Hand-picked selections of articles, reports, blog posts and events from the last seven days (or so).

1 :: Free (Hopefully)

27FRIEDMAN-articleLargeAccording to the now well established concept of the Long Tail, popularised by Chris Anderson, the Internet has  fundamentally changed the economics of producing and distributing digital products. “Shelf space” on the Internet is virtually infinite and increasingly inexpensive. It’s now financially feasible for vendors to sell a much wider variety of digital products, particularly books, films, and music and other media. Marketing strategy is shifting from a dependence on a relatively limited number of “hits” or “blockbusters”  (e.g. Top 40 radio; New York Times bestseller lists) to serving niches.

In a couple of earlier posts I looked at the Long Tail concept, as well as the related concept of “Freemium”, as they relate to higher education: Digital Higher Ed Content and the Long Tail & The Freemium Model in Digital Higher Ed.

Two articles published in the past week consider the case of textbooks. One suggests that the economics of the Internet will revolutionise higher ed, the other suggests that we may have been overly optimistic.

The Creative Commons makes the case for a free textbook model. The Growing Adoption of Creative Commons Textbooks

Pay Nothing? Easier Said Than Done looks at the challenge of producing high quality textbooks using the open content model.

2 :: The (Age Old) Question of Commerce in Higher Ed

As the role of business in higher education gains further steam, discussions about its’ proper role expands:

Can Venture Capital Fix Our Dysfunctional Educational System

Venture Capital’s Massive, Terrible Idea For The Future Of College


And finally . . . I thought I’d share this comment from The Chronicle. It perfectly embodies the view of many in higher ed that bristle (however, naively) at the thought of commerce sullying higher ed. In just a few lines it defines higher ed management as daft stooges of commerce, and those working on the commercial side of higher education as responsible for screwing up the world economy.

“I guess having an MBA, being a stock trader, and working for Goldman Sachs are great qualifications given how wonderfully all these facets of society have done recently.  Having screwed up the economy and many people’s lives, now the same people are determined to wreak havoc on universities … all with the blessing of administrators with the same short attention span so glorified in this piece.”

3 :: Breaking News: “Internet Important to Education’s Future”, Say Important People

For the last couple of years, we’ve been treated to one “high profile” individual after another explain to us that higher education will be “revolutionised” by technology. They tell us that it has the potential to expand access, lead to extraordinary levels of personalisation, and drive down costs. Really? As Liz Lemon would say, “duyyhhhh”. Why do I find this so irritating? Maybe it’s because a handful of far more thoughtful people were saying exactly the same things 15 even 20 years ago, but they were ignored – even publicly ridiculed. On the list of Johnny/Joanne-come-lately are Don Tapscott, Davos, anybody that thinks the idea behind Coursera or Udacity wasn’t discussed in the 1990s, and Tom Friedman.

Tom Friedman, “Revolution Hits the Universities

Davos (World Economic Forum) What the University of the Future Will Look Like

Don Tapscott, The Week University (As We Know It) Ended

Thankfully, Kris Olds offers some welcome relief in his recent post, Memo to Board of Trustees re: Thomas Friedman’s ‘Revolution Hits the Universities’ in Sunday’s New York Times

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