Higher Education Teaching – threats and opportunities

Premium quality universities may preserve blended learning (and blended research) techniques for their creative interaction value. Meanwhile, Massively Open Online Course (MOOC) providers are likely to try to emulate pure digital retailers, offering their client-base modular learning products for personal up-skilling and continuous professional development (CPD).

 Should premium quality universities partner with MOOC providers to offer premium university-branded online learning modules and what kind of demand might emerge?

Regardless of how fast the ‘long tail of higher education demand’ emerges, represented incidentally by supply not just demand, student demand for elite undergrad and graduate programmes will likely remain strong. It’s perceived value comes in helping those students differentiate themselves in the workplace and use premium university content to aid workplace performance.

However, as MOOC providers ‘fatten’ the thickness of the long tail by progressively offering affordable, modularised courses, globally accessible, in multiple languages and able to be studied at a time convenient to the student, premium quality STEM universities need to think more about the post- qualification needs of engineers, doctors and scientists for continuous professional development. Premium STEM universities would also be wise to think about how much of that emerging demand to capture themselves. The set of post-qualification needs could be represented in two dimensions; career seniority skills and career breadth skills.

The faster new professional fields emerge due to global innovation, the harder it becomes for any employee (highly talented or not) to plot a linear career progression that preserves their marketability (embrace sufficient career breadth for what is required). Or have an effective grip over newly-emergent fields that support the organisation’s core mission (enabling them to then achieve hierarchical seniority).

Career seniority skills include; training in budget, project, process and operations management, change management, information & service quality management, business strategy & marketing. Techniques might include; using simulations for planning, improving communication flows and learning risk management practices.

Career breadth skills include; spending time understanding allied innovations and research breakthroughs that have some bearing on the person’s area of greatest experience. For example, for an ambitious doctor going from a large specialist NHS Trust into a small private practice, it may be advantageous to broaden their knowledge of medical imaging techniques and image interpretation.

MOOC’s threat to low quality universities

Unlike for the premium quality university programmes that rely on creative interaction value, MOOC providers can be expected to sooner or later out-compete the low quality universities who can only offer simple lecture-style content of a standardised nature. Such universities have a significant physical cost structure to support, while MOOC providers offer their customers a vastly cheaper price for at worst, the same academic content and (virtual) study group experience.

How can premium quality universities understand market CPD needs better?

A key question to ask might be what step changes will talented and ambitious graduates need to make for their career progression and how can we position to match those needs?

Premium quality universities are arguably in pole position to communicate the value of specific knowledge and problem-solving skills to employers that drives CPD demand back to themselves.

Some business schools already do this well in providing bespoke onsite training courses of short duration to the employees nominated by their client. Therefore, what scope is there to maximise this demand opportunity, not with bespoke organisational courses, but with customised sector training, centred on the generic step changes?

On a related note, could the excess capacity of expensive university research kit (High Powered Laser machines, Wind Tunnels, Wave Tanks, MRI Scanners, High resolution/high speed digital cameras, Big Data Centres) be used in such CPD training courses, perhaps via a fieldtrip visit to the university campus?

If so, two other benefits might arise – with greater ongoing demand, the equipment resources could be scaled up to capture economies of scale for the university. And secondly, the effectiveness of alumni fundraising might rise – offering more CPD courses widens the potential alumni base and for returning alumni, reaffirms the bond with their original institution, which hopefully translates into greater donations.


Flip the Classroom

The word on Flip Learning; grade headlines you win, grade tailings you loose?

Flip; outside-in to inside-out

Flip the classroom; video killed the textbook star?

Flip learning; Allow enough time at the workstation, so the training can leave on time with you onboard.

Conventional learning; walls with sentries and checkpoints. Flip learning; walls with ears.

Flip Learning; One insight is worth a thousand repeats.

Flip Learning; one substance, many styles.

Flip Learning; like You Tube breaking news, not museum captions

Flip Learning; time and space are relative. Assessment is absolute.

Flip learning; art integrating life and life integrating art?


Conventional teaching; inherit raw materials and hope to convert to saleable finished goods, using scheduled production runs.

Flip teaching; sell raw materials for students to convert into saleable finished goods, using flexible production runs.



Information & Communications Technology

Data has travelled half way around the World before data integration has got its boots on.

Open the pipes to let the water flow. Open the system interfaces to let the data flow.

Big Data and Human Creativity – the twin elements of modern day progress.

Data privacy exists if you can directly restrict data’s ability to mingle with other data. The rest is illusion.

Technology spreads rumour, hype and gossip just as fast as it spreads facts. Don’t confuse latest tech with greatest accuracy.

You Tube – you choose

I read in the Metro paper (a London free morning newspaper) this week that apparently 100 hours of video are uploaded to You Tube every minute. And that 6 Billion hours of video are now watched on You Tube each month. Soon it will be one hour watched each month for every person on the planet.

Is this good or bad? On the positive side, we should celebrate the enormous amount of creative energy that people exhibit in producing You Tube content. Clearly we’re not all passive entertainment consumers/couch potatoes!

Any time we have a bad day and start to lose faith in humanity, or its ability to solve the problems that often we ourselves have created, it’s worth remembering just how creative we are as well. Of course our creativity comes in many forms – entertainment, art, prose, scientific innovation, business product development, medical cures etc.

Getting back to You Tube, obviously with 100 hours uploaded every minute, the competition for viewer time is immense and intense. That’s worth remembering if you’re one of those You Tube content producers (maybe the business end-market is less crowded?).

I’m sure that like for TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and the performing arts (dance, drama, musicals, live music, mime, stand up comedy etc) You Tube has its share of thought-provoking, informative and measured (fair) debate.

If it doesn’t, then should we worry that the critical mass of people watching the 6B hours of video aren’t getting a ‘nutritional’ information ‘diet’ to make informed judgements in their lives? Judgements made when they vote, sit on juries, buy products, support their kids schools, sign petitions, give to charities, fund raise, or engage with each other in person?