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MOOCs: a disruptive revolution to China’s education system

Society August 26th, 2014, Zhen HUANG / Vice President of Shanghai Jiaotong University, Chinese Dean of ParisTech SJTU Elite Institute of Technology

The irreversible momentum of MOOCs is penetrating all levels of China's education system, providing students with unprecedented freedom to select courses and access the best educational recourses at home and abroad. Some institutions have taken the lead, but the question is not just one of strategy for universities. In a nation where education reform is imperative, it is MOOCs that are forcing the Chinese education system to move.

The fight for digital sovereignty: industrial factors

Society June 30th, 2014, Nicolas Colin & Henri Verdier / Co-founder, TheFamily & Director, Etalab

The question addresses Europe, as well as emerging countries: how can we ever hope to have an influence on Internet governance if there is no strong, industrial power operating in the digital field?

The energy mix can be defined as the distribution of primary energy sources consumed to produce various types of energy used in a given country. For different reasons, running from availability of the resources to policies enacted in the fight against global warming, national energy mixes will necessarily evolve over the coming decades. However, the natural inertia of history and the political and economic costs make the changes difficult. What are the most promising routes to transition?

Robots are machines capable of endlessly repeating the same operation, without fatigue or making mistakes. With such qualities, they are now quietly moving into many areas of our socio-economic world, replacing human operators deemed less reliable and more expensive. Medicine, especially surgery, is a prime demand field for robots. The latter can carry out very precise operations, in a cluttered environment, reducing the risks for both the surgeon and the patient.

Offshoring strategies: what’s on with cultural institutions?

Society May 30th, 2014, François Chaubet & Laurent Martin / Professors of Contemporary History, University Paris 10 Nanterre & University Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3

Following suit to the Guggenheim Museum, a number of Western cultural institutions have launched a series of spectacular offshoring operations, exporting their trademarks and their specific know-how. Playing somewhere between influence diplomacy and cultural marketing, museums and universities in the Western world are trying their luck in the new Paradises of the Middle East or Asia. What are the expected benefits and what are their strategies?

Is there any business model for MOOCs?

Society May 28th, 2014, Pierre Dubuc / Cofounder, OpenClassrooms

The sudden and widespread advent of Massive Online Open Courses took universities by surprise and could potentially bring in-depth changes in the Higher Education scene. Still, major questions remain unsolved, such as: what business models are adapted to the new educational actors? Have the major American platforms already won the day, or is there still room for outsiders?

A short distribution channel is defined either by direct sale from producer to consumer or by the indirect sale, provided that there is only one intermediary. Long confined to activist circles, this alternative model is now moving out of the margins. What are its prospects? Can it prove a game changer?

Artificial intelligence (AI) and expert systems are less trendy in 2014 than they were back in 1974 but since that time they have never ceased developing and the processing power of today's computers opens ever wider prospects. In the same way that robots have changed factories, the rapid advent of expert systems has changed numerous skilled office workers' jobs. Some have been transformed, others destroyed. What is at stake is the very existence of our middle-classes, the core of modern economies. But the final word here is not written on the wall yet, inasmuch as the concept of expertise is also changing very rapidly.

The precautionary principle is frequently cited in major international statements. However, implementing it still stirs up a lot of debate: is it feasible, is it advisable? Today with hindsight, controversy and experience have enabled us to better frame a somewhat abstract idea that is still seeking its path forward. Two countries only, France and Ecuador have appended the principle to their respective Constitutions and in the former we see some emblematic examples of difficulties to be overcome in enforcing the Principle.

Asia and key emerging countries have embarked in an impressive movement of infrastructure urbanization and modernization. And while these major projects mobilize international expertise, they are however quite different from those conducted in Europe or the United States. The decision-making processes are not the same, and today's architects and planners are putting an emphasis on the very experience of space, which varies considerably from one culture to another.

In emerging economies, the question is now being raised: will a parallel development of middle class and car driving paralyze the megacities? Advanced countries are already experimenting new solutions. How can we banish the spectre of urban immobility?

The arrival of MOOCs both fascinates and scares our Higher Education actors. Is it a game changer? Institutions may be challenged, but to-day the most significant difference seems to concern the teaching experience. Five pionniers share their experience.

The future of the automotive industry: who will invest in intelligent transportation systems?

Society February 11th, 2014, Rémi Maniak / Associate Professor at Telecom ParisTech and Researcher at Ecole Polytechnique

The advent of intelligent transportation systems creates opportunities for many players, from the Internet giants to the pioneers of the sharing economy... including smart public authorities. But who will invest? How to share costs and profits? And who will own the data?

Modern economies really need high level research scientists, but there are difficulties when it comes to proposing job openings to the PhDs. We have reached a point now where question has become: what is the real value attached to a doctoral degree, both for Society as a whole and for those who register for demanding studies at this level? Might we be faced with a glut of PhDs? The issue is on the table and when we reframe it, it opens up a new prospective.

A growing segment of the workplace is no longer tied to a single, full-time employer. In the US, as many as 30% of those in today's job market are either self-employed or part-time, and the largest companies report that 30% of their procurement dollars are spent on contingent or fractional workers. While raising concerns, the forces reshaping the nature of work can result in more productive, happier, and sustainable lives.

The African digital boom has already begun. McKinsey estimates that the contribution of the Internet to the annual GDP of Africa could rise from $18 billion in 2014 to $300 billion in 2025. Yet, all the countries are not addressing the digital wave with the same attitude.

Further fueling the ongoing debate over the future of the news media and independent journalism, eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar last month committed $250 million to a news site co-founded by journalist and author Glenn Greenwald. Omidyar’s investment followed the announcement over the summer that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had purchased The Washington Post, also a $250 million investment. The late Steve Jobs’s wife, Lauren Powell, and 29-year-old Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes are also pouring money into old and new media ventures. Could this new band of news media owners shape a technology-led business model that will be profitable and protect the integrity of impartial, ideology-free journalism? Ultimately the ball will rest with the consumer.

The GMO debate – once more unto the breach…

Society December 12th, 2013, Marion Guillou / President, Agreenium

Genetically modified organisms have almost become taboo in Europe. Elsewhere in the world, genetically modified plants are being cultivated on a large scale but public acceptance is far from being granted. How to deal with the people's reticence without taking extrem options, such as banning GMOs or ignoring the public outcry? A well-informed, serene debate is necessary. But is it still possible?

Quantified Self: a craze for measurement

Society October 31st, 2013, Emmanuel Gadenne / Consultant in digital practices for Sopra Consulting

With the latest generation of connected objects, the collection of data related to our daily life has taken a new dimension. Covering surprisingly varied practices and objectives, from wellbeing to productivity and health, the notion of quantified self refers to the principles and tools developed to monitor, analyze and share these data. Another social thing? Call it a market.

Here we have yet another of those crazy ideas that excites California, but this one potentially sounds a shade more ominous. In order to meet the shortfall of qualified engineers in Silicon Valley, a group of young entrepreneurs of the Golden State have proposed to anchor a floating city in international waters, off the Californian coast, capable of accommodating 2 000 engineers from all round the world, none of whom having a US entry visa. This would cut the dire and endless thirst for grey matter in the USA, a country where young students are shunning scientific and technical courses. Here we are witnessing a situation that is taking on the proportions of a national, strategic crisis. Other countries, other difficulties. But eveywhere the same question arises: how to train tomorrow's engineers?

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