Tag Archives: education

Disrupting learning: is education going down the way of the music industry?

According to Business Insider, the Khan Academy has just raised an extra 5 million dollars in funding. It was started in 2004 by an MIT graduate called Salman Khan, who started tutoring his cousin in math via Yahoo’s Doodle notepad. It went so well that other members of his family asked him to do the same, so Salman decided to record his lectures as videos and upload them onto YouTube. At this point, of course, they could be shared, and they were. This way of learning became very popular, and seven years later the Khan Academy is a well-funded charity that draws 39 million page views a month.

Assume 20 pageviews (videos) make up one student’s day of schooling; assume further 25 students in a real-life classroom, and 22 days of school in a month. That means that the Khan Academy takes the place of a very large 3500-classrooms school, being taught by, at most, ten extremely skillful teachers. Plus, each student can proceed at their own pace, with no need to sync with others that might prefer different speeds or learning times. Given the well known limits of traditional education as a learning method, it is easy to foresee continued success for endeavors of this kind.The Khan Academy’s successes may be a sign that a significant fraction of that market is going to get commodified, fast. When that happened to the music industry, it lashed back, hirinfg lobbyists to build legal barriers around its stream of revenues and lawyers to sue high school kids guilty of unlawfully sharing music files. I am not looking forward to what happens when universities get wind that they are being bypassed. Students in countries like the UK, where university tuition fees stands at three thousand pounds per year, are certainly going to want to bypass them: the alternative is getting into student debt, and the financial crisis is teaching us a thing or two about debt. Things could get ugly.

Marco De Rossi, the young founder of the Italian peer-to-peer online school Oilproject, dreams of putting online, on video every lecture of every course of every university in the country for free viewing. He certainly has the community to do it: what he needs is a one-line piece of legislation, that puts squarely in the public domain the intellectual property rights of taxpayer-funded university lectures. My guess is that it is now or never: either this legislation is made now or the education lobbyists will lock it down for good. Until the next Tahrir Square.

Teaching online collaboration for social enterprise

The fine folks at Istituto Europeo di Design proposed me to join the faculty of a new Master course called Design for Social Business (D4SB) (info). It’s quite a visionary idea: they selected eight students from all over the world, found them scholarships and put them to work. The course is taught in English, and it includes two field trips to see social business in action, one in Bangla Desh and the other in Colombia. My contribution will be:

  1. teaching them to design and use online collaboration environment, an ever more important tool for social business and especially social innovators (they need it to compensate the competitivity deficit in other areas, like finance).
  2. dare loro un quadro su ciò che si muove nel loro ambiente competitivo, proprio nel momento in cui in Europa si stanno prendendo le decisioni strategiche sulle politiche per il welfare dei prossimi annigive them an overview on what’s cooking in their competitive environment, at a time when the strategic decisions are being made on redesigning the welfare state in Europe
  3. share methods for writing and evaluating business plans for social enterprise

I am grateful to course director Jürgen Faust, coordinator Massimo Randone and IED for the opportunity to structure my thinking around these issues in the forms of lectures and workshops, and run them in front of such a high level classroom.

Insegnare la collaborazione online per l’impresa sociale

L’Istituto Europeo di Design mi ha proposto di insegnare in un nuovo master che si chiama Design for social business (D4SB), organizzato in collaborazione con il premio Nobel Muhammad Yunus e il suo Grameen Creative Lab (info). L’idea è di quelle visionarie: hanno selezionato otto studenti provenienti da tutto il mondo, gli hanno trovato borse di studio e li hanno messi a studiare (in inglese) con un programma molto di frontiera che comprende anche visite sul campo in Bangla Desh e Colombia per vedere l’impresa sociale in azione. Il mio contributo consiste in:

  1. insegnare loro a progettare e usare ambienti di collaborazione online, strumento di lavoro sempre più importante soprattutto per gli innovatori sociali – che lo usano per compensare il deficit di competitività in altre aree, come quella finanziaria.
  2. dare loro un quadro su ciò che si muove nel loro ambiente competitivo, proprio nel momento in cui in Europa si stanno prendendo le decisioni strategiche sulle politiche per il welfare dei prossimi anni
  3. condividere metodi di scrittura e valutazione di business planning per l’impresa sociale

Sono grato al responsabile del corso Jürgen Faust, al coordinatore Massimo Randone e allo IED per l’opportunità di strutturare le mie riflessioni su questi argomenti in forma di lezioni o di seminari e collaudarli su una classe, per giunta di livello così alto.