Teaching students facts ‘no longer critical’ in internet age

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman tells THE World Academic Summit that universities should focus on teaching undergraduates how to discern truth

September 28, 2016
Reid Hoffman, LinkedIn

Pre-register for the THE World Academic Summit 2017 at King's College London


The rise of the internet means that teaching students information that they can remember is "no longer critical" to the mission of universities, the co-founder of LinkedIn said.

Reid Hoffman told the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit, held at the University of California, Berkeley, that many of the facts that the graduates of the past would have needed to recall were now readily available via search engines.

The technology entrepreneur, who is now LinkedIn's executive chairman, said that higher education institutions should instead focus on teaching undergraduates how to discern truth among the mass of information available on the internet.

Talking in conversation with Nicholas Dirks, Berkeley's chancellor, Mr Hoffman said that graduates of the past would have had to rely heavily on information that they learned at university.

"That doesn't matter as much any more; what really matters is the ability to find it quickly on your mobile phone," he said. "Being able to resolve truth is what matters much more than 'oh I know I've read that book, I can't get to it right now'.

"That's still useful but it's no longer critical."

Mr Hoffman said that universities' other key role was to place students within networks that would allow them to develop skills and access opportunities over the course of their lives.

The "old industrial model" of learning skills at university and using them for the rest of your career was radically outdated, he argued.

“Classic pieces of advice like...‘study your passions’, [they are] radically insufficient now,” Mr Hoffman said. “Now it’s [about]...connecting into networks, are those networks the kinds of things that you will find rewarding, that will lead you on a career trajectory?”

During the discussion, Mr Hoffman outlined his hope that LinkedIn would be able to analyse the career and life outcomes of graduates with particular educational backgrounds, to help prospective students understand which learning path was best for them.

But this approach was criticised by Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, who said such a “predictive environment” might fail to identify and support the “outliers” who would have the ideas that were capable of fundamentally changing society.

Mr Hoffman agreed that the identification of outliers was an issue that could be solved only by a combination of machine and human expertise.

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

International Student Support Assistant YORK ST JOHN UNIVERSITY
Senior Lecturer: Architecture (Cultural Content) NORWICH UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS
Head of Department of Physics ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY
Research Assistant LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest