Tom Friedman’s Key Take-aways from Harvard/MIT Online Learning Summit

Source: NYTimes, Mar 2013

Institutions of higher learning must move … from a model of “time served” to a model of “stuff learned.” Because increasingly the world does not care what you know. Everything is on Google. The world only cares, and will only pay for, what you can do with what you know. … We’re moving to a more competency-based world where there will be less interest in how you acquired the competency — in an online course, at a four-year-college or in a company-administered class — and more demand to prove that you mastered the competency.

… we have to get beyond the current system of information and delivery — the professorial “sage on the stage” and students taking notes, followed by a superficial assessment, to one in which students are asked and empowered to master more basic material online at their own pace, and the classroom becomes a place where the application of that knowledge can be honed through lab experiments and discussions with the professor.

There seemed to be a strong consensus that this “blended model” combining online lectures with a teacher-led classroom experience was the ideal. Last fall, San Jose State used the online lectures and interactive exercises of M.I.T.’s introductory online Circuits and Electronics course. Students would watch the M.I.T. lectures and do the exercises at home, and then come to class, where the first 15 minutes were reserved for questions and answers with the San Jose State professor, and the last 45 were devoted to problem solving and discussion. Preliminary numbers indicate that those passing the class went from nearly 60 percent to about 90 percent.

There is still huge value in the residential college experience and the teacher-student and student-student interactions it facilitates. But to thrive, universities will have to nurture even more of those unique experiences while blending in technology to improve education outcomes in measurable ways at lower costs. We still need more research on what works, but standing still is not an option.

Christensen noted that Harvard Business School doesn’t teach entry-level accounting anymore, because there is a professor out at Brigham Young University whose online accounting course “is just so good” that Harvard students use that instead. When outstanding becomes so easily available, average is over.

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