Who Needs Harvard When You Can Blog?

from the withering-on-the-vine dept

Advances in technology have lowered the barriers to entry in many entrenched industries, and in turn have threatened incumbent industry leaders. One area, which isn't perceived to have seen much change is higher education, as the elite universities seem to be blessed with unlimited demand for admittance at almost any price. But while perception remains unchanged, technology may be eroding the advantages held by top universities. A new study suggests a professor's productivity (as defined by the amount of work published) used to be tied very closely to the professor's university, and that a professor moving from a second-tier school to Harvard could expect a major jump in productivity, simply by having access to the top minds in their field. But as the internet and other communication technologies have made it easier for academics to share information with others in their field (not just at one's own university), the relationship between one's output, and that of others at the same university has been eliminated. The rise of professors who write blogs on their subject is part of this trend, as more high-level discussion occurs outside the campus setting. Along the same lines, there's been a move to create high-quality, free academic journals, further eroding pockets of concentrated academic power. It may be too early to say the the notion of a university will undergo the same sort of spasms as other centrally controlled clusters, like TV networks, but the rise of peer-to-peer networking in academia should disrupt the dominance of a small group of elite institutions.

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  • identicon
    Prescott, 8 Aug 2006 @ 11:36am

    Well learning isn't usually the expensive part.

    It's the degree that costs. The Good Will Hunting gambit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Nusha, 8 Aug 2006 @ 11:44am

      Re: Well learning isn't usually the expensive part

      Hahaa very true. Great insight. ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Aug 2006 @ 12:09pm

        Re: Re: Well learning isn't usually the expensive

        "Hahaa very true. Great insight. ;)"

        Actually the bostonian in question would have said the poster did not have any insight at all, and was just regurgitating what someone else said. But it was nice of you to pay him a compliment.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dorpus, 8 Aug 2006 @ 11:38am

    Is it really the internet?

    Academic conferences and journals have been freely available to professors at any university for many decades, with or without the internet. I can think of any number of other reasons for the closing of the gap:

    - National policy decision to increase the number of college graduates
    - State, national governments taking higher education more seriously
    - Ubiquitous supply of brilliant foreign students
    - Rising tuition at top schools = more smart kids going to second tier schools
    - Increase in perceived value of education among the general public

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim Arthur, 8 Aug 2006 @ 11:54am

    The elite will stay elite

    While the thoguths presented are interesting, the real reason the elite are elite is that they have the money to hire the cream of the crop at the professor level. It is fun and exciting to actually sit in class with these guys (and gals) and this is what makes elite special. More thoughts posted on my blog at http://designsforglory.com/DFGblog/ShowPost.aspx?id=14, where I have a fuller response.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      dorpus, 8 Aug 2006 @ 12:18pm

      Re: The elite will stay elite

      the real reason the elite are elite is that they have the money to hire the cream of the crop at the professor level.

      Not really. Places like Harvard often give stingy salaries to professors for the "privilege" of working there, while places like the University of Alabama will pay huge salaries to attract top talent. (In one case back in 1983, the the dean of Alabama's med school called up Harvard med school, asked who their best radiologist is, then hired him away.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Communist College, 8 Aug 2006 @ 2:05pm

        Re: Re: The elite will stay elite

        Your right about the pay. Public schools pay better than private; however, it looks cool that you teach at an ivy. The other thing is that sometimes the facilities are better, which may not seem like a big thing to some but if my college doesn't have a nice pool and gym then i'm not going to teach there.

        The one thing that is important is research grants and back door pay. For example, I know a lady that wrote a grant and she pays herself more from that than the school pays her to teach.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          dorpus, 8 Aug 2006 @ 2:19pm

          Re: Re: Re: The elite will stay elite

          The other thing is that sometimes the facilities are better, which may not seem like a big thing to some but if my college doesn't have a nice pool and gym then i'm not going to teach there.

          The second-tier schools usually have nicer pools and gyms than the "good" schools, which have facilities that are 50 or more years old. When I went to good schools, they had miserable, disgusting facilities. Now I'm getting my PhD at a second-tier school, and it has brand-new, state-of-the-art fitness facilities (as well as department buildings).

          The one thing that is important is research grants and back door pay. For example, I know a lady that wrote a grant and she pays herself more from that than the school pays her to teach.

          The more "prestigious" the school, the more squeamish the IRB (Institutional Review Board) is about conflicts of interest, so that stuff comes under heavier scrutiny.

          Seriously, going to a "good" school seems like a pretty abstract privilege. You do get more respect from people on the street, but then they may be afraid of hiring you because you're "too good for them". It also invites a lot of jealousy and dirty tricks at the workplace.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tom O'Leary, 8 Aug 2006 @ 12:33pm

    Intellectual Translucency

    Great post Joe. It will certainly be interesting to see if academia steps into the fore to any great degree. An increase in blog publications creating dialog between academic subject experts and industry leaders would be wonderful. Of course, intellectual property costs a lot these days; and I'm sure there will be some hesitation when it comes to sharing the wealth.

    All the best

    Tom

    Tom O'Leary
    Editor, The Messaging Times

    Infacta
    The Messaging Times

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      rijit (profile), 8 Aug 2006 @ 2:50pm

      Re: Intellectual Translucency

      Just wait till the "unwashed masses" start responding to their blogs and flaming their discussion, oh wait that should make em feel at home, just like the classroom.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sara, 8 Aug 2006 @ 1:21pm

    Easy Access

    It would make sense that those who have access to up to date research would be able to publish higher quality materials. Making these materials private is a way to keep other's less informed and helps perpetuate the cycle of class rule. Information should be free for the curious mind, keeping it locked up for those who drop 50,000 a semester is just another rude way of saying if you aren't in the "elite" club then you can't read our journals!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Peter Crowl, 8 Aug 2006 @ 2:54pm

    They'll have to shut that down

    I expect the top tier schools will take steps to stop this unauthorized and uncompensated use of their intellectual property. Top tier professors are the property of their employers and by sharing their thoughts and insight with second - and loower - tier schools they're eroding the top tier schools market value. This obviously must stop. Peter Who looks at the world through RIAA eyes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Search Engines WEB, 8 Aug 2006 @ 5:38pm

    Social Evolution

    No longer is society limited to socializing or engaging in real-time intellectual intercouse with Just their neighbors or collegues or phone calls.

    The immediacy of information exchange - and the rise of User Generated Content and Social Bookmarking - that enable DEMOCRATIC voting of what is important - has revolutionized society in a way not seen since the first Printing Press - or First Home Radios or Televsions.

    It is so-o-o great, that Humans living today are seeing the very DAWN of what will be a commonplace Social Evolution for Human eternity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Search Engines WEB, 8 Aug 2006 @ 5:41pm

    Social Evolution

    No longer is society limited to socializing or engaging in real-time intellectual intercouse with Just their neighbors, collegues or phone calls. The WORLD is your information neighborhood

    The immediacy of information exchange - and the rise of User Generated Content and Social Bookmarking - that enable a DEMOCRATIC VOTING of what is important - has revolutionized society in a way not seen since the first Printing Press - or First Home Radios or Televsions. (Cream rising to the top)

    It is so-o great, that Humans living today are seeing the very DAWN of what will begins a Social Evolution that will be commonplace and continuously advancing for Human eternity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Snakebite, 8 Aug 2006 @ 9:54pm

      Re: Social Evolution

      Big academia and big media's days are numbered. Intellectual property is getting cheaper every day, to the greater good of humanity (and the owners of intellectual property). The goodwill of microfame and niche rule, along with market segment share will become more valuable to intellectual property owners than royalties and unit sales. As such, knowledge is proliferating at an exponential rate and will only continue to accelerate, leading to a massive decentralization of power and wealth throughout the world. The phat cat of near perfect information is out of the bag, and ruling elites everywhere must now contend with the emerging global meritocracy of ideas and entrepreneurship.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PJ Brunet, 11 Aug 2006 @ 12:32pm

    It's a good point, and you see more schools offering "online" degrees, but there are limits. Some things you need to experience in person. There's so much that does not translate digitally.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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