Utah higher education must adapt or die, Harvard business innovator tells legislators

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • ciao6 Pocatello, ID
    Jan. 24, 2012 9:55 p.m.

    Certainly history reminds us that products come and go but replacing face-to-face education with online demonstrates a fundamentally different product. Taking a course from an expert professor in a class of 6 is fundamentally different than being in an online course with 5,000 people. One will provide experiential learning, where your background and identity are intertwined with new concepts and learning extends beyond a regurgitation of acquiring facts. In well designed courses with expert professional teachers, students learn how to think in new ways, they learn how to learn in new ways, and the paths they can take with this new knowledge becomes exponential. The possibility for learning and application becomes very dynamic.

    Instead, online learning for the masses is a much more linear and recall based education. This fits well with the current focus on standardized testing. What a person can do with the knowledge is not given value. You will notice that any "creativity" performed in online courses, including blogs and e-contact between peers, is a large effort to make online courses look like face-to-face classes.

    Accepting basic genetics, learning is based on interaction from birth and throughout life. Interaction with tools can be both social and psychological. Cheapening the learning opportunities that the definition of what a university is supposed to be or has been for centuries is fundamentally different. Hybrid courses can help those in rural areas and such obtain certain opportunities for learning not afforded them in any other way. But having universities move to a Univ. of Phoenix model is fundamentally a different product and way of learning. Having seen other research of Christensen, I am quite certain he lacks a deep understanding concerning learning, teaching, the transformation of the human mind, internalization of knowledge, and self-regulation. Instead, he glosses over these type of components of education and uses a widget product model where the education of the mind is no different than kodak or steel mill products. Unfortunate repercussions for education because his argument for business products is sound enough and backed by history.

  • Keen American Fork, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 9:54 p.m.

    There are various arguments posed here against and supporting distance / online education. As a distance education (DE) and face-to-face (F2F) instructor, for profit and non-profit organizations, I would like to share some observations I've had while teaching online and face:

    1. If you are motivated, organized, and know technology, you have a better chance of succeeding and mastering the content in DE and F2F.

    2. If you are shy and a somewhat introverted or speak English as a second language, you may find your voice online. F2F classes tend to benefit those who are confident in sharing their opinion and/or speak English as their mother tongue or the language of that learning system.

    3. The DE course can level the playing field for students who tend to be quiet in the F2F course. Itâs actually quite liberating to say whatâs on your mind without some students who can domineer the F2F classroom.

    4. The master online instructor in the synchronous DE environment encourages those who don't speak to do so via the Chat tool and surveys. If used properly and expectations set up clearly, you can read chats much quicker and easier than waiting for the F2F students to respond. Students can answer and see the survey results much quicker than in the F2F format, too.

    5. The DE format allows the instructor to call on people just like the F2F format via audio and/or webcam. In fact, because the DE format tends to hide the instructors who are impatient, I've noticed that students aren't as intimidated either to âspeakâ up.

    I'm not saying that DE is the "killer app". What I am saying is that if used properly DE can actually provide a wonderful way for students to learn in a format that the F2F format could never fulfill. Students, who are motivated, organized, and know technology, really benefit from the DE approach. For that matter, those are skills needed to succeed in the F2F classroom.

    Sadly, statistics show that DE students fail to complete their online courses at a higher rate than F2F. Where are the problems? It's the studentâs fault for not keeping up properly. It's the instructor's fault for not engaging and motivating students. When is the crucial time to help the students succeed? At the beginning of the class semester and/or when the student signs up for the course. Sustained progress is key. It's the institution's fault for either not qualifying students to take the courses, not providing the proper student support, and/or not caring enough for students to actually progress in a timely fashion.

    Do I think DE should be the sole content environment? No. Do I think the classroom should be eliminated? No.

    Use the best of both worlds and make sure the students know what is expected of them and provide the proper support for the students whether it's from the instructor and/or the institution.

    Posting and reading these comments shows that there is room for some aspect of Distance Education.

  • very concerned Sandy, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 7:33 p.m.

    IF online education is the wave of the future, then we should be spending our time researching better ways to deliver it and make sure the students are learning what they need to learn.

    By the way, why is it that we now talk about education as a marketplace? I would hope it is or will return to be - so much more than that. Many things have become just commodities, to be bought and sold in bulk. Thats what seems to be developing as a mindset within higher education as well.

    America was historically filled with hard-working innovators. I believe if we are to succeed in our education endeavors, we need to continue to do just that, succeed in having the best online education environment in the world. I cringe a bit when I hear people say the online environment is easier. These are people who have taken (and taught) both face-to-face and online courses. Dr. Christensens theories may be right, but what is the take-home lesson? We need to be improving the online experience so it is not inferior to traditional education.

  • Louisiana Cougar Pineville, LA
    Jan. 24, 2012 7:09 p.m.

    Christensen is right on target -- and I have read several of his books.

    Most universities are dinosaurs and faculty members are self-serving and out of touch with reality in many cases. I know. I am one. I am appalled by the thinking of my peers, the accrediting bodies, and the associations of professional educators who fail to keep pace.

    Disruptive innovation is the key to successful change -- in education and in business enterprise.

    "The significant problems we face cannot be resolved at the level that we were at when we created them" Einstein told us. We need to rethink our old assumptions -- but we will probably lack the insight or the moral courage to do so!

  • Macfarren Dallas, TX
    Jan. 24, 2012 6:48 p.m.


    While there are certainly some very large lecture courses in college, the majority are not. At multiple universities, I think I only had one in excess of 100 students. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • golfrUte SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 6:11 p.m.

    Based on Dr. Christensen's track record, I wouldn't bet against him. Some of the most successful, innovative companies in this country keep Dr. Christensen on their payroll because of his unique, disruptive concepts. Read his books and research documents and you'll be impressed.

    I have a son in medical school and no textbooks are used, only e-books on iPads. Innovate or die watching others take your place.

  • peter Alpine, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 5:57 p.m.

    Sally is right about college GE courses being nothing more than a redundancy of HS work. If it's new to you, you didn't pay attention in HS. If it's not new, it's an expensive way to boost your GPA and feel good about your "intelligence." A BS can be earned without all the unnecessary, taxing GE "BS" that colleges require. There's way too much fluff. We need to shorten the time it takes to earn a degree. Also, a degree may open some doors of opportunity, but the real learning occurs afterward, once you cut through all the bureaucracy of higher education. We need to simplify the whole process. That's my take.

  • Cincinnatus Kearns, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 5:42 p.m.

    Don't think "disruptive innovation" is real, that it can't affect education? Take a closer look.

    BYU Bookstore laid off 29 employees on Friday. University of California, San Francisco recently shut the doors to its bookstore and took everything online. University bookstores are fighting "disruptive innovation" that comes from ebooks, Amazon, eBay, Chegg, and many other places. The market for educational materials is changing because companies can streamline operations, buy in bulk, and quickly change direction as needed. Yet, bookstore administrators refuse to acknowledge this, watch the decreasing sales, wonder what is happening, yet proclaim that students will always "want the paper copy" or "will need us for convenience."

    Extend this to the University level. If you think technology isn't disrupting the traditional education model, think again. Liberal education courses such as history, philosophy, art appreciation, etc. are being replaced quickly by online courses. Teachers CAN teach courses live, interact with students and answer questions- established, emerging and new technologies are making this easier and easier. If university administrators refuse to acknowledge this, the will watch decreasing enrollments while proclaiming "students need a traditional classroom to learn."

  • sally Kearns, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 5:24 p.m.

    College needs to be more than a repeat of high school courses. Teachers need to be trained/educated in more depth in their major. Our children were more educated/had more understanding of the subject than the teachers they had in high school. The students would come to our children for answers when the teacher had no clue. Teachers in college need to teach and test properly. Testing should be used as a learning tool to review and learn from, not to give trick questions to prove a teachers superiority. In other words, the purpose needs to be, "master the subject, so everyone earns an A or M for mastery. More hands on training and experience is needed in the workplace for students. Then, when they complete college they are ready to accept a position in a company. Sitting through a boring lecture from a foreigner with a accent that you cannot understand may be OK for some folks, but for me it was snooze time. Also, having teachers show up for classes would be helpful. Salt Lake Community College and University of Utah have a problem with no show teachers. It's a long drive for a no-show.

  • dave31 Salt Lake City, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 5:11 p.m.

    I hope the deniers of Clayton's theses retain the comments they made today. Look at them again in about ten years. They should prepared to be embarrased that they made them. It was interesting to read the comment about person-to-person, professor-to-student contact in the classroom. Not much personal contact takes place in a classroom of 100 or more students. About the only person-to-person contact is TA-to-student contact.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 4:16 p.m.

    @srw: Please cite your sources showing that college grads earn so much more than non-grads. I'm willing to wager that NONE of those studies were conducted within the past 5 years.

    The employment market in the US has changed. We don't create anything here, the majority of us make a living by selling or servicing what was created elsewhere. All the jobs requiring extensive knowledge in a field or high level critical thinking skills have been outsourced. A sales/service job may require some training, but it certainly does not require a college degree.

    The problem is the market is currently overflowing with graduates. We've got far more people with degrees than we do jobs requiring them, which has devalued the degree to the point that it is now nearly worthless.

  • twinfallsid TWIN FALLS, ID
    Jan. 24, 2012 3:52 p.m.

    Did Dr. Christensen also tell you what the success rate of online classes are? More than 50% don't complete the course. Very few get an A.
    I think online teaching is a great option, but only those very dedicated succeed at it.

    Of course you could be like BYUI and think it's a good idea to have someone with a degree in educational technology teach you about history, biology, etc. If I'm paying tuition, even if it is an online course, I want someone who has earned an advanced degree in that field to teach me. That's a no-brainer if you ask me.

  • dalefarr South Jordan, Utah
    Jan. 24, 2012 3:38 p.m.

    Mr. Christensen makes his living as an advocate for radical, disruptive change. And the thesis always is that unless disruptive change occurs, the intitution or company de jour will die. His thesis is one that is currently being tested in the market place of ideas. Whether he is correct is still an open issue. Likewise whether disruptive change is a good thing is being tried and tested in the D-News and KSL reorganizations. I am not yet sure whether we should jump on the Dr. Christensen bandwagon.

  • Macfarren Dallas, TX
    Jan. 24, 2012 3:17 p.m.

    With all due respect to Dr. Christensen, students watching a recorded lecture online, or even a live lecture online, does not take the place of in-person professor-to-student interaction. A master teacher looks into his students eyes, he reads their body language, he adapts to the ebb and flow of the energy and dynamic in the room. A master teacher calls on people by name, especially the ones on the back row who want to hide out. This doesn't and can not happen in online instruction to the masses. If you goal is to compartmentalize your teaching, package it like a product, and ship it out like a pre-baked doughnut to be stocked at multiple convenience store gas stations across the country, then fine. Use technology to broadcast to thousands of people you will never meet, and never truly teach. You can lecture at them, but you will never truly be able to teach to them.

  • justired Fillmore, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 2:59 p.m.

    It seems to me that as a higher percentage of the population came to hold a college degree, more jobs required that qualification, just because they could fill their positions with degree holders. However, to make any sense of DeltaFoxtrot's comment, I have to say that most degrees do not prepare one for a specific job, learning is generally still required.

    The recent bankruptcy of Eastman Kodak underscores exactly what Mr. Christensen is saying, to my mind; and thank you, DN, for his reference to MIT's online beginning physics course, I could use a refresher.

  • MapleDon Springville, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 2:50 p.m.

    "According to Harvard business professor and Utah native Clayton Christensen, all but one of the nation's large, integrated steel mills, such as Geneva, were driven from the business by smaller, more adaptable "mini-mills," such as Nucor Steel in Tremonton."

    Uh, wrong.

    The U.S. steel industry was primarily affected by cheaper steel production in the third world, mostly China. And that was possible due to significantly lower labor costs.

    Further, based on economies of scale, mass production provides a greater model towards reduced cost per unit.

    Good try, though.

    But, of course, whatever Clayton Christensen says has to be true because he's a Harvard professor.

  • srw Riverton, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 2:37 p.m.

    DeltaFoxtrot said, "Now that there are so few jobs available that require degrees people are slowly realizing that higher education is a huge scam."

    As reported in the DesNews last July-September,

    Unemployment in the U.S., July 2011:
    4.3% for workers with at least a bachelorâs degree
    9.3% for those with only a high school diploma
    15% for those who didnât finish high school

    Workers with a degree or certificate earn 75% more than those with only a high school diploma, on average.

    Workers with a bachelorâs degree earn $650,000 more during their careers than those with only a high school diploma, on average.

    The pay is much higher because those workers are *in demand*.

    The U.S. needs more college-educated workers.

  • John Pack Lambert of Michigan Ypsilanti, MI
    Jan. 24, 2012 2:08 p.m.

    I have taken an online course and I hated it. I want to have the in person experience. That said, there are ways to use internet resources to enhance education, but I think the classroom should survive.

  • DeltaFoxtrot West Valley, UT
    Jan. 24, 2012 1:53 p.m.

    ALL higher education must adapt or die. Now that there are so few jobs available that require degrees people are slowly realizing that higher education is a huge scam.