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Paul Freedman

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The Flying Car of Higher Education

Posted: 04/19/2012 12:21 pm

Remember when you were a kid and you used to think about the future and what it would look like? I thought for sure that we would have flying cars by now, or that we'd all be living on the moon. When 2001 came around, I have to admit part of me was a little disappointed that it was the new millennium and technology hadn't advanced enough to give us things like robot butlers, flying cars, and houses on the moon. (You know, pretty much how things were on "The Jetsons.")

When I think about higher education today, I feel the same way. I can't believe we're not all driving flying cars yet.

Now some of you well-versed in current scientific events may bring up the fact that there actually is a flying car. (A company called Terrafugia Inc. just completed its first test flight at the beginning of this month.) But Terrafugia's car is also expected to cost $279,000 once it's finished, so a few Silicon Valley tycoons may be able to buy one but I don't think we'll be seeing flying highways any time soon.

It reminds me of one of the first personal computers, the Xerox Alto. For those of you who know your Silicon Valley history (or maybe just read the Malcom Gladwell article in the New Yorker a few months back), you might remember that the Alto was arguably one of the most innovative computer designs of its time. It was the first computer to have a mouse, a graphic UI, and it even allowed for networking through the use of Ethernet cards. It was also huge, expensive to produce and not for sale. (It was only used in the elite institution known as Xerox PARC.)

But then, the story goes, this guy called Steve Jobs visited Xerox. He saw the Alto, got excited about it, and then went back to Apple and started working on what would become the Macintosh -- a personal computer that would change everything about the way we work, the way we communicate, and yes, even the way we learn.

Do you see where I'm going with this yet?

Personal and affordable. That was the revolution. We needed Xerox PARC to make something great, but we also needed Apple to make it accessible to the general population. There were a lot of innovations going on in the Silicon Valley that contributed to the development of the Macintosh -- but all these pieces had to come together in a computer that people could actually buy and use. Ideas were shared and then evolved -- it's what's known as a movement. And that's what disrupted the entire market and paved the way for the technology we have today.

How do we make higher education more personal and affordable? Ever-increasing costs and socio-economic stratifications have put elite quality out of the reach of most students. So how do we take the big expensive elite education that is the traditional college experience and make it work better for everyone?

There has been an incredible amount of innovation in education. We've learned a lot about how people learn and we've developed technology that allows us to act on that knowledge. The time has come for us to use it to bring cutting-edge, top-quality, "elite" education to consumers. To put a flying car in the driveway of everyone who wants one.

A lot of the people and organizations attending this year's ASU Education Innovation Summit are doing exciting things with education and technology to move us into the future. 2tor is helping universities take their degree programs online, OpenStudy and GoingOn Networks have created some amazing social learning platforms, companies like Netflixs and Grockit have shown us the power of data and personalization, and I'm sure we're going to learn about a lot more advancements in the days to come.

Altius has taken a big step toward delivering this vision to students. Last Wednesday, I presented our new learning environment Helix -- Altius' idea for delivering the change we've all been talking about and working towards.

Helix is a learning experience that takes the best of what all of us have to offer and puts it into one place -- the result is something that has the potential to make elite education accessible. Something that is sustainable and meaningful. Something that really works. But I also want to invite collaboration from anyone interested in being a part of this revolution, because I think it's going to take all of us -- universities, corporations and individuals -- to make something that has the power to change how higher education operates. Something that has the power to change lives.

Basically, what I'm saying is that I want to put a flying car in the driveway of every student. I want to do it now. And I want you to help me make it happen.

To come be a part of it, visit http://www.altiused.com/helix/contact and sign up to be a part of the developer preview.

 

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