[LONGREAD] Zooming towards a University Platform

George Packer, diarist, novelist and a frequent subscriber to The Atlantic, acidly concluded in a holocene polemicist that the “ coronavirus didn ’ t break America ”. Rather, the virus plainly “ revealed what was already break ”. For Packer, the ball-shaped pandemic in all its persistent craze actually laid bare Trump ’ s dysfunctional politics within an already corrode and ailing club. The Covid-19 rampage, therefore, was more messenger than the message .
Online department of education, besides, should be seen as a portentous messenger of things to come and not the message in itself. even before the forcible classroom and face to face academic interactions were deemed a viral hazard, the contemporaneous university system was already down with a high fever and looking for ways to cool off from their addiction on brick and mortar teach .

The boom in Zoom or the careen to the virtual, consequently, is not a travel rapidly Band-Aid response. The large moves for on-line teach can, in fact, be contact traced to evolving developments within the education engineering sector ( EdTech ), which, honestly speak, has been chomping at the act for more than a ten now. For EdTech enthusiasts, on-line teach is and has always been but the ‘ front hand ’ for their already imagined revolution. A revolution that first begins not by overthrowing the university administration but by rebooting the estimate of the student .
It bears remembering here that the first students of the modern university ─ birthed in early nineteenth hundred Europe ─ were chiefly prepared and inspired for the roles of citizenship. And in the expectations of one of its establish visionaries, the Prussian philosopher and diplomat Wilhelm von Humboldt ( 1767-1835 ), the public university was to cultivate a national acculturation while occupying a space between the state and the market. The scholar of higher department of education, therefore, above all else, was the product of nation-making.


By the late 1980s and early 1990s, however, economic globalization, neo-liberalism and aggressive marketplace logics combined to gut the Humboldtian university ideal. In country after country, like falling dominoes, public universities were toppled and higher education was surrendered to the corporate university, which lost short time in substituting the student-citizen with the customer-consumer. The immediate fallout : always rising student loanword debts ( SLD ). In the United States, the most emblematic possible example, the SLD for 2019 stood at $ 1.5 trillion, owed by 45 million borrowers. In India, in the open year of 2000, loans amounting to roughly ₹3000 million ( amerind Rupees ) were disbursed for higher education. By 2016, h igher education loans hit the check of ₹720,000 million. But in November of 2019 a sudden drop to approximately ₹669,020 million in the SLD occurred. This flimsy fall, however, remained well within the curvature of the market, brought on by the fact that banks were losing their appetite to lend in a context where scholar lend defaults were escalating in India.
The sordid saga of exploding student debt, however, is not the only tremor that is destabilizing higher education. In late years, the metrics for university rankings have quickly gone from bizarre to banal. Added to which is the alarming raise in staff attrition, caused by competitive pressures for publish and turning the quest for tenured positions into gladiatorial contests. increasingly, the corporate university model, the earth over, is fraying and becoming unsustainable .
distinctly, it is heavily to ignore the fact that on-line teaching in the time of Covid-19 has walked into a preexistent condition. But can such a crisis-condition be sorted out by what Evgeny Morozov describes as ‘ solutionism ’ ̶ deploying technology to avoid politics ?
In a holocene interview, the baronial laureate Abhijit Banerjee opined in an even handed manner that online teach was here to stay and its successful dissemination by and large depended on how quickly professors could be encouraged to give up their ‘ prejudices ’. The professor as an implicit in ‘ technology dilatory ’ or a natural fishy, against the on-line, in fact, a ppears so convincingly axiomatic. In a moment type of solutionism, on the other hand, the argument runs in reverse. Given that the on-line will largely bypass the less privileged and the poor, the contend for education besides becomes a vigorous necessitate for internet inclusion body and bandwidth capacity. But if a magic wand did indeed solve all problems of access, could we still sidestep the complexities of power, politics, manipulation and control that are baked into digital infrastructure? Here, it is critical that we decode the Edtech vision and the notion of the platform university.
Platform s are here to Stay
The platform heralds a significant strategic shift in contemporary capitalism. The big four of Amazon, Google ( Alphabet ), Facebook and Apple, for case, not only make up the leading platform firms in the universe today but when combined their wealth, baron and domination over our casual is alone and unprecedented in commemorate history. In a more pointed elaboration by media studies scholars Dijck, Poell and Waal, the platform’s architecture is described as being ‘fuelled by data, automated and organized through algorithms and interfaces, formalized through ownership relations driven by business models and governed through user agreements’. Rigged and programmed thus, the platform then steers ‘User interactions’ towards generating ‘data exhaust’, which is the digital trail that Cukier and Schonberger, in their best seller titled Big Data, refer to as being the ‘byproduct’ that people leave in the wake of their online interactions. Data exhaust, hence, is the raw material that is extracted from the User by the platform.
For Shoshana Zuboff in her much acclaim and authoritative The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, datum consume is conceptualised as ‘ behavioral excess ’, which is extracted through on-line interactions to feed the production of ‘ machine intelligence ’ or what is often referred to as ‘ Artificial intelligence ’ ( AI ). The AI by being able to automate a huge number of correlations and patterns can then basically be purposed to anticipate and predict User behavior. prediction, in effect, enables the change and control of the User ’ s behaviour through a huge crop of techniques such as the ‘ nudge, coaxial cable, tune ’ and the herd towards result. We as the User, consequently, are the ‘ objects from which raw materials are extracted ’ and consequently become, as Zuboff argues, the ‘ means to others ’ ends ’. The platform, in other words, does not plainly connect the service provider to the User nor does it naively set about organizing digital interactions. quite, it is basically wired up as ‘ machine news ’ that is programmed through a suite of algorithm to extract, modify, steer, modulate and inescapably control homo demeanor .
The opinion that EdTech as a platform holds for its advocates, investors and enthusiasts, therefore, goes much beyond trying to develop capacities for on-line education. The on-line teach platform, more pointedly, intends to be a ‘ disruptive engineering ’. Its fantastic setting is no less than trying to ‘ Uberize ’ higher education by delivering a death fellate to the remaining debris of the Humboldian ideal and by fatally downsizing a wobbling corporate university model .
The many Persuasions of EdTech

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EdTech, in fact, on the surface, offers both a convert criticism and a compelling set of solutions to the crisis that now engulfs higher education. It correctly understands that scholar debt has not only become unsustainable but is besides eroding the corporate university ’ s initial title that markets could help ‘ massify ’ higher education by broadening access .
There is a growing gulf, furthermore, between the degree that was paid for and the actual fiscal returns on the jobs that are available. In total, degrees from the bodied university are not only pricing themselves out of the job market but in the context of rapid technological deepen the very notion of competence and employability are undergoing meaning shifts : the demand seems to be veering towards the necessitate for a regular upgradation in skill-sets rather than from an acute three or four year degree course of study .
EdTech has the capacity to radically cheapen higher education. For starters, the on-line can entirely sidestep the huge costs involved in maintaining brick and mortar bequest infrastructures such as libraries, dormitories and lecture halls ( the fixed costs ) .Tens of thousands of students can be simultaneously connected to an on-line module, as opposed to a relatively minuscule number that can be packed into a single class room. In a like vein, virtual instruction can dramatically abandon the want to maintain an expensive student-teacher ratio by carrying out instructions via pre-recorded lectures, interactional Apps and with on requirement digital subject .
In 2012, two Stanford calculator science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller assembled an on-line teach and e-learning platform called Coursera, which they designed for offering massive open on-line courses ( MOOC ). The Coursera scheme involves partnering [ like Uber ] with existing universities, colleges, governments and corporates and as of December 2019 their total count of collaborations are listed as comprising roughly 200 across 29 countries .
According to Dijck, Poell and Waal, the Coursera and the MOOC in general are aimed at entirely upending existing academic conventions and designs. alternatively of the curriculum-based diploma or degree programs, the platform offers the ‘ course ─ a individual whole that can be “ unbundled ” and “ rebundled ” into an on-line “ product ” ’. That is, alternatively of the current concenter on completing a comprehensive two or three year program that is made of several linked and connected courses, the User-student can now simply partake of a slice of the education feel by attempting a single class. Akin to what, as the writer ’ s tell us, Facebook and Google have done to the newspaper diligence by un-packaging them in a manner that allowed the circulation of individual articles, feature pieces and news feeds. These unbundled courses, furthermore, can be accredited by the award of certificates of completion and invigilate exams ─ versions of micro-degrees or nano-degrees that can be earned for acquiring specific skills.
The Edtech platform as a decentralized, virtual and humble monetary value higher education model, however, already reveals implicit in dangers. For one, the User-student ’ second data ( behavioral excess ), generated through digital interactions, can be repurposed by the platform for a image of unexpressed outcomes. An individual ’ mho learning arch, emotional states, psychological dispositions and learning abilities, for example, could be minutely mapped and tracked through the chase of data exhaust. Every digital indenture, in the kind of a like button, emoji use, a quiz, a surveil or a bare chink, could be graphed to sized up as a behavioral analysis that, in twist, could be then be conveyed as a score to a likely employer or authority .
second, by dispensing with the ‘ air ’ of classroom solidarity, the on-line grinds away at attaining personalize and personalize outcomes. The gradient for teach is therefore individual centric and steered by predictive analytics ─ algorithms that can replace the teacher ’ s master judgment with ‘ learnification ’. The learnification paradigm is the ‘ idea that learning can be managed, monitored, controlled and ultimately modified in each student ’ s personal mind. ’ In effect, the User-student will be encased within a filter bubble, a self-referential recess that will be digitally reinforced by corroding sociable solidarity, public prize and knowledge through collectives. In sum, the cave of political citizenship and the depreciate of democracy.
We don’t need no Learnification
But how will the loss of the Humboldtian ideal and the corporate university actually play out ? The impacts of EdTech might, in fact, be far more perverse with the chopine university consolidating a new type of social and economic hierarchy that is built around different levels of educational inequalities. The prescient and future-facing, Scott Galloway, Professor of Marketing at the esteemed NYU Stern School of Business, in a stock taking interview on the future of higher education in a post Covid-19 world, offers us an faze assessment. For Galloway, the shift key to the platform university will first begin manifesting as : …a dip, the beget of all V ’ mho, among the top-50 universities, where the revenues are hit in the short political campaign and then technology will expand their enrolments and they will come rear stronger. In ten years, it ’ s feasible to think that MIT doesn ’ t welcome 1,000 freshmen to campus ; it welcomes 10,000. What that means is the top-20 universities globally are going to become tied stronger. What it besides means is that universities Nos. 20 to 50 are all right. But Nos. 50 to 1,000 go out of business or become a shadow of themselves. ultimately, universities are going to collaborator with companies to help them expand. I think that partnership will look something like MIT and Google partner. Microsoft and Berkeley. Big-tech companies are about to enter education and health worry in a big way, not because they want to but because they have to… The strongest brands are MIT, Oxford, and Stanford. Academics and administrators at the top universities have decided over the final 30 years that we ’ re no longer public servants ; we ’ re lavishness goods.

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distinctly, the Galloway prophecy is that higher education of the pre-Covid-19 populace will become about unrecognizably in the not excessively distant future. The big brand universities are going to gobble up the small guys, on-line department of education will massify access and, ultimately, expect a specify character for Tech giants such as Google and Microsoft in shaping the platform university. Despite this dramatic churn, however, Galloway distillery believes that the four-year liberal arts-campus feel might survive, but only because it will be populated by the very full-bodied. Brick and mortar higher education, therefore, will spur a caste system, the prevail of aristocratic entitlement over malodorous deserve.
In all likelihood the coming years will see the continue frictions, tensions and abrading wars between the Humboldltdian ideal, the corporate university and the EdTech drive platform. Three souls will haunt and agitate campuses : that of the student-citizen, the customer-consumer and the User-student. The achiever, for sure, will not take all .

source : https://shayski.com
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