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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Peter Hirst, Executive Director of Executive Education, MIT Sloan School of Management (Part 7)

Posted on Sunday, Aug 3rd 2014

Sramana Mitra: They’re used to texting non-stop. One form of social interaction could be just having an instant messenger and they’re doing their group study that way. There’s one other thought that comes to my mind in relation to the media industries parallel that we touched upon earlier. There is this whole thing happening in the online media world right now that has come to be known as content marketing. Media companies are imploding left and right. They have no business models except for a few. However, the notion of every brand or every business having to market themselves online on a very large scale through social media, and largely using content have given rise to this phenomenon of every brand having to, to some extent, becoming a media company.

If you look at what LinkedIn is doing, for example. Every user can now publish on LinkedIn. I was an early part of this program that was called LinkedIn Influencers. LinkedIn has now become a publishing company at a very large scale where it has 300 million users and a large number of people are actually publishing content on a regular basis. LinkedIn doesn’t have to pay them. They’re publishing content because they want to create their thought leadership position as part of their career strategy or, in the case of people who are marketing their businesses, they’re doing so to promote their brand or business value. If you draw that analogy and transfer that notion to the education industry, there is potentially an incentive for companies to generate educational content with that same motivation as well.

Peter Hirst: In fact, you can see that acting in the online world even on edX. I don’t know if you followed this but a few months ago, edX actually opened up the possibility of companies joining, not as you first might imagine, as producers of learning. I see that as a positive from the point of view of enabling knowledge and expertise to be as widely available as possible where we can actually have impact.

Sramana Mitra: I think the most important and advantageous benefit of that model where businesses are producing content is that there is actually a business model incentive. It’s part of marketing for businesses. It’s part of personal branding for individuals in their career development strategies. There are actually some non-financial benefits. That has more sustainability.

Peter Hirst: That’s true. You also though go into some interesting questions about neutrality, validity, and authenticity. I think that’s potentially an important role in the future of more traditional educational institutions. That can be in two ways. One is actually selecting from, making you solve, and therefore validating the kind of knowledge and learning that’s being disseminated from those sources. That has a social value added because we will be doing it from a non-partisan and, hopefully, trusted standpoint. The other aspect of it though is that it underlines, more than ever, the society’s need to have educational institutions. We need citizens and consumers who are discerning.

Sramana Mitra: Some of the curation of what is good and what is bad is done by people looking at it, reviewing, voting, and down voting. There’s social media curation that will help in determining which ones have real value.

Peter Hirst: You’re right. I’d be slightly cautious because there are some great examples, even quite recently, on these memes that go around in social media.

Sramana Mitra: Things that get a lot of play that are basically crap.

Peter Hirst: Right.

Sramana Mitra: That was a great discussion. Thank you very much for your time.

This segment is part 7 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Peter Hirst, Executive Director of Executive Education, MIT Sloan School of Management
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