Higher Ed, Apple, and the Questions That We Ask

Where would you rather work?

June 2, 2014

Did you watch Apple’s WWDC keynote?  

I’m always curious about the overlap between our IHE community and those of us willing to spend over an hour subjecting ourselves to Apple hyperbole.

My guess is that overlap has gotten smaller and smaller since the dawn of the Tim Cook era.

This is not a criticism of Tim Cook or of Apple. I’m beginning to accept that Apple’s agenda is a fine one for its shareholders, and that we all got overly emotionally invested in the company under the power of Steve Jobs.

I did watch the WWDC event, and I came away most happy that I happen to work in higher ed.

All of us in higher ed find ourselves in the middle of truly interesting times.  The challenges that we face in costs, access and quality are truly daunting - and the changes in how we try to meet our teaching, research and service missions can be disorienting.

Apple no longer seems to be about tackling really hard problems. Nobody does incremental improvement better than Apple nowadays. I type these words on a MacBook Air and I watched the Keynote on an iPhone 5S.  Apple’s integration of hardware and OS, device and platform, is miles ahead of the competition.

But Apple seems less interested in identifying a real problem, a pressing need, and applying all of its design and engineering genius to solving it.  

Once upon a time that was not the case.  

Think music - and maybe even education at some point in the company’s history - but today not so much.

Higher ed is full of really hard problems.

How do we find a way to increase persistence from matriculation to graduation?

How can we lower prices and debt for our students while simultaneously increasing our investments in our learners?

What can we do to eliminate costs on campus that are not fully aligned with our mission, investing more of our resources on our faculty?

How can change how larger introductory courses are taught so that they feel more like intimate seminars?

Where can we make changes and invest so that every newly enrolling student who says they are interested in a STEM major has a good shot of completing that degree in 4 or 5 years?

How can we bring quality learning and flexible credentialing opportunities to the global lifelong learner?

The challenges are really good ones. They are endless and endlessly energizing. What would you add to the list?

I don’t see Apple asking many questions.

The company continues to produce absolutely gorgeous software and hardware, but these efforts seem to matter less and less.

Maybe its time that we all stopped paying so much attention to Apple.

What problems are you trying to solve on your campus?


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