Surviving Disruptive Technologies- week 3 Newspapers

Into the third week of this MOOC and it’s becoming significantly more interesting. The initial weeks have provided examples of companies or industries that have already been disrupted and massively changed by technological changes. Now we’re looking at those currently undergoing change.

The sessions on newspapers are particularly interesting- parallels could be drawn here between this industry and that of higher education( which we will be looking at later in the course).

Prof Lucas makes an impassioned plea for the continuing existence of newspapers, by highlighting activities they carry out that might not be done so well by other news organisations. In particular he highlights the importance of investigative journalism,citing the Watergate affair, to which for the UK we could add investigations over MPS expenses and phone hacking. The other key function is the provision of analysis of the news.

Looking at the parameters of the model for disruption:
Resistance to change
Mind set
Sunk costs
Lack of imagination

I would suggest that many remaining newspapers might not score too badly, particularly when we regard how they are using new technologies to distribute their content (websites, Kindle, iPad editions). However, there is still the difficulty of monetization and loss of advertising revenue to deal with. In addition as indicated in a New York Times article, many businesses have other structural problems such as underfunded pension schemes, unserviceable levels of debt, legacy manufacturing processes and legacy union and labour agreements.

The key thing for newspapers will be to identify what business they are in and how to use technology to support them.

They are clearly not just in the business of reporting news. They are in the business of investigation and provision of analysis and commentary. (The tabloids in the UK are probably in the business of providing something to read at lunch for those in jobs where Internet connectivity is not available).

The next week of the course will look at education, but there are parallels between the newspaper industry and HE that we can start to consider.

Like newspapers we will cease to be in the business of transmission of information ( although attendance at many of our lectures wouldn’t convince you of that).

Like newspapers we need to identify what is the added value that we can provide to readily available information.

I would suggest that from a teaching and learning perspective, the role of the university is about: curation of resources; identification of suitable packages of information; provision of support for learning; accreditation of learning. In addition there is our role in research, generation of new knowledge and support for business and per organisations.

It’ll be interesting to see how the next week’s sessions on education pan out.

Finally,as part of an undergraduate education, there is still a part of me at thinks that all students should read a daily broadsheet newspaper!

Surviving Disruptive Technologies – week 2 experiences

So, I’m at the end of week 2 of my Coursera MOOC on Surviving Disruptive Technologies.

As I wrote before – the content is fine: this week we have looked at what happened to Blockbuster, and compared it with Netflix, with what happened to Borders and compared to Amazon. I guess for me it was interesting to realise that the failure of organisations was not just the disruption caused by the advance of technology, but about how organisations themselves were able to behave and develop (or not, as the case may be).

I’m still shocked at the amount (or rather lack) of use that the discussion boards are getting. Each pair of mini lectures leads to the expectation that participants will engage in online discussion. Maybe it’s the nature of the participants  maybe it’s the subject matter, maybe it’s even the number enrolled, but the biggest discussion thread for this week had 54 posts. Compare that with #edcmooc, where in week 2 the biggest thread had 240!

There’s also very little happening outside of the course – there was a Google hangout, but there is little evidence of a strident community developing as happened in #edcmooc. This may not be surprising – that course attracted a lot of education professionals, who (and I include myself here) found it a really useful way of developing personal networks.

Anyway -sticking with it for the moment as the subject matter is interesting. Though I might just give in and buy the book.

My first week experiences of Surviving Disruptive Technologies MOOC

I’ve started my second MOOC through Coursera, herein labelled as #sdtmooc, which is its putative Twitter hashtag.
This is a significantly different experience from #edcmooc, the University of Edinburgh course I took previously. That was a constructivist learning experience, with a core of highly engaged participants who met and discussed virtually outside of the Coursera discussion forum ecosystem. This isn’t.
What follows now will appear critical – let me be clear, any criticisms are not of the course leader, or indeed of the content, more about the way in which the course is set up to run.


The course is written by Henry Lucas of University of Maryland, and would appear to be based on his textbook on the subject “The Search for Survival”.

Topics covered so far include the survivor model, the innovator’s dilemma, sustaining and disruptive technologies, the box score, organisations, and the demise of Kodak. This will be followed by lectures on the demise of Blockbuster and Borders. The minute that Clay Shirky’s phrase “Napster moment” is used is the time I will quit the course.

Structure and delivery

For #sdtmooc each week is divided into two classes, each of which has 4 short video lectures associated with it. Which when you join then together ,make 2 individual 1 hour lectures, so this doesn’t seem to be doing anything to challenge any educational paradigm. Each video lecture has a single multiple choice question embedded into it to check understanding. Or at least to check if you have been listening for the previous 8 minutes.

The video lectures consist of PowerPoint slides, with a talking head in the bottom corner, and some annotations made to slides as they are delivered. Not wildly exciting.

At the end of each class, participants are asked to use the discussion forums, to both start discussions and comment on those of others. One activity was to list your top 3 technical innovations of the last 25 years, with the reasons why chosen, and then to comment on the suggestions of others. A lot of participants identified the internet. This clearly ignores the fact it is over 25 years old, and their view of it was wholly utopian (shades of #edcmooc creeping in!).

As so often, I found the level of discussion disappointing and intellectually naive. But I accept that this is criticism of myself – I have no way of knowing the previous experience or expertise of other participants.

Initial Impressions

Honestly? The subject matter is interesting, and when we are hearing all the time that MOOCs are a disruptive technology that will affect Higher Education, this would seem to be a relevant course to take.

But I could have learned as much by reading the book. The course so far offers no more than a distributed version of a slightly dull traditional lecture course. The discussion forums have yet to take off with any detailed critique or analysis. And Twitter – well maybe I was spoiled with the way in which participants in #edcmooc used it, but so far there appears to be little happening to excite the twitterati!

I’ll carry on for another week, downloading the PowerPoint files for later reference.