UVA Board Just Wanted to "Disrupt" Education with Free Online Learnin'

Andrew Rice’s Times mag story on UVA and the firing and unfiring of Teresa Sullivan sheds a bit more light on the BIZARRE STUFF that happened there.

What had the board so worried? In late May, as she prepared to remove Sullivan, Dragas e-mailed a board colleague a link to a Wall Street Journal column, beneath the subject line: “Why we can’t afford to wait.” The article described a joint venture that offers free, open online courses. In the last year, Harvard, Stanford, M.I.T. and other elite schools have moved aggressively into this arena, drawing significant global audiences, if no actual revenue. While many veteran professors roll their eyes at predictions that online learning will transform the structure of universities, to certain segments of the donor community—the Wall Street and Aspen Institute types—higher education looks like another hidebound industry awaiting creative destruction…. This discussion has been influenced by the ideas of Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor and guru of “disruptive innovation,” the concept that established companies are often overtaken by upstart competitors because they are incapable of embracing new technologies.

LOL! It’s true, newspapers, for instance, became so cutting edge and important and financially successful when they started putting everything online for free. Most industries, in fact, become most successful when they start serving people who aren’t already paying customers with a new free product—you know, just like taxis, and food service, and book publishing, and recorded music, and dairy farming, obviously.