Nikki Jones

A Call for Great Minds: Tearing Down the Walled Garden and Building a New Path Forward Together

Blog Post created by Nikki Jones Employee on Apr 10, 2018

The pace of change in education is picking up speed with every passing moment. With the latest emerging technologies, we need to consistently reexamine our current methods while keeping an eye on potential upcoming trends. This is one of the many reasons why it’s so important to attend conferences like SXSWedu.

What is SXSWedu?

While SXSW is known for its cutting-edge innovation in the interactive, film, and music industries, SXSWedu applies the same cutting-edge principles to education. The goal of the conference is to foster “innovation in learning by hosting a diverse and energetic community of stakeholders across a variety of backgrounds in education.”

And at this year’s SXSWedu the Macmillan Learning team learned a lot—and we’re eager to keep the momentum going. One particular panel that received quite a bit of buzz was our Disrupting the Walled Garden discussion. This is a hot-button topic in the academic world and it’s one we’d like to continue the conversation on.

In fact, we’re inviting all the great minds in education to come together so we brainstorm innovative solutions to better the future of learning.

But before we do, let’s recap the panel. You can also watch the video of the panel here.

SXSWedu Recap: Disrupting the Walled Garden panel discussion

On March 7, Macmillan Learning’s general manager, Susan Winslow, with David Kim, founder and CEO of Intellus Learning, and Robert Lue professor of Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University led a panel discussion on the walled garden. These three education powerhouses discussed why the outdated information and learning model—what we’re referring to as the walled garden—no longer works in today’s world of academia.

Our goal was to bring together great minds in education, so we might, together, find new, innovative ways to improve the future of learning for students.

What is the Walled Garden?

Before the Information Age, universities and colleges were the gate-keepers of knowledge. They kept, maintained, and provided access to what was essentially a walled garden of information.

Today, however, information exists in a very different way. As Robert Lue put it during the panel discussion, “We are swimming in an ocean of information. And the previous walled garden of the university—our libraries, and our research labs, groups, and centers were holders of information—has now changed.”

Students can now get information from blogs, Twitter, YouTube, and open-source journals. This poses a challenge for universities as they’ve been designed to create, gather, and pass on knowledge. Today, publishers, universities, and professors are only one piece in a vast network of content.

Helping students navigate the future of information

So, how can we work together to curate, assess, and thread together information in a way that students can grasp?

Over time there have been many partners in higher education ecosystem that have worked together to make this happen.

The role of the publisher

Publishers have been long-standing academic partners to universities and institutions. Publishers collaborate with professors to publish their work and hold that publication to certain standards and criteria. Publishers pull together a package of important content and provide students with a coherent and beautifully threaded set of knowledge.

Publishers today continue to be critical partners, but how will this role change moving forward?

The role of tech

Professors and universities provide the knowledge, publishers weave that knowledge together, and tech solutions improve how students absorb and access that knowledge.

It was great to get the perspective Intellus Learning’s founder and CEO, David Kim, during the panel discussion. Kim offered a unique perspective on how and where tech fits into this puzzle, “Through our own conversations, open ways of looking at problem, we reinforce commonality here for students’ success. Where does converge align? What can we learn from each other that will create shared products and data that will speak to that end?”

The ed tech companies that are truly looking to transform the industry are partnering with both professors and publishers to create engaging, revolutionary products.

And how we can all work together

Universities, publishers, and tech companies should no longer be siloed—we need to find ways to help each other. This is currently an untapped market where we can leverage everyone’s efforts in more crowdsourced ways to create something that will improve how today’s students learn.

But we can’t do that alone.  

Join the conversation

Our SXSWedu panel scratched the surface of this important topic, but we want to go deeper.

We need to continue to collaborate, build, and evolve if we’re going to adapt to the pace of change in education. And to do so, your input is vital. Share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to our team via email: