Higher Education in 2026?

1915 women graduates - University of Toronto - via Wikipedia

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a new report, "2026 The Decade Ahead," it has recently published. I haven't read it and I probably won't read it. My involvement in higher education is less involved these days, but more so, I'm not going to spend $149 for the digital version ($199 for paper) of the report. There are always predictions of where we are headed in technology, education and in general. Many are free and I don't know that the differences in accuracy between free and paid versions is significant.

People do pay for these reports, and there are companies built on the job of predicting. Today, predictive analytics is a whole field and industry that seems to do quite well crunching numbers. In this election year, that is certainly a popular game, though one I rarely find interesting or instructive. Usually, I find these predictions to be wrong, but it is rare for people to go back and check on them. Idea for (someone else's) blog post in 2026: Check back on this report. Set a calendar reminder. So, what changes are in store for higher education over the next 10 years? The Chronicle's teaser says that "evolutionary shifts in three critical areas will have significant consequences for students and institutions as a whole."

1. Tomorrow’s students will be significantly more diverse and demand lower tuition costs.

2. Faculty tenure policies will be reexamined as deep-seated Boomers retire.

3. How colleges are preparing students to succeed in an evolving global economy will be intensely scrutinized. 

My immediate observation is that all three of those shifts have been evolving for at least the past decade - if not for several decades and possibly for a century or two in some ways. Of course, the answers are hopefully in the details that come in the full report.  Did you read it? How about a comment for those of us without an expense account or purchase order?



Deep Text

What is "deep text?"  It may have other meanings in the future, but right now Deep Text is an AI engine that Facebook is building. The goal of Deep Text is big - to understand the meaning and sentiment behind all of the text posted by users to Facebook. It is also intended that the engine will help identify content that people may be interested in, and also to weed out spam.

The genesis of Deep Text goes back to an AI paper published last year,"Text Understanding from Scratch," by Xiang Zhang and Yann LeCun.

Facebook pays attention to anything you type in the network, not just "posts" but also comments on other people's posts, Facebook researchers say that 70% of us regularly type and then decide not to post. They are interested in this self-censorship that occurs. Men are more likely to self-censor their social network posts, compared to women. Facebook tracks what you type, even if you never post it. 

Why does Facebook care? If they know what your typing is about, it can show it to other people who care about that topic, and, of course, it can better target ads to you and others.

This is not easy if you want to get deeper into the text. If you type the word "Uber" what does that mean? Do you need a ride? Are you complaining or complimenting the Uber service? What can Facebook know if you type "They are the Uber of food trucks"? 

This is a deep use of text analysis. With 400,000 new stories and 125,000 comments on public posts being shared every minute on Facebook, they need to analyze several thousand per second across 20 languages. A human might be able to do a few per minute, but obviously this is far beyond the capabilities of humans, The intelligence need to be artificial.

A piece on slate.com talks about how in Facebook Messenger might use Deep Text for chat bots to talk more like a human, interpreting text rather than giving programmed replies to anticipated queries. Saying "I need a new phone" is very different from "I just bought a new phone."The former opens the opportunity to suggest a purchase. The latter might mean you are open to writing a review.

Along with filtering spam, it could also filter abusive comments and to generally improve search from within Facebook.
Parsing text with software has been going on for decades. Machine scoring of writing samples has been an ongoing and controversial since it began. Ellis Batten Page discussed back in 1966 the possibility of scoring essays by computer, and in 1968 he published his successful work with a program called Project Essay Grade™ (PEG™). But the technology of that time, didn't allow computerized essay scoring to be cost-effective, Today, companies like Educational Testing Service offer these services, but what Facebook wants to do is quite different and in some ways more sophisticated.

Deep Text leverages several deep neural network architectures. These are things that are beyond my scope of knowledge - convolutional and recurrent neural nets, word-level and character-level based learning - but I will be using it, and so I want to understand what is going on behind the page.

If you read about Microsoft’s Tay chatbot, you know that it was artificial intelligence that was supposed to learn how to talk like a teenager. users gamed the software and "taught" it to talk like a Nazi, which became big news on social media. The bot was created by Microsoft's Technology and Research, and Bing divisions and named "Tay" as an acronym "thinking about you."

Facebook is testing Deep Text in limited and specific scenarios.

A $100 Million Grant to Fund a Single Proposal

logoLooking for a big grant? The MacArthur Foundation has announced a competition for a $100 million grant to fund a single proposal that will make measurable progress toward solving a significant problem. 

Big problems require bold solutions. Solving society’s biggest problems isn’t easy, but it can be done. 100&Change is a MacArthur Foundation competition for a $100 million and they will select a bold proposal that promises real progress toward solving a critical problem of our time, and will award a $100 million grant to help make that solution a reality. Proposals focused on any critical issue are welcome.

The rules include:

No single field or problem area is designated; proposals from any sector are encouraged.

Proposals should articulate both the problem and the proposed solution, and must have a charitable purpose.

Competitive proposals will be meaningful, verifiable, durable, and feasible.

The competition opened on June 2, 2016, and registration closes on September 2, 2016, at 11:00 a.m. Central.

Applications will be accepted through 11:00 a.m. Central on Monday, October 3, 2016.

Semi-Finalists will be announced in December 2016 and Finalists in the Summer of 2017.

A group of Finalists will present their solutions during a live event in the fall of 2017. Selection of the final award recipient rests with MacArthur’s Board of Directors.

Microsoft's Acquisition of LinkedIn

I just posted last week about the direction I see LinkedIn headed in education, but today came the story that Microsoft bids to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. What might this change in their plans?

In LinkedIn, you could already find Microsoft Certicication and Training and Partner Network Training.

In this video, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner discuss Microsoft's acquisition of LinkedIn.

More at: http://news.microsoft.com/?p=298414

Where LinkedIn Is Headed

LinkedIn has been around for more than a decade and is the social network for professionals with 433 million members in 200+ countries. It is still thought of by many people who use it and by those who don't use it as being just a "job site." And it is that, but it also became a B2B site. But beyond those B2B interactions and using it to find a job and advertise your personal brand, it has been getting much closer to the world of training and education.
LinkedIn certainly took note that online learning back in 2011 had about $35.6 billion spent on self-paced e-learning worldwide and in 2014, e-learning was a $56.2 billion industry. So, they spent $1.5 billion in 2015 to buy online training website Lynda.com. You want a new job, you quite possibly need new training. A natural combination for LinkedIn.
Perhaps, we will see LinkedIn begin to offer partnerships with colleges to offer some of that training - and I don't think those will be free and open courses (think MOOC) but rather paid professional learning. 
Inc.com has also identified publishing content as a place they see LinkedIn headed to now. Also a natural fit with training. They are already sharing professional content in partnerships with industry news publications and outlets, and they encourage crowd-sourcing of content. I share/publish native blog posts and re-posts there and it does give you a new and larger audience. There are also podcasts, tweets and videos inside the platform.
Higher education should be paying attention the road LinkedIn is traveling on, because it leads to their campus.