I was rolling on the floor laughing — RFL to you youngsters– when I read the “agenda” of the Hewlett OER Grantees Meeting 2012 sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard’s Law School. Is that name long enough for ya?
This event on sussing out “open education” is “by invitation only”. Of course, because that’s the Harvard way. So this is how Harvard confronts the fact that the unwashed masses are exchanging knowledge without thoughtful tenured sages acting as guides and intermediaries. Or to be more precise about the danger: they’re exchanging information without paying tuition.
It is rather humorous to read that the group is trying to “maximize diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds.” That sounds bogus to me because I bet there’s not a scamblogger in the house. Everyone I see on the page has one of those 40 page CVs filled with single-spaced lists of “invited talks” where they repeat the same idea ad naseum. They’re part of the elite circles that only want to interact with other elites.
I’m heartened to hear that they’re going to have a “hack day”, something that will probably be a bit humorous. The list of attendees look like the managerial types who are good at dispensing orders to grad students before heading off to lunch with each other. Maybe they got a few grad students to do some heavy lifting?
If I turn off my snarky blogger attitude for a second, I must admit that I can smell the fear written between the lines and I share some of it. One set of words appears repeatedly: “High Quality Supply”. And this is Harvard’s big problem. It was able to sustain the low teaching loads that create “high quality supply” by marketing exclusivity to the very rich. Keeping the pipeline narrow had a nice, supportive effect by luring the most talented people. The feedback mechanism used to work.
But that model is breaking when it’s just as easy to send a lecture to a million people as it is to send it to a clubby Harvard seminar room. Why would someone pay extra for Harvard-grade quality when it’s all available for free from the Wikipedia? We’ve seen that the first to skip out on the law school dream are those with the highest scores. The smartest are doing it without permission from the degree-granting cabal. OMG! Circle the wagons and start to panic but by all means circle those wagons because we don’t want to share our panic sessions with the wrong sort of folks.