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Richie Crim

David Kidd

Richie Crim says he has a fix for much of what ails higher ed. Looking to take a tech-centric approach to pedagogy? Stop paying for stuff you can get for free.

“The problem in higher ed is we want to do a lot with just a little money. We need software to do all these different things, and so we pay for a lot of expensive tools when there is a lot of open source stuff out there that the student could go home and download at no cost,” he said.

Think about it. A teacher puts together a whiz-bang program using Adobe Photoshop and other name-brand tools. “But the student does not have the money to buy the product, so they learn it in class and now they cannot go home and use it,” he said.

To attack the problem, Crim has built a massive database of free and open source tools and software products. He’s cataloged over 80 so far, and hopes to get 101 tools in the inventory. There are capture and edit tools for audio and video, productivity tools, social media management software, and a range of other products, all free for the asking. “Before this, there was no one place to find all these resources,” he said. “Now I get calls monthly from people who have heard my presentation and want to learn more.”

All this is a long way from where Crim started 10 years ago, when he joined the team as director of tech services — basically the help desk guy. His office still handles paper shredder jams, but his work today goes well beyond the nuts and bolts.

“People hear ‘IT’ and they cringe. They think it’s about compliance requirements and telling them all the things they can’t do,” he said. “Being at the table in bigger meetings, I am able to provide something greater not just in terms of IT, but in terms of higher ed.” — Adam Stone