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Mass Online Education

More than a million people have enrolled in the courses (though their completion rate remains quite low). Being available online and free makes MOOC’s accessible to folks all over the world, including in remote regions lacking capacity for high-quality university education. As long as one has Internet service and a device to access it, MOOC’s provide the missing content (though certifying the learning is still problematic). But, let’s be clear what this means: thousands of students across the world taking the same course, with the same content, from the same instructor. And that is the problem. MOOC’s are now at the forefront of the McDonaldization of higher education. In an era when higher education is making significant advances in becoming global and helping to build educational capacity within developing nations, MOOC’s play the center against the periphery. They strengthen the ivory towers by enabling a few elite institutions to broadcast their star courses to the masses from the comfort of their protected perches. Yes, the model expands access to many who cannot or do not want to pay for the regular costs, and that certainly has its benefits. But MOOC’s do little to foster engagement or cross-cultural understanding, and in most cases don’t offer students a credential. By promoting centralized knowledge production, MOOC’s limit the spillover effects that can help build the academic infrastructure of developing nations. By reducing the need or opportunity for students or institutions to cross borders, MOOC’s pose potential barriers to fostering global awareness and providing diverse educational experiences. This is not to argue that promoting study-abroad experiences or expanding an institution’s global physical footprint into overseas markets are the only ways to internationalize an institution. However, one of the differences between such activities and MOOC’s is that studying abroad and operating international campuses promote global engagement. What do we mean by global engagement? We’ve talked about universities as multinational entities, and how it means more than just operating in several countries. There is a two-way aspect to global engagement, such that there is both an exchange of people and an immersion in different cultural experiences. A multinational university can’t simply be a broadcasting service to recipients in other countries; it must engage with and learn from other cultures. The “massive” element of MOOC’s and most other technological initiatives has a homogenizing effect that makes this sort of engagement unlikely. We know better than to reject the possibility of future advances that will enhance engagement. For example, the State University of New York’s Center for Collaborative Online International Learning, the COIL Center, is designed to facilitate collaborative courses among faculty members and students in multiple countries. Technological innovations tend to change things more than expected in the long run, even as short-term advances rarely match up to predictions. We also acknowledge the potential of MOOC’s to transform higher education’s organizational structures, with a chance of breaking the monopoly held by traditional colleges and universities over courses and credits. Branch campuses and other types of foreign educational outposts seek to replicate a certain curriculum in an overseas environment; however, being locally embedded enhances the opportunity for there to be local engagement, local knowledge spillover, and an overall improvement in a nation’s educational sector. They tend to produce research that is locally relevant and students that are locally employable.


Mobile web use is exploding

A majority of U.S. mobile users now access browsers and apps. According to Nielsen, the minutes spent per month on apps more than doubled from March 2011 to March 2012. Many of our most time-consuming mobile activities — games, social networks, and music — are accessed through apps. Time spent on the mobile web was basically flat. And the most popular mobile activities are becoming even more popular: Social networking and games are the two largest categories of daily app consumption. According to comScore, 37% of all U.S. mobile users accessed social networks on their phones in May, while 34% of all U.S. mobile users played games. These are double digit increases over two years ago. The shopping process is being revolutionized: U.S. mobile commerce is expected to hit $10 billion this year, up from $6 billion in 2010 -- but that's only a small part of the story. According to Nielsen, 89% of smartphone owners have used their phone while shopping in stores in a host of different ways, most notably to access digital marketing campaigns, conduct research, and make mobile payments. And, of course, users are consuming more content than ever before: Digital consumers read more books a year on average than their print-only counterparts, the percentage of U.S. mobile users listening to music on their phone has more than doubled in less than three years, over 60% of smartphone and tablet owners access news on their devices, and mobile video consumption is experiencing rapid growth. Read more: Recognizing that mobile traffic is growing quickly — for some players, it represents between 30% and 50% of their online traffic! — many players are simply playing catch-up to avoid failing to serve their customers by not optimizing content for mobile. Mobile still looks complex and fragmented. It is difficult to master the pace of technology and platform evolution. Most companies look at mobile as a way to increase customer engagement and improve customer satisfaction — objectives that are often challenging to measure. That’s why it is so critical to align measurement systems accordingly. Some leaders, recognizing that mobile is not just another channel but an opportunity to deliver advanced contextual services, are investing dozens of millions of euros in the next few years to plan ahead for next-generation mobile experiences. Delivering a differentiated mobile customer experience requires investment not only in marketing segmentation and customer understanding, as well as in staffing and competencies, but also in infrastructure and in more agile processes.


Sandberg and Zuckerberg mobile trick

What do you think, whether Facebook management can trick with mobile revenues? COO Sandberg said: The future is one of personalization. Basically, mass market products have always been produced. They still always will be produced, but they'll be delivered to people in a much more personal way. [...] Going to website that's totally impersonal I think will be a thing of the past. [...] Once people have experienced something personal that's around their identity and their friends, they won't want to go back to something that's targeterd at the whole world. I think we'll see more and more products and services do things like the HuffPost has done and take that step of trying to deliver a more personal experience to users. But what really was doing Zuckerberg and Co? John Connor answered on


CIA startup #1

Palantir is a Peter Thiel company that is changing the game of intelligence Read more:


How to make social media marketing

Almost every successful brand that’s gained traction, has either consciously, or perhaps coincidentally, operated with two target groups in mind. The first, the primary target group, is the aspirational group, who I refer to as "magnets." They're the ones attracting others to wherever they are. The second group I call "takers," and they're the ones being attracted. The important revenue stream comes from the takers, but with no magnets, there will be no takers. Let's define the terms more vividly. Say you drive past the newest, most happening nightclub in town. On any given evening you will see a line of people outside, all patiently waiting to be let in. You would naturally assume from this that the venue is packed. Those you see in the line are the takers. Surprisingly, if you look more closely at the venue, you’ll see that it’s not that full. There are, however, a number of groups sitting around tables, talking, drinking, tapping their toes, and swaying to the beat. These are the magnets--or at least that’s what the nightclub would have us believe. Talking not long ago with a high-rolling nightclub operator in New York City provided me with a keener insight into this idea. He explained that it’s a fine balance between magnets and takers that creates the right kind of buzz. Celebrities aside, clubs have other criteria by which they measure social cachet. There’s gender, height, personal networks, fashion, hairstyle, and even followers. The people on the door carefully control the particular milieu that the club aspires to. They are well schooled in the art of knowing who to admit, or not admit. These gatekeepers are offered significant bonuses to get the mix right. Too many magnets with not enough takers means too many complimentary drinks and not enough purchases. Too many takers, and the nightclub loses its allure, and the stream of guests being drawn in will have moved on to the next hot venue. Obviously the ins and outs of this are more complex. Companies of the future will not only work with magnets and takers; they’ll also have to operate with two distinct deadlines: official and unofficial. The first time I became aware of the importance of operating with two different campaign release dates was when I was working with the Morgensons family as part of a $3 million research study for my latest book Brandwashed. The experiment was inspired by the Hollywood movie The Joneses, in which a fake family was tasked with promoting products to friends and neighbors. We decided to create an identical scenario, with one important difference--this time it was for real. One of the key learnings that emerged from this experiment was the notion that a product needs to be "seeded" into the market long before the official release date. This allows magnets to spread the word and generate the hype, before the takers, well, take over. The experiment taught us that such seeding seems to create the momentum needed before the official release. We learned that seeding should often take place several months--typically nine--before the official release. Since social media has become a key ingredient in every marketing campaign, the importance of including aspirational target groups in every new brand release is likely to become the norm. The fact is that in future, no brand will be able to successfully operate with only one target group. Instead, there must be a conscious division of target groups into magnets and takers, in order to be strategically viable. This will encourage a new discipline among senior management--they will be forced to learn patience. Every executive expects (or should I say, hopes) that on the day their new brand is released, there’ll be thousands of customers waiting outside the doors, desperate to buy their product. A bit like what goes on at the Apple stores. Behind the scenes, brands will be carefully crafting a two-tier release plan many months ahead of the official release.


The most profitable tech company

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10 predictions for Web Trends 2012

10 predictions for 2012 from Roger McNamee and Mike Maples, two leading US VCs. You will see that they make this prediction with only 50% confidence, which I think was lower confidence than all bar one of their other predictions.
#1 HiperWeb

Forrester CEO George Colony was perhaps the most interesting one I saw at Le Web last week. He had two big points to make:
Web service/application architectures will shift to more local processing and storage. This is a natural result of the fact that processor and storage technologies are improving faster than networks.
Social networks are so well penetrated now that there is little room to grow – that includes penetration into the population and hours spent per day by the active users.

I want to focus on the second of these today. Both have been bouncing round my mind since I saw the presentation on Thursday, but I think the second is more topical. Firstly it was the subject of debate on Fred Wilson’s from yesterday, and secondly it is more pertinent to the activity of most of the readers of this blog – as entrepreneurs, investors and consumers.

My first reaction to the argument that social is close to saturation point made sense to me, and most of the people I spoke to about it at the conference afterwards agreed. The reasoning is logical and comes from research Forrester conducted research with over 1m US consumers which found that ‘social is running out of hours and people’. Taking the hours piece first – people are spending more time on social than they are volunteering, praying, emailing and using telephones, and more than they are exercising, and only a little bit less than shopping and childcare. His argument is that people simply don’t have much more time to give to social. The second piece of the argument is that at around 80% in the developed world social is already so well penetrated that growth can’t come from adding new users either.

Colony’s conclusion from this is not that social will go away, but that the next generation of social apps will be about doing things more efficiently and saving time. That contrasts with many of the current crop of social apps where the use case is often killing time.

Fred Wilson posted the video below yesterday and invited debate in the comments of his post. Many commenters were simply outright critical of Colony, but several drew the distinction between social as an app, which might be peaking, and social as a platform, which is only just getting started, and this I think probably hits the nail on the head. Applications are where people spend time, platforms are where things happen. There might not be much time left in the day for all of us to spend much more time in social apps, but we can all increase our engagement with social by using the platform components more – that means hitting more like buttons, sharing more generally, connecting more sites to Facebook and Twitter, and using social more to help discover online content and interact with the brands and companies we love.

Nic Brisbourne is a partner at DFJ Esprit view