Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Location, location - not so much

I have heard of the mantra: location, location, location.  I was told that was the secret of a successful business: put it where you will get plenty of traffic going by and people with notice and buy your stuff.  I read the other day that 40 cents of every dollar spent in US online shopping goes to Amazon. I have also read that the Chinese online Alibaba and Walmart are both interested in competing with Amazon and getting some of the emerging market.

In general, a material product, like food or fuel still needs to be delivered to the buyer, so online shopping increases the needs for a good internet connection, shipping and for truck drivers, which are growing in demand.  Some products, such as an ebook or instruction can be delivered over a wire. This flexibility creates competition that didn't used to exist. A school in Boston or Bosnia can offer me instruction in Wisconsin. This possibility plays havoc with borders and territories. A professor of architecture and office design told us recently that online communication, meetings and business have created a large number of empty buildings in places that were centers of business.

I conducted quite a bit on online instruction before retirement.  I believe that careful attention to the wording and layout of web pages and deadlines can make a big difference in online instruction.  Turnaround time for student work and quality of feedback and encouragement are also important factors. Lynn and I both taught Interpersonal Relations online and we found that the online environment encouraged participation and honest revelation in ways not seen in the standard classroom where everyone else is hearing your comments and questions.  The teacher in such instruction can always select pertinent and insightful points made by students and share them broadly if appropriate.

Just as positive, likely locations are not as relevant, perhaps, in the same way, there are probably fewer places where the news of the world and valuable as well as pesky innovations are unknown.  See the interesting and prize-winning true story told in "Educated" by Westover of a young woman raised in a Idaho family without much education. She now has, really, a PhD from Cambridge University in England.  The head of the National Geographic Society's Genographic Project, Dr. Spencer Wells, has said that the days when likely ancestral paths of travel around the globe can be deduced from one's DNA are being limited by international travel and intermarriage.  Similarly, the days when wealth and doctrinal ideas can be tucked away rather "out of sight' of the world are probably also shrinking.

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