Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The video that got U Virginia president fired

A Stanford University professor is teaching a class online with over 100,000 students in 44 languages at Udacity. What was President Teresa Sullivan doing at UVA? The same old, same old.

MJ Perry at Carpe Diem blog has the story:

The video above features a talk ("Higher Education 2.0") by former Stanford professor Sebastian Thrun, co-founder of the new, low-cost (mostly free) online university Udacity, and originally appeared on CD in January. It was this video that was partly responsible for the downfall of President Theresa Sullivan at U-Va, because it seems that the U-Va. Board of Visitors wanted the university to move more rapidly in the direction of innovative, open-course, online education (with Udactiy cited as one model), and weren't getting enough support from the president.

[Prof. Perry embedded the video with Flash. I haven't conquered that. See it at his blog at the first link above.]

From today's Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required):

"In the weeks leading up to the resignation of Teresa A. Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia, the leaders of the board that forced her out of office traded a number of e-mails with attached articles about the forces transforming higher education, telling one another that the articles illustrated "why we can't afford to wait."

In many of the e-mails, which were obtained by The Cavalier Daily [through a FOIA request], the rector and vice rector of the Board of Visitors—Helen E. Dragas and Mark J. Kington, respectively—commented on articles about online education and the open-course ventures in which top research universities like Harvard, Stanford, and others, are engaged.

The exchanges included one about Udacity, the free education platform that grew out of a Stanford University professor's course. In an e-mail on June 3, Jeffrey C. Walker, a member of the Board of Trustees for the foundation of the university's McIntire School of Commerce, urged Ms. Dragas and Mr. Kington to check out a video of a talk by Sebastian Thrun, the Stanford computer-science professor who founded Udacity.

Mr. Walker said the Berklee College of Music was going to have its board, of which Mr. Walker is a member, watch the video 'as a signal that the on-line learning world has now reached the top of the line universities and they need to have strategies or will be left behind.'

In the e-mails, Ms. Dragas, Mr. Kington, and others appeared to believe that Ms. Sullivan was not doing enough to embrace change, or to press for it quickly enough at the University of Virginia.

On June 10, Mr. Kington sent Ms. Dragas an e-mail in which he forwarded a statement that Robert F. Bruner, dean of the Darden School of Business, made about Ms. Sullivan's departure. In Mr. Bruner's statement, which he sent to faculty, alumni, and other supporters of Darden, Mr. Bruner said that the "philosophical difference of opinion" between Ms. Sullivan and the board, cited as the reason for the president's resignation, had to do with 'the rate of change and progress in the face of long range challenges to the University.'"

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