Put the student first, not the university
Are modern colleges more interested in their bottom lines than the needs of students? Dan Rosensweig explains why the educational system is ready for disruption.
Dan Rosensweig joined Chegg in 2010 with a vision for transforming the popular textbook rental service into a leading provider of digital learning services for high school and college students. By leveraging technology, mobility, and connected networks, Chegg today offers a suite of high quality, low cost, personalized and on-demand educational resources that help students pursue, control and improve their own outcomes. As Chairman and CEO of Chegg, Dan commits the company to fulfilling its mission of putting students first and helping them save time, save money and get smarter. Under Dan’s direction, Chegg has become the Student Hub®, a connected learning platform that brings together people who want to learn with the tools and resources that accelerate the achievement of their educational and career goals. Prior to Chegg, Dan served as CEO of Guitar Hero, COO of Yahoo!, and CEO of ZDNet. Dan received a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Hobart and William Smith College in Geneva, New York. When Dan isn’t attending a Springsteen concert or enjoying quality time with his wife and two daughters, he sits on the Board of Trustees of Colgate University, the Board of Directors for Adobe Systems, Inc., Rent-the-Runway, Fender Guitars, Birchbox and the Advisory Board of the nonprofit DonorsChoose.org. Dan also serves as a Senior Advisor for TPG Growth Ventures.
Dan Rosensweig: There’s a really interesting question which is: what are the ramifications of the college education system—potentially, and we believe—in a bubble that’s likely to burst (and is already bursting), and with parents and employers looking to find alternative ways to get their kids or their students the skills they need to be able to be successful citizens and successful in business?
So what was interesting about the education system is everything in the education system was designed to support the existing system, like most businesses—designed to serve the publisher, the professor, the administrator, all the people that worked at the school.
But you looked at the student and you said they’re forced to live in a dorm they don’t want to live in, pay a price they don’t want to pay. They’re forced to use a cafeteria the first year or so because it’s in the best interest of the school, not the student. They have to pay a fortune for books that they don’t want to buy and subjects they don’t want to take. You just think of all the things. You go to an ATM on a college campuses, the kid takes out $10 and they pay $3.50 as a fee. And so we realized very quickly that the biggest problem with the education system was that it served everybody in it but its core constituent, which was the student. And so one day I wrote on the bottom of my email to the staff – I just put it in as a tagline – “We put students first.”
And that became the way in which every decision we get made gets filtered through it. What we do, why we do it, when we’re going to do it. What we can charge for it. The order in which we offer it. How many different modalities or languages or devices can it be on? All of those things are if you put the student first what would the student want?
Now some people say, “Well if you do that, Dan, they’d all want it for free.” The truth is they wouldn’t if they didn’t think they could get it for quality for free.
So, for example, there are free alternatives to Chegg Study but they all prefer to pay for Chegg Study, because what we give is not free—We give overwhelming value for the money. And so by putting the student first the choices that we make become limited. The definition of success becomes clearer. How does this help the student and can we benefit by doing that? The order in which you do it, how much you’re willing to invest and the return on that investment become much clearer by putting the customer first.
And look, we live in a world now where everybody in the middle is being cut out if possible. So we’re living in a much clearer world of direct consumer if you will. So think about it. If you can’t satisfy your customer you don’t have a business. If your customer is forced to use you it’s easier to disrupt you.
But if your customer looks at you and says they know who I am, they understand my problems, they care about me, they give me overwhelming value then you build a giant moat versus your competitor.
So the best way I can put it to quote or paraphrase I should say Marc Andreessen, software is eating the world. So think about it this way. Colleges are a lot like movie theaters. You go to the movie theater and you have to wait in a line or if you get the ticket you get to go in, but you’re still going to sit next to somebody you don’t know to watch a movie you may or may not want to see. You’re going to pay a fortune for popcorn… or would you rather be sitting at home on your couch watching Netflix, what you want to watch, when you want to watch it, how you want to watch it with the people you want to watch it with, at a price you can afford? And college is the same way. Why do you want to go to a campus which takes an hour to get to, an hour to get home to take a single class? So that’s half a day when you need money, when you’re hungry.
So the consequence of this ultimately has to play out in a pretty dramatic way. There’s no sort of incremental fixes. There are things that colleges are doing that can sustain some of them for a while. They’re working with really good organizations like 2U or companies that allow them to build new lines of revenue by putting their graduate schools or specific classes online. But overall if you were to interview (and we have and we’ve read the surveys and you can find the surveys), 50 percent of college presidents and their CFOs feel that their college is on shaky financial footing.
Just start with that. So the more expensive it gets, the fewer kids that can go. And so to get kids to go you’ve got to create a discount rate. When you create a discount rate then you’re really not getting the revenue that you need to get into the school.
But then on the flip side of this, this is really since 80 percent of college kids will tell you the primary reason they go to college is to get a better job. Then we really have to involve the employer also.
So companies like Chegg we have the employment data. I can predict if you go to X school, take X classes, get X majors and you’re going to live in Y state, I can predict with pretty good certainty the eight companies you’re likely to work for and what you’re likely to get paid. And because we’ve read a hundred million resumes over ten years and followed that pattern to see.
From our perspective though we ought to be able to figure out what skills you want as a person, what skills benefit you depending on the career path you’re looking to go to.
So liberal arts is extraordinarily beneficial for a subset of people. Critical thinking, communication, all of those things. But modern day critical thinking, modern day decision making and modern day communication and rhetoric, those are all things like SEO, SEM, right. They’re no longer how to write a speech and stand up. They’re different forms of communication. So all that has to evolve.
But from my perspective once employers are willing to believe that somebody who’s learned these skills from this place is employable and can be successful in their environment those things will change. And so today there’s a lot of companies working on it. There’s micro degrees at Udacity. There’s Coursera. There are college universities that are doing exclusively online now. They’re just doing it under their brand name. There’s going to be a lot of different ways that people are going to attempt to do it. But at the end of the day many of the jobs are going to require some sort of technical background. It doesn’t mean you have to be an engineer. In fact the majority of employees at Chegg are non-engineers. They’re finance people and marketing people and business people and PR people—There’s lots of people in lots of different kinds of jobs even in tech companies.
But everything is utilizing technology which means you can actually test for proficiency. And so a lot of the things that we’re going to focus on is whatever level you’re at, how can we level you up? Because if you want to get better somebody ought to be able to help you get better and that will help you both in school and in your career.
Are modern colleges more interested in their bottom lines than the needs of students? Dan Rosensweig, the CEO of Chegg, says more and more parents are looking at alternative ways for their children to become successful in business and as citizens. If colleges, many of which are on shaky financial footing, don't adapt - the whole system is ripe for disruption.
Nazi supporters held huge rallies and summer camps for kids throughout the United States in the 1930s.
- During the 1930s, thousands of Americans sympathized with the Nazis, holding huge rallies.
- The rallies were organized by the American German Bund, which wanted to spread Nazi ideology.
- Nazi supporters also organized summer camps for kids to teach them their values.
A Bund parade in New York, October 30, 1939.
Credit: Library of Congress
1930s AMERICAN FASCIST BUND CAMP HOME MOVIE BERGWALD NEW JERSEY<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="69d54b175b0d317cf9bfd688e4fa04f3"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/gOPeDaDcw3w?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.
Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
- A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
- This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
- The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Maybe you should enjoy this article with a cup of coffee or tea.<p> The <a href="https://drc.bmj.com/content/8/1/e001252?T=AU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> involved 4,923 type 2 diabetics living in Japan. The average participant was 66 years old. All of the participants were taken from the rolls of the Fukuoka Diabetes Registry, a study geared at learning about the effects of new treatments and lifestyle changes on the health of diabetics. <br> <br> The participants filled out questionnaires concerning their health, diet, habits, and other factors. Among the questions were two focused on determining how much green tea or coffee, if any, the participants consumed over the course of a week. The health of the participants was recorded for five years. During this time, 309 of the test subjects died from a variety of causes. <br> <br> Subjects who drank more than one cup of tea or coffee per day demonstrated lower odds of dying than those who had none. Those who consumed the most tea and coffee, more than four and two cups a day, respectively, enjoyed the most significant reductions in their risk of death. This level of consumption was associated with a 40 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201020190129.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p><p>Most interestingly, the effects of drinking tea and coffee appear to combine to reduce risk even further. Those who reported drinking two or three cups of tea a day and two or more cups of coffee were 51 percent less likely to die during the study, while those who drank a whopping four or more cups of tea and two or more cups of coffee had a 63 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/diabetes-coffee-and-green-tea-might-reduce-death-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p>
So, should I start swimming in a vat of coffee and green tea?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LY0E-JQxeoY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Not quite. </p><p> The primary takeaway from this study is that Japanese adults with type 2 diabetes who drink a lot of green tea and/or coffee die less often than similar people who do not. If this effect is caused by something in the drink, lifestyle choices people who drink that much tea all make, or something else remains unknown. The finding must be considered an association at this point. <br> <br> The eye-popping reductions in mortality rates are compared to the risk of death of others in the study. The people who died reported drinking less tea and coffee than those who lived. Unless you have several demographic and conditional similarities to the subjects of this study, you probably won't suddenly be at a two-thirds lower risk of death than your peers because you drink green tea. </p><p> Like all studies that depend on self-reporting, it is also possible that people misstated how much they consumed any one item. The study also did not look into other factors like socioeconomic status or education level, also known to impact death rates and potentially linked to coffee and tea consumption. </p><p> However, it is yet another study in the pile that suggests that <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">coffee</a> and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">green tea</a> are good for you. That much is increasingly <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/health-benefits-linked-to-drinking-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">agreed</a><a href="https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> upon</a>. This study also suggests the benefits are additive, which is a new development.</p><p><br> So, while it isn't time to start the IV drip of green tea, a cup or two probably won't <a href="https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20201022/coffee-green-tea-might-extend-life-for-folks-with-type-2-diabetes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hurt</a>. </p>
Logic puzzles can teach reasoning in a fun way that doesn't feel like work.
- Logician Raymond Smullyan devised tons of logic puzzles, but one was declared by another philosopher to be the hardest of all time.
- The problem, also known as the Three Gods Problem, is solvable, even if it doesn't seem to be.
- It depends on using complex questions to assure that any answer given is useful.
The Three Gods Problem<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UyOGZk7WbIk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> One of the more popular wordings of the problem, which MIT logic professor George Boolos <a href="https://www.readersdigest.ca/culture/hardest-logic-puzzle-ever/" target="_blank">said</a> was the hardest ever, is:<br> <br> "Three gods A, B, and C are called, in no particular order, True, False, and Random. True always speaks truly, False always speaks falsely, but whether Random speaks truly or falsely is a completely random matter. Your task is to determine the identities of A, B, and C by asking three yes-no questions; each question must be put to exactly one god. The gods understand English, but will answer all questions in their own language, in which the words for <em>yes</em> and <em>no</em> are <em>da</em> and <em>ja</em>, in some order. You do not know which word means which."<br> <br> Boolos adds that you are allowed to ask a particular god more than one question and that Random switches between answering as if they are a truth-teller or a liar, not merely between answering "da" and "ja." <br> <br> Give yourself a minute to ponder this; we'll look at a few answers below. Ready? Okay. <strong><br> <br></strong>George Boolos' <a href="https://www.pdcnet.org/8525737F00588A37/file/31B21D0580E8B125852577CA0060ABC9/$FILE/harvardreview_1996_0006_0001_0060_0063.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">solution</a> focuses on finding either True or False through complex questions. </p><p> In logic, there is a commonly used function often written as "iff," which means "if, and only if." It would be used to say something like "The sky is blue if and only if Des Moines is in Iowa." It is a powerful tool, as it gives a true statement only when both of its components are true or both are false. If one is true and the other is false, you have a false statement. </p><p> So, if you make a statement such as "the moon is made of Gorgonzola if, and only if, Rome is in Russia," then you have made a true statement, as both parts of it are false. The statement "The moon has no air if, and only if, Rome is in Italy," is also true, as both parts of it are true. However, "The moon is made of Gorgonzola if, and only if, Albany is the capitol of New York," is false, because one of the parts of that statement is true, and the other part is not (The fact that these items don't rely on each other is immaterial for now).</p><p> In this puzzle, iff can be used here to control for the unknown value of "da" and "ja." As the answers we get can be compared with what we know they would be if the parts of our question are all true, all false, or if they differ. </p><p> Boolos would have us begin by asking god A, "Does "da" mean yes if and only if you are True if and only if B is Random?" No matter what A says, the answer you get is extremely useful. As he explains: <br> </p><p> "If A is True or False and you get the answer da, then as we have seen, B is Random, and therefore C is either True or False; but if A is True or False and you get the answer ja, then B is not Random, therefore B is either True or False… if A is Random and you get the answer da, C is not Random (neither is B, but that's irrelevant), and therefore C is either True or False; and if A is Random...and you get the answer ja, B is not random (neither is C, irrelevantly), and therefore B is either True or False."<br> <br> No matter which god A is, an answer of "da" assures that C isn't Random, and a response of "ja" means the same for B. </p><p> From here, it is a simple matter of asking whichever one you know isn't Random questions to determine if they are telling the truth, and then one on who the last god is. Boolos suggests starting with "Does da mean yes if, and only if, Rome is in Italy?" Since one part of this is accurate, we know that True will say "da," and False will say "ja," if faced with this question. </p><p> After that, you can ask the same god something like, "Does da mean yes if, and only if, A is Random?" and know exactly who is who by how they answer and the process of elimination. </p><p> If you're confused about how this works, try going over it again slowly. Remember that the essential parts are knowing what the answer will be if two positives or two negatives always come out as a positive and that two of the gods can be relied on to act consistently. </p><p> Smullyan wrote several books with other logic puzzles in them. If you liked this one and would like to learn more about the philosophical issues they investigate, or perhaps if you'd like to try a few that are a little easier to solve, you should consider reading them. A few of his puzzles can be found with explanations in this <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/11/obituaries/smullyan-logic-puzzles.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">interactive</a>. </p>
But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.
On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.