Monday, September 03, 2012

MediaWeek (V5, N36) Education & Innovation, iTunes U, Pearson + More

Kevin Carey of Washington Monthly takes a look at investments in the education technology space. (WM):
Last August, Marc Andreessen, the man whose Netscape Web browser ignited the original dot-com boom and who is now one of Silicon Valley’s most influential venture capitalists, wrote a much-discussed op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. His argument was that “software is eating the world.” At a time of low start-up costs and broadly distributed Internet access that allows for massive economies of scale, software has reached a tipping point that will allow it to disrupt industry after industry, in a dynamic epitomized by the recent collapse of Borders under the giant foot of Amazon. And the next industries up for wholesale transformation by software, Andreessen wrote, are health care and education. That, at least, is where he’s aiming his venture money. And where Andreessen goes, others follow. According to the National Venture Capital Association, investment in education technology companies increased from less than $100 million in 2007 to nearly $400 million last year. For the huge generator of innovation, technology, and wealth that is Silicon Valley, higher education is a particularly fat target right now.

This hype has happened before, of course. Back in the 1990s, when Andreessen made his first millions, many people confidently predicted that the Internet would render brick-and-mortar universities obsolete. It hasn’t happened yet, in part because colleges are a lot more complicated than retail bookstores. Higher education is a publicly subsidized, heavily regulated, culturally entrenched sector that has stubbornly resisted digital rationalization. But the defenders of the ivy-covered walls have never been more nervous about the Internet threat. In June, a panicked board of directors at the University of Virginia fired (and, after widespread outcry, rehired) their president, in part because they worried she was too slow to move Thomas Jefferson’s university into the digital world.

The ongoing carnage in the newspaper industry provides an object lesson of what can happen when a long-established, information-focused industry’s business model is challenged by low-price competitors online. The disruptive power of information technology may be our best hope for curing the chronic college cost disease that is driving a growing number of students into ruinous debt or out of higher education altogether. It may also be an existential threat to institutions that have long played a crucial role in American life.
And a look at LORE a new company that The Economist finds interesting (Econ):
Lore is part of a trend that builds on the familiarity with social networking that has come with the success of Facebook. It customises the rules of a network to meet the specific needs of students. Anyone teaching a class would reasonably worry that students using Facebook were gossiping rather than learning useful information from their network of friends. Lore allows teachers to control exactly who is in the network (by issuing a class-membership code) and to see how they are using it. They can also distribute course materials, contact students, manage tests and grades, and decide what to make public and what to keep private. Students can also interact with each other.

In the academic year after launching its first version last November, Lore was used in at least one class in 600 universities and colleges. Its goal for its second year, about to begin, is to spread rapidly within those 600 institutions, not least to see what the effects of scale are from having lots of classes signed up within the same institution.
Inside Higher Education takes a look at Apple's iTunes U Course Manager (IHE):
There remain a number of challenges to this LMS + Apple Courses model.

First, each student needs to have an iOS device - and preferably an iPad. Android or other mobile OS users need not apply. Stay within the Apple world and the curricular content consumption experience is great - stray and you are left without options. Apple is smart to make the Course Manager and iTunes U software free, as the ability to easily create a great tablet / mobile experience will push colleges to consider 1-to-1 iPad programs.

The second challenge is that the LMS + Apple Course model separates the consumption of curricular content (on the iOS device) and the production of active learning (via blogs and discussion boards in the LMS). Even if the mobile experience for the major LMS platforms improves dramatically (which I hope), students will still need to go outside of the Apple Course environment. Discussions and formative assessments are separated from curricular content.
Parade's End will soon be on TV here (US) and The Telegraph takes a look at other potentially 'lost' masterpieces (Telegraph):
So when we speak of “forgotten novels”, we actually mean those that are not really forgotten at all – there are plenty that no living reader has ever heard of in the stacks of copyright libraries. We mean a novel that is kept alive only by the fervent enthusiasm of a small group of fellow practitioners – the so-called “writers’ writers”. We might also mean the sort of writer who was once read in huge quantities, whose works were predicted to be the great classics of the future, who now go completely unread. The writers’ writer, like Ford, might be returned to circulation in time; the abandoned bestseller might be undergoing a temporary dip in reputation. But for the most part, these novels end as almost all novels do, in obscurity.

The writers’ writer has, on the whole, never commanded a large readership. Henry James and Joseph Conrad mastered the approbation, mostly, of their fellow novelists – oddly enough, the one book with which Conrad commanded a large readership, the sumptuous Chance, is now one of his most overlooked. The writers who are kept alive by small bursts of enthusiastic praise are regularly brought back into print, and drift off again before another publisher is persuaded that it might be worth having a go.
Pearson has been granted a contract to supply California State Universty schools with a platform to deliver on-line courses (Press Release):
The California State University, the nation’s largest four-year university system, has selected Pearson to launch Cal State Online, a fully online program designed to increase access to higher education. Cal State Online will launch in January 2013 with a selection of undergraduate degree completion and professional master’s programs, leveraging the multitude of programs currently available across the CSU.

“As a university system that is devoted to access, affordability and quality, the CSU needed an educational partner with the highest levels of expertise, experience and demonstrated success launching high-growth online learning programs,” said John Welty, President of Fresno State and Chair of the Cal State Online Board. “We partnered with Pearson because they offer a robust suite of services, support and a collection of success stories through their work with other universities, making them a perfect fit for Cal State Online.”
The Economist looks at how printers are doing given the migration to on-line delivery of content (Econ):
If journalists are gloomy about the outlook for their industry, printers are despondent. Media companies can still make some money as readers switch to digital editions; a printer cannot. The outlook for newspaper printers is particularly grim, says Robert Picard, a media economist: advertisers are now keener to run their adverts in magazines on high-quality glossy paper than in newspapers, whose circulation is dwindling. But newspapers and magazines require different printing equipment, so switching over is costly.

Some printers are offering marketers and retailers the option of printing more personalised catalogues to target different groups of consumers more accurately. But this is not as lucrative as “long runs”, printer-speak for running off hundreds of thousands of identical copies. Several printers (including Rupert Murdoch’s News International, which prints its own newspapers) have opened their presses to competitors to earn extra money; last year the newspaper group won a contract to print the Evening Standard, a London daily. A few reckon that they can turn a profit from the digital switch, and help clients to design electronic versions of their printed material.
From Twitter:

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