Reflections on “Clay Shirky on Mega-Universities and Scale” [Christian]

Clay Shirky on Mega-Universities and Scale — from philonedtech.com by Clay Shirky
[This was a guest post by Clay Shirky that grew out of a conversation that Clay and Phil had about IPEDS enrollment data. Most of the graphs are provided by Phil.]

Excerpts:

Were half a dozen institutions to dominate the online learning landscape with no end to their expansion, or shift what Americans seek in a college degree, that would indeed be one of the greatest transformations in the history of American higher education. The available data, however, casts doubt on that idea.

Though much of the conversation around mega-universities is speculative, we already know what a mega-university actually looks like, one much larger than any university today. It looks like the University of Phoenix, or rather it looked like Phoenix at the beginning of this decade, when it had 470,000 students, the majority of whom took some or all of their classes online. Phoenix back then was six times the size of the next-largest school, Kaplan, with 78,000 students, and nearly five times the size of any university operating today.

From that high-water mark, Phoenix has lost an average of 40,000 students every year of this decade.

 

From DSC:
First of all, I greatly appreciate both Clay’s and Phil’s thought leadership and their respective contributions to education and learning through the years. I value their perspectives and their work.  Clay and Phil offer up a great article here — one worth your time to read.  

The article made me reflect on what I’ve been building upon and tracking for the last decade — a next generation ***PLATFORM*** that I believe will represent a powerful piece of a global learning ecosystem. I call this vision, “Learning from the Living [Class] Room.” Though the artificial intelligence-backed platform that I’m envisioning doesn’t yet fully exist — this new era and type of learning-based platform ARE coming. The emerging signs, technologies, trends — and “fingerprints”of it, if you will — are beginning to develop all over the place.

Such a platform will:

  • Be aimed at the lifelong learner.
  • Offer up major opportunities to stay relevant and up-to-date with one’s skills.
  • Offer access to the program offerings from many organizations — including the mega-universities, but also, from many other organizations that are not nearly as large as the mega-universities.
  • Be reliant upon human teachers, professors, trainers, subject matter experts, but will be backed up by powerful AI-based technologies/tools. For example, AI-based tools will pulse-check the open job descriptions and the needs of business and present the top ___ areas to go into (how long those areas/jobs last is anyone’s guess, given the exponential pace of technological change).

Below are some quotes that I want to comment on:

Not nothing, but not the kind of environment that will produce an educational Amazon either, especially since the top 30 actually shrank by 0.2% a year.

 

Instead of an “Amazon vs. the rest” dynamic, online education is turning into something much more widely adopted, where the biggest schools are simply the upper end of a continuum, not so different from their competitors, and not worth treating as members of a separate category.

 

Since the founding of William and Mary, the country’s second college, higher education in the U.S. hasn’t been a winner-take-all market, and it isn’t one today. We are not entering a world where the largest university operates at outsized scale, we’re leaving that world; 

 

From DSC:
I don’t see us leaving that world at all…but that’s not my main reflection here. Instead, I’m not focusing on how large the mega-universities will become. When I speak of a forthcoming Walmart of Education or Amazon of Education, what I have in mind is a platform…not one particular organization.

Consider that the vast majority of Amazon’s revenues come from products that other organizations produce. They are a platform, if you will. And in the world of platforms (i.e., software), it IS a winner take all market. 

Bill Gates reflects on this as well in this recent article from The Verge:

“In the software world, particularly for platforms, these are winner-take-all markets.

So it’s all about a forthcoming platform — or platforms. (It could be more than one platform. Consider Apple. Consider Microsoft. Consider Google. Consider Facebook.)

But then the question becomes…would a large amount of universities (and other types of organizations) be willing to offer up their courses on a platform? Well, consider what’s ALREADY happening with FutureLearn:

Finally…one more excerpt from Clay’s article:

Eventually the new ideas lose their power to shock, and end up being widely copied. Institutional transformation starts as heresy and ends as a section in the faculty handbook. 

From DSC:
This is a great point. Reminds me of this tweet from Fred Steube (and I added a piece about Western Telegraph):

 

Some things to reflect upon…for sure.

 

Survey: Students Choosing Online Programs Closer to Home — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser

 

Mentioned in that article:

 

Also see:

“It’s encouraging to see that a majority of students who are studying fully online are reporting great value and satisfaction with their online programs which are largely tied to ambitious career goals,” said Todd Zipper, president and CEO of Learning House, in a prepared statement. “With an increasing population of savvier consumers with high expectations, institutions need to do better at offering more quality, diverse programs that are sensitive to cost in order to keep up with the growing demands of online college students.”

 

From DSC:
If, in the year 2019, most students say online learning is as good or better than face-to-face, what will they say come 2025?  2035? 

Many people will still prefer to have F2F-based learning experiences no matter what year it is. That said, as the innovation continues to occur mainly in the digital/online/virtual realms, F2F will likely find it harder and harder to compete. My advice to current faculty members? Get experience teaching online — and do so as soon as you possibly can.

 

 

4 Essentials for Learning Space Redesign — from CampusTechnology.com by David Raths
There’s a lot more to creating active learning spaces than bringing in new furniture and moving seats around.

 

 

Introduction: Leading the social enterprise—Reinvent with a human focus
2019 Global Human Capital Trends
— from deloitte.com by Volini?, Schwartz? ?, Roy?, Hauptmann, Van Durme, Denny, and Bersin

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Learning in the flow of life. The number-one trend for 2019 is the need for organizations to change the way people learn; 86 percent of respondents cited this as an important or very important issue. It’s not hard to understand why. Evolving work demands and skills requirements are creating an enormous demand for new skills and capabilities, while a tight labor market is making it challenging for organizations to hire people from outside. Within this context, we see three broader trends in how learning is evolving: It is becoming more integrated with work; it is becoming more personal; and it is shifting—slowly—toward lifelong models. Effective reinvention along these lines requires a culture that supports continuous learning, incentives that motivate people to take advantage of learning opportunities, and a focus on helping individuals identify and develop new, needed skills.

 

Minerva’s Innovative Platform Makes Quality Higher Ed Personal and Affordable — from linkedin.com by Tom Vander Ark

Excerpt:

The first external partner, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), loved the course design and platform but told Nelson they couldn’t afford to teach 15 students at a time. The Minerva team realized that to be applicable at major universities, active learning needed to be scalable.

Starting this summer, a new version of Forum will be available for classes of up to 400 at a time. For students, it will still feel like a small seminar. They’ll see the professor, themselves, and a dozen other students. Forum will manage the movement of students from screen to screen. “Everybody thinks they are in the main room,” said Nelson.

Forum enables real-time polling and helps professors create and manage breakout groups.

Big Implications
With Forum, “For the first time you can deliver better than Ivy League education at absurdly low cost,” said Nelson.

Online courses and MOOCs just repackaged the same format and just offered it with less interaction. As new Forum partners will demonstrate, “It’s possible to deliver a year of undergraduate education that is vastly superior for under $5,000 per student,” added Nelson.

He’s excited to offer a turnkey university solution that, for partners like Oxford Teachers Academy, will allow new degree pathways for paraprofessionals that can work, learn, and earn a degree and certification.

 

Perhaps another piece of the puzzle is falling into place…

 

Another piece of the puzzle is coming into place...for the Learning from the Living Class Room vision

 

 

From DSC:
I ran into the posting below on my Twitter feed. I especially want to share it with all of those students out there who are majoring in Education. You will find excellent opportunities to build your Personal Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter.

But this idea/concept/opportunity also applies to current teachers, professors, trainers, special educators, principals, superintendents, school board members, coaches, and many, many others.

You will not only learn a great deal by tapping into those streams of content, but you will be able to share your own expertise, insights, resources, reflections, etc.  Don’t underestimate the networking and learning potential of Twitter. It’s one of the top learning tools in the world.

One last thought before you move onto the graphics below…K-12 educators are doing a super job of networking and sharing resources with each other. I hope that more faculty members who are working within higher education can learn from the examples being set forth by K-12 educators.

 

 

Also see:

 

Also see:

 

 

From DSC:
First a posting that got me to wondering about something that I’ve previously wondered about from time to time…

College of Business unveils classroom of the future — from biz.source.colostate.edu by Joe Giordano

Excerpt:

Equipped with a wall of 27 high-definition video screens as well as five high-end cameras, the newest classroom in Colorado State University’s College of Business is designed to connect on-campus and online students in a whole new way.

The College of Business unveiled on March 29 the “Room of the Future,” featuring Mosaic, an innovative technology – powered by mashme.io – that creates a blended classroom experience, connecting on-campus and online students in real time.

 

From DSC:
If the pedagogies could be worked out, this could be a very attractive model for many people in the future as it:

  • Provides convenience.
  • Offers more choice. More control. (Students could pick whether they want to attend the class virtually or in a physical classroom).

If the resulting increase in students could bring down the price of offering the course, will we see this model flourish in the near future? 

For struggling colleges and universities, could this help increase the ROI of offering their classes on their physical campuses?

The technologies behind this are not cheap though…and that could be a show-stopper for this type of an experiment. But…thinking out loud again…what if there were a cheaper way to view a group of other people in your learning community? Perhaps there will be a solution using some form of Extended Reality (XR)…hmmm….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also see:

 

Also see:

Learning from the Living Class Room

 

 

LinkedIn: 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer for this reason—and it’s not a raise — from cnbc.com by Abigail Hess

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

But according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 94 percent of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them ***learn.***

 

Is Thomas Frey right? “…by 2030 the largest company on the internet is going to be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet.”

From a fairly recent e-newsletter from edsurge.com — though I don’t recall the exact date (emphasis DSC):

New England is home to some of the most famous universities in the world. But the region has also become ground zero for the demographic shifts that promise to disrupt higher education.

This week saw two developments that fit the narrative. On Monday, Southern Vermont College announced that it would shut its doors, becoming the latest small rural private college to do so. Later that same day, the University of Massachusetts said it would start a new online college aimed at a national audience, noting that it expects campus enrollments to erode as the number of traditional college-age students declines in the coming years.

“Make no mistake—this is an existential threat to entire sectors of higher education,” said UMass president Marty Meehan in announcing the online effort.

The approach seems to parallel the U.S. retail sector, where, as a New York Times piece outlines this week, stores like Target and WalMart have thrived by building online strategies aimed at competing with Amazon, while stores like Gap and Payless, which did little to move online, are closing stores. Of course, college is not like any other product or service, and plenty of campuses are touting the richness of the experience that students get by actually coming to a campus. And it’s not clear how many colleges can grow online to a scale that makes their investments pay off.

 

“It’s predicted that over the next several years, four to five major national players with strong regional footholds will be established. We intend to be one of them.”

University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan

 

 

From DSC:
That last quote from UMass President Marty Meehan made me reflect upon the idea of having one or more enormous entities that will provide “higher education” in the future. I wonder if things will turn out to be that we’ll have more lifelong learning providers and platforms in the future — with the idea of a 60-year curriculum being an interesting idea that may come into fruition.

Long have I predicted that such an enormous entity would come to pass. Back in 2008, I named it the Forthcoming Walmart of Education. But then as the years went by, I got bumbed out on some things that Walmart was doing, and re-branded it the Forthcoming Amazon.com of Higher Education. We’ll see how long that updated title lasts — but you get the point. In fact, the point aligns very nicely with what futurist Thomas Frey has been predicting for years as well:

“I’ve been predicting that by 2030 the largest company on the internet is going to be an education-based company that we haven’t heard of yet,” Frey, the senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute think tank, tells Business Insider. (source)

I realize that education doesn’t always scale well…but I’m thinking that how people learn in the future may be different than how we did things in the past…communities of practice comes to mind…as does new forms of credentialing…as does cloud-based learner profiles…as does the need for highly efficient, cost-effective, and constant opportunities/means to reinvent oneself.

Also see:

 

 

Addendum:

74% of consumers go to Amazon when they’re ready to buy something. That should be keeping retailers up at night. — from cnbc.com

Key points (emphasis DSC)

  • Amazon remains a looming threat for some of the biggest retailers in the country — like Walmart, Target and Macy’s.
  • When consumers are ready to buy a specific product, nearly three-quarters of them, or 74 percent, are going straight to Amazon to do it, according to a new study by Feedvisor.
  • By the end of this year, Amazon is expected to account for 52.4 percent of the e-commerce market in the U.S., up from 48 percent in 2018.

 

“In New England, there will be between 32,000 and 54,000 fewer college-aged students just seven years from now,” Meehan said. “That means colleges and universities will have too much capacity and not enough demand at a time when the economic model in higher education is already straining under its own weight.” (Marty Meehan at WBUR)

 

 

Huge study finds professors’ attitudes affect students’ grades — and it’s doubly true for minority students. — from arstechnica.com by Scott Johnson

Excerpt:

Instead, the researchers think the data suggests that—in any number of small ways—instructors who think their students’ intelligence is fixed don’t keep their students as motivated, and perhaps don’t focus as much on teaching techniques that can encourage growth. And while this affects all students, it seems to have an extra impact on underrepresented minority students.

The good news, the researchers say, is that instructors can be persuaded to adopt more of a growth mindset in their teaching through a little education of their own. That small attitude adjustment could make them a more effective teacher, to the significant benefit of a large number of students.

 

Along these lines, also see:

 


 

 

Five key trends for professional and continuing education leaders in the next five years — from evolllution.com by Ray Schroeder

Excerpts:

Higher education is on the cusp of major changes. Enrollments are on the decline—both online and on campus—and the trend is expected to accelerate.[1] Graduates are laboring under substantial college loan debts totaling more than $1.5 trillion.[2] Employers are demanding that applicants possess soft and hard skills that many college graduates do not hold.[3] At the same time new and emerging technologies are changing the way credentials are shared and work is done.

It is in this context that continuing, professional and online programs have been imported from the periphery to the center of traditional universities. Students and employers alike have made clear that their top priority is relevance to the rapidly changing workplace. Artificial intelligence, blockchain, augmented/virtual reality and other technologies are driving the changes. Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) has long been the leader in providing relevant courses, certificates and degrees that connect students with the needs of employers.

 

…the Online Master’s Science in Computer Science degree at Georgia Tech is now the largest computer science program in the world. And the degree costs less than $9,000.

 

Also see:

Interview with Hunt Lambert – What is the 60-year curriculum?
Colleges and universities used to be primarily responsible for a four-year learning experience. We now need to envision a 60-year curriculum, whereby educational institutions partner with learners at all stages of their professional career, providing skills and knowledge as needed.

 


 

 

 


 

 

Instructure: Plans to expand beyond Canvas LMS into machine learning and AI — from mfeldstein.com by Phill Hill

Excerpts:

On the same day as Instructure’s earnings call and release of FY2018 financial results, the company announced the acquisition of Portfolium for $43 million, a small startup focusing on “ePortfolio network, student-centered assessment, job matching capabilities, and academic and co-curricular pathways”.

Instructure now views itself as a company with a suite of products, and they are much more open to using corporate M&A to build this portfolio.

We already have analytical capabilities in our Canvas platform. I want to be really clear and delineate the difference between an analytics and reporting capability, and a machine learning and AI platform.

We have the most comprehensive database on the educational experience in the globe. So given that information that we have, no one else has those data assets at their fingertips to be able to develop those algorithms and predictive models.

What’s even more interesting and compelling is that we can take that information, correlate it across all sorts of universities, curricula, etc, and we can start making recommendations and suggestions to the student or instructor in how they can be more successful. Watch this video, read this passage, do problems 17-34 in this textbook, spend an extra two hours on this or that. When we drive student success, we impact things like retention, we impact the productivity of the teachers, and it’s a huge opportunity. That’s just one small example. Our DIG initiative, it is first and foremost a platform for ML and AI, and we will deliver and monetize it by offering different functional domains of predictive algorithms and insights. Maybe things like student success, retention, coaching and advising, career pathing, as well as a number of the other metrics that will help improve the value of an institution or connectivity across institutions.

 

 

 

 

56% of employees lack digital skills needed for future jobs — from techrepublic.com by Macy Bayern
Only 29% of employees globally said their digital skills are sufficient, according to a Vodafone report.

Excerpt:

The majority of respondents (85%) said digital skills are necessities for their jobs, but only 29% of employees felt their skills are currently strong enough, according to the report. Specifically in the US, only 32% of respondents said their companies give them the opportunities or tools to continue gaining digital skills.

 

 

Excerpt:

CONCLUSION
This paper has outlined the plethora of new credential types, uses, and modes of delivery. It also has highlighted advancements in assessment. In terms of assessment content, the progression of mastery-based assessments is a distinct departure from the traditional knowledge-based assessment approaches. New assessments are likely to enter the market, as companies see the tremendous growth of competency-based assessments that will be critical and necessary in the future ecosystem described.

Assessments are no longer just a source of grades for gradebooks. They have forged two meaningful bypass routes to seat time in higher education. In the first, competency-based education assessments gate the pace of student progress through the curriculum. In the second, certification by an exam delivers not a grade, but a degree-like credential in a relevant occupation, indicating skill and expertise. For some occupations, this exam-as-credential has already been market validated by employers’ willingness to require it, hire by it, and pay a salary premium for it.

All of these innovations are driving towards a common end. The future learning-to employment ecosystem will be heavily reliant on credentials and assessments. We see:

  • A future in which credentials will no longer be limited to degrees, but will come in varying shapes and sizes, offered by many organizations, training providers, and employers;
  • A future in which credentials will, however, be able to articulate a set of underlying “know” knowledge and “do” performance skill competencies;
  • A future in which a credential’s scope will be described by the set of competencies it covers, and measured via assessment;
  • A future in which a credential’s quality will be indicated by evidence of mastery within each competency before it is awarded;
  • A future in which quality metrics, such as consumer reviews or employer use of credentials will come into play, bringing the best and most usable credentials and assessments to the forefront.

And, finally, the future ecosystem will depend heavily on online and technology-enabled strategies and solutions. The working learner will turn away from those stringent solutions that require seat time and offer little flexibility. They will drive the market hard for innovations that will lead to consumer-facing marketplaces that allow them a “one-stop shop” approach for working, learning, and living.

The massive market of the working learner/the learning worker is here to stay. The future is that learner. Credentials and assessment will find their own strong footing to help successfully meet both the learners’ needs and the employers’ needs. We applaud this SHIFT. For, it will be an ecosystem that services many more learners than today’s education to employment system serves.

 

 

Most coherent report I have read on the erosion of degrees and the rise of assessing-for-work and amassing certifications as the competencies for the modern workplace. Jamai Blivin, of www.innovate-educate.org, and Merrilea Mayo, of Mayo Enterprises, have put in one report the history, current trends and the illogic for many people of paying for a retail bachelor’s degree when abundant certifications are beginning to prove themselves. Workforce and community colleges, this is a must-read. Kudos! 

Per Gordon Freedman on LinkedIn

 

 

For a next gen learning platform: A Netflix-like interface to check out potential functionalities / educationally-related “apps” [Christian]

From DSC:
In a next generation learning system, it would be sharp/beneficial to have a Netflix-like interface to check out potential functionalities that you could turn on and off (at will) — as one component of your learning ecosystem that could feature a setup located in your living room or office.

For example, put a Netflix-like interface to the apps out at eduappcenter.com (i.e., using a rolling interface at first, then going to a static page/listing of apps…again…similar to Netflix).

 

A Netflix-like interface to check out potential functionalities / educationally-related apps

 

 

 

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!

© 2019 | Daniel Christian