Viewing posts tagged Internet

Pew/Elon: Technologies poised to outpace universities

A survey of technology experts suggest higher education in 2020 will be quite different than it is today with expectations of more-efficient collaborative environments and evaluation schemes.

In the Pew Internet/Elon University survey, 1,021 Internet experts, researchers, observers and users, 60% agreed with a statement that by 2020 “there will be mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning to leverage expert resources…a transition to ‘hybrid’ classes that combine online learning components with less-frequent on-campus, in-person class meetings.” Some 39% agreed with an opposing statement that said, “in 2020 higher education will not be much different from the way it is today.”

The full report is available here.

Although the survey methods employed do not yield scientifically meaningful results, it does suggest that there is a rift forming between university leaders and technologies on their visions of the “university of the future.” From the report:

A historical perspective was offered by Dan Ness, principal research analyst at MetaFacts, producers of the Technology User Profile. “The evolution of higher education might best be measured along a geologic timeframe than mere years or decades,” he wrote. “As a former college professor in Silicon Valley (before it was called that), I’ve seen new technologies emerge which promise to evolve higher education. In the 1970s, we talked about the exciting promises of distance learning and on-campus technology, only to meet the inertia of the administration and educators, as well as students. Certainly, education continues to evolve. However, expecting a dramatic change by 2020 may be bit sensationalistic.”

The year 2020 is only eight years away. Can universities pick up the pace and lead change, or will they follow the leads of others?

The university as a flag of convenience

This morning, Inside Higher Ed posted an article by Steve Kolowich on students from universities around the world earning credit by participating in an experimental Stanford University course that is being broadcasted at no (additional) cost:

That A.I. course was the flagship of a trio of Stanford computer science courses that were broadcast this fall, for the first time, to anyone on the Internet who cared to log in. This made Stanford the latest of a handful of elite American universities to pull back the curtain on their vaunted courses, joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare project, Yale University’s Open Yale Courses and the University of California at Berkeley’s Webcast.Berkeley, among others.

The article continues to describe the MOOC (“massive open online course”) scene, and how the online broadcasting of courses is causing institutions and students to question our traditional approaches to teaching. This is nothing new, as these activities have been going on for at least a decade. BUT, toward the end of the piece, Kolowich strikes gold:

“I don’t think its significant that ‘Stanford’ is doing this, I think it’s significant that [Stanford Professor] Peter Norvig is doing this,” says Michael Feldstein, a senior program manager for Cengage Learning and author of the popular education technology blog e-Literate. “He’s essentially using his reputation in the field to provide his stamp of approval on a student’s performance, independent of his institution.”

This raises the question, are we starting to see a shift away from organizing higher education around institutions, and instead reorienting toward a greater focus on individuals? Where we see the knowledge and expertise of individuals emerge and shadow institutions, will particular universities be sought out as mere flags of convenience for nomadic (knowmadic) faculty and their students, who, likewise may not be fully connected with a particular institution?

For non-elite universities, this presents a challenge. Unable to attract “top shelf” faculty, they will likely not be able to collect as much attention or potential revenue from MOOCs and other online initiatives. Instead, I predict they will pursue one of two pathways:

  • Subscribe to courses broadcasted by Stanford, MIT, and the other elites at the cost of shrinking their own teaching faculty.
  • Focus on doing what they do best: Provide industrial-style education at high cost.

For talented faculty at non-elite schools, can they afford such affiliations any longer?

Read Kolowich’s article at Inside Higher Ed.

Will it blend? Social media and education

This morning, MPR’s Midmorning aired a forum on the role of social media and education. From the program’s description:

How can social media and technology influence the way students learn and the way teachers teach? Kerri Miller hosted a live forum discussion with a Minnesota-based entrepreneur who is pioneering a social teaching project called Sophia, an internet (sic) platform that aims to enhance student learning both in and out of the classroom.

I also give my two cents at 30:41 into the program:

Sophia is featured in the broadcast. To request a beta invitation, click here.

Is YouTube bursting higher education's bubble? Not so fast…

Last Sunday, Jeffrey Young wrote about the use of the Internet to deliver lectures in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The article centered on the work of Salman Khan, who posts home-made lectures on YouTube:

The lo-fi videos seem to work for students, many of whom have written glowing testimonials or even donated a few bucks via a PayPal link. The free videos have drawn hundreds of thousands of views, making them more popular than the lectures by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, famous for making course materials free, or any other traditional institution online, according to the leaders of YouTube’s education section.


[…] called up one of the donors, Jason Fried, chief executive of 37signals, a hip business-services company, who recently gave an undisclosed amount to Khan Academy, to find out what the attraction was.

“The next bubble to burst is higher education,” he said. “It’s too expensive for people—there’s no reason why parents should have to save up a hundred grand to send their kids to college. I like that there are alternative ways of thinking about teaching.”

A review of the comments appended to the article suggest that many readers agree that higher education faces serious competition from online knowledge repositories. What the article misses however, is consideration of the conversion of information acquisition/collection to personal knowledge. Schools such as MIT, through their support of the OpenCourseWare Consortium, have demonstrated their understanding that the real value of higher education is not the downloading of knowledge through texts and lectures, but rather through the production of new and personal knowledge that their unique environments offer. This tacit, added values provided by the institutions are what define quality higher education.

European colleges and universities are notorious for having embraced lectures over other course formats (i.e., seminars, laboratories). In these environments, student learning does not occur as much within lecture halls as it occurs outside of the classroom — through interactions with other students, individual and informal study groups, independent or directed research, etc.

In the age of YouTube lectures, universities need not worry about their bubbles bursting, but rather, what they should be doing in the classrooms instead of lecturing.

Going global and purposive

Knowledge powers the 21st century

Dan Wallace (@ideafood) forwarded a link to this short essay by TED curator, Ted Anderson. Networking technologies are transforming the potential of teachers:

There are many scary things about today’s world. But one that is truly thrilling is that the means of spreading both knowledge and inspiration have never been greater. Five years ago, an amazing teacher or professor with the ability to truly catalyze the lives of his or her students could realistically hope to impact maybe 100 people each year. Today that same teacher can have their words spread on video to millions of eager students. There are already numerous examples of powerful talks that have spread virally to massive Internet audiences.

Indeed, the Chinese are figuring this out, and are packaging recordings of instruction by their top teachers in mobile devices. Moreover, free tools like Skype, YouTube and Twitter that operate on inexpensive hardware provide new opportunities not only for connecting teachers with a broader audience of students, but also for connecting students to the world. Likewise, both teachers and students can learn from …and co-create new knowledge with… their peers, globally.

In the comments, Michael Rossney makes another point:

When potential students are selecting a traditional school, or course or teacher the deciding factors are likely to be: Proximity, Cost, Availability of time/course places. These just aren’t such an issue online.

This concept is very real for me: Last week I attended an information evening from a prominent college here in Dublin on a business MBA. I wanted not just to learn strategies but to rub shoulders with result focused businesspeople, social entrepreneurs etc. As I left I couldn’t help thinking that I could get more value studying certain TED speakers or similar if I could just harness that information and use it.

So, there we go. The question isn’t access to technologies, but how we make the most of the technologies and knowledge resources available. Rather than blindly advocating for technological adoption, is it now time to focus on the purposive use of technologies for human capital development?

Tapscott: Memorizing facts is a waste of time

Cristóbal Cobo forwarded an article from Brand Republic from earlier this year. It contains a few provocative lines from Don Tapscott, co-author of Wikinomics:

Tapscott said: “Teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge — the internet is. Kids should learn about history but they don’t need to know all the dates.

“It is enough that they know about the Battle of Hastings, without having to memorise that it was in 1066. 

They can look that up and position it in history with a click on Google. Memorising facts and figures is a waste of time.”

Absolutely! “Download”/banking style pedagogies are made obsolete by Google and Wikipedia.

In our Leapfrog series, we have argued that education should concentrate on “upload” pedagogies, based on knowledge production by students and collaborating faculty, together with augmentations provided by a new category of community-based volunteers. Using the most advanced forms of information search engines, networks, early artificial intelligence, and the aforementioned volunteers, there is an opportunity to leapfrog education beyond any of the competition. This will require fundamental changes in the mission, structure, and curricula of education at all levels.

Time to drop memorization and refocus education on the liberal skills?

OECD teams with YouTube to discuss future of the Internet

Got development ideas for the digital world? The OECD is willing to engage in a dialog by video. The organization’s press release says it all:

OECD – Paris, 29 May 2008

OECD and YouTube launch “Future of the Internet” initiative

“How can the Internet make the world a better place?” This is the question OECD is asking the public on YouTube, the leading online video community, at

YouTube users can share their opinion with the leaders and opinion shapers attending the OECD Ministerial meeting on the “Future of the Internet” in Seoul, Korea on 17-18 June 2008.

“You tell the leaders and opinion shapers in Seoul what you think and they will upload responses to your ideas. Join in. Take part in making a difference,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

The best videos uploaded to will be shown to ministers and VIPs at the event. They will be invited to react and their answers will be uploaded on YouTube during the meeting.

In Seoul, all participants, including government ministers from more than 40 countries and hundreds of global leaders from international government organisations, business, the Internet’s technical community and civil society, will be encouraged to submit their own answers at a dedicated YouTube booth on site.

For full details of how to participate, see

Thanks to Dr. Cristóbal Cobo for the tip.

Another m-learning hopeful comes to the U.S.

Another OLPC competitor has entered the U.S. market. This time, Hewlett Packard Co. is releasing a lightweight “Mini-Note” line of notebook computers. Each unit weighs less than 3 pounds with a screen that measures 8.9 inches diagonally. A Linux-based model is available for under $500. According to an AP article, the devices are not being positioned for large-scale deployment in the developing world:

The Mini-Note will compete primarily with Intel’s Classmate PCs — which are designed by Intel and feature Intel chips but are built and branded by other companies — and Asustek’s Eee PC.

To a lesser extent, they also will go up against the XO laptop from the Cambridge, Mass., nonprofit One Laptop per Child, which is intended primarily for schoolchildren in developing countries.

m-Learning comes to the U.S.

NPR reports that the One Laptop Per Child project will provide computers for kids in Birmingham, Alabama. The report highlights a key challenge of the project: Can a slow computer have an impact in a high-speed society? Maybe not.

Meanwhile, Nokia quietly announced the WiMAX edition of the N810 Internet Tablet. As noted here previously, it’s predecessor, the N800, has potential as an m-learning device. The N810 is based on the same hardware and software architecture, but incorporates a keyboard and can connect to both Wi-Fi and WiMAX networks. Can the expanded networking capabilities of the Linux-powered N810 WiMAX fill the low-cost (but highly connected) computing gap in U.S. education?

Network Solutions joins the namespace piracy business

This is a little bit off topic; but having just experienced a month-and-a-half-long ordeal where my domain was taken hostage by “investors,” I believe it’s important to build awareness of this disturbing trend. Jay Westerdal writes at the DomainTools Blog on how Network Solutions, a company entrusted to manage Internet top level domains, is entering the namespace piracy market:

If a customer chooses not to register the domain name with Network Solution (sic) they are forced to wait 4 days for Network Solutions to delete the domain name in the Free Add Grace period. After the four day hostage period the consumer is free from the hostage situation and can register the domain somewhere else. However Network Solutions has now exposed those domains to Domain Tasters that will snipe those domain up milliseconds after Network Solutions deletes them. By registering the domain Network Solutions is exposing the domain in the DNS and every computer in the world now knows about the domain. These domains are now easy fodder for scammers and it is mind blowing that Network Solutions would expose their customers queries to the world in this manner.