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.

 
 

Blockchain: The move from freedom to the rigid, dominant system in learning — from oeb.global by Inge de Waard
In this post Inge de Waard gives an overview of current Blockchain options from industry and looks at its impact on universities as well as philosophises on its future.

Excerpt:

I mentioned a couple of Blockchain certification options already, but an even more advanced blockchain in learning example has entered on my radar too. It is a Russian implementation called Disciplina. This platform combines education (including vocational training), recruiting (comparable with what LinkedIn is doing with its economic graph) and careers for professionals. All of this is combined into a blockchain solution that keeps track of all the learners’ journey. The platform includes not only online courses as we know it but also coaching. After each training, you get a certificate.

TeachMePlease, which is a partner of Disciplina, enables teachers and students to find each other for specific professional training as well as curriculum-related children’s schooling. Admittedly, these initiatives are still being rolled out in terms of courses, but it clearly shows where the next learning will be located: in an umbrella above all the universities and professional academies. At present, the university courses are being embedded into course offerings by corporations that roll out a layer post-university, or post-vocational schooling.

Europe embraces blockchain, as can be seen with their EU Blockchain observatory and forum. And in a more national action, Malta is storing their certifications in a blockchain nationwide as well. We cannot deny that blockchain is getting picked up by both companies and governments. Universities have been piloting several blockchain certification options, and they also harbour some of the leading voices in the debate on blockchain certification.

 

Also see:

AI in education -- April 2019 by Inge de Waard

Future proof learning -- the Skills 3.0 project

 

Also see:

  • 7 blockchain mistakes and how to avoid them — from computerworld.com by Lucas Mearian
    The blockchain industry is still something of a wild west, with many cloud service offerings and a large universe of platforms that can vary greatly in their capabilities. So enterprises should beware jumping to conclusions about the technology.
 

From DSC:
Re: the Learning from the Living [Class] Room vision of a next gen learning platform

 

Learning from the Living Class Room

 

…wouldn’t it be cool if you could use your voice to ask your smart/connected “TV” type of device:

“Show me the test questions for Torts I from WMU-Cooley Law School. Cooley could then charge $0.99 for these questions.”

Then, the system knows how you did on answering those questions. The ones you got right, you don’t get asked to review as often as the ones you got wrong. As you get a question right more often, the less you are asked to answer it.

You sign up for such streams of content — and the system assesses you periodically. This helps a person keep certain topics/information fresh in their memory. This type of learning method would be incredibly helpful for students trying to pass the Bar or other types of large/summative tests — especially when a student has to be able to recall information that they learned over the last 3-5 years.

Come to think of it…this method could help all of us in learning new disciplines/topics throughout our lifetimes. Sign up for the streams of content that you want to learn more about…and drop the (no-longer relevant) subscriptions as needed..

 

We need to tap into streams of content in our next gen learning platform

 

Blockchain stats, facts, & trends in 2019 and beyond — from yourtechdiet.com by Brian Curtis

Blockchain Predictions for 2019 & Beyond

  • Market value projection of the blockchain industry will be $60 billion by 2020.
  • By the end of 2019, global spending on blockchain solutions is projected to reach about 2.9 billion U.S. dollars and also projected to reach 11.7 billion by 2022.
  • In 2022, the U.S’ expenditures on blockchain solutions is projected to reach 4.2 billion U.S. dollars, thus making it the largest spender.
  • Finance is the biggest Blockchain value sector with a market share of 60.5 percent.
  • The market value of blockchain in the food and agriculture market, globally, is projected to climb 1.4 billion U.S. dollars by 2028.
  • In a research, 30 percent of respondents considered China to be the territory leader in blockchain technology development from 2021-2023.
  • The blockchain spending of China is forecasted to grow to 1.42 billion U.S. dollars by 2022.
  • The blockchain market value in South Korea is forecasted to reach 356.2 billion by 2022.
  • It is projected that, by 2025, 55 percent of healthcare applications will adopt blockchain for commercial deployment.

 

Also see:

 

 

The finalized 2019 Horizon Report Higher Education Edition (from library.educause.edu) was just released on 4/23/19.

Excerpt:

Key Trends Accelerating Technology Adoption in Higher Education:

Short-TermDriving technology adoption in higher education for the next one to two years

  • Redesigning Learning Spaces
  • Blended Learning Designs

Mid-TermDriving technology adoption in higher education for the next three to five years

  • Advancing Cultures of Innovation
  • Growing Focus on Measuring Learning

Long-TermDriving technology adoption in higher education for five or more years

  • Rethinking How Institutions Work
  • Modularized and Disaggregated Degrees

 

 

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)

 

 

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

 

 

 

Amazon has 10,000 employees dedicated to Alexa — here are some of the areas they’re working on — from businessinsider.com by Avery Hartmans

Summary (emphasis DSC):

  • Amazon’s vice president of Alexa, Steve Rabuchin, has confirmed that yes, there really are 10,000 Amazon employees working on Alexa and the Echo.
  • Those employees are focused on things like machine learning and making Alexa more knowledgeable.
  • Some employees are working on giving Alexa a personality, too.

 

 

From DSC:
How might this trend impact learning spaces? For example, I am interested in using voice to intuitively “drive” smart classroom control systems:

  • “Alexa, turn on the projector”
  • “Alexa, dim the lights by 50%”
  • “Alexa, open Canvas and launch my Constitutional Law I class”

 

 

 

The information below is from Heather Campbell at Chegg
(emphasis DSC)


 

Chegg Math Solver is an AI-driven tool to help the student understand math. It is more than just a calculator – it explains the approach to solving the problem. So, students won’t just copy the answer but understand and can solve similar problems at the same time. Most importantly,students can dig deeper into a problem and see why it’s solved that way. Chegg Math Solver.

In every subject, there are many key concepts and terms that are crucial for students to know and understand. Often it can be hard to determine what the most important concepts and terms are for a given subject, and even once you’ve identified them you still need to understand what they mean. To help you learn and understand these terms and concepts, we’ve provided thousands of definitions, written and compiled by Chegg experts. Chegg Definition.

 

 

 

 

 


From DSC:
I see this type of functionality as a piece of a next generation learning platform — a piece of the Living from the Living [Class] Room type of vision. Great work here by Chegg!

Likely, students will also be able to take pictures of their homework, submit it online, and have that image/problem analyzed for correctness and/or where things went wrong with it.

 

 


 

 

Alexa, get me the articles (voice interfaces in academia) — from blog.libux.co by Kelly Dagan

Excerpt:

Credit to Jill O’Neill, who has written an engaging consideration of applications, discussions, and potentials for voice-user interfaces in the scholarly realm. She details a few use case scenarios: finding recent, authoritative biographies of Jane Austen; finding if your closest library has an item on the shelf now (and whether it’s worth the drive based on traffic).

Coming from an undergraduate-focused (and library) perspective, I can think of a few more:

  • asking if there are any group study rooms available at 7 pm and making a booking
  • finding out if [X] is open now (Archives, the Cafe, the Library, etc.)
  • finding three books on the Red Brigades, seeing if they are available, and saving the locations
  • grabbing five research articles on stereotype threat, to read later

 

Also see:

 

 

 

From DSC:
I agree with futurist Thomas Frey:

“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.”

(source)

 

Along these lines, see what Arizona State University is up to:

We think of this as a transformation away from a mass-production model to a mass-personalization model. For us, that’s the big win in this whole process. When we move away from the large lectures in that mass-production model that we’ve used for the last 170 years and get into something that reflects each of the individual learners’ needs and can personalize their learning path through the instructional resources, we will have successfully moved the education industry to the new frontier in the learning process. We think that mass personalization has already permeated every aspect of our lives, from navigation to entertainment; and education is really the next big frontier.

(source)

 

From DSC:
Each year the vision I outlined here gets closer and closer and closer and closer. With the advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), change is on the horizon…big time. Mass personalization. More choice. More control.

 

 

LinkedIn Learning Opens Its Platform (Slightly) [Young]

LinkedIn Learning Opens Its Platform (Slightly) — from edsurge by Jeff Young

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

A few years ago, in a move toward professional learning, LinkedIn bought Lynda.com for $1.5 billion, adding the well-known library of video-based courses to its professional social network. Today LinkedIn officials announced that they plan to open up their platform to let in educational videos from other providers as well—but with a catch or two.

The plan, announced Friday, is to let companies or colleges who already subscribe to LinkedIn Learning add content from a select group of other providers. The company or college will still have to subscribe to those other services separately, so it’s essentially an integration—but it does mark a change in approach.

For LinkedIn, the goal is to become the front door for employees as they look for micro-courses for professional development.

 

LinkedIn also announced another service for its LinkedIn Learning platform called Q&A, which will give subscribers the ability to pose a question they have about the video lessons they’re taking. The question will first be sent to bots, but if that doesn’t yield an answer the query will be sent on to other learners, and in some cases the instructor who created the videos.

 

 

Also see:

LinkedIn becomes a serious open learning experience platform — from clomedia.com by Josh Bersin
LinkedIn is becoming a dominant learning solution with some pretty interesting competitive advantages, according to one learning analyst.

Excerpt:

LinkedIn has become quite a juggernaut in the corporate learning market. Last time I checked the company had more than 17 million users, 14,000 corporate customers, more than 3,000 courses and was growing at high double-digit rates. And all this in only about two years.

And the company just threw down the gauntlet; it’s now announcing it has completely opened up its learning platform to external content partners. This is the company’s formal announcement that LinkedIn Learning is not just an amazing array of content, it is a corporate learning platform. The company wants to become a single place for all organizational learning content.

 

LinkedIn now offers skills-based learning recommendations to any user through its machine learning algorithms. 

 

 



Is there demand for staying relevant? For learning new skills? For reinventing oneself?

Well…let’s see.

 

 

 

 

 

 



From DSC:
So…look out higher ed and traditional forms of accreditation — your window of opportunity may be starting to close. Alternatives to traditional higher ed continue to appear on the scene and gain momentum. LinkedIn — and/or similar organizations in the future — along with blockchain and big data backed efforts may gain traction in the future and start taking away some major market share. If employers get solid performance from their employees who have gone this route…higher ed better look out. 

Microsoft/LinkedIn/Lynda.com are nicely positioned to be a major player who can offer society a next generation learning platform at an incredible price — offering up-to-date, microlearning along with new forms of credentialing. It’s what I’ve been calling the Amazon.com of higher ed (previously the Walmart of Education) for ~10 years. It will take place in a strategy/platform similar to this one.

 



Also, this is what a guerilla on the back looks like:

 

This is what a guerilla on the back looks like!

 



Also see:

  • Meet the 83-Year-Old App Developer Who Says Edtech Should Better Support Seniors — from edsurge.com by Sydney Johnson
    Excerpt (emphasis DSC):
    Now at age 83, Wakamiya beams with excitement when she recounts her journey, which has been featured in news outlets and even at Apple’s developer conference last year. But through learning how to code, she believes that experience offers an even more important lesson to today’s education and technology companies: don’t forget about senior citizens.Today’s education technology products overwhelmingly target young people. And while there’s a growing industry around serving adult learners in higher education, companies largely neglect to consider the needs of the elderly.

 

 

Robots won’t replace instructors, 2 Penn State educators argue. Instead, they’ll help them be ‘more human.’ — from edsurge.com by Tina Nazerian

Excerpt:

Specifically, it will help them prepare for and teach their courses through several phases—ideation, design, assessment, facilitation, reflection and research. The two described a few prototypes they’ve built to show what that might look like.

 

Also see:

The future of education: Online, free, and with AI teachers? — from fool.com by Simon Erickson
Duolingo is using artificial intelligence to teach 300 million people a foreign language for free. Will this be the future of education?

Excerpts:

While it might not get a lot of investor attention, education is actually one of America’s largest markets.

The U.S. has 20 million undergraduates enrolled in colleges and universities right now and another 3 million enrolled in graduate programs. Those undergrads paid an average of $17,237 for tuition, room, and board at public institutions in the 2016-17 school year and $44,551 for private institutions. Graduate education varies widely by area of focus, but the average amount paid for tuition alone was $24,812 last year.

Add all of those up, and America’s students are paying more than half a trillion dollars each year for their education! And that doesn’t even include the interest amassed for student loans, the college-branded merchandise, or all the money spent on beer and coffee.

Keeping the costs down
Several companies are trying to find ways to make college more affordable and accessible.

 

But after we launched, we have so many users that nowadays if the system wants to figure out whether it should teach plurals before adjectives or adjectives before plurals, it just runs a test with about 50,000 people. So for the next 50,000 people that sign up, which takes about six hours for 50,000 new users to come to Duolingo, to half of them it teaches plurals before adjectives. To the other half it teaches adjectives before plurals. And then it measures which ones learn better. And so once and for all it can figure out, ah it turns out for this particular language to teach plurals before adjectives for example.

So every week the system is improving. It’s making itself better at teaching by learning from our learners. So it’s doing that just based on huge amounts of data. And this is why it’s become so successful I think at teaching and why we have so many users.

 

 

From DSC:
I see AI helping learners, instructors, teachers, and trainers. I see AI being a tool to help do some of the heavy lifting, but people still like to learn with other people…with actual human beings. That said, a next generation learning platform could be far more responsive than what today’s traditional institutions of higher education are delivering.

 

 

Affordable and at-scale — from insidehighered.com by Ray Schroeder
Affordable degrees at scale have arrived. The momentum behind this movement is undeniable, and its impact will be significant, Ray Schroeder writes.

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

How many times have we been told that major change in our field is on the near horizon? Too many times, indeed.

The promises of technologies and practices have fallen short more often than not. Just seven years ago, I was part of the early MOOC movement and felt the pulsating potential of teaching thousands of students around the world in a single class. The “year of the MOOC” was declared in 2012. Three years later, skeptics declared that the MOOC had died an ignominious death with high “failure” rates and relatively little recognition by employers.

However, the skeptics were too impatient, misunderstood the nature of MOOCs and lacked the vision of those at Georgia Tech, the University of Illinois, Arizona State University, Coursera, edX and scores of other institutions that have persevered in building upon MOOCs’ premises to develop high-quality, affordable courses, certificates and now, degrees at scale.

No, these degrees are not free, but they are less than half the cost of on-campus versions. No, they are not massive in the hundreds of thousands, but they are certainly at large scale with many thousands enrolled. In computer science, the success is felt across the country.

 

Georgia Tech alone has enrolled 10,000 students over all in its online master’s program and is adding thousands of new students each semester in a top 10-ranked degree program costing less than $7,000. Georgia Tech broke the new ground through building collaborations among several partners. Yet, that was just the beginning, and many leading universities have followed.

 

 

Also see:

Trends for the future of education with Jeff Selingo — from steelcase.com
How the future of work and new technology will make place more important than ever.

Excerpt:

Selingo sees artificial intelligence and big data as game changers for higher education. He says AI can free up professors and advisors to spend more time with students by answering some more frequently-asked questions and handling some of the grading. He also says data can help us track and predict student performance to help them create better outcomes. “When they come in as a first-year student, we can say ‘People who came in like you that had similar high school grades and took similar classes ended up here. So, if you want to get out of here in four years and have a successful career, here are the different pathways you should follow.’”

 

 

 

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