Crouching Tiger, Mobile University

Why the Netflix announcement signals the end of the traditional large lecture class.

October 2, 2014

The biggest news to come out of EDUCAUSE 2014 was the announcement that the sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon will be simultaneously released on Netflix streaming and IMAX theaters next summer.

You might interpret this as a slow year for EDUCAUSE news, but I’d say that this is a big year for the small seminar and for adaptive and mobile learning.

Apparently the bricks and mortar legacy movie theater providers have their knickers in a twist about the Netflix plan, with AMC apparently vowing to boycott showing the movie in its 147 IMAX theaters.  They can boycott all they want, but the writing is on the wall.  The future of entertainment belongs to subscriptions and streaming, which really means the future of entertainment belongs to mobile.

What platforms are Netflix subscribers streaming their videos?  In 2013 23% of streaming occurred on mobile phones, 15% on tablets, 44% on computers, 17% on smart TVs, and 16% on computers connected to a TV.  What is remarkable is that Netflix mobile phone streaming jumped from a based of 11% in 2012.  By the summer of 2015 what percentage of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend will be on mobile devices? I’m betting over 50%.  It seems a safe prediction that by 2020 mobile devices will account for almost all media consumption.

Anyone willing to trade an 72 ft by 53 ft IMAX screen for a 4.7 inch iPhone screen to watch Michelle Yeoh will have no problem moving from consuming information from the back of the lecture hall to consuming information on an app. 

If our classrooms are like movie theaters, then our classrooms are hurtling towards extinction.

Education is not like the movies. Learning is not like entertainment. Campuses are not theaters.  

Education, at least the sort of education that is worth paying for, is not about consumption.  Education is about relationships. Education is about a skilled and experienced educator getting to know individual each learner as an individual.

The future will belong to the small seminar and the competency based credential (consumed on a mobile device no doubt). The place-based but impersonal model of teaching (think big lecture classes) will go away. This form of teaching will be replaced by adaptive mobile learning.  Good riddance.  

The future will belong to those institutions wise enough to invest today in quality, in faculty, in small-classes and infrastructure that supports student / educator relationships.

Are we moving fast enough to get out of the the education as theater business?


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