Oct 14 2011
Good morning. Ni-Men-Hao. It is a pleasure to be among you, the students and faculty at NTCU.
This is an exciting time to be in Asia, and in Taiwan in particular. I am eager for an exchange of ideas and outlooks. Today I’d like to weave together a few observations I’ve gleaned as one of the few presidents of a global university. I’d like to address several questions:
• First, how did higher education develop in America and what makes it distinctive?
• Second, what is the global university and why is it so important for the 21st century?
• And finally, a new technology revolution is sweeping the globe. How can we use it in global universities to improve the lives of everyone?
I’ve spent most of my life in higher education and it’s a wonderful place.
But it hasn’t always been the same place. The Greek philosopher Heracleitus said, “You can’t step twice into the same river,” and that’s true of higher education as well. Yet for centuries, it was just barely true. Higher education was more like a fish tank than a river. Today we not only step in the river, but we’re riding the current, and the voyage is exhilarating.
In the United States today, over 18 million students attend college. Many parents now expect a college education for their children, and it is a precondition for a huge array of jobs in today’s knowledge economy. The best jobs demand professional degrees.
The phrase, “knowledge economy,” was once considered a business term. But it has expanded to mean so much more – an economy where creating and applying knowledge is central to creating wealth and benefits. Human capital – the skills, knowledge, and abilities of individuals -- fuels the knowledge economy. Colleges and universities are essential for building human capital.
Like so much else, the knowledge economy has gone global. Ideas and research are not confined by borders; they flow freely around the world and provide opportunity for many people to advance, no matter where they live. So when we educate people with an eye toward developing global competence, as I’m proud to say we do at NYIT, our graduates are well-prepared to contribute to a knowledge economy that transcends all borders.
Fortunately, higher education today in the United States has become a utility, like a power company. Most people can get it.
That is a sea change. Let me tell you about that change.
America’s Earliest Colleges
Just 200 years ago, college was an exotic realm. Instructors in the West actually taught in code. They used Latin, a language dead for over a thousand years. Higher education was costly, a world of the wealthy. And most scholars felt they were simply caretakers of information, custodians of knowledge that was considered “a finite and limited substance, inherited from the past.” Professors saw themselves as simply handing knowledge down from past to future.
Then came the shock of the 19th century. Modern market economies suddenly arose. For instance, the railroad let urban people buy fresh vegetables from far away. So more people moved to cities. The telegraph let companies expand nationwide. Before, they’d been confined to one or two towns. The rotary printing press brought us news at a price everyone could afford. We knew more and we knew it faster. And then Thomas Edison developed his marvelous inventions and we created the electrical grid. Life was accelerating — very fast.
Higher education was changing too. English replaced Latin, so knowledge became more accessible. In 1859, John Henry Cardinal Newman, a theologian from Great Britain, explained his idea of a university. Newman said a university was first a place for teaching universal knowledge; and second, a place where knowledge is created. So those are the two main purposes of most modern universities: teaching and research – sharing knowledge and creating knowledge. Just a few years later, Congress passed the Morrill Land-Grant Acts, which gave a state 30,000 acres—more than 12,000 kah—of federal land to sell to finance public universities. In the final years of the 19th century, as society grew more and more specialized, so did colleges. Specialties like chemistry and physics spread through the curriculum, and for the first time doctors had to receive a professional education.
But even in 1900 we needed many more students. In that year, fewer than 3 percent of all people between ages 18 and 24 attended college. And out of a total population of 76 million, only 382 got doctoral degrees. Virtually all were men, and they wouldn’t even fill a good-sized theater today.
For though America was urbanizing, it was still agricultural. You didn’t need a diploma to till the soil, or to do most other jobs either. Incomes were low and college was costly. So, many people still saw higher education as an ornament for the wealthy and a waste of time for everyone else.
We were slow to see the bounty. For instance, many people still glorified the “self-made man,” the man who became a household name without ever going to college or working for others. Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were the prototypes, amassing vast fortunes without a diploma. Five U.S. presidents, including Abraham Lincoln, had no college education. Later, Walt Disney revolutionized entertainment without one.
In fact, some even worried that we might get “over-educated.” What a great term. We would know too much. So we’d be at a disadvantage when compared to the uneducated, whose ignorance would better equip them to deal with modern society.
American Higher Education in the 20th Century and Today
Things began to change in the 20th century. We continued to build upon the history and tradition of our colleges and universities, but we started transforming them too. Science and technology expanded and the knowledge base grew.
It took some time for that to happen. By 1937, just before World War II, more Americans were attending college, but the percentage was still small. Only 15% of 18- to 20-year-olds were in the classroom. And most of them still came from wealthier families.
However, after the middle of the 20th century, most American leaders had diplomas. And a key reason was the G.I. Bill.
The G.I. Bill gave servicemen and women who had fought in World War II easy terms to attend college. So suddenly, for the first time in history, people from ordinary backgrounds surged into the universities. Enrollment almost doubled. It jumped from 1.5 million in 1940 to almost 2.7 million in 1950.
A lot of people began to notice this growth.
The chancellor of the University of Syracuse called the veterans quote “by far the ablest students American college instructors have ever been privileged to teach” unquote. In 1947 the New York Times stated quote “Here is the most astonishing fact in the history of American higher education. The G.I.'s are hogging the honor rolls and dean’s lists; they are walking away with the highest marks in all of their courses” unquote.
The G.I. Bill showed us what we were missing. And it permanently changed our notion of who could benefit from college. We had far more talented citizens than we realized, and as a result the majority of our colleges and universities were founded after 1950, and most of our degrees were created after that time as well, to meet the demands of the knowledge economy. And in the half-century afterwards, the children of these veterans enrolled in an unprecedented flood. And higher education expanded to accommodate them. Opportunities opened for men and women of all ages, incomes, and ethnicities. In 1940, just 5 percent of adults had a bachelor’s degree. Today 18 million people attend colleges in the U.S., including 37 percent of the 18-24 year-olds.
And, by the way, we now grant about 68,000 doctorates a year, and more than half of them go to women.
Meanwhile, higher education has moved from the edge of society to near the center. A college degree is essential for people working in a spectrum of fields, from childcare to cattle-raising to business management. We know far more about such topics than we did in 1900. And since better-educated people do better work, employers want them.
And colleges long ago stopped being just archives of knowledge. They are now powerful generators of insight, of scientific findings, of breakthroughs that change our lives. They have unveiled the mysteries of the genetic code, developed molecule-sized machines, discovered dark energy, and deciphered the causes of cancer and other illnesses. They are our greatest national resource.
Surprisingly, the American education that is becoming the model for much of the developing world is young. Most of the universities in America were founded after 1950, and most of the degrees were created for a knowledge economy. So while universities in the Middle East or China might be 30 years old, or in Africa just 10 years old, they are not so far behind the rest of the world.
However, in the United States the landscape of higher education is different from that in most other places. Some people say it’s the best system in the world — you can argue the point — but its differences are illuminating.
Most colleges in the U.S. are public. So they are less expensive to attend and they serve people of all incomes. And if you think of the government as an investor, the money spent on higher education pays off. The return in human capital always exceeds the outlay in dollars and cents. In America, there are great state universities, which are public universities supported by an individual state, such as New York or California or Ohio.
But the undisputed quality leaders in higher education—not just in America but in the world—are not-for-profit institutions of higher learning like, New York Institute of Technology. What are the great American universities in your mind? Harvard? Stanford? Like NYIT, they are not-for profit. Yale, Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, MIT? Not for profit. Columbia, NYU, Chicago, Brown, Dartmouth…all not-for-profit. And I could go on.
What this means in part is that students at these great institutions pay much higher tuition than at public schools, but in return, they experience the finest and most advanced professors, small classes, and a value in their education that repays them for life.
In most countries, a Ministry of Education controls the universities. But in the United States, the Department of Education has almost no power over them, except for funding research and giving out student loans. In fact, you may be surprised to learn that U.S. colleges have enormous independence. The oversight occurs much lower down, at the state and local level. And even there, it is loose.
As a result, American higher education has evolved more freely. And it has specialized, like a growing economy, to solve specific problems. For instance, to probe everything from malaria to quantum entanglement, we have the research universities. To give students depth in one area, we have the research universities as well as the comprehensive universities, which do less research. Both offer a brilliant spectrum of courses, but they stress mastery of one field, such as archeology. You choose it and dive in. For more general education, we have liberal arts colleges. There, you sample courses from many fields.
The programs at these colleges all require four years to complete. But for low-income students, or those who can’t yet meet the entrance requirements, we have the community colleges. These are two-year programs and many students continue at the other institutions when they finish at a community college. Almost half of all students in America attend them.
But if the government doesn’t set curricula and learning standards — if it doesn’t even regulate these colleges — what ensures quality? The answer is: private accreditation agencies. They set the standards and hold the reviews that good universities must meet.
And to get their stamp of approval, most colleges would move the Himalayas, if they could. The reason is pretty clear. Without it, their degrees plunge in value and students shy away. Employers don’t value a degree from an unaccredited college.
The system works smoothly. Americans can easily transfer college credits from one school to another, so they can leave and re-enter college throughout their lifetimes. In fact, you often see classrooms with a mix of young people, adults in mid-career, and retired folks just looking for self-enrichment.
In other words, the U.S. has one of the most flexible systems on earth. For instance, students can easily change academic majors — even late their college careers. In contrast, look at France. There, students choose career paths when they are around 15. They might pick literature, say, or economics and social sciences, or medical and social work. They are scarcely adolescents, and many of them think a doctor does the kind of work they see on TV. Yet they have to commit. So if a French student later realizes she wants to be an economist instead, she has to start over. In the United States, the system adapts to real student needs.
This flexibility has also helped American colleges become highly globalized. They have long taught students from all over the earth, and prepared leaders for the global knowledge economy.
The Global University
We are now in the age of education without borders. As economies interweave, colleges link them together as well. Students immerse themselves in a global university before going out into a globalized world. It’s an exciting phenomenon, and it has just begun.
My own university, New York Institute of Technology, has lived through the great developments of the late 20th century and early 21st. We have thought deeply about what it takes to be a premier global university in the century ahead.
In recent months, I have addressed university presidents around the world, first at a major meeting at the United Nations and most recently at the World University Presidents Forum in Shenzhen, China. At each, I have described my ideas about the university of the future — the true global university.
Global universities come in different forms. In the simplest, they can have “friendship alliances” with others across the world. They all can sign agreements and exchange ideas and faculty. And that’s good.
Moving up a level, you find institutions that have dual-degree programs and branch campuses.
Finally, there is the highest level: Tier 1. Tier 1 is the true global university. It offers one diploma and one curriculum at more than one global location. It is higher education spread across the planet. This is the new breed of university, and it embodies our aspirations for the 21st century. It also describes NYIT.
Here are key features of a Tier 1 university:
• A single administration guides it and uses the same set of standards and outcomes everywhere.
• Students, faculty, and ideas stream back and forth as if borders don’t exist.
• Virtual or distance-learning classrooms unite students from all parts of the planet.
• Many layers of perspective ensure that everyone respects local viewpoints, and that global understandings evolve.
So Tier 1 global universities create true citizens of the world. Their graduates have a deep and broad education, and they have connections with peers and faculty all across the planet.
NYIT – Modeling Globalism in the 21st Century
Since NYIT is a Tier 1 university, I want to tell you a little more about it.
At NYIT, we have a campus in the heart of Manhattan, and another in a suburb about 40 kilometers away. It is a great fortune to have New York as our location, and our first name.
At the same time, NYIT is a leader in worldwide education. We have programs, sites, and campuses globally … and virtually. Our 14,000 students come from 44 U.S. states and 109 nations. We are proud that students from around the earth choose to study at NYIT.
Our ties with Asia go back decades. We have over 1,000 alumni living in Asia and more than 1,000 students at our campus an hour’s flight from here, in Nanjing, China. Right now we have 37 students at our New York campuses who are citizens of Taiwan … so today, I hope you SMS your brothers and sisters and cousins, and our campuses will see many more Taiwanese students in the near future.
No matter where our students live, they are part of NYIT. For some, that has meant incredible opportunities with international projects. Our architecture students, for example, flew to Cuba to help renovate historic buildings. We had students in New York and Nanjing working together in a writing class in our distance learning labs. Our Center for Global Health sends young doctors- and nurses-in-training to countries like Ghana, Haiti, Belize, and El Salvador, where they reduce suffering and save lives.
And as a global university we link three strategies: We teach students to spot and solve real-world problems. We give them an interdisciplinary, team-oriented approach to challenges. And we train them to use technology in these tasks.
Our best-known programs are in architecture and design, engineering, business, medicine, and communications-computer graphics. We aim this rich mix of programs at careers decades into the future, often at ones that don’t even exist yet.
And of course there’s technology. It’s not just in our name. It’s in our DNA.
When I first came to NYIT as a professor, people laughed at the idea that a computer might actually sit on your desk. Computers were big, costly boxes. And like the colleges of old, they required code: a programming language such as BASIC. In 2001, when I became president, everyone had a computer on the desk and not one of them needed code. Moreover, wires connected them to other computers all over the earth.
So in the last decade at NYIT, we have added more distance learning, online courses, and other exciting improvements. We have brought NYIT to the farthest corners of the world’s power grid.
We have also long applied technology to sustainability. We have led by example — especially in conservation and energy management.
For instance, in the past few years, Americans have seen the first hybrid electric cars on the roads. But our faculty and students were making them nearly 40 years ago. They roved around our campus and they worked well. Careers in this field didn’t exist then. Now they do.
We’ll run out of oil, but we’ll never run out of sunlight. And at NYIT we have deep experience with solar energy. Just a few years ago, our students built a home totally powered by photovoltaic cells and hydrogen fuel cells. It now sits in a conservation park. It is the first solar-powered government building in our part of New York State.
We are growing what’s known as our STEM curriculum – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics – because we know that these are vital to the knowledge economy and the jobs around the world in fields like energy technology, green industries and applied science. In fact, one of the ideas we have is to build a Global Education and Innovation Technology Park for our New York and global campuses. There will be real and virtual high-tech labs and we’ll even reach down to middle school and high school students to excite and inspire them. And again, we can do this globally.
But as a global university, we are much else as well. We are:
• A connected and networked community
• A training ground for highly competitive careers in the global economy
• A worldwide network for the free and wide flow of students, faculty, and research
• A source of globally competent citizens
Author Ben Wildavsky has talked about a quote “brain gain” or “brain circulation.” Circulation is good. When the blood circulates efficiently in the body, we are healthier and have more energy. When money circulates faster in society, we gain wealth. And when students and researchers travel to universities around the world, ideas circulate and everyone gets smarter. It’s the opposite of a brain drain.
You can think of it as an academic free trade zone. And that’s what we have at NYIT. Now that I’ve told you about NYIT, allow me to show you what we’re all about.
Technology – Enhancing and Enabling
Technology was once a matter of engines and electricity. But for decades its benefits have clustered around knowledge. And knowledge breeds wealth. It’s always bred wealth.
For instance, Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type — at least in the West — around 1452. And the towns that got printing presses early grew richer than those that didn’t. Why? The press spread knowledge. So citizens understood the world better, made better trades, and learned new techniques.
The impact of knowledge is now impossible to ignore. The Gutenberg Phenomenon is still with us: Well-informed cities grow faster. In fact, over the last century, nothing has forecast the rise of a city better than its education level (and temperate winters). In developed nations today more than half the GDP is knowledge-based. And when countries increase their citizens’ average education by just one year, we see a 37% jump in output per capita.
We’ve certainly seen this growth in Taiwan. Your educational system has expanded enormously over the last 60 years. And as students flooded into your campuses, a rise in their number of just 1 percent boosted your industrial output by zero point 35 (0.35) percent. It all added up. In 1952 your GNP per capita was $196. But in 2011 it will exceed $20,000 and will surpass that of the United States. Education is your greatest national resource, just as it is ours.
Last month the World Economic Forum issued its Global Competitiveness Report. And it praised Taiwan for your quote “undeniable” unquote ability to innovate. Your economy is innovation-driven. Your companies are spending money on research and development, your government is gaining advanced technology, and you are getting results.
For instance, I wish I could be here later this month to see an exhibit at the National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. It will show helmets that let you control appliances with your brain waves. Think “Turn on the microwave,” and it starts to whir. Your wish is its command. I doubt even Star Trek had one of these.
So how do we use technology to increase human capital and make our communities and global world a better place? The answers are fascinating.
When I spoke to NYIT faculty members last month, I reminded them that our teaching materials have to be visually sophisticated and up-to-date. In the corporate world, 70% of major employers use interactive software and video games to train employees. And we must too.
I’ve also shared a few insights with them about video games. . Just last spring, I got a new iPad. When I spoke at our commencement, I wondered aloud if Angry Birds could be in my future.
Over the summer, I downloaded the app and played the game -- as a professional responsibility, of course. More than 350 million people around the world have downloaded the game.
I found that Angry Birds – yes, a video game – has profound lessons for those of us interested in education. There are three educational takeaways from this game – and as future educators, you will likely find them relevant:
• First, despite what some instructors say, students everywhere CAN concentrate and focus. People, especially young people, will concentrate long and intensely on a challenge. They will go without sleep and meals to attain the next level of success at a video game. I am quite sure that some of you know exactly what I am talking about.
• The second point is that design makes a difference. Angry Birds has a contemporary educational design. It has clearly-defined levels of attainment and both an outcomes and rewards system built into the attainment of each higher level.
• Finally, the game reminds us that a feedback mechanism is a powerful motivator. Players stay engaged with Angry Birds because there is timely feedback. Game makers pay close attention to the trajectory of learning, just as educators must. I am told that people who create video games maximize feedback, and more than 12 seconds without feedback diminishes interest and attention.
As students preparing for the workplace, don’t you want active feedback? In Angry Birds, the feedback a player receives is multi-faceted. You can get the sound and sight of an exploding pig, of course. You get a running tally of points earned and a clear indication when you fail to achieve a level. Then you get a prompt asking if you want more tips. Of course, you soon find you need to pay for them.
There may be fame and fortune for educators who innovate at the college level. And one of you may invent the next great education game.
So much of what we will do in the future will involve new technologies that will help shape and enhance global higher education. Many of the spectacular changes in higher education in America over the last decade began as offshoots of progress in technology: faster Internet access…more sophisticated communications software…stunning advances in mobile technologies.
A true global university can use technology to help great minds – wherever they are – collaborate. And in the next five years, we are sure to see many advances.
Already, electronic books are soaring in popularity, and people are saving money and time since they don’t have to buy traditional textbooks or order them from a warehouse far away and wait until they are delivered. These e-books also encourage audiovisual, interactive, and collaborative learning.
I was pleased to learn that next year, Taipei will introduce more “e-schoolbags” to its young students. These tablets let elementary school kids search the Internet in class, and give everyone easy access to the wealth of knowledge up there in the cloud.
Cloud computing, of course, is expected to expand the availability of educational tools. At the same time, it will reduce costs.
The tablet, the e-schoolbag, your mobile device – these give you education in the palm of your hand. You gaze into it and see teachers give lectures. You can read textbooks. Indeed, you can peruse whole libraries. And instead of just reading about Albert Einstein, you can watch him speaking. You can view and rotate simulations of, say, the insulin molecule. You can practice foreign languages by yourself. With a subject like music, you can hear at once what the teacher is talking about. You can take a test, submit it, and have it graded right away. You can take interactive quizzes. You can do group projects across the globe and see and talk to all the participants.
We can now cut and paste bits of electronic information on the real world and see them on our mobile devices. Want to know if a tree is a pine or a spruce? Aim, click, and it tells you. This is augmented reality, another new technology that will affect global education. We’ll see more of it as professors layer information on the world. Our campuses won’t just have classrooms; they’ll be classrooms. And that will have other, far-reaching impacts.
Consider: Many places in Africa have almost no infrastructure. Villagers have no landline phones, no doctors, no newspapers, few roads, and few schools. They live cut off from the rest of us. They don’t know the modern world.
Yet people everywhere are buying mobile phones. There are now 5.3 billion of these devices on earth. And though the per capita income in Africa is less than $1,000 a year, and mobile accounts can be fairly costly, by 2011 over 40 percent of its one billion people owned mobile phones. Soon enough they will upgrade to Internet phones and tablets.
Just the health implications of this fact stand to make a tremendous impact on the health and welfare of people in many countries because mobile devices will help educate them on critical issues.
They can go to web sites and actually learn about ailments — their symptoms, causes, and treatment. They can also see a doctor right on the video screen, talk to him, and get diagnosis and instructions. It’s called telemedicine and in India, city doctors are already helping rural patients in this way. Portable 3-D simulation and training tools can be transported to the most distant places, allowing trainers to teach local leaders the latest in health care techniques. Global universities can accelerate the process, I believe. They can send trachoma the way of polio. They can take our world up the next big step in public health.
And the multi-touch interface is so easy it hardly requires language.
That’s why three-year-olds can use iPads. And it means we’ll see toddlers in Taipei learning English and growing up bilingual and connected to other children all across the world. It’s already happening. And as these youngsters grow up, they’ll be used to the endless riches of the tablet. By the time they enter a university, Automatic Virtual Environments, also called CAVES, will be more common. They allow professors to create multi-person interactive challenges in 3-D visual computing spaces. For global universities, students at many locations can freely explore a scenario together.
Gesture-based computing is already familiar to young people who play video games. In education, users will be able to perform precise manipulations that have been difficult with a mouse – creating new forms of interaction and expression.
And finally, schools at all levels will use more learning analytics as they combine technologies to track and respond to student academic performance. This way, they’ll be able to better serve their students – especially those who are experiencing academic problems.
The American philosopher John Dewey once said, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” But many of our children are already in tomorrow. We can’t teach them as we did yesterday, or even as we do today. The new global world of education is all around us. It is lifting us up and bearing us swiftly into the future.
We’ve come a long way from the idea of the university as a storage house for knowledge. Now universities are literally animating the world with knowledge. And they are reaching out to regions scarcely explored 200 years ago, bringing information like aqueducts to the desert.
And we are preparing students for careers that do not yet exist. Technology is bringing wonders into our lives, disrupting industries, and reshaping our world. And in the global university we will be at the forefront of these advances. We will teach our students once unimaginable skills. And our students can remake the world.
That’s the challenge before you — a challenge as exciting and astonishing as any generation of students has ever seen. I hope you will embrace it as we create the global public commons, and as we share, innovate, and celebrate ideas that improve our lives.
And now it’s time for questions…as well as your observations from this important journey we share.