The Ultimate Disruptor To Higher Education Isn’t Silicon Valley. It’s Faculty.

The current narrative about the edtech industry is that it’s driven by innovative disruptors from outside of education – the proverbial Silicon Valley story of tech entrepreneurs finding solutions to all our most vexing problems. This disruptor story gets even more pronounced in higher education by the contrasting view of colleges and universities as institutions beholden to tradition, held back by faculty who are reticent to change. But that narrative is going to shift. And it may never have been true to begin with. It won’t be Silicon Valley that ultimately disrupts higher education. It will be faculty.

If you haven’t already noticed, college and university faculty are responsible for perhaps the single greatest disruption to hit higher education thus far: massive open online courses (MOOCs). Coursera

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Higher Ed Has a Silicon Valley Problem

In 1959, a company called Simulmatics opened its doors. Founded by Ed Greenfield, a back-slapping Madison Avenue Mad Man, Simulmatics did political consulting and data analytics. In 1960 it claimed credit for getting John F. Kennedy elected president. Eleven years later, it went bankrupt. In her new book, If Then, Jill Lepore argues that the Simulmatics story is our reality: We are trapped in “a machine that applies the science of psychological warfare to the affairs of ordinary life, a machine that manipulates opinion, exploits attention, commodifies information, divides voters, fractures communities, alienates individuals, and undermines democracy.” As Lepore puts it in her subtitle, Simulmatics “invented the future.”

The future that Simulmatics built — and the data-drenched way of thinking it championed — was largely the brainchild of academics. Greenfield hired leaders in the then-new field of behavioral science, and the company became a magnet for brilliant, idealistic,

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