All 4 entries tagged Education
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July 01, 2009
Writing about web page http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/?p=629
A very interesting post from Michael Nielsen on the disruption faced by the world of academic publishing: http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/?p=629
What I find challenging about this post is that you can take the arguments and apply them beyond that context. So, when you hear ‘oh, HE won’t be effected that much’ or that ’ all this disruption talk is over-hyped’ we should bear the following in mind.
1. Industries and sectors do fail – there are plenty of examples of long established sectors and industries that do suffer significant upheaval, often without warning. HE is not immune to this by any means.
As my recent podcast interview with Steve Fuller reminded me, our modern concept of HE and universities is just that – a modern view. Who is to say that this view is not likely to go through a major readjustment as a response to digital developments.
2. The case of the music industry is characterised as – they were too stupid to see it coming or they are evil so deserve what they get. This may or may not be the case, but as Michael points out, just thinking you are smart and good is not a get out of jail card.
‘But if disruption can destroy even the smart and the good, then it can destroy anybody.’
I guess Universities see themselves as being on the site of progression and social good. This should not render us complacent to the challenges of digital disruption.
3. Michael points out that blog news sources are a lot cheaper and a lot more flexible than traditional newspapers, and so seem to be kicking the ass of print media. Universities are generally not cheap or flexible. We should be wary then, right?This paragraph is interesting in this respect:
The same basic story can be told about the dispruption of the music industry, the minicomputer industry, and many other disruptions. Each industry has (or had) a standard organizational architecture. That organizational architecture is close to optimal, in the sense that small changes mostly make things worse, not better. Everyone in the industry uses some close variant of that architecture. Then a new technology emerges and creates the possibility for a radically different organizational architecture, using an entirely different combination of skills and relationships. The only way to get from one organizational architecture to the other is to make drastic, painful changes. The money and power that come from commitment to an existing organizational architecture actually place incumbents at a disadvantage, locking them in. It’s easier and more effective to start over, from scratch.
4. Another quote:
One common response to such predictions is the appealing game of comparison: “but we’re better than blogs / wikis / PLoS One / …!” These statements are currently true, at least when judged according to the conventional values of scientific publishing. But they’re as irrelevant as the equally true analogous statements were for newspapers.
Universities may think they are the best at research and teaching, but what if values change? Change happens.
5. What about risk taking:
When new technologies are being developed, the organizations that win are those that aggressively take risks, put visionary technologists in key decision-making positions, attain a deep organizational mastery of the relevant technologies, and, in most cases, make a lot of mistakes. Being wrong is a feature, not a bug, if it helps you evolve a model that works
It is hard to see how big organisations like universities are able to take big risks, especially as we are publicly funded. This is not a problem for other groups getting into this space. Apple, Academic Earth, YouTube and so on – they can take risks we can’t.
So, should troubled financial times be a stimulus to change? Probably. Inertia is a killer and reputation matters little when things shift so quickly, especially in a globalised environment.
Big disruptive change may or may not occur, but if we kid ourselves that it is impossible, then we or any of our peers are as likely to fail as any other organisation.
Warwick should be well able to deal with disruption – we are a disruptive force ourselves!
March 12, 2009
Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2009/mar/12/business-research-spin-outs
Interesting article in Education Guardian today. References a report from the Advanced Institute of Management
Barriers rising between business and universities
Key policy of businesses working with universities at risk from red tape and overvaluing IP, says report
Don’t know much about the quality of the research, but taken on face value there are some interesting things in this – not least that Warwick is not in the top 10 for businesses favorite universities. Eep.
No.1 – the institutionalisation of relationships creates barriers and bureaucracy that make life difficult.
Now, the report argues that the sector has spent the millions provided by government on setting up management layers. My thought is that govt money tends to come with so many caveats, controls and reports that you have to waste time, money and effort on management layers to satisfy the paymaster – much to the annoyance of the end beneficiary. It’s a classic case of public/private philosophy clash. You see the same sort of stuff with AWM funds – you spend so long administering it you wonder if it is worth it.
So maybe not the HE sectors fault then – though we do love our admin!
No.2 – Universities over value their IP.
This is very interesting – especially in the light of the current financial crisis. No idea about whether this is the case or how you value this sort of thing properly, but there seems to be a disconnect between our expectations and the impressions of business.
No3. – Return on spin out investment.
This bit was really interesting:
Universities made £58m from selling spin-off companies created from university IP in 2006-07, compared with £783m from contract research, £288m from consultancy and £93m providing equipment, such as computer networks, and other services.
Now, I don’t know how Warwick rates on that scale but as a sector that is a fascinating set of numbers.
Think about it – the HE sector makes twice as much money by letting people borrow its stuff for a bit as it does from innovating companies – that’s amazing!
Plus – the govt spends 150m a year on supporting the commercialisation of academic ideas – for a return of 58m – ummm, can anyone see something odd there.
Spin outs are a long term game of course – Warwick Ventures reckon on up to 10 years to realise a return on investment, and out of every 10 ideas 9 will fail I guess. However, one wonders about priorities and models and whether the report writers have a point in their conclusion:
Salter said: “Focusing on university patenting and licensing income may distract us from other more economically-important forms of interaction.”
All of this is especially interesting at a time when business is not going to be falling over themselves to support the funding of HE.
I don’t know enough to say whether a particular model is right or wrong but certainly an interesting point for debate.
June 03, 2008
Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7431918.stm
Hmm. After many years of promises iTune U has landed in Europe – UCL, OU and Trinity are the lead institutions.
Now, this has been in the offing for a loooooongg time so it’s nice to see it finally happen. Excitement ensues!
March 16, 2006
I'll start out by saying my mind is still open on this question – I am not for or against selection and I remain to be convinced either way.
In the last few weeks thanks to the Education Bill I have heard many arguments going back and forth about whether selection in schools is a good or bad thing. I think that this has been an unsatisfactory debate in many ways with a number of glaring inconsistencies on both sides. I would also suggest that the proponents of each argument seem to have little connection with the reality of how kids get into schools in practice and the implicit selection process already in operation.
1) Why is selection at primary and secondary level a big no no when we are more than happy to have a selective system at tertiary level – is there a specific reason why selection at 18 is any more valid than selection at 11? I can see an argument against selection at 5 – but is there a fundamental educational development issue that precludes selection at other stages?
2) We already have a selective education system, one based on wealth rather than ability. If I have lots of money I can move to areas with better schools or choose to privately educate my children. Why is this better than a system that selects on ability? Is a system that rewards ability but could 'leave behind' some children better than one that rewards wealth and leaves behind a different group.
3) Are schools already selective? I seem to remember in my school that whilst you could not select which pupils came to the school they sure as hell selected which pupils went into which class – we were streamed for Maths, science and languages. Why is this ok but the broader issue of selective admission not? Are schools still allowed to do this?
4) Is there a will to properly fund a truely comprehensive system and are parents really interested in an egalitarian education system. Are the resources available to ensure that comprehensives actually work or are we doomed to be a nation of could-have-beens.
5) Are trust schools really an answer to this? I find myself questioning the basis of trust schools on one hand and on the other asking myself how else do we fund improvements in schools. I have not heard a proper answer as to how school improvements could otherwise be funded without the cost being carried by general taxation – now this may be acceptable to the electorate but I would guess that the govt actually thinks it isn't the case.
6) Whose interests are we serving here. Does the comprehensive system benefit the average performer and cause problems for the top and bottom whilst selection helps the bottom and top whilst leaving the middle in limbo. Which scenario is in the national (and the childs) best interest? Is there a middle way which provides for the educational needs of all groups?