So You’ve Got Technology. So What?

I am embarrassed that I missed this argument first time round. Richard DeMillo writes

Some of us are still waiting for higher education’s Nicholas Carr moment—the point at which it becomes clear to everyone that technology doesn’t matter. Carr’s 2003Harvard Business Review article, “Why IT Doesn’t Matter,” threw sand in the gears of the information-technology industry by pointing out the obvious: Building strategy around a competitive necessity is simply a bad idea.

But this is exactly what lots of Universities think about elearning. Richard deMillo goes on:

Five years ago it was hard to find a senior official at an elite institution who believed that online courses would be an acceptable mode of delivery. Today the majority do, according to recent studies. Technology is now the centerpiece of hundreds of strategic plans, providing a road map for institutions that want to expand access, improve completion rates, reduce costs, and empower students with online courses, learning-management systems, administrative portals, and wireless infrastructure.

It is investment on a breathtaking scale, but most of it will not matter. Here is why: Most of this investment is for commoditized technology in the service of the classroom. Squandering strategic investment in improved classrooms fundamentally disadvantages those colleges that are most in need of change. Here is how to rewrite Nicholas Carr’s message for higher education: “You are making a strategic investment in a commodity that will soon be freely available to everyone. Worse, you are using it to automate a business model that will soon be irrelevant.”

I think this is spot on. Full article here.

Post by Jonathan Rees

Clinical academic and skin watcher at the University of Edinburgh

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