Universities in the "Free" Era - SXSW 2010 Presentation

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Presentation at SXSW Interactive 2010 about the future of higher education. MIT, Yale, Stanford, and others put lectures online. Chris Anderson argues all university lectures should be free. From …

Presentation at SXSW Interactive 2010 about the future of higher education. MIT, Yale, Stanford, and others put lectures online. Chris Anderson argues all university lectures should be free. From Academic Earth to TED, it's free. So what is the value-add of a university education? What models of higher education will survive? How will universities leverage the social web to reinvent themselves?

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  • Such a wonderful and creative presentation. I like the way contents are being published.

    Mark Chang, www.free-ringtones.co.in/ www.free-ringtones-for-sprint.com/
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  • Very nice presentation, great overview. Another potential disruptor is the Peer2Peer University (http://p2pu.org), which I am involved with. We try to provide structured online learning groups around open educational resources.
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  • Following up on Anya Kamenetz’s presentation yesterday and her book, DIYU.Six parts to this presentation: 1. Role of Higher Education 2. University System in Collapse 3. Tectonic Change 4. The Disruptors 5. The New Professor 6. Next Steps
  • Need a referent point (points) if later, we are to evaluate the merits of new models.
  • First and foremost, back to Greco-Roman times.
  • Research University. Modern construct. NSF study found as much as 50% of new products come from universities.
  • Holisticgrowth. “Most of what I learned in college I didn’t learn in the classroom.”
  • Global and local impact. Service learning.
  • Last two are relatively new. Spence, in 1974, first wrote about this.
  • Universities have focused on this to varying degrees.
  • "The most enduring institutions of Western civilization are the Roman Catholic Church; legislative assemblies and other government entities in Great Britain, Iceland, the Isle of Man and Switzerland; the Bank of Siena; and 61 universities.”Clark Kerr, Higher Education Cannot Escape History: Issues for the Twenty-First Century (Albany: State University of New York, 1994)
  • Average private tuition in US - $25K, 4 times of public in 08/09. Rising well faster than inflation. State subsidies disappearing. 2/3 of students graduate with debt, which future salaries don’t justify. (e.g. it would take 17 years of higher salaries from private institution graduates to make up for the difference in cost).
  • The interest in, and need for, a pure residential experience is fast disappearing. This model is being challenged by a growing set of voices. The university a single center of knowledge is both impractical and inaccurate.
  • The timing of traditional university education is challenged by the 24/7 information economy and the flat world. 57% of students take 6 years or more to finish degree.
  • We all know experts are never all local. And really, what we know, is that “expert” as a single person, is less and less valid.
  • For a host of reasons, including tenure, universities are worse at change management than any other institution short of the church. And might be worse than that.
  • Zeigert article about ISTJ and ENFP Economists.
  • Broken from both sides of tenure. Already de facto gone. 29% of faculty are in TT positions.
  • Networked learners. Digital natives. Diversity in learning styles have been identified and pedagogy to match them is new. Engaging students where they are has changed.
  • 1. Rise of the interdisciplinary space 2. Limitations of narrow disciplinary perspective (more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing)
  • In Ohio – “Senior to Sophomore” program.
  • Networking technologies (in all senses) have created expert networks where there once were experts. We reach out to our network to learning something, not up.
  • Universities long felt immune from market forces. The choice set for students has increased. Competition between schools has risen.
  • From advisory boards to actual curriculum within the walls of companies and non-profits. Universities have become more open to this and leverage alumni networks.
  • Just look around SXSW.
  • Goes without saying but deserves a mention.
  • We group these disruptors into categories. They bleed into each other quite a bit, but are useful for our discussion.
  • Just the tip of the iceberg.
  • 5 million downloads of Stanford’s iPhone Dev course. 15 million from Stanford.
  • Same deal as iTunes, but open.
  • New associations to coordinate and leverage scale – avoid reinventing the wheel.
  • David Wiley and others become thought leaders in the movement.
  • New communities evolve.
  • Aggregator and filters follow, just like in industry. As the din rises, the action is in the filtering and aggregating.
  • Non-”academic” content. In many ways richer than academic. Tend to be one-off topics as opposed to courses and multi-part content.
  • Google Books is example of standalone content. Online textbooks.
  • Remixable textbooks.
  • Free textbooks.
  • Coordinated cheap textbooks.
  • Goes without saying the online content about subject matter areas is as deep as the user has interest in pursuing.
  • Social networks that allow for students to come together as they once did physically, virtually. In some ways, richer interactions. 500,000 registered users.
  • Sharing.
  • Incentivizing.
  • Coordinating. Hybrid.
  • Out of the box social networking tools make it easy.
  • NEW models for structured curricula. SU has a lot of coverage from Business Week. Taking the TED model into graduate study and certificate program.
  • Tuition Free.
  • Serves thousands and thousands – in the UK
  • One of many. Question for audience – how many are enrolled in U of P’s MBA? 140,000.
  • Prof. Kingsfield.One end of the spectrum. This job is gone.
  • Complete educational anarchy. Has its place, for sure, but still begs the role of the university.
  • The middle way. Seven roles for the “New Professor”. UX and Experience design provides a perfect model for the role of a Professor (and university, for that matter). UX and Design Thinking both drive new ways to help solve problems and develop competencies.
  • Coordinator. Logistician. Classic PM skills make for strong faculty skills.
  • Faculty play similar role a venture capitalist. Helping to seed innovation, guide ideas, see opportunities, map a route for success.
  • Finding and making sense of the wealth of Free information.
  • Providing the resources (not just money, but time, space, equipment, and network) to contribute to student success.
  • Blurring of curricular and co-curricular.
  • How does the signaling model extend to a networked world?
  • Project-based courses (Dalai Lama & P&G Visualization Dashboard). Study abroad. More time in class and out to with hands-on experience. Usually multi-disciplinary. Teaches ambiguity.
  • Leverage the meta-network. For academic and economic reasons. See competitors as partners.
  • …or just train them. T person model.
  • Identify mutual wins. Don’t assume industry is exploitive or has interests that are cross-purpose with the academy.
  • Design curriculum around teaching students how to ask questions, how to find answers. Empower them. Leadership and engagement skills. Communication and social skills.
  • Restructure to encourage team-based work, team research, team teaching. Reward structure in Higher Ed needs to adjust.
  • It needs to be “OK” to have a Professor say that someone else’s content is better than their own.
  • At the core of the academic system’s problems – for quality research, for quality pedagogy.
  • Liz Coleman (Bennington College)
  • Connection to community, global citizenship, but also innovation and market-based insights. Teaching students they can be the change they want to see.
  • Develop and play into the humanist in us that gives back to a community. Enhance and empower the culture in higher ed of contribution to the commons and celebrate it.
  • Maybe the most important thing faculty do.


  • 1. Universities in the “Free” Era
    Peg Faimon, Miami Design Collaborative
    Glenn Platt, Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies
    Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
    SXSW Interactive 2010
  • 2. Links can be found at http://tinyurl.com/sxsw2010edlinks
    Slides can be found at http://tinyurl.com/sxsw2010edslides
  • 3. The Role of Higher Education
    So what’s the Purpose of a university anyway?
  • 4. The Role of Higher Education
    Convey knowledge.
  • 5. The Role of Higher Education
    Create knowledge.
  • 6. The Role of Higher Education
    Develop the person.
  • 7. The Role of Higher Education
    Contribute to society.
  • 8. The Role of Higher Education
    Signal ability.
  • 9. The Role of Higher Education
    Seed innovation.
  • 10. But the system is breaking down.
    University System Collapse
  • 11. University System Collapse
    The cost is too high.
  • 12. University System Collapse
    You have to go to mountain.
  • 13. University System Collapse
    There’s no control over the clock.
  • 14. University System Collapse
    The “experts” are local.
  • 15. University System Collapse
    Universities change one funeral at a time.
  • 16. University System Collapse
    Faculty hire people just like themselves.
  • 17. University System Collapse
    Tenure is broken.
  • 18. What’s Driving this breakdown?
    Tectonic Change
  • 19. Tectonic Change
    Change in learning styles.
  • 20. Tectonic Change
    Collapse of disciplinary structure.
  • 21. Tectonic Change
    Acceleration of K-12.
  • 22. Tectonic Change
    Flattening of knowledge hierarchy.
  • 23. Tectonic Change
    Students [+ parents]as consumers.
  • 24. Tectonic Change
    Employers active in curricula.
  • 25. Tectonic Change
    Location independence.
  • 26. Tectonic Change
    The internet.
  • 27. educational entrepreneurs have stepped in to fill the gap.
    The Disruptors
  • 28. The Disruptors
    Open courseware.
    The Disruptors
  • 29.
  • 30.
  • 31.
  • 32.
  • 33.
  • 34.
  • 35.
  • 36. The Disruptors
    Free online lectures.
  • 37.
  • 38.
  • 39.
  • 40. The Disruptors
    Accessible educational content.
  • 41.
  • 42.
  • 43.
  • 44.
  • 45. The Disruptors
    Online learning networks.
  • 46.
  • 47.
  • 48.
  • 49.
  • 50. The Disruptors
    Structured curricula.
  • 51.
  • 52.
  • 53. Online universities.
    The Disruptors
  • 54.
  • 55.
  • 56. So, how does the Traditional university evolve?
    The New Professor
  • 57.
  • 58.
  • 59. The New Professor
  • 60. The New Professor
    Project manager.
  • 61. The New Professor
    Angel investor.
  • 62. The New Professor
  • 63. The New Professor
    Resource Allocator.
  • 64. The New Professor
  • 65. The New Professor
  • 66. Where to begin
    Next Steps
  • 67. Next Steps
    Experiential learning.
  • 68. Next Steps
    Multi-institutional collaborations.
  • 69. Next Steps
    Train PhDs to think more contextually.
  • 70. Next Steps
    Strategic industry and non-profit partnerships.
  • 71. Next Steps
    Re-examine tenure.
  • 72. Next Steps
    Student-driven inquiry.
  • 73. Next Steps
    Facilitate collaboration.
  • 74. Next Steps
    De-privilege institutional content.
  • 75. Next Steps
    Reward failure.
  • 76. Next Steps
    Get rid of departments and focus on questions.
  • 77. Next Steps
    Next Steps
    Think like social entrepreneurs.
    Next Steps
  • 78. Next Steps
    Give more than you get.
  • 79. Next Steps
    Hire people who think this way.
  • 80. Questions, Comments, Thoughts?
    Links can be found at http://tinyurl.com/sxsw2010edlinks
    Slides can be found at http://tinyurl.com/sxsw2010edslides