Harvard Seeks to Leverage its Brand Name
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Officials at Harvard University, one of the world’s most recognized learning institutions, are considering moves to capitalize on its name and reputation in cyberspace — a move that will be closely watched by other universities.
Harvard is famous for tapping the academic elite, both at a professorial and at a student level, a reputation that could prove lucrative on the Internet, says Susan Rogers, former chief technology officer of the Harvard Business School and now a consultant.
“It is a global brand name without a global distribution system,” Rogers says.
Last spring, Rogers gave Harvey V. Fineberg, the university’s provost, a 75-page memo detailing five paths Harvard might take on the Internet. The suggestions included upgrading existing technology, enhancing distance learning and creating a full-blown Harvard Internet business subsidiary to sell the university’s educational products.
Administrative and faculty response to the memo was overwhelming, Rogers says. “I thought the reaction would be, ‘This really doesn’t apply to us,'” she says. “But I saw lightbulbs going off at the highest level.”
Because a Harvard commercial Web site would be easy to construct and market, the question raised by Harvard’s decentralized schools and departments isn’t how, but rather, if the idea is a good one.
Should the university dilute itself — its brand name recognition — by putting its teaching and research on a Web site? Should the site charge users for its content, and, if so, how should pricing be determined? And would a virtual Harvard course detract from a real undergraduate degree that costs more than $30,000 each year to attain?
Fineberg answers those questions with queries of his own. “Does quality and exclusivity equate one to the other?” he asks. “It’s arguable. Exclusivity is the wrong dimension of expression of quality of the Harvard experience. If you read an excellent book, does it matter that there are 100 or 100,000 copies?”
Harvard already does business in cyberspace. The Harvard Business School Publishing Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of the business school, signed an agreement last month with Denver-based eCollege.com to market 10 of its courses on the Internet. The online marketing service also put 3,500 of Harvard Business School’s case studies on the Internet last year for the 130 colleges and universities it services.
Such projects are extensions of the business school’s philosophy to spread its educational product for the broader good since it started selling its case studies in 1922, says Kim Clark, the business school’s dean.
But, Clark said, the school would not offer a master’s degree in business online. And Clark says he would not allow Harvard’s name to be used in joint ventures where control and quality would be at risk.
AMES, Iowa — A new Web site that pays students at 70 colleges and universities all across the country to post course notes online so that other students can reap the rewards has hit a hitch here at Iowa State University.
Several instructors have complained that selling class notes without permission from professors violates university policy. “We expect students to abide by this as a rule of ethics,” says Paul Tanaka, Iowa State’s director of legal services.
Some Iowa State professors have complained that they don’t want their classroom musings included in the online notes. And Tanaka contends that knowing a paid note-taker for StudentU.com is in class could stifle class discussions.
Marcia Prior-Miller, an associate professor at Iowa State’s journalism school, calls the Web site launched last month the “short view and the unethical view” of education and an “abuse of the intellectual university environment.”
But the site’s creator and officials at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, from which notes also are posted, disagree.
“Students should be encouraged to go as many places as they can to get as much information as they can,” says John Folkins, the University of Iowa’s associate provost for undergraduate education. “Notes are really the student’s interpretation. One could say the more different representatives of material, the better.”
John Soloski, the director of the University of Iowa’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, says he supports the concept but adds that he was “appalled by how bad the notes are.”
Besides notes, StudentU.com includes study guides, chat rooms, a campus bookstore and career center where resumes can be posted. Students can access the notes for free. Students make up to $300 a semester for posting notes within 48 hours of the class. The quality of the notes is monitored and their usefulness is determined by student comments, says Oran Wolf, the site’s Houston-based creator.
Note-takers are not asked to record and transcribe classes, he says, adding that the site is not an intended substitute to attending class.
Steve Jones, the founder of a think tank devoted to Internet research and professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago says that students, even those who regularly attend classes, are looking for supplemental information.
“Information online brings opportunities for students to learn from one another online,” Jones says, adding that such sharing is nothing new. “I’m sure my students have just as easily been photocopying their notes for one another.”
Students who violate Iowa State’s no-selling rule ultimately could be suspended, but officials first want to make students aware of the rule’s existence. At the same time, interest in Wolf’s Web site has been strong.
Wolf estimates that 1 million hits are made daily at the site and says he’s been flooded with calls and e-mails from interested professors, students and parents.
Appeals Court Rules Against Feds in Encryption Case
SAN FRANCISCO — In a key ruling involving secrecy and electronic commerce, the U.S. Justice Department has been granted a new hearing over its power to regulate data-scrambling technology known as encryption.
A majority of 21 justices who sit on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here issued a decision in the closely watched case earlier this month. A three-judge panel had ruled in May that encryption programs and the mathematical formulas used to write them contain expressions of ideas and cannot be suppressed by the government.
The Justice Department contended that it feared the ruling would prevent it from keeping encryption technology out of the hands of terrorists and hostile nations.
The issue is vital to the software industry, which uses encryption to protect e-mail and electronic commerce, from credit card numbers to company data. Some college and university researchers also use encryption.
The current restrictions, which treat high-powered encryption codes like military weapons, require a U.S. Department of Commerce license for either export or Internet posting.
The Clinton administration has offered some concessions to the industry by promising to reduce export restrictions. But it said new regulations, due out next December, still would require government permission to sell scrambling technology to foreign governments and would ban sales to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Cuba.
Justice Department spokeswoman Gretchen Michael says she doesn’t know how the new regulations might affect the case being appealed.
The case was brought by Daniel Bernstein, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who developed an encryption program in 1990 but found he was unable to get an export license to sell it overseas.
Attorney Cindy Cohn says the Clinton administration’s new regulations are unlikely to remove the roadblocks Bernstein faced.
The government still appears to be claiming an absolute right to block the export of encryption codes, without defining what can and cannot be exported, she says. And it appears to still require a case-by-case review of the export or posting of source codes, the researchers’ mathematical formulas for writing encryption codes, she adds.
In the May decision, the appeals court panel ruled that the government can’t block the expression of ideas in encryption codes without setting clear standards and timetables and guaranteeing quick judicial review.
The existing regulations “allow the government to restrain speech indefinitely, with no clear criteria for review,” wrote Judge Betty Fletcher in the 2 to 1 ruling. That, she wrote, prevents professors such as Bernstein from engaging in valuable scientific expression.
— Compiled from staff and wire reports
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com