Home > Education > The laughing dinosaur

The laughing dinosaur

January 10, 2009

I work in a state university.  We’re very devoted to our students and to our purpose in advancing human knowledge.  We’ve got some brilliant instructors and students.  From our University president to the people who plant flowers in the quad every spring, we mean it; we take pride in what we do.  And we have great facilities too, with room for classes and events and… learning.

Wonder if dinosaurs laughed the first time they saw little furry mammals?

It doesn’t matter if the university featured in this ad is any good; there will be others.  Right now we’re watching newspapers die in the transparent flame of the WWW.  Are brick-and-morter universities really that different?

Our university was founded in 1857, and it’s tempting to think that we couldn’t possibly be displaced by a single office building with some professors and a web server farm.  But it has to be about more than survival in changing conditions.  We have an opportunity to do things that our founder couldn’t have imagined.

MIT has put all their courseware online, for free, extending their reach to motivated students all around the world, yet their campus is still packed.  Here in Illinois we are experimenting with podcasting, classroom wikis, blogs, and telepresence.  This is no time to slow down.

What’s the university of the future going to be like?  How will its core and its boundaries be defined?

Categories: Education
  1. January 11, 2009 at 00:51 | #1

    Profs here do mainly 4 things. 1) research, 2) teach, 3) evaluate (mark student papers etc), 4) burocratic dept. overhead. Their reward system however only rewards nr 1 (= papers published).
    Thus to get more time for 1, they are trying to automate 2 by putting courses online, podcasting, videos etc. Nr 3 can be automated by using a multiple choice exam etc.

    We do not reward good teaching adequately/at all.

    What’s it like in your respective countries, fellow readers?

  2. January 11, 2009 at 13:28 | #2

    I don’t think that we (Universities) will got the way of the RIAA or newspapers, or the ilk. There are two things Universities do right and if they adopt the model in the video, then they will be able to do them better.

    First, a University offers an experience. As an undergrad I honestly don’t remember much of my teaching and I remember a whole lot about community. Yes, I learned, yes my brain was stretched, but I also learned *so* much outside of class. Community, culture, and critical thinking were all values that I took from my experience. Universities that dismiss any of that are not playing to their strengths and will fail ultimately. If done correctly, these things offer value that you can’t reproduce virtually.

    Secondly, universities are the originator of thought, yes? We should be not only embracing this model but giving it a full on kiss on the mouth and nudging it in the morning and asking it if it wants sausage or pancakes for breakfast. The world should be looking at us to produce.

    My .02,


Comments are closed.