The university of the future

4 July 2012

In what seems remarkably consistent with Deakin University’s wholehearted embrace of “learning in the cloud”, Microsoft founder and education philanthropist Bill Gates talks about his vision for how universities can be transformed through technology.  His approach is not simply to drop in tablet computers or other gadgets and hope change happens—a model he said has a “really horrible track record.”  Instead, the Bill and Melissa Gates Foundation awards grants to reformers working to fix “inefficiencies” in the current model of higher education that keep many students from graduating on time, or at all.

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And he argues for radical reform of college teaching, advocating a move toward a “flipped” classroom, where students watch videos from superstar professors as homework and use class time for group projects and other interactive activities. As he put it, “having a lot of kids sit in the lecture class will be viewed at some point as an antiquated thing.”

If you try and compare two universities, you’ll find out a lot more about the inputs—this university has high SAT scores compared to this one.  And it’s sort of the opposite of what you’d think.  You’d think people would say, “We take people with low SATs and make them really good lawyers.” Instead they say, “We take people with very high SATs and we don’t really know what we create, but at least they’re smart when they show up here so maybe they still are when we’re done with them.”   So it’s a field without a kind of clear metric that then you can experiment and see if you’re still continuing to achieve it.


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