An Insider's Guide to Being an eLearning CEO is an interview conducted by Mestro eLearning and should be a very interesting read to educators and "eLearners".
Ryan Busch is the president of eduFire, a learning community with over 80,000 members that has doubled in size every quarter since launch in May, 2008. He is being nominated for Best eLearning Executive in the Maestro eLearning Awards, presented by Maestro eLearning, a customer service company in the business of building custom online training courses. What follows is an interview between Ryan and the award committee.
Q. Ryan, what’s life like as the president of an eLearning company?
Each day is like starting work on a puzzle. I spend my time looking at all of the pieces and I identify the relationship between each piece. The main difference between my day and a puzzle is that the picture on the box was one that I created and many of the pieces that I am looking at belong to a different puzzle. And some of the pieces for the puzzle need to be created from scratch.
My role is to sift through the pieces, create some pieces, and complete the puzzle. To make things more challenging, I also have to coordinate other people who are working on the puzzle too. Some days you love it, some days you hate it, and some days are a little bit of both—but it’s never a dull day.
Q. So tell us about a puzzle that you’re currently working on.
The general puzzle that I am focused on at the moment relates to developing social learning communities—that is, using social media as a new way of delivering education. I am of course proud to be the president of eduFire (a social learning community), but I have also been working on projects related to the use of social learning communities in workforce development.
I recently created an online college preparation program set within a private social network for a 50,000+ employee healthcare organization. This effort connected several puzzle pieces: corporate culture, social media, higher education, and career advancement—all under the auspices of social learning community. I'm very proud of that effort, and it continues to grow and develop. I see great power and potential from this sort of facilitated peer learning through social technologies.
Q. Sounds like you enjoy pushing what’s possible. How did you get to where you are today?
I wandered around early in my career. I started first in advertising and marketing. I moved into higher education later; first as an academic counselor, then into marketing again, and finally into eLearning. What helped me was to actively seek out my core philosophies: that education is important, that everyone should have access to high quality learning opportunities, that innovation and disruption are both necessary and good, and that technology is the great equalizer. I still wander a bit—but my core philosophies serve as a compass.
As far as lessons I've learned on my journey; it may sound a bit corny, but, I look at each challenge as an opportunity. My career started on the edge of the first DotCom bust and 9/11—the economy soured and I found myself looking for work. Losing a job is what brought me into education and thus into eLearning. It wasn't a friendly transition; but, I can now see the impact that an early challenge had for me. We are in the midst of another tough economy, but as they say, pressure creates diamonds. There are many things which are beyond our control, but we can control how we respond to situations.
Q. If someone wants to follow in your footsteps and start an eLearning company, what advice would you offer?
If someone wanted to follow in my footsteps I'd urge them to focus on their personal vision. Find that thing which inspires them. For me, greater access to educational opportunities has been my guide. I have followed my vision for the world specifically for the last four years. Increasing access led me to building the last company that I worked for and leads me in my current efforts with eduFire. But previous to these endeavors, I spent time learning what it was I believed in and understanding the mechanics of the world that I wanted to change. Remember, wherever you are now is prologue to where you want to go; use your time wisely.