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Keynotes: CIT 1998


The other trend to watch deals with skills or certification standards. Thanks to the work of the National Skills Standards Board and specific industry groups, we are gradually defining the competencies that people need, on an industry-by-industry basis

Certifying competencies is the real business of the Western Governors University (WGU). Although they broker courses for students, that is not their core business. They will direct you to courses and add a $30 administrative fee. But they have no permanent faculty. The courses are from other providers. They are not in the "credit hour business."

WGU will, however, offer competency exams. Those exams cover specific educational domains. It may take five courses to cover the area of the domain. Or you may have learned enough to pass the competency exam in the course of living and working. When you are certified in the 8 to 10 required competencies, you will receive your degree.

Two common themes emerge from these examples. One is that these institutions serve learners who want to better themselves and who are often not easily served by traditional institutions. The second theme is the power of the network.

As Negroponte said,

"The Internet is the first technology simultaneously
over-hyped and underestimated."

The Internet and the WWW have led to a networked world.



The Internet is changing life for us all.
Have you have been on e-mail today?
Do you have a ".com kid" at home? These are the children who come home from school and get on the Internet to check their e-mail and chat with friends. They have never known life without the Internet.
Have you ordered a book from Amazon.com or from Barnes & Noble online?
Have you flown on an e-ticket?

The point, again, is that the network is changing how we live, work, and educate. In fact, it is fundamentally changing many of the rules of competitiveness. In a networked world, supply doesn’t necessarily equal demand.



The network has allowed many new enterprises to join the competition. Geographic service areas no longer provide a reliable buffer from the competition. In Wisconsin, there are over 100 out-of-state providers of education; there are 37 in Milwaukee alone (Marchese, 1998). In the non-networked world, our geographic service areas—whether a single county or a group of counties—limited the competition. Not anymore.

Competition can come from all directions. For example, AT&T telephones used to be assembled in Shreveport, Louisiana. Competition caused them to move their telephone assembly to Singapore. But, the price of assembly in Singapore was undercut by Thailand a few years later.

Software development is another good illustration of what happens in a globally networked environment. Speed to market is critical for software. We have software development teams that span the world. One team will work on the project in Silicon Valley, then it is passed to a group in India, and then spends the last leg of its 24-hour-a-day development cycle in the U.K.

Insurance processing for many companies has moved overseas to locations in Ireland. There companies find a highly educated population, and they can take advantage of the time zone difference to save up to 35% in processing costs. If you call one of IBM’s technical help desks at a late hour, odds are good that you will be connected to someone in our facility outside Dublin. So long as you can conveniently access the services you need, the actual location of the service provider is often irrelevant.

In a networked world, competition can come from all directions. And, the new entrants to the market who are providing much of the competition can be from education, government or business.



A result of the Information Age and the networked world is that competitiveness is based on the "knowledge worker." By 1994 the majority of American workers—62%—fell into that category (Reich, 1991). Knowledge workers are symbolic/analytic workers. We work with abstractions to create value—creating financial plans, developing a landscape design, analyzing a problem. Much of the time we use IT as a tool.

Whether you consider yourself a knowledge worker or not, it is clear that we all need continuous learning. Our careers are longer, in part because we are living longer. That means we need to retrain more often. Estimates are that we will need to retrain five times during our careers, with an average training period of 3 months. Even with that conservative estimate, we would need to double the capacity of our current educational system to meet the demand. Many believe the demand is much higher.

However, the network has opened the doors to new competitors. And do you know what these competitors see when they look at education?

Education is a huge market. Colleges and universities, alone, earn $175 billion a year, making them twice as big a "business" as airlines. And, college enrollments are expected to expand by 20%, college revenues by 50%, and business spending on education and training by 35%. On top of that, higher education is a relatively secure market because it is of critical importance to our economy.

In the last few years we have seen tremendous growth in distributed learning. Currently, there are over 14 million FTE (full-time equivalent) students in higher education. But that number is dwarfed by the number of adults seeking some type of education.

There has been an explosion of new entrants into the educational market. In the last 22 months, the number of virtual universities has grown from 7 to over 100. There are over one million online learners. There are hundreds of companies producing courseware and over 1,000 corporate universities (Dolence, 1998).

The networking revolution represents a structural change. The world will never go back to the way it was. And it affects all of us. It has an impact on how we live, work, and educate, and it is changing the playing field for all of us.


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