By Paul Glader, Managing Editor
BERLIN – Mark Milliron, the chancellor of Western Governor’s University in Texas, sounded more like an educational evangelist, urging the 2,000 people at Online Educa Berlin to change opinions of fence-sitters and naysayers at their universities and 96 home countries.
Milliron, one of three panelists giving a plenary address on Thursday morning, has spent most of his life involved in changing higher education, working with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, advising startups and working in higher education administration.
“We need people like you to engage in these conversations and guide them in your countries,” he told the audience.
He ran through a series of his thought trends: swirl and blend are fundamental, mobility matters, play is serious, big data is a big deal and change the name of social networks to “learning networks.”
“We are at a time of massive transition where we are using tools that we never encountered before, even as students,” he said. In the US, he said, students are appearing from a much wider variety of generations. While the new generations send text messages at 60 words per minute, the baby boomers text at 6 words per minute on average.
He points to Carnegie Mellon University’s open courseware projects as experimenting with technology and pedagogy in the right way, getting past the “spray and pray lecture,” which is the worst use of face time, and using a socratic method of teaching in person supplemented by blended learning that makes use of technology. “They (CMU) realized you need to figure out how to use technology to make the human moments precious,” he said.
He said video games and mobile devices as two big educational game-changers. “There are more internet-connected mobile devices than people on the planet,” he says. “That number will triple in the next decade.”
Gaming is a huge industry and one that has perfected the user experience. Games give feedback to gamers on their progress, he says, on average of every 30 seconds. Why can’t schools and teachers give that same kind of feedback?
Gaming also is multi-generational. He notes Nintendo Wii bowling leagues are cropping up at senior homes around the world. More adults and women are playing video games. More grandparents are playing video games with their grand-children as a way to bond with them.
Another speaker, Pearson LLC’s chief education strategist Michael Barber, says an avalanche is coming toward higher education. “The change in an avalanche is under the surface. You know something is coming. You don’t know when,” he says.
He rattles a list of trends he sees coming: 3d printing will change manufacturing, driverless cars are legal in three states in the US now, wearable computers are on the way. He saw a wallet at the MIT media lab that is harder to open if your bank account is low. It’s not all inspector gadget kind of trends, though, he says.
Governments are under pressure as youth unemployment is soaring in southern Europe, growth in big economies like China are slowing and as tuition in the US has soared out of control. “The cost of higher education increases every year,” he says. “The cost of getting a degree in the US has risen 400% in the last 30 years.” At the same time, “the value of a degree has been falling.”
Meanwhile, universities keep cranking out research. In 1726, only 334 academic articles were published worldwide he says. In 2009, more than 1.5 million academic articles were published.
Note: WiredAcademic is a media partner for the Online Educa Berlin conference. Editor Paul Glader appeared on a panel and moderated a panel at the event and the two sites exchanged advertisements as a way to share and expand audiences.