Posted by: crudbasher | June 26, 2012

The 5 Elements Of Higher Education

I came across this great blog post by George Siemens just littered with great quotes and ideas. How does he do it? 🙂

I want to focus on just a few things. First is this great paragraph:

Educators are not driving the change bus. Leadership in traditional universities has been grossly negligent in preparing the academy for the economic and technological reality it now faces. This failure is apparent in interactions I’ve had with several universities over the past several months. Universities have not been paying attention.

Yes I think this is exactly right. As I have discussed previously, schools in general tend to have control structures that face inward. They are self regulating but tend to ignore external forces because that has worked so far. As the Internet connects the world, it is empowering creative individuals to have more influence than any other time in history. I would also note that educators have never driven the change bus. They are cogs in the machine, not the driver.

The main influence of the Internet is as a force for Disaggregation. This is a breaking apart of traditional structures (especially ones that are based on physical proximity) in favor of ones organized on informational lines. Universities are beginning to experience the fringes of the coming storm of change. I’m not sure many of them understand what is about to happen though. This other section Mr. Siemens wrote is a good springboard to talk about it.

Education can be broken down into numerous areas of functionality:

  • Content and curriculum
  • Teaching and learning
  • Accreditation and assessment
  • Research and dissemination
  • Administration and leadership

These five areas are all being impacted by a constellation of change pressures that are unprecedented. In short, the functionality of higher education is fragmenting.

If you assume that the functions a university performs can be broken up into sections, then these sections can be outsourced. Once you have outsourced everything, then what remains of the university? If you can’t (or won’t) outsource everything, then what value is in the piece that is left? More importantly, what dollar value can you ask for what is left?

This is where things get ugly for universities. They have gotten used to a increase in tuition rates that is much higher than the rate of inflation for the last 30 years. What happens to them when the rate flattens out (or drops)?

(cc) minifig

I can understand why university administrators have a hard time even conceptualizing what might be coming. After all, imagine you went to a Ivy League school, then got a job teaching there, then eventually was in charge of it. The school could have been around for a few hundred years. How can you possible imagine that in 10 years it could all change? It’s hard to imagine and scary. Nobody wants to think like that and so universities have a blind spot when it comes to seeing the future. They make an assumption that the future will look like today but the Internet means that everything is being reevaluated. Nothing is fixed anymore. The only constant is change. They must look over the edge of the abyss before they are overcome by events.

“If my answers frighten you, Vincent, then you should stop asking scary questions.”
–Samuel L. Jackson to John Travolta, Pulp Fiction

 

 

  • Great article about disaggregation and innovation

    tags: education disruptive innovation disaggregation nell

    • What people do with information determines the types of institutions required in a particular era. (I wrote an article with Kathleen Matheos on this topic in 2009: Systemic Changes in Higher Education). Today, we see half of the education equation (the learners) doing fascinating things with content and ideas, while much of the other half (the faculty) is still taking a dissemination approach to curriculum.
    • The discourse of change is today driven by entrepreneurship , the incorporation of success criteria from business, and globalization of the field.
    • Educators are not driving the change bus. Leadership in traditional universities has been grossly negligent in preparing the academy for the economic and technological reality it now faces. This failure is apparent in interactions I’ve had with several universities over the past several months. Universities have not been paying attention.
    • Education can be broken down into numerous areas of functionality:

       

      • Content and curriculum
      • Teaching and learning
      • Accreditation and assessment
      • Research and dissemination
      • Administration and leadership

       

      These five areas are all being impacted by a constellation of change pressures that are unprecedented. In short, the functionality of higher education is fragmenting.

    • Technology, as stated earlier, is a significant driver of change in education. The adoption of the internet and mobile technologies (read the whole Meeker Report if you want a good sampling of the scope of technological change) continues at a frenzied pace. For many universities, cloud computing is becoming an attractive cost savings/functionality increasing option.
    • Universities have three key economic value points: curriculum, teaching, and assessment/accreditation. All three are facing pressure.
    • Open content as a value point in education is suspect at best. When MIT announced OCW, many educators responded by arguing that the real value of the university was in the teaching and in the networking that happens on a campus. As such, open content really wasn’t a threat to the university or to faculty.
    • A question that I’ve frequently encountered about teaching in open courses is “how do you teach 3,000 students?”. You don’t. They teach each other. Wiley and Edwards article on online self-organizing social systems captures this process well: the development of networked technologies “allows large numbers of individuals to self-organize in a highly decentralized manner in order to solve problems and accomplish other goals”.
    • Accreditation and assessment is arguably still the most solid of the three value propositions in higher education. While open content and open teaching have called into question, to some degree, what learners pay for when they go to university, the value of accreditation is broadly acknowledged.
    • Administrators and higher education leaders face many challenges, as reflected in the scope of the change pressures detailed above. Higher education is changing. Leaders are struggling with how to respond.
    • A few universities have created labs to explore institutional change. Georgia Tech’s C21U is among the more ambitious and better organized centres that I’ve seen. The Education Innovation project at University of Wisconsin-Madison is not as systemically focused as C21U, targeting instead to improve learning and teaching. Numerous universities are also experimenting with startups, labs, accelerators, and other cool-sounding ideas. The goal: improve the innovation capacity of the university. Arizona State University’s Skysong project exemplifies this trend. At Athabasca University, our VPA and CIO have launched an Alberta-based “innovation in education” project, recognizing that universities need to get in touch with innovators both within and external to the university.
    • Higher education is searching for a new value point, a new narrative that communicates what it offers learners and society. In the past, the integrated structure of the university – content, teaching, research, accreditation – created a system that couldn’t be challenged. Today, with these value points fragmenting as rapidly as the CD did in the 1990′s, alternative educational models are being created that may circumvent the integrated structure of universities. It is still far too early to say that the integrated systems like Pearson will replace traditional universities. At minimum, the functional elements of higher education have been pulled apart and are waiting to be remixed. And whoever integrates these remixed components best, wins.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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Responses

  1. […] I came across this great blog post by George Siemens just littered with great quotes and ideas. How does he do it? I want to focus on just a few things. First is this great paragraph: Educators are…  […]


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