Clay Shirky writes about how the system of higher education is being disrupted by online startups like Udacity. This won’t go away.
The people in the music industry werenâ€™t stupid, of course. They had access to the same internet the rest of us did. They just couldnâ€™t imagineâ€”and I mean this in the most ordinarily descriptive way possibleâ€”could not imagine that the old way of doing things might fail. Yet things did fail, in large part because, after Napster, the industryâ€™s insistence that digital distribution be as expensive and inconvenient as a trip to the record store suddenly struck millions of people as a completely terrible idea.
Once you see this patternâ€”a new story rearranging peopleâ€™s sense of the possible, with the incumbents the last to knowâ€”you see it everywhere. First, the people running the old system donâ€™t notice the change. When they do, they assume itâ€™s minor. Then that itâ€™s a niche. Then a fad. And by the time they understand that the world has actually changed, theyâ€™ve squandered most of the time they had to adapt.
Itâ€™s been interesting watching this unfold in music, books, newspapers, TV, but nothing has ever been as interesting to me as watching it happen in my own backyard. Higher education is now being disrupted; our MP3 is the massive open online course (or MOOC), and our Napster is Udacity, the education startup.