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Lessons from General Motors: Colleges and Universities must "think small" too

Posted Jun 02 2009 1:02pm 1 Comment

A recent article in the NY Times underscores the stress that college students and their families are experiencing with college tuition and fees.  Chris Anderson rightly points out in Wired  (The New New Economy) that the days of the "too big to fail" are over, and that big companies like GM or ATT&T would operate more effectively as thousands of small companies, with focused mission and entrepreunerial spirit.  And as Dartmouth Medical School and others unload staff in a desperate attempt to save some dough, why is it so taboo to suggest that the idea of small entrepreneurial models can fit education as well?

Here at Keene State College we spend tens of thousands paying for online courseware (Blackboard) but we all know that free open source programs are becoming available (like Moodle ).  Along with other communication and educational programs available for free on the net (blogs, skype, twitter, Prezi, radio lab, NY Times/Bank Street, etc) it's easy to have idea exchange and conversation across geographical areas.  And so we must ask:  Is the time on our watch now for collaborative educational programming in which teams of professors and faculty gather to teach specialty programs independent of their colleges and universities?  Imagine, for example a group of ten top autism experts from across the globe or across a region offering "hybrid" degree programs (a mix of online and in person classes) even though they all have different college or professional affiliations.  Using online conferencing, courseware, skype, students could be taught not by one, but by many of the top people in a designated field.  I have already demonstrated how outside experts can visit my class from afar, or how students can visit faculty from afar, easily at no cost.

One barrier to this "smaller" more focused approach to education will be college administrators themselves, who will raise the issue of regional and national "accreditation" (will these programs be accredited?).  And of course the conflict will be that those very administrators are those that support the current system of accreditation (which rewards "big" over "small" in terms of educational unit size).  But they needn't fear...we need administrators and technology support and many of those people, but we also desperately need a new diversity in approaches to higher education.

The video below is a recent chat I had with two students from two different classes where we talk about how blogging, twitter, Prezi, Skype have all changed their educational experience:

Using Twitter, Skype, and blogs in the classroom from Jenny on Vimeo.

Comments (1)
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Bankruptcy among businesses today has been rampant. It is indeed that we really are in the midst of economic crisis. Who would have thought that a giant automaker General Motor would face bankruptcy? Hummer, the controversial brand that General Motors refused to try and discharge after the price of gasoline began to shoot through the ceiling, has been subject of a lot of headlines.  Hummer was among the first brands that GM slated for culling after the recession began, with Saturn and Pontiac close behind, but unlike other companies that were simply shuttered, Hummer was able to secure a buyer.  It's been announced that Sichuan Tenzhong, or Sichuan Tenzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co will purchase the brand with some quick cash to the rescue.  The company manufactures heavy machinery in China, and this means debt consolidation for Hummer and a good deal for Sichuan Tenzhong.
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