EnlightenEd

Fantasy Philosophy: Machiavelli vs. Kant?

Fantasy Philosophy: Machiavelli vs. Kant?

Machiavelli, in his book The Prince gives us several incendiary quotes that, one could argue, serve as a reference for modern-day entrepreneurs. Machiavelli’s philosophy epitomizes the struggles of a modern entrepreneur and serves as a guide for surviving that “dog-eat-dog” world.

 

“It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.“

Niccolo Machiavelli

 

In today’s world of competition, it’s frequently easy to ignore ethics and morals and focus instead on profit margins and bottom lines. Machiavelli serves as a guide for most politicians and some entrepreneurs as he gives them a way to bend the rules to fit their needs.

 

“The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.”

Niccolò Machiavelli

 

In Machiavelli’s world, morals, ethics, values, promises, are all relative – and all that matters is the victory at the end. But what exactly does that victory entail? Are money, fame, and power the real answer to our quests for our being? As you might have seen in my article on Plato’s Eudaimonia, one can have a fulfilled life if one focuses on reforming society through innovations. Nietzsche takes it to the next level and gives us a clear blueprint for overcoming societal pressures and vices to truly realize one’s inner potential. 

 

While Plato and Nietzche lay out the high-level framework as to how far we can go, it’s hard to apply these ideas to daily practice. Imagine an average startup entrepreneur, struggling to support his fledgling business, trying to get through his next payroll, or worse – possibly trying to avoid bankruptcy because of his mounting financial obligations. I wrote about “going all-in” a few years ago to explain my journey during the initial phases of my startup; I am sure many of us had similar horror stories involving predator loans, merchant credits, vulture investors, financial consultants, and legal advisors and how we kept looking for the easy way out, only to realize that these shortcuts lead us to worse situations. The last thing an entrepreneur wants to think about while fighting these fires is some idealistic vision laid out by Plato, Socrates, Nietzsche, or any other philosopher for that matter. In times of struggle, all that matters is to figure a way out of the current crisis. At least that’s how I felt when things were hard for me. 

 

While Machiavelli can claim to provide answers and justifications for breaking promises, being facetious and even being directly unethical at times to win at any cost does not fit my moral compass. In my personal opinion these measures might bring short-term wealth, but do not bring long-term fulfillment. 

 

What’s the best way to solve this? Let’s apply cartesian skepticism to look at the solution from a different perspective. 

 

I want to introduce Immanuel Kant, a Prussian German Philosopher from the Age of Enlightenment. Immanuel Kant is one of my favorite philosophers, as he provides a simple blueprint for decision making in his Categorical Imperative doctrine, and I have applied it in several sticky situations with great success over the years.

 

From Wikipedia –

 

A categorical imperative denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that must be obeyed in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself. It is best known in its first formulation:

 

“Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.”

— Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

 

According to Kant, we cannot operate on moral relativism, applying morals where convenient, and ignoring them when they are not. According to his reasoning, we first have a perfect duty not to act by maxims that result in logical contradictions when we attempt to universalize them. 

 

Kant believed in the concept of perfect duties – in general, precise responsibilities are those that are blameworthy if not met, as they are an essential required duty for a human being.

 

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end.”

— Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

 

Simply put,this maxim tells us that we should not consider fellow humans as some “means to an end” – in other words, we should not try to manipulate a fellow human being so that he can return a favor, or help us with a need. We should treat all humans with respect, and assume that they are autonomous and independent, and that their decisions oftentimes have no dependency on our actions.

 

“Thus the third practical principle follows [from the first two] as the ultimate condition of their harmony with practical reason: the idea of the will of every rational being as a universally legislating will.”

— Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

 

The third formulation says that if everyone follows the first two formulations, there will be no need for laws and regulations. Humans will be able to reach a state of “self-legislation,” where each human will be able to make the right decision by following the first two formulations. 

 

In business terms, this is the definition of the free market, or at least the utopian vision behind it. If each business works ethically, to win the business of customers, there will be no need for a regulatory body to enforce rules and regulations on these businesses. 

 

“Act according to maxims of a universally legislating member of a merely possible kingdom of ends.”

— Immanuel Kant, Grounding for the Metaphysics of Morals

 

The fourth formulation describes a utopian world where each person is autonomous and working on these categorical imperatives, and ultimately making the world a better place (kingdom of ends). Imagine a world where every human acts in full awareness and adherence to their consciousness, acting in adherence to the first two formulations. Such a world would expect every human to be self-legislative, and this universe would not need any laws for social order. In this utopian world, every human being can be trusted completely to make the right decision at all times.

 

Business and Philosophy

 

The more I read Kant and Machiavelli and their perspectives on virtues, morals, and ethics, the more I wondered if any of these ideas are relevant to the world we live in. In the current climate, being called a “cut-throat” CEO is  considered a great compliment for an entrepreneur, “shark” investor is a praise for a new banker, and being called a “vulture” is considered a good thing for a financial firm. Is this “dog-eat-dog” world ready for anyone other than Machiavelli? Frankly, Machiavelli seems like our true friend with quotes like these –

 

The fact is that a man who wants to act virtuously in every way necessarily comes to grief among so many who are not virtuous.

Niccolo Machiavelli

 

In the above quote, Machiavelli advises against acting virtuously, as most people in the world are not virtuous. However, by subscribing to the theory that some people in the world are not virtuous, some give themselves an excuse to break their own moral or ethical code of behavior. 

 

I considered the ruthless world we live in, and how philosophy could be of any use in the challenges faced by modern entrepreneurs on a day-to-day basis. Like any other experiment, philosophy is best tested by considering some use cases. 

Pet Walking

 

Imagine the following scenario – you are a pet owner, and you walk your puppy every morning and evening. You pick up after her every time, with the assumption that all other pet owners are doing the same, and you also know that it’s the “right thing to do.” What if one decides not to pick up after their pet, because some pet owners are not picking up after their pets? If you join the irresponsible pet owners, aren’t you making your neighborhood a worse place? In fact, if some pet owners forget to pick up after their pet, isn’t it the right thing to do to pick it up as well, just because?

 

In my pet walking example, applying the first formulation will look somewhat like this – “If I can make a universal law that no pet owner should pick up after their pet, I will stop picking up after my pet.” I am sure you will agree that such a law would be absurd – not to mention, our lawns would become unbearable as the result of such a law. 

 

Applying Kant’s second formulation – “Pick up after a neighbor’s pet without any assumption that the neighbor will return your favor. Do this because this is the right thing to do.”

 

Applying Kant’s third formulation – “If all responsible pet owners follow the first formulation and pick up after their pet, and also pick up when an owner forgets without any expectation – all our gardens will be perfect!”

 

 

Applying Kant’s fourth formulation – “If all responsible pet owners follow the first formulation and pick up after their pet, and also pic kup when an owner forgets without any expectation, there will be no need for laws, regulations, fines, and tribulations to manage this pet waste problem.”

 

As far irresponsible pet owners are concerned, they might get some satisfaction from letting others take care of their basic responsibilities, but I am hopeful that they might feel guilty eventually, and decide to do the right thing. If they don’t have this basic level of conscience,  their small violations often lead to bigger crimes and ultimately catch up to them. 

 

If we can trust humans to be “self-legislating” with pet walking, then we should be able to trust humans in general on other matters as well. For the most part, humans don’t need laws – most of us wake up, get dressed, show up to work on time, take care of our families responsibly, and perform our duties as responsible citizens without the threat of punishment from the authorities. All of this comes from our internal core value system, and Kant believes that if we can strengthen that core with clear, non-negotiable guidelines (categorical imperatives), we can solve more complex problems as well.

 

Competitive Bidding 

 

Imagine being in a competitive bidding war with another firm, but this other firm has always been unethical with their practices and quotes. One of your staff members advises you to be dishonest and provide a stronger bid in order to help you win the business. The reasoning?  One can only defeat deceit with deceit.

 

Now let’s revisit the use-case of a bidding war with your unethical competitor, and see if the first formulation helps us. As always, you have two options:

 

 

  • Machiavelli’s approach: Submit a dishonest proposal, and stay in the race. Promises are meant to be broken, remember?
  • Categorical Imperative: Stay true to your values, and probably lose the submission to the unethical competitor.

 

 

In our example laid out above, if we adopt “It’s OK to be dishonest on a proposal to win against another dishonest bid,” as our maxim, we should be willing to take this as the universal law, and this implies that everyone should be able to cheat on their proposals. This eventually makes the bidding process useless and will make our dishonesty frivolous. 

 

Loan in Crisis

 

The company is in a cash crunch because of a terrible year of losses. It would help if the company did whatever it could to survive. One of the ways the CEO could alleviate the problem would be by breaking promises to lenders, customers, and possibly employees.

 

For this use-case the second formulation helps us. As always, you have two options:

 

 

  • Machiavelli’s approach: Pursue your plans to become a wealthy person’s friend, to manipulate this person and extract a personal loan at all costs.
  • Categorical Imperative: Decide to come clean and not pursue this plan, at the expense of failing your business.

 

In the example above, if we follow Kant’s second axiom, we need to ignore the path that justifies deceit to solicit funds. However, once we decide that such a shortcut is no longer an option,we might think more clearly about following the right course of action, even if that means accepting failure in your business. Or there might be a more viable option, where you explain the perilous state of your business with complete honesty to this wealthy contact,  provide him full details as to the risks involved, and allow him to make the decision. In my interactions with investors, friends, and associates, I have learned that providing the full picture might make you look vulnerable at times. However, being honest, even though it’s inconvenient to do so, allows you to treat your fellow human beings with the respect they most deserve.

 

Summary

 

Over the years, I am sure I have made some errors in my personal and business life. I can take stock of a few times I might have resorted to Machiavellian tactics at times. In those situations, I am pretty sure I ended up disappointed as a result. I never understood the cause of my disappointment instead of happiness, even when things worked. Thanks to my cartesian skepticism, I came across Kant’s categorical imperative. Kant’s doctrine gave me an unambiguous framework to make the right decisions, even in the most perilous of circumstances. 

 

Let’s look at our use-cases and ponder the alternative of using Machiavellian tactics instead of Categorical Imperatives.

 

If one wins an award by making misleading statements, this person would live in fear that the customer might figure out his/her dishonesty eventually. Or even if the customer continues to trust them, he/she might end up failing on the project, as they were not a good fit to begin with. 

 

Machiavelli’s prompt to “break a promise” might sound simple when the entrepreneur is in a bind. However, such breaches of trust can have a long-term impact on employee morale or put strains on your personal and business relations. More importantly, employees can decide to follow the entrepreneur’s lead and break their promises to the company when the company needs them most. 

 

If one takes Machiavelli’s approach for deceiving a wealthy associate and taking loans from this person under false pretenses, this person’s subconscious might run into similar problems as he/she broke their morals and ethics and manipulated a fellow human being for his/her selfish ends.

 

I guess the above assertions about guilt might not apply for a person with no conscience. Machiavelli may speak to those people, lucky ones. However, I am a proud Kantian, and I will be satisfied with a life of minimal wealth, but opulent conscience – not the other way round.


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Achieving Eudaimonia

Achieving Eudaimonia

 

When the mind is thinking it is talking to itself. 

Plato

On the surface, philosophers and entrepreneurs do not have much in common.  When we think of a typical philosopher – we envision someone clad in a loincloth, thinking and brooding on his own, shunning society, writing books, and disconnected from the world. Philosophers question everything; they engage in discussions and communicate their radical ideas through their books and rhetoric; they are not afraid of taking risks, and they take a firm stance on their ideas on the most incomprehensible topics. If you need any examples of just how radical these philosophers were – look up Nietzsche’s (in)famous quotes on God, and Schopenhauer’s perspectives on love, or Rene Descartes’  spectacular skepticism as to whether his own existence was an illusion. Philosophers truly transform the world with their ideas, visions, and belief systems. The more we think about it – successful entrepreneurs do the same. An average entrepreneur behaves the same way that a philosopher does, reimagines the world with his/her ideas, and innovates with his/her own products and solutions. 

Here are some commonalities between philosophers and entrepreneurs:

  • Philosophers and entrepreneurs question the status quo. Entrepreneurs create products and solutions that are designed to change the world we live in.
  • Philosophers and entrepreneurs are not afraid of taking risks to present their visions to the world.
  • Philosophers and entrepreneurs engage in discussions and communicate their radical ideas through their rhetoric. Philosophers do so through their books; entrepreneurs do so through their speeches, emails, social media, and personal communications.

After I came to this realization of how similar philosophers and entrepreneurs were, I searched for articles with more information on applying philosophical ideas to entrepreneurship. I was hoping that I would find tons of articles, whitepapers, books, and other artifacts similar to the content available on ethics and entrepreneurship. But I was disappointed with what I found in my search – only a handful of articles on the subject exist. What’s more, these articles just scratched the surface of rhetoric, uncertainty, risks,  communication, etc. There haven’t been many articles on philosophy and entrepreneurship, even though there is a wealth of knowledge that the average entrepreneur can garner from this rich subject. I decided to lead the way and start writing articles myself, to begin this journey.

Let’s turn the clock backward, all the way to 300 BC, and meet Plato.

About 2,400 years ago, Plato contemplated the human condition – and its cure. Plato believed that most humans live their lives impulsively, and compared each of us to charioteers dragged by blindfolded, wild horses. Most of us can guess what these wild horses are – love, fame, money, greed, envy, and other impulses that drive some of us (and probably most entrepreneurs). In fact, some would argue that these wild horses are the keys to the success of some of the leading entrepreneurs of our times. My favorite entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Larry Page, can probably attribute their successes to these wild horses. Plato believed that while these wild horses are needed to be successful, a fulfilled life can be achieved only if we remove the blindfolds from these horses and tame them to meet our purpose. The result of this process is Eudaimonia (Greek: εὐδαιμονία [eu̯dai̯moníaː]), sometimes anglicized as eudaemonia or eudemonia /juːdɪˈmoʊniə/, a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, “human flourishing or prosperity” and “blessedness” have been proposed as more accurate translations.

According to Plato, Eudaimonia can only be achieved by thinking deeper and getting past superficial motivators. True happiness comes from getting past these superficial external factors and traveling inwards. This inward journey should focus on being within – by engaging with your true self, in its rawest state. The journey will run into many obstacles, from multiple directions – but your biggest enemy for this progress will probably be your inner voice. I can’t speak for others, but this was the case for me. I was confronted with all sorts of emotions and distractions when I began this journey, and I only completed a couple of blocks out of a 100-mile marathon.

Thinking deeper is easier said than done, for most entrepreneurs or business professionals in general. We are routinely fighting tactical fires, handling strategic decisions, dealing with employee issues, supporting board oversight, and handling client challenges, all while performing our duties and tackling administrative issues. Unfortunately, the overhead and resource demands on a typical CEO are much worse in the startup stage, as most startup CEOs have to perform multiple roles within the company to bring about process efficiencies and keep costs low. Most CEOs of tech startups specifically play the role of CMO, CFO, CRO, and sometimes even roll up their sleeves to get into project management and application development as well.  Plato understood that this self-reflection can be hard at times, and he recommended following a process of inquiry called the Socratic method. After much deliberation (and extreme resistance), I decided to try this method and answer some of the questions that have stayed with me since I was a child. My first step was to write them down, and some of them were obvious. However – my inner voice continued to distract me and discourage me from this exercise. My inner voice just wanted to get back to work, or if there was free time, binge-watch GOT for the second time. I tried to shut it down, but documented my inner voice, too – as much as the inner voice was a detractor, it’s part of who I am, as well.

  • What’s my purpose in life?
    • Inner voice: Who decides this purpose, BTW? If you (or I) decide it – then, why does it matter?
  • How do I define a successful life? 
    • Inner voice: More importantly – what is (y)our definition of success? I just want to chill out on a beach and play golf.
  • Are my life choices predetermined? 
    • Inner voice: If they are predetermined, why can’t you(we) just chill out, dude!
  • What will happen after my own death?
    • Inner voice: Does it truly matter? Once you are dead, it’s lights out for us!
  • How do I keep my family happy?
    • Inner voice: Good one! Tell me when you find out. You(we) could use some help here.
  • How do I attain a truly fulfilled life?
    • Inner voice: Plato – need help! I can run and get you a Venti Frappuccino if that helps.
  • How can I become the best version of myself to my utmost satisfaction?
    • Inner voice: Isn’t this the same as a fulfilled life? You are thinking too much, Kiran!

Some of these are deeply personal, as you can imagine. As you can see, my inner voice continued to make things harder on me by being sarcastic at first, and at times downright confrontational, and uncooperative as well – it kept pulling me towards that tempting remote. I turned on some music, hid the remote from the inner-self, and decided to use the Socratic method – so I called a friend. I feel privileged to have a few of these friends in my close circle, some that I went to elementary school with, and some that I met during my college years. It’s very important that the person you engage in the Socratic method is your confidant, who inquires without judging you, listens without preconceived notions of any kind, and most importantly – this person should be at a similar (or higher) philosophical elevation as you, in order for them to understand and appreciate your inquiries. I feel fortunate to have a friend who is more enlightened than me, and equally curious as to the nature of the world and our place in the human ecosystem. I began the journey with this friend and then continued on with my inner thoughts as they evolved, documenting them on the way, and discussing when needed with my friends and close circle.

This process allowed me to focus enough to reach the first draft of my answers to these questions. I am pretty sure those answers will change over time – sometimes these changes may take years, and sometimes they might change in a couple of days. Regardless of the changes, this approach to documenting the information can be helpful when we face big challenges and milestones that can shake us to our core.

During the formative years of my business, I ran into several issues where most of my advisors and even close friends made predictions about my company’s insurmountable upheavals. We were trying to build scale in a vertical that’s very hard to convince, and the sales cycles were too long for a startup to thrive and succeed.  There were a few times where I felt like giving up and believed that this battle might not be worth hanging on to. I saw a dark scenario where I would lose my entire life savings, my family home, my reputation, and everything I stood for, barring a few miraculous developments. During these dark times, I even contemplated giving up, and cutting my losses – but every time I thought about it, my combative inner voice woke up and reminded me of my purpose.  Every time I was reminded of that purpose, I decided to shake off the negativity and commit myself to fight harder, aim higher, and never giving up.

My own personal journey taught me that defining the purpose of a company is crucial for the success of a startup. Having clarity of purpose allows the founders to focus their resources properly during the initial stages of the company. More importantly, it allows them to weather the dark clouds and keep fighting until they reach their targets. Unfortunately, some startup founders confuse purpose with outcomes. Some assume the purpose of the company is to become rich, famous, powerful and respected.  As important as these outcomes are, they are not the same as purpose. In short – having a clear purpose for the company will allow a CEO to realize his/her Eudaimonia

If you are a CEO looking to build your purpose statement, I recommend starting the following questions to build your company’s philosophy framework:

  1. What’s the purpose of my company?
  2. How do I define success for my company?
  3. Is my company predetermined to be successful?
  4. What will happen when my company shuts down?
  5. What’s the nature of a happy employee?
  6. What’s the path for my Eudaimonia (fulfilled life)?
  7. How can I become an Übermensch (“superhuman”) to reach my fullest potential?

If you need help writing answers to these questions, let’s go back to Plato. Plato recommended 4 big ideas to reach this fulfilled state. Let’s consider these, from an entrepreneur’s perspective:

  • Think Strategically – Plato called for individuals to Think More and get past the superficial desires to have the most expensive car, the biggest house, or the most powerful job. According to Plato, true happiness comes from getting past these superficial external factors and traveling inwards. This inward journey should focus on engaging with your true self, in its rawest state. Some people might find it difficult to travel this journey on their own, but they can find a good friend or companion who can help them on this path by asking them the right questions and helping them focus. Plato followed this method of inquiry in his writings, especially his most-read work – The Republic. Plato’s method of Q&A is called the Socratic Method and it’s used even today – 2,400 years after his time.

For the modern CEO, I modified this to Think Strategic – travel inwards to identify the soul of the company and engage with it to layout strategic objectives to support the growth of the company. Following the paradigm of avoiding Doxa (superficial excitements) by ignoring the temptations to take shortcuts to get rich quickly or to focus on the base instincts of money, power, and influence in society. Thinking strategically allows a CEO to become decoupled from the blindfolded wild horses of expediency, 

  • Learn from your team – Plato originally recommended “Learn from your lover,” which was somewhat radical at his day, when women were objectified everywhere. Plato, however, believed that a true relationship relied on two partners inspiring each other to become better versions of themselves.  

From an entrepreneur’s perspective, I think we can change this to “learn from your team,” instead. Some entrepreneurs overestimate their power of intuition, and this overconfidence can lead to serious troubles if the CEO makes impulsive decisions. This can be avoided by discussing those decisions with the team – whether it’s the directors, middle management, or the whole staff. Having an open dialogue with the team about critical decisions allows the whole company to be part of the decision-making process, and most importantly, provides the CEO with an ability to learn from his/her team.

  • Appreciate and use art – Art has the power to make us happy. It’s a simple truth that when we see beautiful places, things, and people, we feel happy. In the same way, seeing unsightly places, events, and things can make us feel gross and unhappy. Plato believed that a fulfilled life should include engagement with the art of some kind – pottery, literature, poetry, music, dance, or whatever one’s heart desires is a vital component of every being, according to Plato. 

Successful CEOs should consider their product/service an art form, and perfect it just like one would perfect a poem, or literature, by focusing on every painstaking detail before putting it out for public consumption. Case in point – Steve Jobs considered all his products a work of art. He pushed his staff to focus not only on external appearances and details but the internal hardware as well. He chastised them about the symmetry of the motherboard layout, the color of the invisible screws, and focused on every single detail. Steve Jobs was a maestro, not only because of his attention to detail but also because of his ability to deliver presentations flawlessly. Underneath it all, he was an artist. He loved simplicity; he loved music, and he aspired to write poetry. 

  • Reform Society – Plato saw that the leaders in Athens were corrupt, immoral, and lacked the focus to truly support their citizens. He believed that a ruler needed to become a philosopher in order to be successful – or that philosophers themselves need to rule, as an alternative. Unfortunately, we see similar traits in our leaders 2400 years after Plato. While we cannot teach our leaders philosophy, we can implement these principles in our own actions. 

As a founder/CEO/professional, applying the rules of philosophy to your company/team/community can help us reform our own society. This can eventually lead to the utopian society that Plato believed in.

So, this is all great, but can philosophy help us answer the urgent, pressing, tactical problems of the modern enterprise? How can a “Philosopher CEO” operate in this competitive world with threats from all directions? Can these 2400-year-old suggestions possibly still apply to this modern world? Wouldn’t this make a CEO weak, and ultimately easily destroyed by his competitors? And most importantly – how can philosophy get me more customers and support the cash flow of a company?

Let’s walk through some of the issues and some of the philosophical questions CEOs face during their careers. Here are a few random questions I came up with, but I am sure there are a lot more for us to consider as we explore.

  1. You trust a manufacturing company to build your product line. The manufacturing company advises you that they have the trade secrets of your competitor, and they approach you with the opportunity to “buy” this from them for a cost. 
  2. An employee is due for his/her annual performance bonus in a month. He quits his job a month before his bonus was due. We are not obligated to pay him, as per company policies. 
  3. In your recent board meeting, you were informed that one of your competitors is gaming the system by allowing a flawed component in their product, and hence making their product more affordable than your product. You are presented with the opportunity to use this flawed component in your design to cut costs. 

 

In the coming days, I will try to apply the teachings of the great philosophers to answer my own questions as an entrepreneur. Please do feel free to provide feedback and advice on any additional questions I should be thinking of as I write this series. I don’t have a formal degree in philosophy and I certainly do not claim to be an expert in this ocean of knowledge. So, please pardon my errors and bring them to my attention. As Plato teaches us, one of the most important aspects of gaining wisdom is this: I know that I know nothing


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CEO Blog: Blockchains in Education

CEO Blog: Blockchains in Education

by Kiran Kodithala

As educational institutions start thinking of new models of learning and affordable education, one of the common threads for this transformation is enabling a student to enroll in a course at any institution and apply this course towards his degree progression. This interoperability and interconnectivity between educational institutions is so vital that some state legislatures have passed laws to mandate institutions within the state to allow students to cross-enroll. While this is a very noble effort it is often very difficult to implement because of the disparity between each educational institution and lack of common standards for sharing data. Such interoperability is difficult and may require contracts between institutions to respect the disparities between course catalogs, student grades, and other administrative data.

Thanks to Blockchain technology, such issues can easily be resolved by exposing institutional data thorough standardized APIs. N2N’s Integration Platform, Illuminate, can enable Blockchain
APIs at participating institutions. These Blockchain APIs can be used real-time or ad-hoc to support the development of a secure online database that stores the rules and contracts between participating institutions.

Real-world examples of  Blockchains in education use-cases include:
1. Participating institutions upload course catalogs to the Blockchain system and map institution’s course catalog to the Blockchain master catalog

2. Participating institutions upload grading policies to the Blockchain system and map institution’s grading scale to Blockchain master grading scale

3. Participating institutions upload transfer policies to the Blockchain system and map institution’s transfer policies to Blockchain master transfer policies

4. Students search for available courses on the Blockchain course shopping cart

5. Students register for a course of their choice from an institution of their preference through Blockchain registration module

6. Students can upload their unstructured learning portfolio to Blockchain Personal Value Ledger (PVL)

7. Students can submit their PVL to participating institutions for earning course credits towards their degree progression

8. Students can submit their PVL to participating employers to apply for a job.

Blockchain technology has the potential to disrupt how we learn, graduate and earn in ways we can only dream of. The Illuminate Platform’s turnkey SIS APIs, Blockchain Support and Integration API catalogs can enable a seamless transition to this bright future.

 


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How Learning Management Systems Have Evolved Over The Years

How Learning Management Systems Have Evolved Over The Years

Learning management systems have become essential to higher education institutions since their inception. Among other functions, LMS allow students and professors to communicate, assign and complete homework, and report and check grades—all through one application on their phone, tablet, or laptop. The change that LMS has brought to class management and learning is huge, but it didn’t happen all at once.

Learning management systems have evolved a great deal over the years, from the humblest of beginnings to the powerful, multi-functional LMS that most students use today.

In their most basic form, LMS began in 1960 with the PLATO program at the University of Illinois. Programmed Logic For Automated Operations wasn’t much by today’s standards, but it was the first step down a path that would eventually lead us to today’s advanced LMS.

After PLATO, LMS gradually became more capable and advanced, until FirstClass came out in 1990. This was the real beginning of what we now consider an LMS, using collaborative features that included private email and public forums. FirstClass pioneered much of what we see today in LMS, and it’s still being used in new iterations.

The pace of new innovations began to pick up after the turn of the century, and one of the first new additions to LMS was Moodle in 2002—the first open-source LMS available. It simply had to be downloaded to a home PC, and anyone could start learning using the LMS. Moodle is also still very popular as an open-source LMS.

In 2005, VirtualOnDemand allowed users to train in software programs using just a web browser for the first time—another significant step in the progress toward modern LMS.

Then in 2008, Eucalyptus became the first free, open-sourced, and cloud-based LMS. Run entirely from the cloud, it required no servers or internal networks, marking a monumental change in the technology behind LMS. 2008 was also the same year that mobile access to the internet exceeded desktop access for the first time. As we now know, mobile access to LMS has taken off, as students expect to be able to access grades, messages, homework, and even quizzes from their mobile devices.

In the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, cloud based computing gained even more momentum, and SaaS learning management systems have grown—allowing campuses to use these advanced programs without installing any new in-house systems. And it’s not just LMS that are using the cloud. Many functions that used to be in-house are being transferred to the cloud.

The SaaS revolution has led to campuses adding new apps and systems like LMS, as well as a variety of others. And all of those new, cloud-based apps have to work together with each other, as well as with older, legacy IT systems. If your campus is looking for a way to integrate all of these disparate apps and systems, then contact N2N Services today. We’ll show you how a comprehensive integration platform can help you get the most out of your LMS, and provide your students with the best possible education.


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N2N and Modo Labs – Changing the face of mobile apps in higher education

N2N and Modo Labs – Changing the face of mobile apps in higher education

At N2N, our goal is to solve the systems integration challenges of educational institutions and support an integrated digital campus. We achieve this by helping our partners and their clients with all of their integration needs, using our state-of-the-art Integration Platform as a Service. Now, colleges and universities are able to easily integrate new, cloud-based apps with their existing IT apps and systems in a cost-effective manner. Illuminate acts a translator for these disparate apps and systems, allowing them to integrate seamlessly with each other.

Students and faculty may not know it, but when they use their mobile apps, they’re accessing information from several different departments, and this information has to get to them quickly and securely. At N2N, we want those apps to be as safe and effective as possible, and that’s why we’ve teamed up with Modo Labs to combine our services and make it easier than ever for colleges and universities to develop and implement their own mobile apps.

Using their Kurogo Platform, Modo Labs is putting powerful mobile implementation and development capabilities directly into the hands of non-developers. So instead of hiring costly app developers or expensive consultants, higher education institutions can develop mobile apps that are ideal for their campus’without the traditional costs. Kurogo’s unique combination of data access, powerful pre-built functionality, and ease-of-use dramatically reduces mobile development time and costs.

The combination of Kurogo and Illuminate provides colleges and universities with the ability to design mobile apps that fit their needs, and to make sure that those apps will be effectively integrated with their present systems. The broad range of disparate data sources faced by most universities can be easily integrated and accessed through N2N’s powerful Illuminate data engine, and in turn, quickly mobilized into a rich mobile experience through the Kurogo mobile app assembly platform.

Kiran Kodithala, President and CEO of N2N Services, puts it like this. “Students, Administrators and Faculty at campuses have been looking for a comprehensive mobile app that they can use for student engagement and student success. This partnership gives institutions of higher education the best of all worlds. While N2N provides secure enterprise data access, Modo Labs offers the best-of-breed front-end mobile experience that makes it possible to quickly leverage that data on any device.”

The partnership between N2N and Modo Labs is a dramatic step towards our goal of a fully integrated campus, where students can access their information at any time, and be sure that their personal data is safe and secure on the app they are using. Kurogo and Illuminate are two powerful platforms that together are changing the way colleges and universities think about their options for mobile applications.

At N2N, we pride ourselves on our partnerships with some of the most innovative companies in higher education, and we’re not done yet. If you’d like to hear more about how partnering with N2N Services can help your business, then contact us today.


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