Welcome to the desktop degree…

There’s food for thought in the following article in the Guardian for everyone involved in education at any level. “Traditional teaching methods” and the role of computers and the Internet in education are issues that are continuously under scrutiny and have become crucial subjects for debate.

As more and more parents become computer-literate and aware of the power of the Internet to inform, educate, stimulate and entertain, might there be major shifts in how parents (as well as pupils) perceive education – especially in cases where children are extremely unhappy with their school experiences? Could groups of parents set up their own learning circles for home education?

And as more and more students and potential students regard high fees as prohibitive, particularly when on-line learning is freely available, might they also opt to learn independently of established schools, colleges and universities?

Three courses created at Stanford University prove that free online education can compete with traditional teaching methods

by John Naughton


Once upon a time, a very long time ago, in 1995 to be precise, a scholar named Eli Noam published an article in the prestigious journal Science under the title “Electronics and the Dim Future of the University“. In it, Professor Noam argued that the basic model of a university – which had been stable for hundreds of years – would be threatened by networked communications technologies.

Under the classical model, universities were institutions that created, stored and disseminated knowledge. If students or scholars wished to access that knowledge, they had to come to the university. But, Noam argued, the internet would threaten that model by raising the question memorably posed by Howard Rheingold in the 1980s: “Where is the Library of Congress when it’s on my desktop?” If all the world’s stored knowledge can be accessed from any networked device, and if the teaching materials and lectures of the best scholars are likewise available online, why should students pay fees and incur debts to live in cramped accommodation for three years? What would be the USP of the traditional university when its monopolies on storage and dissemination eroded?

If that was a good question in 1995, it’s an even better one today. 

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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2 Responses to Welcome to the desktop degree…

  1. 3deye says:

    Thanks, Nina – we agree entirely with your thoughts on this. Your comments also tie in very well with the blog we’ll be publishing tomorrow on the article you can read here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/higher-education-network/blog/2012/feb/20/manage-lead-management-theory-classroom


  2. Nina says:

    I think we must accept a new definition for knowledge. In the past it seemed to be referring to something fairly rigid and permanent. Then the world began to change faster than before, and new countries were born while old countries got new borders (this is actually how I felt about geography while I went to school) – so it became obvious that knowledge is NOT something permanent. Instead, we need to revisit the things we have learned in the past, and the idea of lifelong learning was introduced. And, quite frankly, I am absolutely fascinated about lifelong learning! Yet, it poses the very question about the necessity of universities, and the need for them to change and face new challenges.

    In my mind the importance of universities does not lie in storing and disseminating knowledge, but in finding, showing and sharing the connections that are created when your knowledge meets mine. And the best professors have known this for a long time. One of my professors verbally acknowledged the knowledge of our study group being far greater than his own (we all were working professionals already), and he seemed to be content in the role of being the facilitator for our further learning. And as you can guess, I learned so much more from him than from any other professor – because he made the professional cooperation become true within the group, and added his knowledge to ours. I wish all professors knew how to make that happen!


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