IT and Higher Ed
| Peter Klein |
Joshua Gans’s Forbes piece on Stanford’s online game theory course brought up a larger point about higher education. I’ve been involved in various online, distance, web-based educational activities for many years. When designing an online course, the typical professor imagines each element of a traditional course, then creates a virtual equivalent. I.e., paper syllabus = html syllabus; books, articles, handouts = pdf files; classroom lecture = webcast lecture; office hours = chat session; pen-and-paper exams = online exams; and so on. The elements are exactly the same as before; only the method of delivery has changed.
This is almost certainly the wrong way to leverage the information technology revolution. The pedagogy is exactly the same. But isn’t this just what we would expect of entrenched incumbents? The record companies didn’t create iTunes. The online New York Times is pretty much like the paper New York Times; it took Google and Flipboard and other innovators to revolutionize the newsreading business. As we’ve noted before, isomorphism and stasis is exactly what we would expect from a protected cartel — disruptive innovation, in the Christensen sense, will almost certainly come from outside. (Hopefully after Yours Truly is comfortably retired.)