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Whither our cherished institutions

Two ongoing narratives have my head spinning lately…

Is Coursera the Beginning of the End for Traditional Higher Education?

Could high-quality MOOCs eventually do to traditional colleges and universities what Craigslist has done to classified advertising in newspapers and what Wikipedia has done to encyclopedias? In other words, could Coursera and its ilk replace a $250,000 college degree and decimate the world of brick-and-mortar colleges and universities?

The Bookless Library

 This technology cannot simply substitute for the great libraries of the present. After all, libraries are not just repositories of books. They are communities, sources of expertise, and homes to lovingly compiled collections that amount to far more than the sum of their individual printed parts. Their physical spaces, especially in grand temples of learning like the NYPL, subtly influence the way that reading and writing takes place in them. And yet it is foolish to think that libraries can remain the same with the new technology on the scene.

That second article is chock full of interestingness. I’m not of the “sky is falling!” mentality, but the last line in that second quote is spot on. And, we can replace “libraries” with many of our most cherished institutions…

  • And yet it is foolish to think that [schools] can remain the same with the new technology on the scene.
  • And yet it is foolish to think that [newspapers / magazines] can remain the same with the new technology on the scene.
  • And yet it is foolish to think that [scholarly communication / academic publishing] can remain the same with the new technology on the scene.

To the leaders and key decision-makers within our great institutions, I can only echo the subtitle of the second article: “Don’t deny it. Direct it wisely.”

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