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The Social Life of Information. Chapter 8 – Re-Education. Topics. Pressures Solutions Resistance Competing by Degrees Degrees of Representation. Topics. Misrepresentation Learning not Lading Peer Support Degrees of Distance A Distant Prospect. Topics. A Sense of Place

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The social life of information

The Social Life of Information

Chapter 8 – Re-Education

William H. Bowers –


  • Pressures

  • Solutions

  • Resistance

  • Competing by Degrees

  • Degrees of Representation

William H. Bowers –


  • Misrepresentation

  • Learning not Lading

  • Peer Support

  • Degrees of Distance

  • A Distant Prospect

William H. Bowers –


  • A Sense of Place

  • Recomputing Distance

  • Reorganizing

  • Unpicking the Threads

William H. Bowers –


  • Student population is changing

  • Previously typical student is becoming rare

  • Students are generally becoming older

  • Working adults

  • Want more relevant education, topics

William H. Bowers –


  • Competition

    • Schools becoming more business like

    • Considering

      • Markets

      • Products

      • Clients

      • Customers

    • Mega-Universities

William H. Bowers –


  • University of Phoenix

    • Accredited in 1978

    • Grown to

      • 62,000 students

      • 77 campus centers

      • 450,000 alumni

    • For profit institution

    • Generally cheaper than traditional schools

William H. Bowers –


  • Corporate research centers (Xerox PARC, Microsoft) competing for funds, projects

  • New technologies changing academia

William H. Bowers –


  • 6-D focus on disaggregation

  • Redefinition of education, libraries, etc.

  • ‘Endism’

  • PSU’s World Campus

  • California’s Virtual University

William H. Bowers –


  • Overcoming distance limitations

    • Medieval traveling scholars

    • Correspondence courses

    • Radio, TV, video courses

    • Early ’70s – PLATO U of Illinois

    • Net, ftp, email

    • Early ’80s – USC online courses

William H. Bowers –


  • California Virtual University

    • Not a replacement for bricks and mortar

    • Not degree or certificate granting

    • Offers information about CA based distance learning

    • Essentially an online catalog

William H. Bowers –


  • IBM Indiana University Library ad

    • Fictional, not reflection of fact

    • May not happen in granddaughter’s lifetime

    • Online Ph.D. is rare in US

    • Mostly in education

    • Not highly regarded or accepted

William H. Bowers –

Competing by degrees
Competing by Degrees

  • US system of higher education is self-organized

  • 11,000 institutions, 4,000 accredited

  • About 14.6 million students

  • Is the degree their objective?

  • Is credentialing the objective?

William H. Bowers –

Competing by degrees1
Competing by Degrees

  • Granting degrees is not the only thing universities do

  • Credentialing is not simple

  • Degrees are not equal

William H. Bowers –

Degrees of representation
Degrees of Representation

  • “Marketplace of ideas”

  • “Knowledge markets”

  • “Knowledge exchanges”

  • Is knowledge becoming a commodity?

  • Can’t it just be bought and sold?

William H. Bowers –

Degrees of representation1
Degrees of Representation

  • Knowledge doesn’t circulate easily

  • It is hard to detach (Chapter 5)

  • Difficult for buyers to assess

  • If you can evaluate it, you don’t need it

  • If you need it, you can’t evaluate it

William H. Bowers –

Degrees of representation2
Degrees of Representation

  • You hire experts because you lack their knowledge

  • How do you evaluate them?

  • Education is a similar dilemma

  • We rely on independent reviews

  • How do you determine Professor’s worth in teaching a course?

William H. Bowers –


  • Not deliberate degree mills

  • Hidden details of degrees

  • Socially, but not business valued activities

  • Analogous to legislative “omnibus package” which hides details

  • Behind scenes work is hidden

William H. Bowers –


  • Relies on ‘institutional trust’

  • Avoids micromanagement of degree

  • Allows for a certain amount of slack

  • Permits elective courses & serendipity

William H. Bowers –

Learning not lading
Learning not Lading

  • Degrees sometimes viewed as ‘intellectual bill of lading’

  • ‘Teaching is a delivery service’

  • Schools are ‘loading sites’

  • Knowledge delivery rather than ‘learning to be’

William H. Bowers –

Learning not lading1
Learning not Lading

  • Teaching involves engaging in communities of practice

  • Lower level and some technical courses are prime targets of delivery

  • Progress from learning about to learning to be

William H. Bowers –

Peer support
Peer Support

  • Apprenticeship puts learners in contact with the leaders in their fields

  • Peers can be equally valuable resources

  • Early attempt at distance learning

    • Stanford engineering class taped and delivered to HP

William H. Bowers –

Peer support1
Peer Support

  • Early attempt at distance learning

    • Engineers would watch as a group

    • Regularly stopped tape and discuss

    • Engineers outperformed classroom students

    • Why?

    • Individual (distance) learning loses this benefit

William H. Bowers –

Degrees of distance
Degrees of Distance

  • Access to communities is different than access to information

  • Worldwide demand for education is growing

  • Geographic distance can be minimized by IT

  • Social distance is not overcome by IT

William H. Bowers –

A distant prospect
A Distant Prospect

  • IT can minimize time and space limitations of traditional education

  • Best as extension, not replacement

  • Difficult to form suitably dense communities virtually

  • Better at maintaining communities than creating them

William H. Bowers –

A distant prospect1
A Distant Prospect

  • Providing laptops to all students may exacerbate social distance

  • Conventional campuses not likely to disappear

  • Online activities complement offline

  • IT may keep students from traditional campuses

William H. Bowers –

A sense of place
A Sense of Place

  • For-profit schools centralize course design

  • No or limited local input

  • Most learning is local

  • Knowledge ecologies are local

  • Centralization pulls against this

William H. Bowers –

Recomputing distance
Recomputing Distance

  • 19th century University of London allowed for external degrees

  • Localized specialization

  • Centralized support and resources

William H. Bowers –


  • Pressure to change higher education

  • Change may be instructive elsewhere

  • IBM ad shows idealistic view but ignores social context

  • Optimal reorganization will be blend that uses IT for support

  • Balance centralized and local

William H. Bowers –

Unpicking the threads
Unpicking the Threads

  • What seemed ridiculous ten years ago may be commonplace today

  • Learners require three things from higher education

    • Access to communities of learning and knowledge

    • Resources to work within distant and local communities

    • Widely accepted representations for learning and work

William H. Bowers –

Unpicking the threads1
Unpicking the Threads

  • Conventional universities have met these through students, faculty, research, facilities and the institution

  • New technologies may loosen the configuration

  • New forms of higher education are tending to ignore at least one factor

William H. Bowers –

Unpicking the threads2
Unpicking the Threads

  • Students

    • Changing demands on university in response to demands on them

    • Need to address short-term, long-term and lifelong needs

    • Require good credentials

William H. Bowers –

Unpicking the threads3
Unpicking the Threads

  • Degree-Granting Bodies

    • Distributed education system

    • Must provide adequate credentials

    • Requires public trust

    • Allows for flexible matrices

    • Require degrees balanced between focus and breadth

William H. Bowers –

Unpicking the threads4
Unpicking the Threads

  • Faculty

    • Might have teaching methods sanctioned

    • Sanction could allow students to work with different faculty (at different Universities) for credit towards degree

  • Research

    • Important for students to have access to practitioners in their field

William H. Bowers –

Unpicking the threads5
Unpicking the Threads

  • Research

    • Important to have faculty keep current

    • Research depends on student labor

    • May be performed privately

    • Might be too expensive for private support

William H. Bowers –

Unpicking the threads6
Unpicking the Threads

  • Facilities

    • Could be provided by individual faculty

    • May be more cost effective for groups

    • Good facilities attract good faculty and students

  • Looking beyond the campus

    • Reconfiguration expands student choices

William H. Bowers –

Unpicking the threads7
Unpicking the Threads

  • Looking beyond the campus

    • Students choose by different factors

      • Campus location

      • Specific faculty members

      • Faculty in multiple regions

    • Allows access to working communities

    • Requires information organization, search and retrieval

William H. Bowers –

Devolving implications
Devolving Implications

  • This is a catalyst, not a road map

  • Predictions may not be accurate

  • Change will most likely be required

  • Change will be evolutionary, not revolutionary

William H. Bowers –

Questions discussion
Questions & Discussion

William H. Bowers –