The Death of the University

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What will be the future of the university in the hyperconnected era? Today at ICALT 2012 in Rome, there was a great keynote talk by Harold Jarche @hjarche and he talked about the university in the internet era at the end of the talk. Some words he said I felt to be very sharp and powerful. He talked about the growth of education start ups in Silicon Valley showing they venture capitalists are betting that the university model is under threat. He said the only thing keeping universities now is accreditation but that probably eventually employers accept the accreditation of on line courses. He said that all other industries have been changed by the internet so why wouldn’t the universities be changed?
After the talk I had a great discussion with Harold. We discussed that most undergraduate courses can be done on line. Universities value will be those who can do high end research, and have a high end brand. Like Harvard, Yale. MIT. I agree with Harold.
I think that we are the last generation of traditional professors and academic and we are like the dinosaurs who are about to become distinct. Basically almost all undergraduate courses can be done on line (and better on line). Students can have all the information and see superstar professors give their lectures on video. Similar to the other industries, why would you bother to go to a physical building when you can get better information and better lectures on line? Right now, as Harold said, the universities can survive because they provide accreditation. But sometime employers will accept the accreditation of on line courses and then the university as we know it is dead.
Actually I think we will instead go back to the essential core of universities. If we recall, early universities like Oxford had basically no lectures. You had hands on talks and tutorials with professors on campus. You learnt by doing.
A few high brand universities will survive as research, graduate, and high end (for very rich or very smart people) undergraduate courses. The Yale’s and Harvard’s will survive, a few smart universities who change to the internet model will thrive, and the rest will die out.
Those smart universities will realize there is no point in information transfer “brain dumping” which is done is lectures. What is the point to sit in a room and hear someone talk about something which students can view on line, maybe 1000 times better with super star professors, TED talks, and the like. Instead the class time can be used for hands on sessions, workshops, labs, and learning by doing. As John Seely Brown said in the 21st century, knowledge changes so fast, we have to learn on the fly. Universities can provide an interactive hands on physical experience.
Just like the music industry we must embrace the unstoppable change, because like a tsunami it is unstoppable and it is coming.

AAKASH – Computer for the whole world. Fully featured Android table for only $40!

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At the ICALT 2012 conference where I gave a keynote talk, I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Kannan Moudgalya who is a Professor at the famous IIT in Bombay. He showed me an incredible device, it is a fully featured Android designed for India which only costs $40. This is a brilliant example of the power of reverse innovation. Whereas in the developed world we may become too blinded and comfortable to make very low cost quality products, in the developing world, through pressing needs, engineers and designers can create innovative solutions which optimize and make new powerful yet cheap devices. Another good example in India of such reverse innovation is the the Tato Nano car

The device is called Aakash, and not only is it an incredibly cheap tablet, it is packed with open source software making this very useful for the youth in India to learn. What impressed me is that the team in IIT is working on apps which are going to be really useful for kids to use to learn and create. Some of the software includes an open source version of Matlab called SciLab, Python, C, and C++ compilers. I saw a real demo done by Professor Moudgalya where he compiled a C program on the fly. That is neat! You can imagine teenagers in India programming on these tables and learning to become super creative. The device also came with software for real time teaching, viewing of lectures remotely, and spoken tutorials. Of course it is Android so all the standard Android apps can be installed also.

The real value of this tablet is not only that the kid’s can have a fully featured Android tablet for $40, but that it also comes with software which allows them to really tinker and learn through doing. I am sure this device is not only revolutionary for Indian kids, but for the whole world. 

Prof Moudgalya with the AAKASH at ICALT in Rome

A close up of the AAKASH

Secret for Innovation: the Shokunin spirit of Japan

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The Japanese word shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness. … The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people.  This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfill the requirement.” – Tasio Odate

One of the most important things I have learnt about in Japan is the spirit of Shokunin. It means craftsmanship, however it is much more than that. One of the essential things is to make something for the joy of making it, and to do it carefully, beautifully, and to your utmost best of your ability. In Japan one can see this in the incredible delicate designs, or amazing machinery, and even the pride and perfection of even the cleaning staff. Similarly for a student, designer, or technologist, if you can have the Shokunin spirit you can learn to strive for innovation and make something, not only think of something, but make it, to as much as possible perfection.


Thesis Defense Advise for Students

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One of my masters students asked for advice on how to prepare for her thesis defense which is coming up in a few days. Here are my feedback advice to her. If you have some further insights or advice for student thesis defense examinations please kindly tell me.

For Thesis Defense Examination. Focus on:

WHAT (aims, goals, vision of your research, the key novelty/novelties)

WHY (related works, what is the advantage of your work, benefit to industry or society)

HOW (methodology used, designs, prototypes)

RESULTS (data, tests, numerical and non-numerical results, user studies, evaluation)

ACE 2012: 9th Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology Conference incorporating DIMEA 2012

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ACE 2012: 9th Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology Conference incorporating DIMEA 2012 (7th Digital Interactive Media Entertainment and Arts Conference) REMINDER: Deadline is July 8th! ACE 2012 is pleased to announce a special arrangement for publication of all conference papers (and other categories). In the theme of “entertaining the whole world” all papers will be published in the ACM Computers in Entertainment (CiE) website to promote free knowledge dissemination and interactive comments from peers around the world. Although authors will need to sign a copyright form with ACM, the papers will be FREE for download without charge to anyone in the world. Please see the CiE website at http://cie.acm.org CALL FOR ART & CULTURE TRACK New for 2012! In line with the theme of this year’s conference, “Entertaining the Whole World”, we are inviting position papers, games or other forms of entertainment, and interactive works of art showcasing the diversity of art and culture found in today’s digital artifacts. Contributions are encouraged from researchers, artists, game designers, practitioners and everyone else sharing the common goal of creating entertainment for the world. Submissions will be peer-reviewed by the international program committee and accepted works will be showcased as part of the Creative Showcase or presented during the regular paper sessions. Accepted submissions will appear in the ACE 2012 digital conference proceedings, which will published through a high quality scientific publisher. In addition, technical demos can be submitted to the Creative Showcases Demonstrations track at ACE 2012.

How to cope with email overload: discussion with Harold Jarche @hjarche

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Some excellent advice by Harold Jarche about how to cope with email overload. I asked him for his advise about how to cope with the overload of emails many of us suffer. He said to put as much as possible of your replies on line. That way when people ask you something by email you can point them to a relevant link which is much faster. As you make more “replies” public then also you build up a sharing knowledge base which people can look at before emailing, further reducing emails.
Ideally one can reduce emails to private one to one emails which will reduce the overall amount. The key point is to put anything that can be public as public.

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