The digital revolution that has occurred over little more than a generation has disrupted work, communications, travel, shopping, and even our sense of identity. It has also generated vast amounts of data, so much that it’s impossible to store it all. But all of that data is useless without good questions that can bring some order to it, as we recently heard from Dr. Luciano Floridi, a professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford.

Dr. Floridi was the guest lecturer for the formal launch of the Precision Institute at National University June 19.The Institute builds on the University’s Precision Education initiative, a four-year $20 million effort to transform the future of higher education. The Institute will oversee research projects and incorporate faculty and visiting fellowships, and other academic collaboration opportunities. It will also bring together thought leaders to encourage community dialogue through a regular lecture series that was inaugurated by Dr. Floridi, speaking on the topic of “Education in the Information Age.”

We were pleased to welcome Dr. Floridi to National University and San Diego to exchange ideas with our community and colleagues.  In addition to directing the Digital Ethics Lab (DELab) of the Oxford Internet Institute, he is also faculty fellow of the Alan Turing Institute and chair of its Data Ethics Group, and chairman of the Ethics Advisory Board of the European Medical Information Framework. He sits on the EU Ethics Advisory Group on Ethical Dimensions of Data Protection, on the Royal Society and British Academy Working Group on Data Governance, and on Google Advisory Board on “the right to be forgotten.”

One goal of education today, Dr. Floridi said, should be to help students “develop a taste for good questions” and become comfortable with uncertainty. He said uncertainty means that we have questions but have not yet found the answers. Ignorance, he said, is when we have no questions.

National University’s Precision Education initiative is, in a sense, an effort to gather, organize, and make sense of massive amounts of data in order to better to serve our students. Today’s computer technology makes information available and affordable, Professor Floridi noted, and allows for customizing instruction, monitoring students’ progress, and pacing instruction to fit each student. At National University, we want to get to know as much about our students as possible to help them develop and refine their educational and career goals. Then we can use data to design several pathways through their general education classes to help them reach those goals, customize the advice and support we provide, and, make education more efficient, which will also make it more affordable.

The world and the workplace will continue to change rapidly, due to technology and the free flow of data and information. Our job is more than providing our students with the ability to just use and consume information. They must be able to look critically at the world they live in and the work they do and then design and create better solutions. It’s not enough for our students to be able to, in Professor Floridi’s words, “play the game of knowledge.” We have to help them “become people who have mastered the art of changing the game.”

If you missed the lecture and launch event you can view it here.

Blog post by Dr. David Andrews, President of National University. Precision Education at National University is a research-based initiative that is exploring new ways to leverage technology, open education resources, and predictive data analytics to adapt to student needs and guide them to successful completion of their academic and career goals. Learn more about the initiative and the Precision Institute at National University: https://www.nu.edu/precision