This ‘Need-to-Know’ blog post series features noteworthy stories that speak of need-to-know developments within higher education and K-12 that have the potential to influence, challenge and/or transform traditional education as we know it.
1) Minerva and the Future of College? Should we Be Worried?
The Atlantic’s feature story this week covering the newest entrant into the higher education sector Minerva, really fired up educators’ Twitter feeds. “The Future of College?” is primarily about Minerva’s philosophy and pedagogical strategy as a for-profit, (wanna-be) elite and semi-virtual university. The school is a radical departure from a traditional university—no administrative buildings (except for one office for employees on the 9th floor of an office building in San Francisco), no libraries, sports teams, or tenured faculty. Nor is the school run like a MOOC. Minerva’s inaugural class is made up of thirty-three students, thus classes are intimate, seminar discussions via tele-conferencing technology. MOOCs are used as content only at Minerva, and Ben Nelson, founder of the school shares in an interview with author, Graeme Wood, “We are a university and MOOC is a version of publishing….The reason we can get away with this model is because MOOCs exist. The MOOCs will eventually make lectures obsolete.”
It’s statements like these made by Nelson in this interview and others that are rather jarring to educators’ ears. Reading the 185+ comments in response to the article, one gets a sense of the concerns—tenure, scholarship, and for-profit.
Insight: Minerva is not a solution to the challenges facing higher education. This model seeks to be exclusive and elite—a barrier to access. It’s not affordable for everyone—it doesn’t accept financial aid—a barrier to cost. It does have potential to deliver quality, given the excellent professors Minerva has hired, including Stephen Kosslyn, a cognitive neuro-scientist and former Harvard dean. However, it is a model worth watching for the instructional methods implemented, how open content is leveraged, and to follow the educational outcomes of graduates. We will see.
2) Amazon Coming to a Campus Near You?
Speaking of education and business endeavors, Purdue University’s storefront with Amazon went live this week—the “co-branded experience” as described by Purdue with Amazon for the rental and sales of textbooks and other school supplies. The initiative was in the works last year according to details of a press release from Purdue. There is an Amazon webpage which serves as the Purdue’s storefront at purdue.amazon.com, and there is a significant Amazon presence within the campus bookstore. It’s hard to miss, with amazon-staffed service centres and the yellow, very large Amazon storage lockers where students can drop off and pick up textbooks. You can’t miss those eyesores.
If any students are wary about commercialization of their school with a public company such as Amazon taking over its bookstore, this line prominent on the Purdue’s store page may alleviate some concerns—“Your purchases are now supporting Purdue, which will use proceeds to support its Student Affordability and Accessibility initiatives.” I guess that will work.
UC Davis piloted the program back in November, called davis.amazon.com. UC Davis gets 2% of all sales generated. The amount that Purdue receives may be more, as according to Purdue, “Amazon will return a percentage of eligible sales through the Purdue Student Store on Amazon to the university, including sales to faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the university“.
Insight: As much as we don’t like to consider the student of education a ‘customer’, it’s hard not to with the growing presence of for-profit entities in education.
- Books from Amazon in Person, Inside Higher Ed
- Purdue, Amazon to offer savings to students on textbooks, provide first ever on-campus pick-up services, Press release, Purdue University
- Amazon and Davis pilot university storefront, UC Davis News and Information
One of the loyal readers of this blog, Laura Gibbs, a faculty member and online instructor at The University of Oklahoma, shared her newest find and its application of a tech tool—Inoreader. She raved about it on Google+ and described in detail how she uses it to organize her student’s blog posts for the online classes she teaches. Google Reader is no more, and I too have been searching for a customizable reader application with a clean interface. Look no further than Inoreader. It is impressive. Very. Thanks Laura.
- Blogger, Inoreader, Feedly: What a Great Way to Start the Semester!!!, Laura Gibbs
- Inoreader: A worthy Google Reader Replacement, appstorm
You can keep up to date with developments in education and related sectors by following me on Twitter, @OnlineLearningI