Sunday, January 3, 2010

The heart of the matter

The blogosphere has supplanted formal journalism as the movers and shakers of the world. This is because the cost of publishing ones thoughts to the masses has dropped precipitously, and the industries which were predicated on providing mass media access to the public are now struggling.

The enabling technology, the pusher on the street corner, is clearly the internet and the new cultural artifacts which it has bred (blogs, Wiki's Cops).

But this is the first shoe to fall. Still up there is most of academia. University is predicated on the rarity of good speakers with in depth professional knowledge of any subject you can take a course in. In the past, If you wanted to study quantum mechanics, you got to a university and started taking courses.

But this is no longer true. If I want quantum mechanics, its right here, one click away, coming from one of the greatest centers of scientific research in the western hemisphere, and it's the same with any other subject I care to name.

In the old days it was(in principle) the education that mattered, not the qualification, in the new regime, one of the few features universities can still offer to the student, which is not as clearly available via the internet, is certification for your learning, wherever you got it from.

So for long term survival, there are going to be some interesting moves by universities, towards being more research based institutions, towards being online repositories of course material accessed by the end users etc. At this point its hard to extrapolate, particularly with my educated academic bias on the issue.

1 comment:

  1. I suggest that universities may also continue as validators of qualifications, irrespective of the path one takes to gain the relevant knowledge. For example, I study open content on Theology and take my exams through Trinity and get my parchment. I also suggest that universities will continue as publishers of open content, perhaps opting for overtly commercial solutions such as sponsorship. "The Historical Jesus: A Coca-Cola Course."