchasing their weekly groceries at Giant or Safeway can swipe their “Bonus” or “Rewards” card and redeem savings on their groceries. Then, the additional cross-store rewards begin. The store states that for every dollar a consumer spends, they will receive a specific number of gas rewards points. Using their newly accrued rewards points, grocery consumers can proceed to the pump and enter their card number, redeeming these points to reduce their per gallon price for gas.

 

As Morgan and Hunt (1994) state in their research, these programs operate under the assumption that both the consumer and the retailer are committed to specific brands. However, as Liu (2007) points out, the consumer preference for grocery stores and gasoline brands may be relatively low and therefore the tradeoff between brands is relatively easy for consumers. In a review of consumer loyalty programs, Liu (2007) does find that over a period of time consumers will often continue to shop at the same retailers and increase spending levels under loyalty programs. According to Kim, Shi, and Srinivasan (2001), the increased demand through loyalty programs has an advantage for stores as well because this will inadvertently increase their tradeoff between firms for the same goods.

 

Savings at the Pump and Increased Disposable Income

At RESI, one of our favorite things to do is to consider general, everyday issues in relation to Maryland’s economy. Often, this results in us doing a bit of background work and then determining inputs for our REMI model. Thinking about gas rewards programs and their impact on Maryland’s economy, some questions arise.  Taking into account the gas rewards savings on an annual basis across households, what would this translate into for Maryland’s economy? What would this increased annual savings across households look like in REMI?

 

Disposable Income Changes

RESI always needs some primary data, and, given the short timeframe, the group needed a guinea pig. Thankfully, at least one employee shops at one of these grocery stores weekly and saves their receipts. This same employee visits the pump at least every two weeks, and happened to save their receipt this week.

 

Image credit: RESI

Image credit: RESI

 

The photo above shows the receipt on the bottom as the employee’s current rewards amount, and the receipt on top was their savings at the gas station that week from rewards over a two week timespan. It’s unlikely most people will save $0.60 per gallon every time they go to the gas station, but it is reasonable to suggest a $0.10 savings given the employee’s current gas rewards points.

 

RESI then took this $0.10 savings and multiplied it by 15, as the average fuel tank size in Maryland is 15 gallons. Therefore, if most people fill their tanks at the close to empty mark this translates to roughly $1.50 in savings on each trip. Over one month, this could equate to roughly $6.00 in savings.  Over a year, these savings would increase each consumer’s disposable income by $72.00. Although this isn’t much to a consumer, there are roughly 2,598,000 automobiles registered in Maryland as of 2009 according to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. If at least 50 percent of those vehicles were to take part in this loyalty program and save $72.00 a year that would increase Maryland’s total household disposable income by $93,204,000 a year.

RESI ran this increased disposable income in REMI and found the following:

Jobs Output Wages
172.0 $19,567,000 $7,782,000

Source: REMI PI+, RESI

The reallocation of the disposable income from consumers supported 172 jobs, $19.6 million in output, and $7.8 million in wages in 2013. What does this do to prices? According to RESI’s analysis, although the price of consumer goods would increase, the change would be relatively small across the economy. Areas such as transportation services, motor vehicle fuels, and food and beverage purchases for off-site consumption (grocery) would see relatively small increases (less than half a percent).


Aaron

Aaron

Over the past few years an intense battle has been taking place over the way content is delivered to consumers, via the internet. This is the battle of Net Neutrality. So what is Net Neutrality? Net Neutrality is the idea that all traffic traversing the Internet is treated the same. No one source or type of content is given any special privilege to reach its consumer over any other content source or type. The notion is that the Internet is a free and open space, giving users (both developers and end consumers) equal access to any website or application. Seems logical right? So who is posing a threat to this simple, yet genius notion? Internet Services Providers (ISPs). Within the realm of Net Neutrality ISPs are not allowed to discriminate between the sources of Internet traffic you consume, but if things go their way this will soon change.

 

ISPs: Our Content Deciders
ISPs want to set up a “pay for play” system where content developers would pay ISPs a premium to get their content to end users first, or in a timely fashion. ISPs would in essence create a model where content developers and providers who can afford it, would reach the end user first; whereas content developers who can’t afford (or don’t want) to pay this premium would no longer be easily accessible to their audience. This would further marginalize “smaller” content developers by not allowing them to reach audiences simply because they can’t afford to, and not because of the quality of their content. In addition, this model will  change the way we pay for the Internet. Currently we pay our ISPs some flat rate that is typically only limited by bandwidth capacity. In the new proposed model, your Internet bill could begin to look a lot like a cable bill, where you pay for different “Internet tiers” of content. So you want to be able to access YouTube? That’ll cost an extra $10/month. How about NetFlix or Hulu? That’ll cost you an extra $20. Our ISPs should just be the delivery service of our Internet content, but this makes them the deciders of our content.

Image source: Wired.com

Image source: Wired.com

Role of the Government
Another question you may be asking is why would the government (FCC) strip away Net Neutrality? Well, in 2010 the FCC actually established “Open Internet Rules” which supported Net Neutrality. In essence these rules were: 1) ISPs need to be transparent about how they manage network congestion; 2) they can’t block traffic on wired networks, no matter what the source; and 3) they can’t put competing services into an “Internet ‘slow lane” to benefit their own offerings. So what happened? Verizon, one of the largest ISPs, challenged these FCC rules and in January 2014 a federal court ruled in favor of Verizon (and ISPs) primarily dismantling the last two rules. Furthermore, it doesn’t bode well that the former chairman of the FCC, Michael Powell is now the cable industry head lobbyist, and the current head of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, is a former cable industry lobbyist.

 

The Impact on Online Education
This now brings us to the big question, how exactly could this affect online education? If Net Neutrality is dismantled, and a “pay for play” system is introduced, then institutions offering online education will have to pay ISPs a premium for their courses to reach students. Imagine an Internet where the multimedia content of an online MBA program from the University of Phoenix is allowed to perform better than similar multimedia content from an online MBA program through the University of Baltimore. Or a scenario where the course videos recorded in our Digital Media Classrooms here at Towson University no longer stream well for our students, only because UMBC has paid ISPs a premium for educational content bandwidth on their networks. Furthermore, as many schools move more of their educational content into cloud based services, and ISPs in turn require these cloud storage companies to pony up more money for efficient content delivery, then the additional cost will ultimately be passed along to the customers, e.g., the students. Given the exorbitant and still rising cost of college tuition, I can’t imagine any student being pleased about having a new line item in their tuition bill that reads “Online educational content storage and delivery fee: $XXX”

 

Image source: Dear FCC

Image source: Dear FCC

The concept of Net Neutrality and its grave importance spans across all industries, and disassembling Net Neutrality will ultimately suffocate innovation. The FCC needs to hear from all of us regarding the importance of keeping the Internet a neutral space for the sake of online education, and all content developers. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a simple form for anyone to use to tell the FCC why the Internet needs to remain open: https://www.dearfcc.org/


Frank

Frank

Since the beginning of formal education, humankind has struggled to measure authentic learning. Since the 1950s in the USA, K-12 education has grown to ~55 million students, ~5% growth 1997-2011 and projected 6% growth in the coming decade. Since A Nation at Risk was published (1983), in a standardized attempt to move the effectiveness needle, we have become self-adulating masters at measuring outcomes on summative, predictive or formative tests, but, other than being physically in the classroom, we have no way of capturing, congealing and sharing the magic that happens between learning peers, between teacher and student, between child and parent. There have been fits and starts with writing process, portfolios and rubric-driven assessments based on all manner of weightings and metrics, but nothing has really stuck — or scaled.

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Enter a pragmatic solution called Three Ring (product overview here and here). In 2011, three c0-founders set out to capture learning in the moment, to drive authentic assessment and instruction. There was a Startup Weekend Edu at Georgetown in late 2011, where Three Ring was conceived. There was an Education Hack Day in Baltimore not long thereafter where participants made connections for Three Ring into Maryland K-12 administrators and teachers, which ultimately turned into free and paid pilots. There was seed capital raised in 2013. In July of 2014, the Company is in early revenue, headlong in serving Maryland districts, thoughtfully growing outside the mid-Atlantic, and has relocated its operations from New York to Baltimore to catalyze growth and extract value from the Maryland edtech ecosystem.
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SLOs versus ‘Assessing to the Middle’. There is no better way to gauge student learning objectives (SLOs) than by using Three Ring’s native iOS or Android app and robust, enterprise back end. The national trends indicate that, increasingly, states and LEAs are using SLOs for learning outcomes, for teacher evaluations, for increasingly impactful reasons. Frankly, SLOs make Common Core palatable and outcomes more reliable and trustworthy. As a former middle school English and history teacher, someone who was fortunate enough to be in situation where students could work on independent or group projects, where they had access to one-to-one devices, where they could present and share their work, I see the magic in Three Ring.
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My First Three Ring Site Visit. My visit to Woodside Elementary in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County was enlightening. Woodside is a PK-5 STEM school where teachers had been piloting Three Ring as part of a robotics program in the upper elementary years and for literacy instruction in younger, exceptional learners. Early in 2014, as evidenced from this video, Woodside veteran teacher Kris Hanks, won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Education for her work at Woodside. Mrs. Hank’s 5th grade classroom portrays motivated, inquiry-based students, whether pegged to independent, small or whole-group instruction. She explains her use case for math here. This was the day I was convinced that Three Ring was a big deal, not too far ahead of instructional practices, not too hard to use, a largely invisible way for teachers and students to capture, synthesize and share.

Math and STEM teacher Kris Hanks with fifth grade students at Woodside Elementary in Anne Arundel County, MD

Math and STEM teacher Kris Hanks with fifth grade students at Woodside Elementary in Anne Arundel County, MD

Teacher Evaluation. Ms. Dominique Bucci-Lee at Triadelphia Ridge Elementary in Howard County Schools uses Three Ring in her art classes for student SLOs and teacher evaluation. Her students see their own growth in pre-, mid- and post-assessments and Ms. Bucci-Lee is able to correlate these assessments to her own teacher evaluations. There is no mention of onerous, administrative burden, only that true learning aptly endorses her evolving craft.

Ms. Dominique Bucci-Lee uses Three Ring to measure SLOs in art and for her own teacher evaluation

Ms. Dominique Bucci-Lee uses Three Ring to measure SLOs in art and for her own teacher evaluation

Peer Review and Parent Communication. At South River High School, English teacher Jasmine Coleman uses Three Ring and SLOs for peer review and portfolio evolution in the writing process and for real-time sharing with parents and administrators.

Ms. Jasmine Coleman with English students at South River High School, Anne Arundel County, MD

Ms. Jasmine Coleman with English students at South River High School, Anne Arundel County, MD

Ultimately, what makes Three Ring a must-have solution is its ease of use, its scalable, shareable extension of a critical workflow in today’s learning environment. There are teachers and teams who choose NOT to do project-based learning as the task of assessment is just too challenging at scale. Henry County, GA is tackling personalized learning with Three Ring, providing a more holistic view of students, and communicating the same to parents through secure channels. For me, it is the digitization, curation and sharing of authentic instruction, the proof of demonstrable growth that makes me stand up and take notice. It is the more holistic view of a student that is the secret sauce in Three Ring, a requisite platform in today’s increasingly digital but majority place-based learning environment.


Sharyn

Sharyn

A card sorting exercise is the one of the simplest approaches to creating your website’s navigation or information architecture – especially if there is a participant pool at your fingertips. Card sorting is a method to consider if there are a large number of topic areas, if the information is very specific to a user group, or if there are special needs of the user group.

 

Card sorting exercises follow three basic steps.

  1. The participant is provided website topic areas are written on index cards.
  2. The participant determines the major categories for the website.
  3. The participant categorizes secondary information that is provided into the main categories they established.

An option to consider is that participants can be offered a pre-determined set of cards for secondary information, but participants could create their own major category names. This option allows for a little more flexibility and could reveal terms or language that was not considered by the web design team.

 

Image credit:  Ivo Gomes

Image credit: Ivo Gomes

Some things to keep in mind while facilitating a card sort.

  • Participants can change the organization at any time.
  • As the exercise is carried out, you may want to suggest a limit for the major categories.
  • It’s important that the participants align with your primary audience group to ensure they have a strong understanding of the website content.
  • Card sorting can be done in person 1 on 1 or there are online options that are free and paid services.
  • If performing the exercise in person, encourage the participant to talk as they organize cards so their thought process can be noted.

Laura

Laura

In a fast-paced work place, it is not always ideal (or even possible) to have in-person, facilitator-led training sessions. But, that does not mean that there is not new information, or new skills that employees need to be able to do their job more efficiently. Luckily, technology has created several avenues for training in these situations, for example, e-learning courses, virtual classrooms, and streaming video. At the Center for Professional Studies we have been working with clients to develop, film, edit, and distribute training and promotional videos that enhance their employees’ knowledge and skills.

 

Videos can meet several workplace needs in terms of training. Examples of some of the recent ways we have used videos are to: demonstrate how to do a specific skill (such as use particular website, or fill out a time sheet), introduce a new policy or procedure, showcase work being done in an organization, and depict scenarios (or case studies) for employees to react to and discuss.

 

CPS Video Team Hard at Work

CPS Video Team Hard at Work

 

According to Wired Magazine, “By using video communication tools, forward-looking organizations can enhance the employee’s experience by showcasing information from around the organization.” Video provides a lot of flexibility to employers:

  • Video can be used as stand alone or in conjunction with e-learning, or in-person training.
  • Video allows employees who are remote, to receive information in the same way and at the same time as fellow employees.
  • Video is engaging.
  • With the use of smart phones, and tablets, video can be watched virtually anywhere.

 

There’s no one size fits all approach when it comes to developing videos for your organization. As a matter of fact, if you think a video might be what you need, it is probably best to come to the table with an open mind. There are a lot of “out of the box” and engaging techniques that can be used in video, that will help to make your project a success within your organization. For more information on the video production services offered at CPS, please visit our website!


Daraius

Daraius

A long time ago, in a business cycle far, far away there was a great recession. Before this recession, jobs were plentiful, high-paying, and secure. The recession officially ended in June 2009, and, according to economists, I included, the economy has been in recovery for the last 60 months – one of the longest periods of recovery in the post-war period.  The stock market has soared to new heights and while energy prices still remain high, they haven’t spiked too much in recent years. In fact, the US is now a leading producer of hydrocarbons. The US has also enjoyed one of the lowest interest rate environments in its history. As a result, the housing market has picked up and consumers are spending again. In spite of all of the signs of an economic recovery, it still does not feel like an economic recovery. There is a disturbance in the force.

 

The Number of Jobs Created & the Challenge of the Long-Term Unemployed
A couple of factors are driving that disturbance. While nationally, the number of jobs being created every month has been impressive, they have fallen short of the need to fill those jobs that were lost as well as those jobs that should have been created. The difference is noticeable, and I had to ask, “aren’t you a little short for a recovery?” Moreover, the challenge of the long-term unemployed continues to cast a shadow over the recovery and we often mutter a prayer that we are not one of them. While these two factors contribute to the feeling of recovery malaise, there are two other often over looked factors that also contribute to that disturbance—part time jobs and the wages of the post recessionary jobs.

 

Part Time Jobs
The percentage of jobs classified as part-time has risen quite dramatically as the economic recovery has evolved. Nationally, the part-time job percentage has gone from less than 16% to over 19%. This could be a result of the types of new jobs being created. In fact, nearly 40% of the new jobs created in the post-recession period were in retail, food service, and temp jobs, which tends to have more part-time jobs than say the manufacturing sector. It seems the recovery is trying to pull a Jedi mind trick on us, but these are, in fact, not the jobs we’re looking for.

 RESIemploystatusgraphic (2)_small

Wages of Post-Recessionary Jobs
The second factor is the quality of jobs being created and by quality I am implying wages. The National Employment Law Project recently published findings supporting our analysis. While the economy has created jobs, the median wages of the jobs created fall dramatically short of the median wages of the jobs lost. In the US, fewer mid and high wage jobs were created than were lost, but more low wage jobs were created during the recovery. Sadly, this same phenomenon is repeated here in Maryland as illustrated by the infographic below.

RESIjobsinfographic_small

The challenge before us is to ensure that we as a nation or as a state do not end up with a labor force comprised of part-time workers earning low wages. Are you worried? We find your lack of faith disturbing.

 


Guest Blogger - Jade Clayton

Guest Blogger Jade Clayton

At the Division of Innovation and Applied Research, we’ve long recognized the potential for Maryland to be a leader in establishing business opportunities where IT marries other industries, whether its counterpart is education, construction, or health care. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the winner, Rehabtics, and runner-up, Tutela Bedside Technologies, of TU Incubator’s 2014 Business Plan Competition; both are Maryland-based start-ups innovating in health technology. In recent months, we can’t help but notice the increasing buzz of health technology and questions on whether Maryland has what it takes to nurture an industry that improves patient care while increasing ROI for providers.

 

Image credit: Next City

Image credit: Next City

 

RESI staff attended the Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA)’s Summer Conference on Maryland’s health technology industry, and we were blown away by the complex and innovative nature of this emerging industry. Evident from discussion at MEDA’s conference, Maryland has an opportunity to be a leader in nurturing health technology, because Maryland is one of few east coast states with the necessary infrastructure in place. The conference kicked off with three overarching themes: health care access, quality, and affordability through technological innovations.

 

The exact definition of health technology remains elusive, but MEDA provided a definition for one sub-sector, mobile health. Mobile health is defined by MEDA as “the use of wired or wireless technology to improve health and care delivery.” Within mobile health, there are so-called wearables and applications that are probably the most well-known products birthed from the health technology industry. The good? These consumer products improve the user’s wellness and get patients engaged in their health care. The bad? Accessibility issues persist for aging and rural populations who are slower to adopt technology, in some cases due to lack of reliable broadband access.

 

Image credit: Direct Marketing News

Image credit: Direct Marketing News

To achieve accessible, high-quality, and affordable health care through innovative technologies, there has to be a workforce trained on how to use the technology, protect the technology and its users, and analyze the technology to inform future innovations. As one panelist roughly quoted John Naisbitt, the industry is “drowning in data, but starving for knowledge.”

 

What are the barriers to entry? How can mobile technologies be HIPAA compliant? Is the workforce trained to effectively use new technologies? Who are the major players? Will technology make health care more equitable? Finally, what is health care technology, really? RESI’s curiosity is certainly piqued, and we are well poised to help answer these questions. Just ask!


jeff_beeson

Jeff

Earlier this year I was asked to present on the topic of leadership at the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) annual conference. Like many industries, workforce is facing a crucial period of transition within senior management. With a brighter economic forecast, many C-suite personnel will be finally looking toward retirement or reduced organizational roles, leaving the next generation opportunities for progression.

 

Leadership
There are literally thousands of books and theories on effective leadership, but the most important aspects of leadership are fairly consistent – as leaders we:

  • Know our strengths
  • Understand our business
  • Readily accept responsibility
  • Develop responsibility in our team
  • Make decisions
  • Lead by example
  • Understand what motivates our team
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

There are some great authors who have covered leadership extensively – Stephen Covey, Kouzes and Posner (my favorite), Jim Collins, and Daniel Pink to name a few. Knowing what attributes make great leaders is only one step in the equation, it’s also important to recognize obstacles to leadership and how individuals are able to overcome those obstacles. We recently surveyed 600 workforce leaders in Maryland and they collectively identified several obstacles to leadership including: funding/budgets, bureaucracy, loss of institutional knowledge, and changes in technology – staying current. Again, when looking at the next generation of leader, we must make sure that they can overcome our industry specific obstacles.

 

The Next Generation of Leader
Now, let’s talk about who the next generation of leader will be. That’s right, we are facing the “Millennial Tsunami,” individuals in our workforce born after 1980. Currently there are 80 million in the workforce and by 2020 they will constitute the majority – sorry Gen Xers. The bottom line is that they are different:

  • 83% sleep with their cell phone
  • They live and breathe technology
  • They are confident and self-expressive – if you don’t believe me, check out what they ate for dinner last night on Instagram
  • They are the most educated group we have ever seen in the workforce
  • They are committed to social causes and have to believe in what they are doing

This presents some very specific needs in their professional development. They need a mentor and desire feedback from their boss. They know more about technology than we do and need to be constantly challenged. They are lifelong learners and want to be involved in decisions.

JeffInfographic

The Change from a Traditional Work Environment
For our very traditional work environment, this is inconvenient to say the least. However, it is our responsibility to cultivate these individuals as leaders, just as the generations before us prepared us to handle professional responsibility. We have to eliminate certain things form our vocabulary and embrace the change.

  • “Kids these days”
  • “They just don’t understand”
  • “They are always texting and emailing when they should be listening”

Staff can multitask – they can listen and do whatever it is they are doing on their iPad at the same time. More importantly, they can answer questions requiring research more quickly than we can – it’s like Google is a part of their anatomy.

 

So, what does that mean for us?
We need to change. We need to embrace no ties, colorful socks, and working remotely. We need to recognize their need for inclusion and exposure to different opportunities. We need to invest in their development. Ted Devine CEO of Insureon has embraced a “No walls, no barriers” mentality in his workplace. He has eliminated cubicles and offices and has instituted an open-office plan to cultivate creativity and productivity. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn emphasizes teaching moments to empower staff and celebrates a 92% employee approval rating. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos has adopted the Zappos Family Core Values which emphasize customer service and the concept of “fun and a little weirdness”.

 

It is up to us to attract, retain, and groom the next generation of leader and we are going to have to change our own style to be successful.


Guest Blogger Sidney Pink

Guest Blogger Sidney Pink

Finding My Place in the World
In 2001 I graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting & Drawing. I had perfected my skills as an artist, believed deeply that I had something of value to offer the world, and yet, I had no clear path to financial stability. I knew galleries and museums offered limited options for steady income and that art super stars like Jeff Koons or Yo-Yo Ma did not represent a typical path for the average working artist. My story is not unique and every year thousands of art students graduate from B.F.A. and B.A. programs hoping to make a living from their art.

 

Fast-forward twelve years – I have built a modest career as an artist by combining day jobs, freelance work, building a small studio practice, and dabbling in non-profit creation. My experience in many ways is a casebook example of the art student’s career path. According to the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) 76% of arts alumni reported being self-employed at some point in their career, while 76% also reported practicing their art separate from work.

 

Sidney Pink Teaching

Sidney Pink Teaching

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me
With the first chapter of my career completed I wanted to explore the idea of teaching and I had an idea for a new class. In 2012 Towson University College of Fine Arts and Communication offered me an opportunity to develop a special topics course around the subject of arts business. I wanted to share with visual and performing artists what I wish someone had told me. I wanted to share how to write a press release, build a marketing plan, or seek startup funding. I also knew that artists are good at creating opportunities but we often lack the basic business knowledge to get past brainstorming. I had the seed of an idea but I knew there was something bigger here than sharing anecdotes about my experience.

 

I started to read academic literature about arts management, arts business, and artist career development. I found a book called Disciplining the Arts: Teaching Entrepreneurship in Context edited by Gary Beckman. It suggests that academic arts programs have a moral responsibility to teach emerging artists the new skills and methodologies that are essential for success in the 21st century. Many arts programs, even in public institutions, are based on older conservatory models. Highly focused curriculum and an emphasis on technique often create artists that live in a bubble of their discipline. Speak to a dancer about movement philosophy and you’ll feel like you’re meeting an alien on Star Trek.

 

The book also summarized many of the problems with transplanting traditional business curricula into an arts classroom. On a basic level, entrepreneurship and arts programs have completely different terminology and pedagogical philosophies. Yet, there are many striking similarities between artists and entrepreneurs. We are both driven to create new things, we want to find a sustainable target audience for our products or services, and we often have similar self-starter mind-sets that frame our view of reality.

 

Disciplining the Arts often referenced this academic field as ‘arts entrepreneurship.’ I had a title, a few lesson plans, and small pool of research to guide my planning.

 

Arts Entrepreneurship at Towson
In the of fall 2012 we launched Towson’s first Arts Entrepreneurship course. Students from art, theater, film, mass communication, dance, and music all signed-up for the class hungry to learn how they might make a living from their art. We created feasibility studies, wrote elevator pitches, and discussed opportunity creation. We also discussed the larger cultural context of art in the market place, non-profit sector, and the role art plays in building meaning and heritage for our society.

 

The immediate impacts were undeniable. Within the first month many students could articulate the value proposition of their ideas, debate the feasibility of their plans, and translate what they do as artists into language that a funder could understand. But regardless of early success I knew there were deeper issues to explore. I wondered how this type of curriculum could be more meaningfully embedded into a student’s studio practice, how more experiential learning could be implemented, and how the basic idea of Arts Entrepreneurship connected, or didn’t, with the various disciplines at Towson University.

 

Is Arts Entrepreneurship a Real Academic Field?
To understand how Towson might develop a long-term program that fits within our culture I think we need to familiarize ourselves with the national landscape of arts entrepreneurship education.

 

One of the biggest debates in the literature is whether arts entrepreneurship is a truly independent field to entrepreneurship or just a sub-category of existing curricula. Clearly the word ‘entrepreneurship’ is the suffix of our title. Arts educators have a lot to learn from reading existing research on entrepreneurship education. Our colleagues in the business school have a lot to teach us.

 

So what’s the main difference, if any? Some suggest that focusing purely on aesthetic products brings fundamental and possible philosophical differences to the pedagogy and real-life practice of arts entrepreneurship. Also, for many artists there are social, historical, and cultural motivations that outweigh any profit goals. This is an issue being debating across sectors with the growing trend of social entrepreneurship and hybrid business structures.

 

The reality is, classes, programs, and minors in Arts Entrepreneurship are a growing trend. Colleges and Universities are reacting to a strongly felt need for updated artist career training, but are struggling to define the standards. New efforts are emerging to support this growing community. Just two weeks ago over 50 educators, career councilors, and administrators, gathered for the first annual Arts Entrepreneurship Educator’s Conference. During the conference the Arts Entrepreneurship Educator’s Society was formed and the body voted on early governance structures. The U.S. now has three Arts Entrepreneurship journals including Artivate, Journal of Arts Entrepreneurship Research, and Journal of Arts Entrepreneurship Education.

 

It is clear that the study of Arts Entrepreneurship is a growing resource for many students.
I believe that arts programs need to reach out to our business school peers and create spaces to share research, engage in conversation, and explore the unique aspects of teaching business to artists. Arts and business educators also have a unique opportunity to contribute to a new body of research. This is a young and wide-open area of study that offers room to take risks and innovate how we think about entrepreneurship in the context of art.

 

In many ways educators are catching up to an already present way of life for our alumnus. A new crop of art students just graduated last month. They are pianists, filmmakers, dancers, painters, actors, designers, writers, and more. They are taking their first steps into a rich and complex economy that has little time for their contribution and yet is hungry for meaningful products and experiences. Arts educators have a duty to help our students find their place in this ever-changing landscape. I don’t know if Arts Entrepreneurship is a real thing. For now I’ll leave that question open for further debate while I get back to work. I have a drawing to frame and a marketing plan to finish.