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Memo to All Professors: Our Monopoly Has Ended Forever

By Shlomo Maital   

professor    

 Memo to myself, and all professors everywhere?    Hey – you know that cozy monopoly that we enjoyed?  Our courses, especially compulsory ones, were, like, the only game in town?  We all paid lip service to teaching quality, but our promotions were based on published papers, most of them barely or never read by anyone?  And I’m talking about myself here….

       Those days are over.  Here is how I know.

        Thanks to an amazing support team at my university, Technion (the Center for Improvement of Learning & Teaching), I offered a course on Creativity through the website Coursera  (Cracking the Creativity Code: Part One – Discovering Ideas).  Some 10,000 students from all over the world participated.  It was a lot harder than I originally thought.  I taped the videos three times, because the first two tries simply were not acceptable.   Students are now submitting their final project – a 2-minute video showing how they would use creativity to tackle seven challenges that we defined.

         Unlike the wise adage “look before you leap”, we leaped first and then looked.  In preparing a talk for an academic conference on Educational Technologies, we summarized what we learned from our MOOC (massive open online course).  We discovered that there are at least 50 other open on-line courses on creativity.  Some are simply outstanding, given by the top people in this field, including Tina Seelig, at Stanford’s new Design School.  A Penn State course on “Creativity innovation and change” attracted 130,000 students.

      It has now dawned on me, like a light bulb turned on, that the cozy little monopoly that I once had (and all other professors),  is now over.  Our students can now reach out and tap the teaching skills of the very best professors in the world.  No longer do they need to suffer the inadequacies of the local substandard version.  And if I, as a professor, do not improve very quickly, I will be as extinct as the brontosaurus.

      Cracking the Creativity Code:  Part Two – Delivering Ideas, is now in the works.  And trust me – it is going to be a whole lot better.  It has to be.  Because my once-captive audience has been freed, just as Lincoln freed the slaves in 1864.   My monopoly has ended. 

       And the world is a whole lot better for it!

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“Middle” Universities: You’re in Trouble

By Shlomo Maital

low middle

Brand name        “Middle”       Local Univ

Universities       Universities

At a recent gathering of some of my former students, I heard an exceptionally interesting talk by one of them, now a senior executive at an on-line university.

His point: many universities are asleep. They face growing stiff competition from on-line courses, which are meeting students’ needs far better. The age of ‘industrial grade’ education, one size fits all, standard program, standard diploma, standard degree,   is nearing its end.

   Students want specific skills, and according to Forbes Magazine, 80 per cent of MBA programs THINK they provide those skills, but 80 per cent of MBA students believe that they do not. The skills including: critical thinking, ability to analyze complex situations, decision-making and active listening.

   In future, we will need more knowledge workers, higher productivity, but governments are spending less and less on education (in the U.S. student loans impose usurious interest, up to 11 per cent, and unlike mortgages, they cannot be escaped).     More and more, employers want proof of key workforce skills, not empty credentials like diplomas or degrees that are evidence only of the ability to pay high tuition and pass exams.  

So, watch for on-line courses offering specific skills (e.g. on Coursera, a highly popular course teaches how to create applications for Android devices). Look for older workers to take those courses, as part of lifelong learning and skill rejuvenation. And warns the speaker, watch out if you’re a university “in the middle”, i.e. not a brand name, like Yale or Stanford or MIT,   and not a purely local university, conveniently nearby its students. In the middle, universities like Arizona State U., may be in trouble – offering neither the advantage of brand name nor close-by geography.

   In future all higher education will be a complex blend of conventional classroom courses and on-line courses. The universities that prepare best and fastest for this development will come out ahead. But most of them seem to be asleep.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
September 2019
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