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
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,
Internet is the first technology simultaneously
over-hyped and underestimated."
The Internet and the WWW have led to a networked
IMPLICATIONS OF A NETWORKED
The Internet is changing life for us all.
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 doesnt 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 areaswhether a single
county or a group of countieslimited the competition.
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 IBMs 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 workers62%fell
into that category (Reich, 1991). Knowledge workers are symbolic/analytic
workers. We work with abstractions to create valuecreating
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
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
| Next Page