This is a big move by one of the leading universities in the world and exemplifies the effect that crises can have in enforcing and driving through change in this case digital transformation. Behind the headline though, there is plenty of nuance, this does not mean the end of education at Cambridge.
This does not mean that students will not attend the University or the end of education.
The Cambridge University teaching model combines lectures with supervisions between in small groups of no more than four people. The intention is that this will continue and students will still be resident in the colleges who all act as independent entities responsible for the welfare of their own students.
This is not the end of education at Cambridge.
It is an organisation thinking radically about how it delivers value to its customers, in this case students, at a time when big thinking and big changes are required.
I remember Clay Christensen talking about disrupting Ivy League education in this talk. He made the point that,
“Harvard Business School… is getting disrupted by crummy low end on the job learning experiences like you are having right now.” Clay Christensen.
[We should use this as a testimonial!]
Lectures =/= Education
The truth is that most lectures can be delivered online without having to sit in a lecture theatre. The real value in this education system comes not from the lectures but from the interactions between students the lecturers and their supervisors. It will be very interesting to see how this transformation plays out. The universities that understand and embrace this will, in the long term, get stronger.
The excellent Professor Scott Galloway, predicts that almost a third of US universities could go out of business in the next few years. The top tier universities will get stronger, but the middle tier are already the walking dead.
The education system is changing, slowly, but sometimes change is accelerated in the face unexpected circumstances.
The same thing is happening in retail, media, travel…
Oh, and conferences/events. I almost forgot. :-)
As we plan for our second online conference, we’ve been thinking a lot about the future and how we adapt to change. We have always strived to be a valuable resource for entrepreneurs in the SaaS and software community. That means that we retain a focus on doing the things that create the most value for attendees.
We believe there a lots of ways to deliver lecture type content to our attendees. We have put the talks online since we began, for free. Some people say we should sell access, some people ask why we give them away for free as it means that people can just watch them instead of coming to the event. Watching talks online is no substitute for being, ‘in the room’ as many people who have watched the talks over the years and then taken the plunge to attend will attest.
As at a physical event, the real value of participating in online events will come from the conversations, the interactions and the connections that attendees make between themselves.
This will be an important element of any event that we run online and while it is very easy today to deliver a lecture online at scale, we believe that the networking and interaction between attendees is much much harder to scale successfully. Perhaps surprisingly, the online environment offers some significant advantages in terms of connecting people and this is something that we are very focused on delivering at all of our online events.
- We want to be remembered for sharing talks with our attendees that play a part in changing the way they run their businesses.
- More importantly, we want to play a part in helping our community come together and grow stronger by delivering an experience that enables interaction, discussion and support between the smart people who are the ones that make the BoS community what is is today.
- We don’t believe that can be done at scale, at a physical event or online (remember this from seven years ago?), but it is, and always will be, part of the BoS difference.
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