EPIC 2020

EPIC 2020, stands for the proposition that the education of the world will change dramatically for the better during this decade. This site attempts to provide ideas that shatter the paradigm that the future will be anything like the past. The site is also my individual effort to provide a reasonably comprehensible resource of materials and tools related to online learning.  If you would like to be kept current please join the EPIC 2020 Facebook group in the upper right. The EPIC 2020 video below was created as an out of the box stimulus to think in new ways about education.

Comments from Martin Van Der Werf, The College of Education Blog“Will higher education collapse in this manner? No, this is far too simplistic. But are there grains of truth and seeds of nightmares in this? I would argue Yes. This video should inspire a mixture of guffaws, inspiration, and feelings of dread in just about anyone who watches it. So, if nothing else, Sams has succeeded in starting a dialogue that any college thinking seriously about its future needs to have.”

Bill’s Blog:

I am doing a sort of weekly blog on various concepts related to education that can be found at Skilled Up. Here are summaries of the posts and direct links. For full disclosure I am also an advisor to Skilled Up.

Sensory Overload: We are genetically designed to sense colors, forms, movement and sound as well as tastes and smells. Words and numbers — creations of only a few thousand years ago — have served us well until now, but perhaps we are now approaching a point of returning to our innate senses

Knowledge: Just in Case to Just in Time: How many times can you recall having asked a teacher ‘Why do I need to know this?’ only to be told ‘because someday you will need it’? I’d argue that Just in Case knowledge is a massive waste of resources — and in my own experience a large portion of what I learned in obtaining three degrees has either never been needed or was forgotten long ago.

Accounting for Human Capital: While there are well-established principles for accounting for tangible items of production there is a gapping hole in our ability to account for intangible items of production such as people. As we move into the knowledge economy, this shortfall in our collective accounting becomes a critical problem. Without a rigorous way to do this, we cannot provide a feedback loop that enables rational and proactive decisions that enhance the value and productive application of human capital.

All You Need is Knol: There is a truism in business that you only get what you measure. When you apply this to education it’s no wonder that we have the current problems.

ISO 2020: The Importance of Standards in Education: If education were more like industry, students would be getting a better, faster and cheaper education than they now enjoy, with the data to back it up.

Holistic Enhancement: How to Value Human Capital: The idea of Holistic Enhancement, which I introduced recently, lays out a conceptual survey of the types of units and tools of measurement that should be in a definition of personal and organizational human capital.

The concept of Holistic Enhancement was introduced at a COIL Fisher Speaker Series at Penn State in March of 2013. Here is the link to my presentation.

Is a Degree an Investment? No. The degree as investment reasoning confuses selection bias with causation, ignores the depreciation rate of knowledge, and assumes that the value of a degree does not go obsolete.

Pay It Forward: This is a different way to provide funding for education and is based not on paying back a loan but rather on paying forward for others based on your success.

Educate for Mastery Rather Than Mediocrity: Designing courses based on the bell curve institutionalizes mediocrity based on limiting the time of instruction. Taking the time for mastery is the better paradigm.

The Right Question: When we ask the wrong question about education it is impossible to get the right answer.

Connected Learning is a short video piece on “Might the information age free us to pursue learning centered on individuals and not institutions?” Link.



32 thoughts on “EPIC 2020

  1. I’m blown away and I think Sams is right on track. Having extensive experience in public education and charter schools, I feel that there is no way that the public will continue to fund (or have the ability to fund) systems that cannot reliably produce qualified, productive students or results. The leverage of technology can be a leveler for many, including the underserved, and if delivery systems can be made adaptable to individual circumstances, then perhaps we can make real and sustainable progress.

    • Mr. Nunery, don’t you think that in order for the students to be qualified & productive they have to come from a household that supports their endeavors educationally? If you have a working single mom who’s working two jobs she has no time to sit with her child and help them with learning (homework). They’re not there to answer the child’s question.
      If we follow these models, the online classroom will be the source that the child goes to all the time when not in school. As a student if I have a question, I would much like to go to an adult who can guide me. Being online sometimes searching for an answer, you can spend hundreds of minutes. Trust me, as an online student, I’ve spent several minutes searching for answers.

  2. I do think that the education system is broken. but FREE stuff are not the solution. I feel that we have become so entitled that we want everything to be FREE. FREE ruins industries and hence people. This might not be a good analogy, but I pay my plumber to fix my sink in for less than an hour job about 20 to 100 bucks. why shouldn’t a person who has worked so damn hard not be paid a dime for a whole lot harder work? Money is not evil. you need it to support yourself and those around you.

    Let’s imagine a world (by 2020) that everything is available online for FREE and everybody takes this FREE courses. I am going to ask the question that nobody else seems to be asking: so what? what happens next? They cannot teach their favourite subjects since they are all available for FREE and not able to find jobs since there are millions with the same qualifications. Everybody is knowledgeable but the job market is much tougher.

    However, I have taken part in the courses on Udacity and Coursera and they are fantastic. they are honestly better than the classes I pay for. 😦
    I think for as long as there is a need for qualification there are going to be colleges and universities. Although Udacity is going to offer UVA (if not mistaken) in person exams, so that’s quite qualifying.
    I think that as a complement these courses are AWESOME!

    • James, thank you for your comments. Google is a free search engine for the people that use it. Advertisers fund Google in order to reach the hundreds of millions of people that use Google for free. Udacity is exploring the employment agency model where the top companies in the world want to get connected to the top talent in the world. At conservative world class talent salaries at world class companies Udacity could earn $1 million for every 50 students that it connects to employers. The top companies in the world will be cheerfully funding the free education of the rest of the world. That strikes me as a pretty fair bargain for everyone. The real beneficiaries of this global revolution in education will be in the undeveloped world where they will be able to go from essentially nothing to world class education within a generation.

    • James. Teaching as a profession does not exist for the benefit of giving teachers jobs. If we do manage to create a system where learning is much cheaper (if not free), then it will be done at the expense of jobs in certain professions. We have cheap food nowadays and less farmers than we used to have. But we have more restaurants. There may well be less teachers in the future but if that means that more people can access learning, it is for the best. Strangely, nobody seems to worry about the disappearance of academic administration jobs.

    • I agree with James. Even though Google is “free” to use in some aspects, what would happen if companies refused to pay for their “hits” or didn’t advertise with google and found another route. Google’s revenue almost exclusively depends on advertising and that cannot continue, it has to have some type of subscriber payment system to continue to grow.
      We are becoming a society where everyone feels goods and services should be free. No society in the world operates like this, except the broken ones (ex: Africa) but even with that, there is a bartering system to take the place of payment.

  3. It blows my mind that people cannot see what a fantastic revolution this is? I could launch into a 300 page discussion but i have the feeling if you don’t get it , you never will

    • Of course it’s a revolution because currently the Udacity and Khan professors (many of them over 50 years old and rich) can afford to offer their services free. What about the 20 year old graduating from college and going into the college teaching field, do you think they will want to post their lectures online “free” and check papers from students all over the world? I don’t think so.

      • The education institution _should never_ be considered in the light of a place that exists to pay you (in fact, no industry should). It exists _for the students_. If that’s not why you are in the industry, get out now because you’re likely to be continually disappointed in the coming decades. If those 20 year olds are inspired, passionate teachers, you bet I think think they’ll want to work for a company that provides education to an international body of engaged self-motivated students, for free! But note that no one here is saying the teachers work for free, only that the education is free _for the student_ and the model of business shifts to different income sources.

  4. The timeline and some of the specifics are all a bit absurd, but overall the idea that education is at a crisis point is accurate. But trying to understand the overall purpose of EPIC2020.org is a bit challenging. Do they want to bring about the end of the university system and subsequently the end of all education as the video and call to action would seem to indicate? Is this a promotional piece for informal learning, as the extensive library of links to sites such as Khan Academy, Udacity, Coursera, MITx, and many others would indicate? Or is it something else entirely? Right now I am not sure, but I do know that my feelings about MOOCs and other massive free online education efforts have not changed. I am still pessimistic about their contribution to the future of education. Now perhaps more so than before I watched EPIC2020. Read my entire take on EPIC2020 on Education Unbound http://bit.ly/NybdPA @drjwmarquis

  5. Thank you Bill Sams (ao.) for sharing this perspective. It really got me thinking on developments which i kinda were blindly enthusiastic about. Not sure i am less enthusiastic, but not so sure i am still that enthusiastic neither. I guess confusion comes with insights …

  6. I found this on a Google+ discussion page for my first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) – edcmooc offered through coursera. What an interesting and (somewhat) terrifying idea. The video emphasizes, for me, the sheer speed with which education is changing. And it raises questions, again, for me, about the commercialization of education and the differences between “education” and “learning”.

    • Hi Mark, Funded research in the sciences should continue at the top tier Universities. Unfunded research in the Liberal Arts probably has a questionable future to go along with its current questionable contribution to the economy. At Ohio University the vast majority of faculty members feel that they are entitled to 30% of their time for research. This seems absurd to all but those who are tenured.

  7. Pingback: EPIC 2020 | EPIC 2020 | LiterateOwl

  8. Provocative message of course but if education and funding is solely targeted to ‘badges’ and market driven priority of corporate players, where does critical thinking education of citizenship find a home in our society? Liberal arts curricula will not be cherished unless its parts are adopted by companies who buy the graduates. Does the state have no role or aspirations other than subsidizing employers? Does a civil society grow with a virtual education system that only accredits students that are employable? If governments neglect to be responsible for any educational enterprise who will embrace the K-12 students? Will general education of people only be a holding pool for prospective employers? The ‘open education’ movement sounds good but who really benefits? If its like the environment, or banking industry where industry gains profits but relinquishes liability, we are screwed as a civil society.

    • Hi Al; Excellent thoughts and questions. Critical thinking and education of citizenship arguably do not have a home today in far too many traditional schools. The knowledge workers of the future can no longer succeed with only technical literacy. They will need critical thinking and education of citizenship along with network weaving and emotional intelligence as core leadership skills. I am currently working with a company to develop a holistic enhancement program for the personal growth of all of its employees. Its goal will be the optimization of human potential and a significant part of that will be community involvement. Your points on the environment and the banking industry are certainly well taken but set opposite of that is the work of groups like the Gates Foundation in terms of world health and education issues. My own view is that most of a liberal arts degree is wasted on a 20 something person and that liberal arts should be a curriculum that one spends the rest of their life exploring not for a degree but for the joy of learning. Free MOOCs now offer that possibility to the world. And badges have the potential to assess many kinds of skills from social involvement to technology just as college clubs, participation in athletics as well as grades currently do. A skill badge updated last month will have more relevance than a degree from a decade ago. And for those 30 to 40% of students who never complete a degree but yet incurre the debt they will have badges for each portion that they did complete rather than an all or nothing degree. And yes, government needs to play a role and a much more efficient and effective role than the current broken and dysfunctional system that results in the US being ranked in the low 20s on international education ratings. MOOCs and badges are only part of the solution. I will look forward to your suggestions for the rest of the solution. All the best, Bill Sams

  9. Better methods of distribution are great, but at it’s core learning requires work by the person doing the learning. Making it cheaper and easier to access the content reduces that part of the work load and there will always be a demand for that. On the other hand as the last two comments point out, learning is not the only function of some institutions.
    A 30% research time actually does not seem unreasonable in that context (if the institution had a purpose for growing knowledge as well as imparting that knowledge to new students).
    I would also contend that another 20% of time might be allocated to professional development of the teaching, (modification of courses developing new methods of presenting the content, etc…)
    Because, if learning is more than being given knowledge, then teaching must be more than just presenting knowledge.

    • Hi Dendari; I agree that learning is not the only function of some institutions especially flagship state universities. Research is great as long as it is funded by someone other than the students who have no say in what or how it is done. Engineering, physics, chemistry, biomedicine that is grant funded by sophisticated funding agencies that can coordinate and evaluate an overarching program is wonderful. On the other hand a basic accounting professor spending 30% of their time researching some esoteric accounting subject that at best winds up in a “peer reviewed” journal that has a readership of a couple of hundred is not the kind of return on investment that students deserve. Likewise 20% of time to improve professional development would be a welcome improvement to professors who have used the same overhead transparencies and yellowed legal pad class notes for the last 20 years. From my perspective learning is not being “given” knowledge but rather true learning is the student taking ownership of the knowledge that they discover through a journey of exploration on a pathway guided by an inspired teacher. Whether that inspiration comes from a teacher online or in person is at best an open question and as MOOCs improve over the next five years the answer will become clear. Students / customers of education have a right to a product that features the best possible instruction at the lowest cost. Universities need to come to terms with the fact that they do not have an innate right to exist. Any organization whether it be a business, non-profit, government, religion or university earns it’s right to exist by providing more value than the cost of its services. For traditional higher education the incredible cost inflation of the last two decades calls into question whether they supply a value equal to or better than their inflated and inefficient costs especially for those students that do not complete their degrees. At one Trillion dollars in student debt that is not dischargeable by bankruptcy we probably have the answer to that question. All the best, Bill Sams

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