A few people have asked what I used for the slideshow that accompanied my Social Media Best Practices presentation; it’s a web-based tool called Prezi (www.prezi.com). If you’re so inclined, you can interact with the slideshow here.
It gives you a huge canvas to work with and streamlines the process of putting together a slideshow by limiting the options for adding content. One of the coolest features of Prezi is that you can either map out a path you’d like to navigate through OR you can click on any item to zoom in on it (giving one a lot of flexibility in doing an extemporaneous presentation). In addition to online hosting – Prezi offers the option of downloading your slideshow as a flash document.
The only problem I’ve had with Prezi is that on occasion it will fail to load images that I’ve uploaded (they just go dead and never fully load and one has to delete them and replace them. Other than that the experience has been excellent.
For my peeps in education, Prezi currently offers a free education package – for details click here.
[Caution Spoilers] After “Ain’t It Cool News” tipped me off that Facebook “fans” of “Community” can watch the pilot episode free on Facebook, I signed up and watched the episode to see how it treats Community Colleges. In the way of disclosure, not only do I work at a community college as an administrator and adjunct faculty – but I’m the product of two years at Lansing Community College in mid-Michigan (one of the best experiences of my life).
For what it’s worth, I know that community colleges (like many workplaces) are ripe for satire. I’ve seen plenty of sitcom-worthy material (like a professor who happens to own a chain of strip clubs and recruits dancers from the student population). My hackles only go up when jabs at community colleges are directed at the students, cheapening their earnest efforts to improve their lives.
PayScale.com has returned with its “College Salary Report,” which purports to rank higher education institutions based on the salaries their graduates make after college.
In addition to further de-valuing higher education by helping our culture reduce it to a horse race for the almighty dollar, they do so with really sloppy methodology. Time Magazine weighed in on the problems in the figures, but I also found a number of problems with how they tabulate their results: Read more…
[Update: Am I prescient or what? Inside Higher Ed just published an article about the battle going on at the federal level over which accrediting agencies are deserving of recognition.]
In his book (which I highly recommend) “What Would Google Do?,” Jeff Jarvis introduces a theme that runs throughout his discussion of how the Internet is fundamentally reshaping the world: “Protection is not a strategy for the future.” The most au courant example of this unwise strategy (which we can watch failing in real-time) is the newspaper industry, but there are plenty of others littering the info superhighway:
“How many companies and industries fail to heed the warnings they know are there but refuse to see? The music industry is, of course, the best example of digital dead meat. Detroit waited far too long to make smaller cars and pursue electricity as a fuel. Many retail chains opened stores online but stopped there, not seeing opportunities to forge new relationships with customers as Amazon had. Telecom companies were blindsided by the emergence of open networks that undercut their business – even as those networks operated on the telecom companies’ own wires. Ad agencies kept trying to forestall the reinvention of their industry, still buying mass media evn as more targeted and efficient opportunities grew on the internet. News executives thought they could avoid change and even believed they should be immune from it because they were the holders of a holy flame: Journalism with a capital J. [...] They lost their destinies because they wanted to save their pasts.”
As I read this section, it occurred to me that even the non-profit sector is not immune from the threat of an inclination toward protectionism. For colleges and universities, protectionism takes the form of accreditation.
YouTube’s recent release of its “.EDU” site which features channels and content from educational institutions hints at a possible “open source” future for education (particularly higher education). Grand Rapids Community College has a thriving YouTube channel as a result of the excellent work done by our Media Technologies department (which produces content for the Grand Rapids Public Schools as well as a number of local colleges and universities).
In fact, GRCC is one of the heavyweights in the new YouTube EDU site (as others have noticed, including Time Magazine in a recent article titled “Logging on to the Ivy League”); it has more content up than Harvard and almost as much as MIT. Many of the four-year universities in Michigan don’t even have YouTube channels.
Watching the potential of online courses leads me to this question: what is the difference between an online course and a traditional course? This question is important, because as online course content from top-tier universities is increasingly available for free through the web – they’re going to offer some serious competition to other education institutions.
One of the things the web does best is to free people from the geographic bonds that hold them; you’re no longer limited to the offerings at your local mall, dating pool, or social circles. The same is true of education.
I see a possible future where students from across the US (and around the world) take online courses from the best faculty at the best schools, and the role of regional higher education becomes to provide the necessary support services, lab space, proctoring and resources for those students to become credentialed.
That is to say, your semester (assuming there’s still a need to keep rigidly-defined calendars, which is less and less likely) looks something like this:
- You fill your class schedule this semester with an online Chemistry class from M.I.T., an online English class from Yale, an online Social Science class from U.C. Berkley, and an online Ethics class from Oxford.
- You watch podcasted lectures, participate in collaborative group exercises with Google Apps, and interact with the faculty (or their graduate assistants) in immersive virtual environments.
- Then, when it comes time for tutoring, lab experiments or testing/assessment – you head to Grand Rapids Community College for the one-on-one instructional support and hands-on learning (which is GRCC’s true core competence as a “teaching” institution).
One particular aspect of that scenerio that is particularly promising in terms of creating a dramatic opportunity for regional education institutions is assessment. Currently the means we use to measure comprehension (standardized tests) are woefully-inadequate; they’re inherently biased with respect to culture and learning styles – yet they’re necessary in order to keep class sizes manageable while still being cost-effective.
If we’re free of some of those time constraints – suddenly a dramatic window opens up for personalized, one-on-one interview-style assessments of one’s ability to comprehend, master and think critically about course material.
The reasons this can’t be the near future are rapidly eroding away – which means that it’s an increasingly likely future. Something to consider.