Higher education: The attack of the MOOCs

21. July 2013

Date: 20-07-2013
Source: The Economist

An army of new online courses is scaring the wits out of traditional universities. But can they find a viable business model?

DOTCOM mania was slow in coming to higher education, but now it has the venerable industry firmly in its grip. Since the launch early last year of Udacity and Coursera, two Silicon Valley start-ups offering free education through MOOCs, massive open online courses, the ivory towers of academia have been shaken to their foundations. University brands built in some cases over centuries have been forced to contemplate the possibility that information technology will rapidly make their existing business model obsolete. Meanwhile, the MOOCs have multiplied in number, resources and student recruitment—without yet having figured out a business model of their own.

Besides providing online courses to their own (generally fee-paying) students, universities have felt obliged to join the MOOC revolution to avoid being guillotined by it. Coursera has formed partnerships with 83 universities and colleges around the world, including many of America’s top-tier institutions.

EdX, a non-profit MOOC provider founded in May 2012 by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and backed with $60m of their money, is now a consortium of 28 institutions, the most recent joiner being the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. Led by the Open University, which pioneered distance-learning in the 1970s, FutureLearn, a consortium of 21 British, one Irish and one Australian university, plus other educational bodies, will start offering MOOCs later this year. But Oxford and Cambridge remain aloof, refusing to join what a senior Oxford figure fears may be a “lemming-like rush” into MOOCs. Read the rest of this entry »


Brain Exercise Benefits At Any Age

18. July 2013

Date: 18-07-2013
Source: Scientific American

Elderly adults who worked their mental muscles, both early and late in life, remained more intellectually limber than those who didn’t.

A book a day may keep dementia away. Even if you read it as a kid. Because a study finds that exercising the brain, at any age, may preserve memory. The work appears online in the journal Neurology. [Robert S. Wilson et al, Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging]

Previous studies have shown that engaging in brain-building activities is associated with a delay in late-life cognitive decline. But why? Does flexing the old gray matter somehow buffer against age-related intellectual impairment? Or is cognitive loss simply a consequence of the aging brain’s physical decline? Read the rest of this entry »


„Dem Alter begegnen“ – Eine neue Initiative

17. July 2013

WandernZweck der Initiative

Das „Altwerden“ positiv zu entdecken, richtig wahrzunehmen und anzunehmen stellt für viele Menschen eine Schwierigkeit dar. In unserer Gesellschaft ist Alter bzw. „Altwerden“ meist negativ besetzt. Die Initiative „Dem Alter begegnen“ hat vor, das Thema von einem ganz neuen Blickwinkel aus zu erschließen.

Der Prozess des „Altwerdens“ wird ganzheitlich aus verschiedenen Perspektiven betrachtet. Unterschiedliche Aspekte dieser Lebensphase werden miteinander vernetzt und damit neue Impulse für die Zukunft gesetzt. „Heil zu sein“ findet auf mehreren Ebenen statt – in Körper, Geist und Seele. Eine bessere Vermittlung zwischen den Generationen soll möglich gemacht, verloren gegangene Werte und Beziehungen wiederhergestellt und ein Ausstieg aus falschen Bildern zum Thema „Altwerden“ geschaffen werden.

Vision 2020

Die Initiative „Dem Alter begegnen“ hat neue Quellen erschlossen: Alter ist Schönheit, Weisheit (das Wissen, worauf es ankommt) und Erfüllung. Die Akzeptanz jeder Lebensphase – auch des Alterns – in unserer Gesellschaft soll erhöht werden, ganz unpathetisch und unprätentiös. Loslassen zu können, Trost zu finden, Vergebung zu leben und Dankbarkeit zu verspüren sind wesentlich. Dabei spielt auch eine Auseinandersetzung mit der Kunst des Möglichen eine Rolle. Der Umgang mit dem Altern kann generell gelassen und heiter erfolgen.

„Altwerden“ ist keine Ankunft, sondern ein Aufbruch. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Big Data Is Not Truth

5. June 2013

Date: 04-06-2013
Source: The New York Times By QUENTIN HARDY

The word “data” connotes fixed numbers inside hard grids of information, and as a result, it is easily mistaken for fact. But including bad product introductions and wars, we have many examples of bad data causing big mistakes.

Big Data raises bigger issues. The term suggests assembling many facts to create greater, previously unseen truths. It suggests the certainty of math.

That promise of certainty has been a hallmark of the technology industry for decades. With Big Data, however, there are even more hazards, some human and some inherent in the technology.

Kate Crawford, a researcher at Microsoft Research, calls the problem “Big Data fundamentalism — the idea with larger data sets, we get closer to objective truth.” Speaking at a conference in Berkeley, Calif., on Thursday, she identified what she calls “six myths of Big Data.”

Myth 1: Big Data is New

In 1997, there was a paper that discussed the difficulty of visualizing Big Data, and in 1999, a paper that discussed the problems of gaining insight from the numbers in Big Data. That indicates that two prominent issues today in Big Data, display and insight, had been around for awhile.

“But now it’s reaching us in new ways,” because of the scale and prevalence of Big Data, Ms. Crawford said. That also means it is a widespread social phenomenon, like mobile phones were in the 1990s, that “generates a lot of comment, and then disappears into the background, as something that’s just part of life.”

Myth 2: Big Data Is Objective Read the rest of this entry »


Ein neuer Papst – und die falschen Anforderungskriterien?

12. March 2013

von Helmut F. Karner, am Tag des Beginns des Konklaves (12/3) A_524-01-215

Gott sei Dank heisst es ja, der Heilige Geist hätte bereits den richtigen Papst gewählt, die 115 Kardinäle müssten nur noch herausfinden, wer es sei.

Das kann man nur hoffen (tat er es auch das letzte Mal?), denn der Dilettantismus, mit dem die grösste Organisation der Erde mit ihrer wichtigsten Personalentscheidung umgeht, ist nur mit Liederlichkeit zu beschreiben.

Wie würde eine professionelle Organisation damit umgehen:

  1. Eine genaue Zustandsanalyse erstellen, wohl ein bisschen länger als die Meetings der Kardinäle der vergangenen Woche
  2. Ein präzises Anforderungsprofil erarbeiten, in dem die Lösungsfähigkeit des jetzigen (unerträglichen) Zustandes angesprochen wird, zusammen mit den Kriterien Alter, Herkunft, Persönlichkeit, Charismen/Talente, Entwicklungsfähigkeit, fachliche und Managementqualifikationen
  3. Scouting, Scouting, Scouting. Warum macht das der CF Barcelona so, Bayern München, jeder bessere Konzern, die Kirche aber nicht? Ein neuer Papst muss ja kirchenrechtlich nach überhaupt nicht Kardinal sein, daher hätte man auch ernsthaft außerhalb der 115 suchen müssen. Dazu ist es wohl jetzt zu spät. Hätte man das mit den Anforderungskriterien des Alters z.B. ernst gemeint, dann gibt es wohl unter den im Konklave Vertretenen wohl nur 2-3 mögliche Kandidaten.
  4. Wenn wir heute für ein Unternehmen eine exekutive Führungskraft suchen, dann zählt in der Gewichtung:
    • 40% Leadership-Fähigkeiten, also eindeutig das Wichtigste. “A leader is someone who has inspired and energized followers”. Es gibt “Transformational Leadership” (im jetzigen Zustand der Kirche wohl wichtig – a la Johannes XXIII), aber auch “Transactional Leadership” (wie Mutter Theresa, ein rezenter Papst fällt mir dazu nicht ein – ausser vielleicht der frühe Wojtyla!). Und es gibt oft Menschen an der Spitze, die überhaupt keine Leadership Fähigkeit haben (dazu fallen mir wieder ein paar rezente Päpste ein!) “Leadership is to take people from where they are to where they have not been before!”
      Was unterscheidet übrigens “Great” Leaders von “Good” Leaders? Die Grossen haben noch zwei zusätzliche Eigenschaften: Demut/Bescheidenheit  und Konsequenz/Durchhaltevermögen! Read the rest of this entry »

Robot ethics: Morals and the machine

1. June 2012

Date: 01-06-2012
Source: The Economist

As robots grow more autonomous, society needs to develop rules to manage them

IN THE classic science-fiction film “2001”, the ship’s computer, HAL, faces a dilemma. His instructions require him both to fulfil the ship’s mission (investigating an artefact near Jupiter) and to keep the mission’s true purpose secret from the ship’s crew. To resolve the contradiction, he tries to kill the crew.

As robots become more autonomous, the notion of computer-controlled machines facing ethical decisions is moving out of the realm of science fiction and into the real world. Society needs to find ways to ensure that they are better equipped to make moral judgments than HAL was. Read the rest of this entry »


One country, two revolutions

24. October 2011

Tom Friedman, NYT. 23-10.

The latest phase in the I.T. revolution is being driven by the convergence of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Groupon, Zynga — with the proliferation of cheap wireless connectivity and Web-enabled smartphones and “the cloud” — those enormous server farms that hold and constantly update thousands of software applications, which are then downloaded (as if from a cloud) by users on their smartphones, making them into incredibly powerful devices that can perform myriad tasks.

Marc Benioff, the founder of Salesforce.com, a cloud-based software provider, describes this phase of the I.T. revolution with the acronym SOCIAL. S, he says, is for speed — everything is now happening faster. O, he says, stands for open. If you don’t have an open environment inside your company or country, these new tools will blow you wide open. C is for collaboration because this revolution enables people to organize themselves within companies and societies into loosely coupled teams to take on any kind of challenges — from designing a new product to taking down a government. I is for individuals, who are able to reach around the globe to start something or collaborate on something farther, faster, deeper, cheaper than ever before — as individuals. A is for alignment. “There has never been a more important time to have all your ships sailing in the same direction,” said Benioff. “The power of social media is that it is easier than ever to both articulate, and reinforce, the vision and values that create and inspire alignment.” And L is for the leadership that does that. Leadership in a SOCIAL world has to be a mix of bottom-up and top-down. Leaders need to inspire, enable and empower everything coming up from below in a company or a social movement and then edit and sculpt it with a vision from above into a final product.

Read the whole article: http://fbkfinanzwirtschaft.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/one-country-two-revolutions/