Disruption of University Teaching

I offer up the following quote by Paul Miller from his blog post to prompt discussion. Being in the twilight of my university career I probably sway to the view that the Web 2.0 disruption will profoundly change the operation of teaching universities. I suspect degree teaching will increasingly be focussed within institutions where the only research is directed to improving the teaching itself. What do you think?

… The student of Harvard or Oxford or ANU isn’t buying a degree. They’re buying an experience, and a head-start on the populating of their address book. There will continue to be a premium market offering for this, although it will need to evolve to meet a changing demand profile.

The lower end of the Higher Education market (and, indeed, a significant cohort of Further Education/ Community College-type institutions) have the most to gain from disruption, deploying their lower costs, economies of scale and community locations to good effect in wrapping a cost-effective support and assessment package around mediated delivery of the ‘best’ online content sourced from top-flight institutions via iTunes U, OpenLearn, the OpenCourseWare Consortium and others. If ‘all’ you want is a degree, why pay more?

Superficially, at least, these disruptors can probably project a ‘better’ education than those above them in the institutional food chain. The tutor at a local community college is probably happier to point their class at a video lecture from Cambridge or MIT than their peer at an institution with a more inflated opinion of its own importance. The young lecturer at a mid-range teaching institution has their own reputation to establish, and this takes precedence to pointing their students at the lectures of others. Their more established colleague down the corridor doesn’t agree with those ‘odd’ ideas from Cambridge anyway, and is competing for attention and recognition in ways that again run counter to simply pointing their students toward third party content. The motivations of the teacher, the needs of the learner, and the maximising of institutional return on (staff) investment are in direct opposition to one another.


About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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