Harvard Business School Professor Clay Christensen spoke about disruption in higher ed as a keynote speaker at the Harvard IT Summit.
"'Modularity is overtaking interdependent architectures.'
Christensen made a connection between higher ed today and the reign of mainframe computing. 'At the time of the mainframes, the proprietary architecture mattered most and the components were secondary. Everybody knew IBM and Digital, but not the maker of their components. The PC’s arrival flipped all that, and the component makers like Intel then became more important.'
He continued, 'Harvard will still have its unique architecture, but the courses are becoming modular, like PC components. The brand [recognition] could move away from the universities to the courses.'
With more ways to access learning, a difficult question looms: 'Is this [transformation] a threat or an opportunity for Harvard?' There was a long silence after Christensen posed the question.
Finally, [Harvard President] Margulies, sitting in the front row, answered.
'It’s both,' she said."