What Can Higher Ed Can Glean from the Legacy of Steve Jobs?
For better or worse, technological advances over the last decade have shaken traditional foundations of higher education producing waves of systemic changes in the hallowed halls of academia. The more recent emergence of massive open online courses (MOOCs) has produced a tsunami that is changing the entire landscape of higher education. Whether higher education institutions embrace this phenomenon today may determine whether they sink or swim in tomorrow’s education market.
Steve Jobs, the late innovator of Apple, NeXT computer education platform and Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios, ushered a technological revolution by looking over the horizon to a future that others could not yet see. In his now-famous 2005 commencement address to Stanford University, he said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking back. You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
With the second anniversary of Steve Jobs’ passing recently behind us, we can reflect upon the profundity of his statement and contemplate what we can glean from his legacy, particularly as it applies to the phenomenal changes in higher education.
Steve Jobs never graduated from college, but instead chose to hand-select from a variety of course offerings according to his interest. It wasn’t until later in life that he connected the dots and saw the value in how his unconventional course selection impacted his career. By providing affordable learning models and the ability to select from course offerings relevant to student objectives, MOOCs ironically produce the same value for students. Institutions that embrace technology that supports the MOOC phenomenon now will be well positioned to capitalize on that movement as it grows in the future.
Connecting the dots.
Over the last decade, advanced technology has transformed the way higher education institutions, including statewide systems, develop and manage course programs, approvals and reporting. Curriculum automation and management software such as CurricUNET and CourseLeaf have also made the cumbersome process of curricular processing more economically and environmentally sustainable, drastically reducing paper consumption and human resource hours required by antiquated course development processes and eliminating redundancies, which has inevitably saved institutions millions of dollars over time.
Technology is now transforming the ways in which higher education institutions deliver these courses, allowing for significant growth among students that, otherwise, would have little access to education. As MOOCs change the face higher education, automated curricular management and access to data have become even more valuable than ever before.
This may be particularly true for multi-campus institutions and statewide systems that will depend upon advanced technology to ensure inter-campus program continuity as well as cost effective, time efficient curriculum development, reporting and approval systems in order to succeed in the online learning future.
“Statewide systems taking advantage of real-time connectivity today will more easily adapt to the ripple effects of the MOOC phenomenon as it gains momentum in the days to come,” said George Tamas, CEO of Governet, the company that created the curriculum processing system, CurricUNET. In the background, the company has been quietly building what has become known as the Worldwide Curriculum Network, a database of more than a half-million courses, programs and outlines that facilitates real-time connectivity and enhances collaboration between subscribed institutions.
As we begin to connect the dots, it is becoming more and more apparent that institutions that have already adopted advanced technology will have a tangible advantage over institutions that have not.
“We have applied our experience toward developing what we will soon introduce as a ‘Meta U’ based on technology we have already proven via CurricUNET,” said Tamas. “Looking back, it has become apparent that we have inadvertently set the stage for the coming revolution in higher education.”
Ready or not, we are on the precipice of what may become the most liberating revolution in higher education. In retrospect, Steve Jobs’ selective education set the stage for his legendary career. As educators and institutions strive to become more sustainable in the new education marketplace, the legacy of Steve Jobs may provide inspiration. Are you ready to connect the dots?
Article by Snowden Bishop, Editor-in-Chief; Images of Steve Jobs courtesy of Creative Commons license.