Industry News

Educause Could Pick Up NMC Horizon Report Assets for $55k

By next Wednesday, shortly after 10 a.m. Pacific time, the fate of New Media Consortium's assets could be decided in a bankruptcy court in Sacramento. A nonprofit best known for producing the annual "Horizon" reports on technology trends in higher education, K-12, libraries and museums could become the property of Educause, a higher ed technology association. Educause has put in the highest bid so far — $55,000 — to acquire NMC's Horizon projects, trademarks, membership and subscriber lists, internet domain, phone number and furniture and fixtures.

The Horizon reports were developed by NMC through an arduous process that involved convening a worldwide panel of educational technology experts to "review, comment and discuss a range of topics and relevant research" that eventually would lead to the identification of ed tech "trends, challenges and developments" that made up the body of each report. The last project NMC published was a digital literacy impact study, sponsored by Adobe and co-developed with Educause.

NMC announced its shuttering unexpectedly in an e-mail to its community in mid-December. At that time, the organization said it was ceasing operations "because of apparent errors and omissions by its former controller and chief financial officer," leading to its insolvency.

As extensive reporting in Inside Higher Ed shared, NMC owed almost $682,000 on assets of nearly $428,000. "Goodwill," that most ephemeral of assets in business, was given no value at all. Reporter Lindsay McKenzie wrote that NMC's board of directors first found out about the financial problems late in November.

If the trustee assigned to the case accepts the offer, what was once a go-to source for education leaders trying to understand the evolving world of ed tech could come back to life again. However, Educause executives haven't shared publicly what they have in mind.

At the end of its tenure, NMC was led by Eden Dahlstrom, formerly a chief research office at Educause. Educause itself was co-producing with NMC the higher education Horizon report, which was next expected out around the time of the SXSW EDU conference in March. However, as McKenzie reported, "a March deadline for the 2018 report may be ambitious."

Bryan Alexander viewed the move by Educause as having the potential to greatly influence the field of education technology. In his blog this week, the researcher called the bid "a bold and generous move." He went so far as to exclaim, "They are playing the white knight, stepping up to rescue assets that many in the ed tech world value." Still, he acknowledged that Educause's future plans for the NMC materials are unknown.

What the court documents don't get into, he noted, was exploring the open nature of NMC's research work. All of its Horizon reports were issued under a Creative Commons license, which may be why there's so little value placed on the assets. The nonprofit relied on grants, sponsorships and donations to fund its work.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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