Indian Computer Science (CS) & Information Technology (IT) Academic Reform Activism Consolidated Blog Document

Napster, mp3 music industry disruption and MOOC

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Napster, mp3 music industry disruption and MOOC

Net url: is a fascinating analysis of higher education challenges and opportunities. 

I would like to preface my comments below by saying that some of what I have written below as possibilities for the future may already be happening in the USA but, as far as I know, have not yet happened on a significant scale in India.

I found the mp3+Napster disruption of music industry example and similar possibility being considered in higher education fascinating. The mp3 compression format, Napster and fantastic devices like the iPod allowed music of so many genres to be enjoyed by so many people worldwide, even if the quality of the playback was not as good as uncompressed CDs. It was a revolution in bringing music to the masses worldwide.

In my humble analysis of Indian Computer Science and Information Technology academia I have found that teaching quality has become less important as the academic career growth path is more on the research side, With Internet based learning/MOOCs the emphasis on good teaching is bound to increase. The competition in higher education will be just a mouse-click away!

Prof. Sebastain Thrun talked about how teaching in elite colleges involves having 'weeder' classes and how his online class forced him to change his style to accommodate less brighter or less knowledgeable students too. Very importantly, the Internet teaching medium gave him the opportunity to do so. Prof. Thrun's talk can be viewed here: In case you don't have the time to view the video, you might want to read a blog post of mine on it,

Internet based learning certainly seems to have the potential to bring a knowledge delivery revolution just like the mp3+ipod music delivery revolution. It will be an awesome utopian-dream-come-true scenario if knowledge delivery to the masses worldwide in the not-so-distant future becomes like how music is delivered today to the masses worldwide.

Certification of whether knowledge has been acquired adequately can be delinked from teaching/learning (different from smaller tests/quizzes which are conducted during the teaching of a course). That may really free up the student. S/he can choose the Internet teacher(s) for her/his courses and prove to herself/himself and others that they have picked up the knowledge by clearing examination(s) of her/his choice and acquire the appropriate certificates.

Employers will be able to give market feedback on the knowledge level of graduates with different certifications. That should filter out certifications/examinations that do not test students appropriately.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Tough Times for US Academia; Lessons for India?

Net url:

I read some articles and saw a youtube video that has startled me. While I knew that US academia had its challenges I had no idea it was so bad.

Read on only if you have the stomach for some pretty depressing stuff about US academia. But please note that the articles referenced below may be biased, so please take them with a few pinches of salt.

The closing of American academia,

The article above claims that 2/3rds of US university faculty are part-time and on contract which is not guaranteed for renewal each semester (adjunct faculty)! That seems to indicate that most of such contract faculty receive no benefits or health care.

The author writes, "In May 2012, I received my PhD, but I still do not know what to do with it.". She wonders about her job opportunities as an anthropologist in US academia and whether her education is a way into poverty instead of being a way out of it!


A brutal video on Humanities academia in the US, So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities: Nine Years Later, (4 min, 21 sec).


The Ph.D. Now Comes With Food Stamps,, is an eye-popping account of how some Ph.D. qualified persons in the US are on welfare!

The article mentions a lady with a PhD in medieval history who is an adjunct professor and who is a 43 year old single mother relying on food stamps and Medicaid. She says, "I find it horrifying that someone who stands in front of college classes and teaches is on welfare,".

The article mentions a 51-year old father of two who teaches two courses each semester in the English department in a US university. He is a graduate but not yet a Ph.D who has taught for 14 years in three colleges. "He says he has taught more than two dozen courses in communications, performing arts, and the humanities and he has watched academic positions in these fields nearly disappear with budget cuts."

He is grateful for the dole as without it, his family would be homeless and destitute! The article mentions that he feels he perhaps made a mistake by learning a practical skill that was elitist instead of learning a skill that the economy supports.


I think the education system in the US is going through a heart-rending period of change which may make it more job-oriented and cost-effective for students. Perhaps countries like India should carefully study what is happening in the US and learn appropriate lessons from it to avoid similar pain in future.

1 comment:

Ravi S. Iyer, September 19, 2012 at 3:30 PM

'Life of the Mind' and the hard reality today of the Humanities PhD poverty-trap. A must-read for would-be PhD scholars of all streams even if some streams like Science & Engineering may be somewhat better off: The Big Lie About the 'Life of the Mind', By Thomas H. Benton, Feb. 2010

A PhD scholar student thanks Thomas H. Benton for his articles including the above article: PhD Job Hell: An Open Letter to Thomas H. Benton A.K.A. William A. Pannapacker: How “Graduate School in the Humanities: Just Don’t Go” Destroyed My PhD and Saved My Life, Nov. 2010

A humanities teacher having 23 years experience as a Professor and who seems to be a very ethical and good human being, gives advise: Stop Admitting Ph.D. Students, By Monica J. Harris, Aug. 2010

Saturday, May 11, 2013

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