Friday, June 03, 2005

On redefining the university

The Internet allows, in fact I believe someday will force, universities to do what we do not do well, listen to our students and the people who work for us. Our university is likely a very typical confusing maze of little fiefdoms where students as well as employees struggle to get through their academic day and yet they are seldom consulted about how to improve it. We waste taxpayers dollars on redundant resources. We have frustrating problems that go unsolved and our customers have been virtually powerless to do anything about it.

All that is changing and changing thanks to the Internet. By empowering students, faculty, staff and the public through emerging technology tools like weblogs, podcasts and RSS; the students, faculty and staff are quietly taking back the university. This mirrors the kind of societal changes slowly happening in business and government. If business is a conversation can education not also be one?

The old top-down principles of handing down decrees from the ivory towers are changing. This vertical method of controlling the message where the administration is on top and the students and employees are on bottom and the information flow from the campus community to the world is tightly controlled is gone. Now everybody has an equal voice on the Internet and we can all participate in how to make the university, and all the universities of the world, better places to learn, collaborate and exchange ideas. This is the global conversation for academia and it is very, very long overdue!

If leaders in education don't see that, perhaps that is because they just don't get it. At least not yet.

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