28th June 2012: Deakin’s Lecture Value Migration

The Australian‘s Andrew Trounson reports that Deakin University is replacing lectures with online, open source, ‘cloud’ content:


Traditional lectures look set to go by the wayside at Deakin University. As part of a new strategy students will increasingly access online, open source content from around the world, freeing up academics to focus on smaller tutorial groups delivered not just face-to-face but increasingly through social media like Facebook.


Deakin’s decision is an ‘early move’ response to MIT and Harvard’s online courses. It fits both Clayton Christensen‘s disruptive innovation thesis (low-cost entrant to a new market) and Adrian Slywotzky‘s value migration thesis (value migrates from the individual lecturer’s intellectual capital to the open source ‘cloud’). [For more details read a draft research monograph and Masters essay I did on Christensen and Slywotzky.]


We can make several inferences from Deakin’s decision. GE and private equity-like models are influencing managerial decisions to cut high costs (including possible offshoring). The espoused rationale is to cut content development costs and prioritise customer-facing activities (with an eye to student experience survey results). ‘Lagging’ universities are responding in a game-theoretic way to what ‘leading’ institutions are doing (in what may be a form of Stackelberg competition). These strategies will place Darwinian selection pressures on academic lecturers who will become either ‘world class’ subject matter experts/researchers or content facilitators.


Core Economics’ Stephen King has a more optimistic view: “If done properly, the type of inverted classroom approach that Deakin has announced can work well and improve learning outcomes . . . This is a smart, brave move. But make sure, in the short term, that the University invests in the platforms, training and re-engineering that are needed. If it is just a strategy to save money, it will fail.”