SXSW 2010: Universities in the “Free” Era

Saturday, March 13 11:00am
Glenn Platt, Miami University Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies, Professor
Peg Faimon, Miami University Design Collaborative, Professor

Session Description

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?


The purpose or role of a University

  • Convey knowledge: it’s original founding
  • Create knowledge: new products created in universities
  • Develop the person: co-curricular activities, mind, body, spirit
  • Contribute to society
  • Signal ability: smart people go into education, smart people go out of education
  • Seed innovation

But the system is breaking down

  • The cost is too high: inflation rate of tuition is higher than typical inflation
  • You have to go to mountain: the ability to have the residential experience
  • The “experts” are local: you can only interact with those people on your campus
  • Universities change the funeral at a time: because of tenure faculty just stop wanting change because they don’t have to
  • Faculty hire people just like themselves
  • Tenure is broken: lack of conversation at universities talking about this

What’s driving this breakdown? “tectonic change”

  • Change in learning styles: people learn differently especially with technology coming into play. learning styles are also now being categorized better than they used to be, allowing professors to change their teaching techniques.
  • Collapse of disciplinary structure
  • Acceleration of K-12: a lot of things which used to be taught in college are now being learned in K-12
  • Flatten of knowledge
  • Students [+parents] as consumers
  • The Internet

Educational Entrepreneurs have stepped in to fill the gap

So, how does the traditional university evolve? “The new professor”

  • Experience designer: what’s the best way to get the student engaged and reach their goal of an end point
  • Project manager: how do you plan, move forward, and make sure tasks are completed in a global sense.
  • Angel investor: student’s success at the end of the day
  • Curator
  • Resource allocator: who’re the people the professor knows to help the students get to where they need to be.
  • Life coach: “Yes you can” motivation. Getting the students to be active in their learning.
  • Validator: how do students learn to communicate and add value to the conversation

Where to begin

  • Experiential learning: resume builders which teach students ambiguity
  • Multi-institutional collaborations: you need to know how to communicate with other people in or out of your field.
  • Train PhDs to think more contextually: when you get your PhD no one teaches you how to teach.
  • Strategic industry and non-profit partnerships: thinking about the university beyond its own boundaries
  • Re-examine tenure: we really just need to get rid of it
  • Student-driven inquiry: having students actually doing research and knowing how to ask questions.
  • Facilitate collaboration
  • De-privilege institutional content
  • Reward failure: as of now you don’t have time to fail and go beyond the easy route
  • Get rid of departments and focus on questions: they silo the institution
  • Think like social entrepreneurs
  • Give more than you get: contribute to online sources and open source software/databases
  • Hire people who think this way: forward
More InformationLinks

Posted in Geeky, SXSW 2010.

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