On April 1st, 2014, I moderated a roundtable session at the New Directions in Online Learning conference. We began with nine topics that mirrored the presentations and discussion at the conference, and then whittled this down to four areas for in-depth consideration.

In the ‘good old days’ of higher education, students typically chose a school because they were familiar with a
local institution, had a great visit or were impressed with the accomplished student body. With the explosion of
online/distance learning, students are becoming more like shoppers, faculty more like consultants and
institutions like online retailers (yikes!). What does that mean for your organization’s strategy?

Discussion Topics

1: Built To Last: Making the case for a shift in internal and external communication strategies.

Google’s mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This statement is equivalent to building the cathedrals of Europe - a mission that lasts well beyond the lives of Google’s employees."

2: What Business Am I in?: Examine new mindsets regarding faculty development, delivery models and student interaction

Rishad Tobaccowala is quoted in the book “What Would Google Do?” as saying “I’m in the business of moving people from place A to place B. How can I do it in different ways? And as they are moving from place A to place B, how do I make them feel secure and connected?”

3: The Best Of All Possible Worlds: Roadmap to establish the present as the ‘good NEW days’ of higher education

Douglas Adams was quoted as saying “There’s a set of rules that anything that was in the world when you were born is normal and natural. Anything invented between when you were 15 and 35 is new and revolutionary and exciting, and you’ll probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re 35 is against the natural order of things.”

4: iUniversity: Bypassing consumer research.

Steve Jobs famously said “It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.” And Henry Ford has been erroneously quoted as saying "If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for a better horse."

5: MOOCs: Competing with free.

In the United States, we buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week, yet water is essentially free from the tap.

6: Changing Who Pays: If you’re not paying for a product, you are the product.

Students at the College of the Ozarks and the United States Naval Academy do not pay for tuition.

7: Reducing Costs: Re-engineering education.

W. Edwards Deming said “If you can't describe what you are doing as a process, you don't know what you're doing.”

8: Inventing the Future: Technology changes things in unforeseen ways.

Alan Kay said “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Most predictions of the future are incorrect - particularly when it comes to technology. We don’t have humanoid robots washing dishes in the kitchen, we have dishwashers.

9: Tenure: Protecting the quality of education of stifling innovation?

  • “The productivity now at universities is terrible. Tenure is a terrible idea. It keeps them around forever and they don't have to work hard.” - Jack Welch
  • “Teachers deserve to teach in a safe environment, free of fear and intimidation. Legislators and administrators have a responsibility to provide that environment. Protecting good teachers assures our students of a great education.” - John Wilson, Education Week