EdCast CEO: The University as Record Album In An MP3 Era

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are saying, “How many best Math 101 teachers do we need in America? We can fire the rest of them.”

We don’t believe that online education can completely engage students. Students will still need local instructors. I think there will be a shift and a change in what a professor or instructor is. They become coaches instead of teachers. They can move away from lecturing—the worst form of instruction—and focus on the flipped classroom, real discussion, real projects.

Xconomy:   Will these coaches, or local instructors, need to have a PhD?

Karl Mehta:   Not necessarily. Effectiveness doesn’t come from having a PhD. It’s all about communication and coaching ability. I would wager that all this disruption of the traditional higher education model will actually expand the market for instructors dramatically. There are 30 million Americans with some college credits, but no degree. Online education can help them get a degree, which they can’t do within an inflexible and rigid system. They can’t leave their jobs and go back to school.

We can think of courses on online platforms as the new books. Instructors all over the world are comfortable with teaching from a book not written by themselves. Online courses can expand the scale of participation in higher education massively, bringing sharing and collaboration to an unprecedented level. It also brings down the cost. Individual institutions don’t each have to have the best experts on that topic.

Xconomy:   How do you think online education and new edtech models will change the way students earn credentials? Will new forms of credentials emerge alongside the academic degrees conferred by colleges and universities?

Karl Mehta:   The credential we know today definitely may change over time. A bachelor’s degree may not be very important to an employer. I always hired engineers based on their knowledge and demonstrable skills; I would hire people who didn’t have a traditional degree. You can give a programming test in an hour. I can tell when somebody is better than another person who has an Ivy League computer science degree.

There is still a need for some level of endorsement or validation. An enterprise, such as an employer, could give a badging credential. There may be new types of endorsers who would look at all your individual badges and say, “I’m willing to give you a degree based on assessments and various badges.” It could be a university. That may have enough credibility in the employment market.

Xconomy:   How can colleges and universities survive the changes in the education market? Which ones will be most vulnerable?

Karl Mehta:   I am sure that the future university that will be successful will be able to provide the highest quality of education, at the lowest price, to a global audience. The successful university will also take on entrepreneurial problem- solving as its mission beyond just teaching and research, and will be using a network model to build what we call the “Multiversity.” The Multiversity platform allows the instructors not to duplicate, or lecture the same material, year after year. It turns instructors into coaches, and universities into “centers of innovation” and not just “centers of learning.”

The schools at very high risk are at Tier Two or below. If you’re Tier Two or Tier Three in terms of quality, you can only make it by using online education to upgrade quality, not just by waiting to hire the right faculty. If you’re a college in a cornfield somewhere, it’s not realistic to expect to hire world-class faculty. Some of these lower-tier schools will adopt online education faster than the Tier One schools.

Xconomy:   Do you think urban schools that connect students with local employers will become more popular than big non-urban campuses with lots of amenities?

Karl Mehta:   Given the speed at which the economy is changing, it will become imperative for students to stay close to employers in their fields. Otherwise, you’re completely disconnected from what is changing and what is the next big thing, and your degree is obsolete when you graduate. Four years is a very long time, given the speed at which the markets and the economy are moving globally. As an employer, I see a lot of students with a bachelor’s degree in business, but they don’t have a skill set in any specific area to become productive and solve a problem.
Universities will need to collaborate with industry more meaningfully than just research and tech -transfer, and a new digital ecosystem will emerge. Future universities will look very different than just the center of learning and/or research.

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One response to “EdCast CEO: The University as Record Album In An MP3 Era”

  1. Lea Patterson says:

    I think unbundling degrees is a great idea to allow greater
    flexibility on tailored education packages. The biggest issue with this is that
    universities will have to have very detailed information on how much is really
    costs to provide that one unit/subject. At the moment most universities don’t
    measure the full cost (including all the overhead and support costs) down to
    individual program and courses, taking into consideration all of the
    cross-subsidization between various programs/courses, research and sports
    programs. This is a major stumbling block to achieving unbundling because this
    doesn’t provide them with a basis to price the unit of study, they could find
    themselves losing money if they price it below the actual cost to provide it.
    This cost will vary from subject to subject and it will change over time (its
    dynamic). This is somewhat different at “for-profit” institutions
    like music publishers and I’ve read similar arguments comparing universities to
    the cable industry. Profitability is their reason for being, so they have to
    have excellent and detailed cost models. For universities it’s a combination of
    Mission and Margin – not so much to make a profit, rather to ensure financial
    sustainability. So the focus to date hasn’t really been on granular level
    costing, but it needs to be to support this unbundling concept.