From Cisco to Berkeley

Today, we will be on two extremes of a spectrum. In the morning we visit corporate big data giant Cisco, and in the afternoon we will be at civil rights stronghold UC Berkeley. This is a trip of extremes in many respects.

At Cisco’s Executive Briefing Centre, we are welcomed in Dutch by Jose van Dijk, vice-president Business Operations, born in Vriezenveen. Not an alumna regrettably, but nonetheless proud to be Twents. What a great surprise!

Jose introduces us to how Cisco has made, and is continuing to make, the switch from a hardware provider to an integral solutions provider, focusing on ‘the internet of everything’, which is roughly the smart connection of big data to the internet of things. It is a very interesting strategy and the power is showcased by some very impressive examples in the building where we are. One is a intelligent system that visualizes the way in which Cisco as a company is discussed online worldwide. So upon publication of these words, a small light will probably show up on a screen in San Jose, CA.

Education is one of Cisco’s focal areas, and to introduce us to Cisco’s approach, we meet with Rennee Patterson, Director of Sales Business Development. The vision she lays out is how an integral system of devices and data will make it possible to provide a personalized learning experience, tailored to the specific needs of every student. In this process, the teacher as well as the student can be an agent. Where is the passed, getting stuck on a specific course could mean switching the program, in Cisco’s future it might only mean changing the sources and the learning method.

It is interesting to see how Rennee’s take on the subject is very much didactically informed. She presents ways to get students in what she calls ‘a productive struggle’ rather than stopping at ways to simply deliver content. Using Bloom’s taxonomy, she insightfully categorizes different tools for different learning stages.

The idea at Cisco is that all these tools get integrated in a single platform. Mary Schlegelmilch joins in online from the University of Nebraska, where she holds a position together with a position at Cisco, for an impressive demonstration of a toolset that makes it possible for students and faculty to interact in distance education settings with a very rich set of features. It’s great technology, and Mary rightfully pushes the point that this technology will only be accepted when it is easily usable, stable, and delivers high quality audio and video.

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Our second online host is Greg Mathison, who joins in from Orlando to share some interesting thoughts and experiences on the challenges institutions meet when they try to adopt new teaching methods and technologies.C:\Users\Onlinemedia\Desktop\Pim\Blog CVB\24 sep middag berkeley 2.jpg

With a completely different image of Cisco as a company, we leave their premises to head for UC Berkeley’s campus. Walking around Berkeley is totally different from walking around Stanford, but most of us agree the campuses are at least as impressive. Berkeley is a state university and as a consequence has a quite a lot less money. No glitzy learning technologies here.

We talk to the energetic Jenn Stringer, Director of Educational Technology Services. She share some very interesting insights and experiences with using technology in the class room and with offering online education. Berkeley’s strategy is clear:

  • offering open courseware as a service to student and as outreach to society, but as low-cost productions with hardly any editing
  • full online degree courses for professionals to gain revenue (which are developed in, and sold from a separate department, the BRCOE)
  • develop small productions for use in on-campus courses (spoc’s - small private online courses - rather than mooc’s – red.)


Mooc’s, according to Jenn, are not so much a disruptive technology as they are a disruptive idea. The technology is not new at all and not very good for teaching either. But it got everybody nervous, so now things are moving. Extra momentum came in the US from the ever-increasing price of regular college education and the declining satisfaction with quality from the side of employers.

Research done by Berkely suggests that adding open courseware, video’s from lectures, and transcripts increases student satisfaction but hardly influences ‘in-class behavior’. Lectures that are poorly visited on campus are poorly watched online. Lectures that are well visited on campus, get watched online a lot more as well

Inspired by Berkeley we go of for an organic latte, but end up in a Chinese Bakery – with great coffee nonetheless …

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Go to the next report from 25 September