Over my past 15 years in online higher education, most related industry research came from the Sloan Consortium (now Online Learning Consortium, or OLC). Many higher education institutions did not offer online courses earlier on and many whose experience was limited to traditional classroom instruction were skeptical of the new format. As a result, OLC surveyed provosts annually to monitor changing perceptions of online education.
Author Archive | Wally Boston
Last week, serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban created a stir with his statement at the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference that the world’s first trillionaire will be someone who masters artificial intelligence (AI). In the past, Cuban has been an avowed proponent of the value of a liberal arts degree for its ability to teach critical thinking. However, at SXSW, he advocated the study of computer science, stating, “Whatever you are studying right now, if you are not getting up to speed on deep learning, neural networks, etc., you lose."
The New Media Consortium Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition was recently published. A 15-plus year collaboration between the New Media Consortium and the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, the annual report attempts to predict trends in education, as shaped by technology.
The January 14-20, 2017 issue of The Economist includes a special report on the topic of lifelong learning. The writers note that lifelong learning today mainly benefits high achievers and likely leads to increased inequality. The classic model of education that provides many years of learning during youth, supplemented by training at work, is breaking down. In fact, on-the-job training in the U.S. is shrinking, and more and more people doubt that a four-year degree is worth the cost. During the 19th and 20th centuries, countries worldwide saw major improvements in education. The Economist argues that we should seek similar breakthroughs today.
If I value a book section based on the number of pages I have highlighted, the winner would be Part IV of the Content Trap, which rightfully advances and supports the points made previously with both evidence and conclusions.
Dr. Bharat Anand compares the success of media company Schibsted’s digital transformation (from text-heavy to picture-intensive, from careful editing to rapid publishing, and from daily publishing to real-time updating) to that of The Economist. The latter doubled its print circulation from 2000-2015 while integrating its digital and print content, without changing the speed and manner in which digital offerings were updated.
Dr. Bharat Anand writes about Mark McCormack, the legendary founder of International Management Group (IMG), who recognized that athletes could earn as much or more off the playing field, as on it. In signing Arnold Palmer as its first client, IMG grew to become the largest talent agency in golf and from there expanded to tennis, motor sports racing, track and field, baseball, football, fashion models, authors and musicians. The reason for IMG’s success was its ability to manage connections across products.
Harvard’s Graduate School of Business Administration is known for its case study methodology. In the Content Trap, Dr. Bharat Anand describes several corporate users, their industries, and the ways in which these companies improved their connections to enhance their growth and success.
We have witnessed declining newspaper readership over the past few decades, and many believe that the culprit is digital alternatives. Dr. Anand notes that this decline has been underway for more than 60 years, caused by multiple technologies from radio and TV networks to cable TV and 24/7 news channels. The impact of the Internet is no greater on readership than the technologies that preceded it. The other two sources of newspaper revenues are classified and retail ads. Classified ad revenues declined precipitously during the past decade (2000-2010) and the reason is that sellers and buyers favor products with more connections.
Bharat Anand, Henry R. Byers professor of business administration at Harvard Business School and author of The Content Trap, states in his afterword, “I knew that many things around us would change by the time I had finished it [and they did].” He recognizes, in an era of massive digital content generation, that content has not changed as much as the art of managing it, thanks to technology and the way in which connections are created. He sets the stage by explaining how content is valued and consumed by billions of people daily. As a result, businesses try to produce the best and most relevant content. The proliferation of content -- five exabytes (five billion billion bytes) are generated every two days -- creates “the problem of getting noticed.” The extremely low cost of digital content distribution, in turn, creates “the problem of getting paid.” The combination of the two problems is deadly.
It’s common knowledge among those of us researching student retention in online higher education that swirling (attendance by a student at multiple institutions) is much more prevalent with online, than on-ground, programs. Some of the explanations offered include that it’s easier to switch from one online program to another and there’s less social integration among online students so less social stigma in leaving. Others posit that online students are much more savvy about reviewing courses at multiple institutions to enable them to build a richer collection of courses. Lastly, some note that the more frequent semester starts offered by online institutions makes it more conducive for students switching schools to accommodate their personal and work schedules, and to finish their program sooner.