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The Key to Survival

Donald G. Perrin

Research is the key to survival. Fast changing technologies demonstrate this.

Do we really expect it to be different for disciplines that change very slowly? Let me give some examples from my own experience.

In the 1980s the Wang word processor was redesigned for use on a PC. It looked like a Windows based program ahead of its time. It was fast and easy to use and not demanding on hardware or memory. The originators had taken it to the limit of creativity and perfection. There was nothing more that could be added and research was no longer necessary. It died within 18 months. The reasons: Steve Jobs and the NEXT computer opened a new era of creativity, and Windows added many of these features for use on PCs.

The fourth largest PC Company in 1982 was Corona Computer, later renamed CoreData. I wrote its user manuals and technical documentation. It had a brilliant and prolific research team that created a product that eclipsed IBM and kept up with Compaq, the two leaders at that time. (I forget who was number 3.) The company was bought by a foreign investor who put all of the company’s resources into production. Within 18 months the company ceased to exist.

There have been many statistics to show optimum levels for research budgets based on what leading companies spend, but that does not guarantee that another company can expect the same results if they spend the same amount of money. Goals, focus, creativity, timing, management are part of the equation. I remember visiting the fledgling Lotus Development Company when they moved into their expanded facility in 1982 – 180 people in all. I asked how many people were in the programming team and they pointed to one person. The genius factor does not fit into the mathematical equation; it supplants it.

Moving to a slowly evolving discipline like education, we need research investment and genius to meet the needs of today’s students. E-Learning is the part of education that is evolving most rapidly. It is folding a century of research and development in communications, learning, and human behavior into a new discipline that is more observable and measurable than the verbal lecture or the traditional laboratory classroom because it is transmitted through media that are recordable and measurable. As a result, we have data to improve the organization and presentation of ideas, and we can combine expertise from multiple sources into teaching and learning products that we can continually improve. All we need is to have that spark of genius to lead us, and the willingness of politicians to stand out of the way so teachers and educators at all levels can do their jobs and be the very best at what they do.

This Journal, supported by hundreds of authors, dozens of reviewers, many of them the best in their respective disciplines, is an important vehicle for sharing research, stimulating growth and creativity, and identifying genius. We are also supported by a worldwide community of readers – learners, experts, and geniuses - approaching 50,000 worldwide. Thank you. The survival of learning is assured!

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