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.

 

The World’s First Full in VR Semester Course Taught by Survios CTO — from medium.com by Rahel Demant

Excerpt:

VR First is excited to announce its strategic partnership with Axon Park?—?the world’s first educational campus in VR. To kick things off, they are running a full semester course taught in VR. Launching this fall, the course will teach expert-level Unreal Engine VR development, taught remotely by Survios CTO and Co-Founder Alex Silkin with support from the Unreal Engine team.

To enable Axon Park’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through immersive education, VR First has signed a strategic partnership with Axon Park, an organization which maintains the largest network of VR lab enabled universities and science parks internationally. Together, Axon Park and VR First are announcing a needs-based scholarship program that will provide students with low cost or free access to VR hardware and resources through their partner network of 850 universities. With their expertise in VR/AR workforce education and regional tech cluster facilities, VR First is the international distribution partner for Axon Park training solutions to universities, businesses and governments.

 

 

Also see:

Axon Park -- in fall 2019, delivering the world’s first full in VR semester course

 

 

Microsoft’s new AI wants to help you crush your next presentation — from pcmag.com by Jake Leary
PowerPoint is receiving a slew of updates, including one that aims to help you improve your public speaking.

Excerpt:

Microsoft [on 6/18/19] announced several PowerPoint upgrades, the most notable of which is an artificial intelligence tool that aims to help you overcome pre-presentation jitters.

The Presenter Coach AI listens to you practice and offers real-time feedback on your pace, word choice, and more. It will, for instance, warn you if you’re using filler words like “umm” and “ahh,” profanities, non-inclusive language, or reading directly from your slides. At the end of your rehearsal, it provides a report with tips for future attempts. Presenter Coach arrives later this summer.

 

 

 Also see:

Microsoft is building a virtual assistant for work. Google is building one for everything else — from qz.com by Dave Gershgorn

Excerpts:

In the early days of virtual personal assistants, the goal was to create a multipurpose digital buddy—always there, ready to take on any task. Now, tech companies are realizing that doing it all is too much, and instead doubling down on what they know best.

Since the company has a deep understanding of how organizations work, Microsoft is focusing on managing your workday with voice, rearranging meetings and turning the dials on the behemoth of bureaucracy in concert with your phone.

 

Voice is the next major platform, and being first to it is an opportunity to make the category as popular as Apple made touchscreens. To dominate even one aspect of voice technology is to tap into the next iteration of how humans use computers.

 

 

From DSC:
What affordances might these developments provide for our future learning spaces?

Will faculty members’ voices be recognized to:

  • Sign onto the LMS?
  • Dim the lights?
  • Turn on the projector(s) and/or display(s)?
  • Other?

Will students be able to send the contents of their mobile devices to particular displays via their voices?

Will voice be mixed in with augmented reality (i.e., the students and their devices can “see” which device to send their content to)?

Hmmm…time will tell.

 

 
 

Are we there yet? Impactful technologies and the power to influence change — from campustechnology.com by Mary Grush and Ellen Wagner

Excerpt:

Learning analytics, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and other new and emerging technologies seem poised to change the business of higher education — yet, we often hear comments like “We’re just not there yet…” or “This is a technology that is just too slow to adoption…” or other observations that make it clear that many people — including those with a high level of expertise in education technology — are thinking that the promise is not yet fulfilled. Here, CT talks with veteran education technology leader Ellen Wagner, to ask for her perspectives on the adoption of impactful technologies — in particular the factors in our leadership and development communities that have the power to influence change.

 

 

Facial recognition smart glasses could make public surveillance discreet and ubiquitous — from theverge.com by James Vincent; with thanks to Mr. Paul Czarapata, Ed.D. out on Twitter for this resource
A new product from UAE firm NNTC shows where this tech is headed next. <– From DSC: though hopefully not!!!

Excerpt:

From train stations and concert halls to sport stadiums and airports, facial recognition is slowly becoming the norm in public spaces. But new hardware formats like these facial recognition-enabled smart glasses could make the technology truly ubiquitous, able to be deployed by law enforcement and private security any time and any place.

The glasses themselves are made by American company Vuzix, while Dubai-based firm NNTC is providing the facial recognition algorithms and packaging the final product.

 

From DSC…I commented out on Twitter:

Thanks Paul for this posting – though I find it very troubling. Emerging technologies race out ahead of society. It would be interested in knowing the age of the people developing these technologies and if they care about asking the tough questions…like “Just because we can, should we be doing this?”

 

Addendum on 6/12/19:

 

9 amazing uses for VR and AR in college classrooms — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser
Immersive technologies can help students understand theoretical concepts more easily, prepare them for careers through simulated experiences and keep them engaged in learning.

Excerpt:

Immersive reality is bumping us into the deep end, virtually speaking. Colleges and universities large and small are launching new labs and centers dedicated to research on the topics of augmented reality, virtual reality and 360-degree imaging. The first academic conference held completely in virtual reality recently returned for its second year, hosted on Twitch by Lethbridge College in Alberta and Centennial College in Toronto. Majors in VR and AR have begun popping up in higher education across the United States, including programs at the Savannah School of Design (GA), Shenandoah University (VA) and Drexel University Westphal (PA). Educause experts have most recently positioned the timing for broad adoption of these technologies in education at the two-year to three-year horizon. And Gartner has predicted that by the year 2021, 60 percent of higher education institutions in the United States will “intentionally” be using VR to create simulations and put students into immersive environments.

If you haven’t already acquired your own headset or applied for a grant from your institution to test out AR or VR for instruction, it’s time. We’ve done a scan of some of the most interesting projects currently taking place in American classrooms to help you imagine the virtual possibilities.

 


 

 

State Attempts to Nix Public School’s Facial Recognition Plans — from futurism.com by Kristin Houser
But it might not have the authority to actually stop an upcoming trial.

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

Chaos Reigns
New York’s Lockport City School District (CSD) was all set to become the first public school district in the U.S. to test facial recognition on its students and staff. But just two days after the school district’s superintendent announced the project’s June 3 start date, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) attempted to put a stop to the trial, citing concerns for students’ privacy. Still, it’s not clear whether the department has the authority to actually put the project on hold — *****the latest sign that the U.S. is in desperate need of clear-cut facial recognition legislation.*****

 

 

Watch Salvador Dalí Return to Life Through AI — from interestingengineering.com by
The Dalí Museum has created a deepfake of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí that brings him back to life.

Excerpt:

The Dalí Museum has created a deepfake of surrealist artist Salvador Dalí that brings him back to life. This life-size deepfake is set up to have interactive discussions with visitors.

The deepfake can produce 45 minutes of content and 190,512 possible combinations of phrases and decisions taken by the fake but realistic Dalí. The exhibition was created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners using 6,000 frames of Dalí taken from historic footage and 1,000 hours of machine learning.

 

From DSC:
While on one hand, incredible work! Fantastic job! On the other hand, if this type of deepfake can be done, how can any video be trusted from here on out? What technology/app will be able to confirm that a video is actually that person, actually saying those words?

Will we get to a point that says, this is so and so, and I approved this video. Or will we have an electronic signature? Will a blockchain-based tech be used? I don’t know…there always seems to be pros and cons to any given technology. It’s how we use it. It can be a dream, or it can be a nightmare.

 

 

After nearly a decade of Augmented World Expo (AWE), founder Ori Inbar unpacks the past, present, & future of augmented reality — from next.reality.news by Adario Strange

Excerpts:

I think right now it’s almost a waste of time to talk about a hybrid device because it’s not relevant. It’s two different devices and two different use cases. But like you said, sometime in the future, 15, 20, 50 years, I imagine a point where you could open your eyes to do AR, and close your eyes to do VR.

I think there’s always room for innovation, especially with spatial computing where we’re in the very early stages. We have to develop a new visual approach that I don’t think we have yet. What does it mean to interact in a world where everything is visual and around you, and not on a two-dimensional screen? So there’s a lot to do there.

 

A big part of mainstream adoption is education. Until you get into AR and VR, you don’t really know what you’re missing. You can’t really learn about it from videos. And that education takes time. So the education, plus the understanding of the need, will create a demand.

— Ori Inbar

 

 

The Common Sense Census: Inside the 21st-Century Classroom

21st century classroom - excerpt from infographic

Excerpt:

Technology has become an integral part of classroom learning, and students of all ages have access to digital media and devices at school. The Common Sense Census: Inside the 21st-Century Classroom explores how K–12 educators have adapted to these critical shifts in schools and society. From the benefits of teaching lifelong digital citizenship skills to the challenges of preparing students to critically evaluate online information, educators across the country share their perspectives on what it’s like to teach in today’s fast-changing digital world.

 

 

From Google: New AR features in Search rolling out later this month.

 

 

Along these lines, see:

 

 

DARPA is reportedly eyeing a high-tech contact lens straight out of ‘Mission: Impossible’ — from taskandpurpose.com by Jared Keller

 

Just because we can...does not mean we should.

Excerpt:

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is reportedly interested in a new wirelessly-connected contact lens recently unveiled in France, the latest in the agency’s ongoing search for small-scale technology to augment U.S. service members’ visual capabilities in the field.

 

From DSC:
We may not be there yet (and in my mind, that’s a good thing). But when this tech gets further developed and gets its foot in the door — military style — it may then expand its reach and scope. Then it gets integrated into other areas of society. If many people were very uncomfortable having someone walk in a public place wearing/using a pair of Google Glasses, how will they/we feel about this one? Speaking for myself, I don’t like it.

 
 

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© 2019 | Daniel Christian