The Future of Higher Education?

My good friend Enoch Hale asked me a question late last week that I have been contemplating ever since:

“What are some good books to read regarding the future of Higher Education?”

Good question…and at a deeper level, how do you differentiate between books that have the flawed (at least, I think flawed) assumption that higher education tomorrow will resemble higher education of the past…and books that actually suggest a new future?  Search for books on “the future of higher education” and you quickly find quite a few…and I would add in books about “the future” itself.

There are lots of ways to think about the future…

In Tom Friedman’s book, Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations,  he draws the distinction between typical course creation processes, which can take a year, and Udacity’s roll out of a MOOC for Google’s TensorFlow program 3 months after Google announced the algorithms.  Friedman sees coming disruptions from intelligent assistants and intelligent algorithms.  Yet, Friedman also points out that in an era when it is possible to automate much of the learning process, the element that marked “successful students” was the human element – teachers and mentors who took personal interest in students.

One way to think about the future of higher education is to think about the future into which our students will graduate.  In “3 graphs that explain how higher ed needs to design for the future of work,” Education Design Lab noted that:

  • Job hopping will become the norm
  • Most jobs will require post-secondary education
  • Jobs are either very susceptible or fairly immune to computerization-with little middle ground

New York Times discussed a higher education leaders forum last year that suggested the key challenges for higher education included finding new ways to teach the digital generation, bringing down the cost of a college education, and ensuring more students graduate.  A recent Harvard graduate has been exploring micro-financing and vocational education as one approach outside the United States…and one wonders if some in this country might take this route as well.

Forbes carried an article this past year that suggested that return on investment is the biggest issue facing higher education…with good reason.

I remain an optimist.  I like the direction(s) Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable takes, in which new technological forces will drive new opportunities.

I also like the direction Stanford has in their 2025 strategic plan:

Soooo…if Enoch asked you the question, how would you respond? What should we be reading to inform our vision of higher education’s future?

 

An Accelerating Future


Over the past couple of weeks, I have been exploring the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looked at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals.  The report is based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, and noted ten trends.  Over a series of posts, I have been looking at this report from a faculty development perspective, but folding in thoughts generated from reading Tom Friedman’s new book, Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.

The last two trends involved Diversity/Inclusion and the Future of Work, which again tie in nicely to the accelerating technological changes of the past decade noted in Friedman’s book.  Taking them in reverse order, the report noted that the future of work is being driven by the acceleration of connectivity and cognitive technology.  Friedman noted that between 2000 and 2007, we had a phase shift where “…connectivity was fast, free, easy for you and ubiquitous and handling complexity became fast, free, easy for you and invisible.”

Think about that statement.  When the world went flat, all corners of the world were connected and connected with high bandwidth.  At the same time…and due in large part to those connections and the continued advances of Moore’s Law, machine learning made the potential for handling complexity effortless.  With the huge data available on the cloud, Google can now translate English into any language (and vice versa)…not by programming grammar…but by letting the program compare examples of translated text and look for statistical patterns.  Friedman pointed out that when Google got rid of linguists and brought in statisticians, accuracy of language translation went up.  Now the same thing is happening with speech recognition, and we are approaching the old Star Trek standard of a universal translator.

This use of the cloud has allowed for some amazing transformations in what is “normal.”  Friedman quoted Tom Goodwin in a TechCrunch article as stating:

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles.  Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content.  Alibaba, the most valuable retailer, has not inventory.  And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate.  Something interesting is happening.”

Now, conceptualize how that “something interesting” will play out in higher education.

The Deloitte report noted that automation, cognitive computing, and crowdsourcing are paradigm-shifting forces that will reshape the workforce.  With AI impacting almost every field, every field will have to identify those “essential human skills” that will differentiate their business and make them competitive.  This obviously will also impact what higher education is doing to prepare the workforce of the future…which in turn impacts what faculty need to do.  The report suggested that the essentially human parts of work – empathy, communication, persuasion, personal service, problem solving, and strategic decision making – are becoming more important, which raises the importance of a diverse workforce.  The report noted that when one considers organizations as networks, it becomes clear that diversity and inclusion can enhance organizational performance.  And diversity is not just gender or ethnic considerations, but diversity of thought as well.

Now consider faculty development in this accelerating future.

The gold standard regarding faculty used to be tenure-track processes.  But in an accelerating future, tenure is simply a waypoint towards an undefined future.  The half-life of the skills and expertise one brings in to tenure will erode rapidly.  More importantly, thanks to cognitive computing, some aspects of “teaching, research and service” could easily be automated.  This is not bad.  Friedman points out that the future will involve teaming of humans with machines.  Rather than a TA, we might have Siri or Alexa or some other cognitive device to help us … and learn with us.

That suggests that faculty – and faculty developers – should be asking:

  • What parts of teaching, research, and service can be automated, and what parts do faculty provide added value?
  • How do faculty reskill … and help students reskill as technology evolves?
  • What learning needs to take place in a classroom and with students physically present and what could be done online?  Synchronous, asynchronous, small group, simulations…
  • What new learning can be (or should be) crowdsourced?  What does this mean for curriculum design?
  • With all this change, time becomes a precious commodity.  How do we redesign faculty (and student) work to be open, collaborative, digital…and yet leave time for exploration and discovery?
  • Will new roles emerge beyond tenure-track, term, and adjunct faculty?  How will faculty development evolve to meet these new roles?  With the world moving to more personalized experiences, will we now have personalized faculty development?

No easy answers…but complacency could be our biggest barrier.  We have to assume that the faculty development model of the past will not fit an accelerating future.

{Graphics: Deloitte Press}

30 Day Challenge – Day 14 – Competing Fantasies

nix01Divergent thinking typically comes out of  annual SXSW conference.  Earlier this month, the conference featured Bruce Sterling, a noted science fiction author, as a keynoter.  Bruce used a phrase from his and Jon Lewbowsky’s  State of the World 2012 post that he had previously used…and which got a bit of buzz:

The Future Is About Old People, in Big Cities, Afraid of the Sky

“The future is about old people, in big cities, afraid of the sky. How do I know that? Well, it’s because demographic change is very obvious — people are gonna get older. And the urban change is very obvious — people have been moving into larger and larger cities for several decades. And climate change is super obvious. People can deny all three of them. You can say, ‘Oh, well my town will never get bigger.’ Okay, Austin’s getting bigger by 100 people a day. Or you could say, ‘Oh, well I’m never going to get older.’ Okay, you are gonna get older… I have the feeling I’ve spent enough time talking about it. I’m actually bored with writing fiction about it. I think I’m gonna spend a couple of years trying to get to physical grips with the problem — What kind of life would old people, in big cities, afraid of the sky actually have? I think it’s time to try some prototypes.”

As someone who has reached his Sixties, this pessimistic view is not what I hope my children have in store!  Yet, for today’s post in the 30-Day Challenge, it is instructive to go back to Sterling’s 2012 post.

Bruce and Jon noted that different groups see the future changing in different ways:

  • Right-Wing Talk Radio
    • Threats to the Constitution
    • Imminent collapse of currency
    • Rise of anarchists
    • Hordes of immigrants
    • Rants against health-care and gay rights
  • China
    • Continued dual rise of production and pollution
    • Increase in infrastructure
    • Collapse of intellectual property
    • Defeat western ideas of law and commerce
  • Cyberculture
    • Smartphones!
    • Moore’s Law
    • War on SOPA/PIPA
    • Social media drives revolution
    • Quietly ditching stuff that is obsolete
  • Additional Fringe Beliefs
    • “…all fringe beliefs about the future seem to be more or less equivalent, like Visa, American Express and Mastercard.”

Multiple perspectives all looking at the same future.  Lebkowsky then noted:

“…I’m thinking H.G. Wells would never have written the hyperpessimistic “Mind at the End of Its Tether” if he’d had a televison set, 24-hour cable, high-speed Internet access and accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Our heads are buzzing with possibility, spinning ever faster into the alternate realities that your various futurisms suggest. I say “realities,” but I’m not sure the word “reality” has much weight these days – more like competing fantasies, in the sense that Kesey et al talked about “the current fantasy” and others of us talked about “believing your own bullshit.” Conflicting, competing narratives are the real games we play…”

DiversityAs “experts”, we as faculty spend a lot of time focusing on reality.  We craft lessons with “right answers” rather than competing fantasies.  Yet, with the affordances of the web, both our heads and the heads of our students ought to be “buzzing with possibilities”!  It should be instructive that much of the research in physics today points to alternate realities.  Rather than focusing on answers, how can we bring that buzz into the learning in our classes?

Day 14 – How could I craft my teaching so that students surface and interrogate competing fantasies in the search for today’s truth?

In one of the first global online courses I taught for the University of Nebraska, a Nebraskan gave a textbook answer to a question on educational leadership.  The next post was from a gentleman from the island of Guam, who started his post with “I am Chamorro, and we do not think that way…”.  It was a huge lesson for me on the lens we bring to our discussions.

What buzz do you bring to the discussion today?

{Graphic: Lori Nix, Envision}

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30 Day Challenge – Day 6 – A State of Surprise

anchorGrant McCracken, in “The Corporation is at Odds with the Future,” noted:

“Here is my present idea of the corporation, give or take. The corporation is a thing of people, processes, places, and products (give or take). And these 4 Ps are relatively well-defined, organized, boundaried, and anchored (more or less).

In many ways, this describes most classes in higher education – well-defined, organized, boundaried, and anchored.

But McCracken goes on to suggest that – for organizations – this is a problem, because the corporation is:

“…deeply at odds with the future. Because the future is never defined, organized, boundaried, or anchored. Really, it’s all just hints and whispers. Fragile melody, no refrain.”

McCracken then suggests that if the future is a world of “speed, surprise, noise, and responsiveness,” then corporations need to visit the future frequently, and strive to create the future within their sphere of influence – “…make pieces of the future happen inside the corporation…”.

Surprise!Very suggestive for the future of higher education as well.  As I work with faculty, I am struck by how many view the future as “the enemy”, as McCracken suggested.  They look to keep their basic teaching model and retrofit educational technology in ways that do not disrupt their teaching approach.  Yet, their students will move into a world of increasing disruption.  Clayton Christensen has published examples of disruptions – surprises – that upended established businesses.

So my 30-day challenge question for today – Day 6: What would teaching look like if both the course and every student lived in a state of surprise?

A state of surprise might suggest that our content is not defined but continually evolving and in need of discovery.  A state of surprise might suggest that knowledge within our discipline is not organized but messy and in need of organizing (or even crowdsourcing).  Wikipedia would not be the enemy but the model.  Our class walls and clocks on the wall will no longer be boundaries defining our course.  We as teachers and our students will no longer be anchored to the past but sailing over unknown horizons to look for (and create) the future.

Granted, teaching based on the past is safe.  Teaching based on surprise is risky.  Yet, do we move our students’ critical thinking and capacity for learning forward is we are “safe”?  How would you build “surprise” into your class?

Thoughts?

{Graphic: Serps, EcoCatLady}

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On the Horizon

nmc14

I am not at the Educause Learning Initiative 2014 conference this year, but I always look forward to the New Media Consortium‘s annual Horizon Report, in which a team of colleagues from around the world attempt to forecast six key trends, six significant challenges, and six emerging technologies that will impact teaching and learning in higher education.  I had the opportunity to serve on the K-12 Horizon Report Advisory Board in 2011 and 2012, so I know the hard work that goes in to developing these trends, challenges, and forecasts.

For the 2014 report key trends (with the somewhat provocative abstracts quoted) ,

  • The growing ubiquity of social media and the integration of online, hybrid and collaborative learning were noted as “fast trends” driving change in the next two years.

“Social media is changing the way people interact,present ideas and information, and judge the quality of content and contributions… The impact of these changes in scholarly communication and on the credibility of information remains to be seen, but it is clear that social media has found significant traction in almost every education sector.”

“Education paradigms are shifting to include more online learning, blended and hybrid learning, and collaborative models. Students already spend much of their free time on the Internet, learning and exchanging new information. Institutions that embrace face-to-face, online, and hybrid learning models have the potential to leverage the online skills learners have already developed independent of academia. Online learning environments can offer different affordances than physical campuses, including opportunities for increased collaboration while equipping students with stronger digital skills. Hybrid models, when designed and implemented successfully, enable students to travel to campus for some activities, while using the network for others, taking advantage of the best of both environments.”

  • The rise of data-driven learning and assessment and the shift of students as consumers to students as creators were noted as “mid-range trends” driving change within three to five years.

“There is a growing interest in using new sources of data for personalizing the learning experience and for performance measurement.  As learners participate in online activities, they leave an increasingly clear trail of analytics data that can be mined for insights… As the field of learning analytics matures, the hope is that this information will enable continual improvement of learning outcomes.”

“A shift is taking place in the focus of pedagogical practice on university campuses all over the world as students across a wide variety of disciplines are learning by making and creating rather than from the simple consumption of content. Creativity, as illustrated by the growth of user-generated videos, maker communities, and crowdfunded projects in the past couple years, is increasingly the means for active, hands-on learning.”

  • Agile approaches to change and the evolution of online learning were noted as long-range trends, driving change out beyond five years.

“There is a growing consensus among many higher education thought leaders that institutional leadership and curricula could benefit from agile startup models… The Lean Startup movement uses technology as a catalyst for promoting a culture of innovation in a more widespread, cost-effective manner. Pilots and other experimental programs are being developed for teaching and improving organizational structure to more effectively nurture entrepreneurship among both students and faculty.”

“Over the past several years, there has been a shift in the perception of online learning to the point where it is seen as a viable alternative to some forms of face-to-face learning. The value that online learning offers is now well understood, with flexibility, ease of access, and the integration of sophisticated multimedia and technologies chief among the list of appeals…  While growing steadily, this trend is still a number of years away from its maximum impact. Progress in learning analytics, adaptive learning, and a combination of cutting-edge asynchronous and synchronous tools will continue to advance the state of online learning and keep it compelling…”

Significant challenges foreseen included:

  • Solvable challenges such as the relative low digital fluency of some faculty, as well as the relative lack of rewards for teaching.

“Faculty training still does not acknowledge the fact that digital media literacy continues its rise in importance as a key skill in every discipline and profession. Despite the widespread agreement on the importance of digital media literacy, training in the supporting skills and techniques is rare in teacher education and non-existent in the preparation of faculty <…those of us in faculty development would argue that “non-existent” is inaccurate…but widespread adoption is probably accurate>. As lecturers and professors begin to realize that they are limiting their students by not helping them to develop and use digital media literacy skills across the curriculum, the lack of formal training is being offset through professional development or informal learning, but we are far from seeing digital media literacy as a norm. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that digital literacy is less about tools and more about thinking, and thus skills and standards based on tools and platforms have proven to be somewhat ephemeral.”

“Teaching is often rated lower than research in academia… There is an overarching sense in the academic world that research credentials are a more valuable asset than talent and skill as an instructor… To balance competing priorities, larger universities are experimenting with alternating heavy and light teaching loads throughout the school year, and hiring more adjunct professors.”

  • More difficult challenges, such as the emerging competition from new models of education, as well as the ability to scale innovations in teaching.

“New models of education are bringing unprecedented competition to the traditional models of higher education… As these new platforms emerge, there is a growing need to frankly evaluate the models and determine how to best support collaboration, interaction, and assessment at scale. Simply capitalizing on new technology is not enough; the new models must use these tools and services to engage students on a deeper level.”

“Our organizations are not adept at moving teaching innovations into mainstream practice. Innovation springs from the freedom to connect ideas in new ways… A pervasive aversion to change limits the diffusion of new ideas, and too often discourages experimentation.”

  • Wicked challenges, such as expanding access or keeping higher education relevant.

“The global drive to increase the number of students participating in undergraduate education is placing pressure across the system. The oft-cited relationship between earning potential and educational attainment plus the clear impact of an educated society on the growth of the middle class is pushing governments to encourage more and more students to enter universities and colleges…”

“Many pundits worry that if higher education does not adapt to the times, other models of learning (especially other business models) will take its place…institutional stakeholders must address the question of what universities can provide that other approaches cannot, and rethink the value of higher education from a student’s perspective.”

To determine emerging technologies, NMC grouped technologies into seven categories:

edtech

2014 Higher Ed NMC Horizon Report p. 35

The six technologies highlighted as emerging this year included:

  • Adoption in next year: Flipped Classrooms and Learning Analytics

“The flipped classroom refers to a model of learning that rearranges how time is spent both in and out of class to shift the ownership of learning from the educators to the students… The goal is for students to learn more authentically by doing.”

“Learning analytics is an educational application of “big data”… new ways of applying to improve student engagement and provide a high-quality, personalized experience for learners.”

  • Adoption in next two to three years: 3D Printing and Gamification

“Known in industrial circles as rapid prototyping, 3D printing refers to technologies that construct physical objects from threedimensional (3D) digital content… This technology is commonly used in manufacturing to build prototypes of almost any object (scaled to fit the printer, of course) that can be conveyed in three dimensions.”

“The games culture has grown to include a  substantial proportion of the world’s population, with the age of the average gamer increasing with each passing year. As tablets and smartphones have proliferated, desktop and laptop computers, television sets, and gaming consoles are no longer the only way to connect with other players online, making game-play a portable activity that can happen in a diverse array of settings. Gameplay has long since moved on from solely being recreational and has found considerable traction in the military, business and industry, and increasingly, education as a useful training and motivation tool…the gamification of education is gaining support among educators who recognize that effectively designed games can stimulate large gains in productivity and creativity among learners.”

  • Adoption in four to five years: Quantified Self and Virtual Assistants

“Quantified self describes the phenomenon of consumers being able to closely track data that is relevant to their daily activities through the use of technology. The emergence of wearable devices on the market such as watches, wristbands, and necklaces that are designed to automatically collect data are helping people manage their fitness, sleep cycles, and eating habits. Mobile apps also share a central role in this idea by providing easy-to-read dashboards for consumers to view and analyze their personal metrics… Today’s apps not only track where a person goes, what they do, and how much time they spend doing it, but now what their aspirations are and when those can be accomplished… As more people rely on their mobile devices to monitor their daily activities, personal data is becoming a larger part of everyday life.”

“As voice recognition and gesture-based technologies advance and more recently, converge, we are quickly moving away from the notion of interacting with our devices via a pointer and keyboard. Virtual assistants are a credible extension of work being done with natural user interfaces (NUIs), and the first examples are already in the marketplace. Virtual assistants …and their applications for learning are clearly in the long-term horizon, but the potential of the technology to add substance to informal modes of learning is compelling.”

Of interest to me, the framework of the Up-Scaling Creative Classrooms (CCR) project out of Europe was used to identify implications for policy, leadership, and practice related to the identified trends and challenges.  A visualization of the CCR is as follows:

CCR Project

There is a lot crammed in to his graphic…but they do try and show some of the interrelationships between ideas.

Jon Becker tweeted:

becker tweet

… and then later tweeted his own answer with a link to a 2011 study by Martin, Diaz, Sancristobal, Gil, Castro and Peire – “New technology trends in education: Seven years of forecasts and convergence.”  They noted:

“The bibliometric analysis over the predictions highlights that some of the predictions were right, e.g., social networks, user-created content, games, virtual worlds and mobile devices. Other predictions did not have the expected impact, e.g., knowledge Web, learning objects and open content, context-awareness and ubiquitous computing. However, other predictions were successful, although their impact was delayed one or two years, e.g., grassroots videos and collaborative Web. Regarding the application of the bibliometric analysis to the obtained metatrends, the evolution of learning objects toward open content did not seem to be successful due to the low index of publications about open content. However, the metatrend of ubiquitous computing and context-awareness toward mobile devices was successful, according to the high index of publications. Other metatrend that can be considered successful was the evolution from augmented reality toward mobile augmented reality. The increasing importance of mobile devices in education is fostering all the technologies related to them. Augmented reality did not have the expected influence in education in 2008–2010, although, according with its publication evolution, it will probably play a more important role on 2011–2012.”

So, a track record that is not 100% but not bad either.  For our potential future faculty in GRAD-602, as well as our mobile scholars in UNIV-391, this report suggests a future in which they will live and work.

Check out this year’s Horizon Report.  What insights do you gain from this?

 

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EDCMOOC Week 2: Looking to the Future

krupp: Creative Commons CC:BY (Flickr)

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We are in our second week in the University of Edinburgh’s Coursera MOOC – E-Learning and Digital Cultures. This was the image that greeted us when we clicked on the Week 2 page – a cross-stitch noting that its gonna be the future soon!  Nice Flickr photo from krupp!

Of course, we are typically pretty bad at predicting “the future.”  I was in high school when the movie 2001: A Space Odessey came out, the movie from which the course banner comes.  This movie vividly pictured a near future where moon colonies and space stations would exist by 1999.  Our current International Space Station is cool, but nowhere as cool or massive as the one embedded in my teenage movie mind.  Now, some 45 years later, the future is quite different from this childhood vision.  As Buzz Aldrin noted on the cover of MIT Technology Review back in November, “You Promised Me Mars Colonies. Instead, I Got Facebook.” Indeed!

Course Banner

Yet, there were things  the movie 2001 got right.  Technology has pretty much invaded our lives, becoming ubiquitous and always on.  Back in 1968, the movie depicted humans conversing with HAL – the intelligent computer on the Discovery spacecraft.  Today, we converse with Siri.

As with last week, the course facilitators began our learning journey with a series of short videos that had quite different views of the future.  The first is a favorite of mine – A Day Made of Glass from Corning. This was the second video in a series, and both give a quite utopian view of the world where technology is seamlessly interwoven with our lives.  The two kids in this video impishly used their tablets to shift the car interior to pink…and I could see my granddaughters doing the same thing.  A similar world of integrated technology unfolded in Productivity Future Vision.

In Sight and Charlie 13, we have a much darker view of the future, where technology is used to manipulate or track people against their will.  This theme shows up often in science fiction literature and media.  One wonders just how accurate the opening of each episode of Person of Interest is.  We may already live in a world where technology is used to track us – if Hollywood is to be believed.

These two world views were also evident in the readings.  In Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday, 14(4), an analysis of editorials about the internet showed that people tended to have either a utopian view of the web (transformative and revolutionary in a good way) or a dystopian view (destructive and supplanting humans in a negative way).  Annalee Newitz in an address noted the combination of hope and fear as themes in science fiction (and I thought I was an avid science fiction reader – I had not read half of what she had!).  I loved her comment about “You Can’t Stop the Signal!”  That could be good news or not so good news.  Bleecker, J. (2006) in A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things discussed the increasing degree to which objects are becoming connected to the internet and communicating with humans.  Again, one wonders if one can (or should) stop the signal.

Regarding education and these twin views of hope and fear, the course facilitators focused on the emerging phenomenon of MOOCs (massive open online courses).  They used a blog post from Clay Shirky to provide the utopian view.  In Shirky, C. (2012). Napster, Udacity and the academy. shirky.com, 12 November 2012, Clay suggests that the disruption that MP3s caused for the record industry might be a model of how MOOCs will disrupt higher education in a good way.  Countering this is Bady, A. (2012). Questioning Clay Shirky. Inside Higher Ed, 6 December 2012, in which Bady suggests that Shirky ignores the profit-driven business model driving the development of some MOOCs.

The week’s reading ended with an hour-long keynote address by Gardner Campbell on open education, which I embed below.  Gardner weaves a tale of many different open initiatives and continues to use the T.S. Elliot quote: “That is not it all all, that is not what I meant, at all.”

One image that stood out to me from his talk was how hospitals could be viewed as providing either a home or an institution, and how that view impacts interactions with patients.  I was drawing the same conclusion about online education.  In higher education, are we designing and delivering online education that is open, welcomes learning, and celebrates participation across a diverse group of learners, or are we building rigid institutions with strict rules of access and participation?

Sidebar – totally stoked that Gardner will be keynoting at our Online Summit later in May!

MOOCs are an interesting lens through which to view both utopian and dystopian views of higher education.  On the one hand, MOOCs were noted by the 2013 NMC Horizon Report as one of the top tech trends on the near-term horizon.  The Chronicle quoted Larry Johnson as follows:

Surprisingly, MOOCs have never before appeared in a “Horizon Report,” though the technology was mentioned last September as a far-term technology in a separate report from the consortium, said Larry Johnson, its chief executive officer. Nearly six months later, MOOCs have moved to the forefront of emerging higher-education technology, according to the report.

“It’s unprecedented,” Mr. Johnson said, noting that the closest parallel he can remember was the rise in interest in virtual worlds in 2006. “But even those didn’t catch on as fast as this is,” he added.

On the other hand, there was some recent piling on when a Coursera course on “Fundamentals of Online Education: Planning and Application,” crashed and burned – primarily due to a lack of planning and application.

For even more reading, check out the series of articles this month in MIT’s Technology Review.  The articles focus on the business side of online education, but also suggest interesting fodder for reflection about learning.

We are in the early days.  I hope that MOOCs are disruptive as Shirky suggests.  I also suspect that they will not be as disruptive as the dystopians warn.  As Gardner might suggest, I do not know that we know what we mean when we say “disruptive education.”  I don’t know…but like my little friend here, I say “Hell Yes!”

And…as Gardner ended his keynote with lines from Carl Sandberg’s poem “At a Window“, I hope we are at a window to watch “…and wait and know the coming of a little love” … a hopeful message rather than a dystopian one.

For those in #EDCMOOC, I would as always be interested in your views.  Agree?  Disagree?  Reframe the question differently?

{Image credits:  krupp, krupp}

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Re-Imagination of Everything

Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, recently presented at Stanford University on web trends.  Her presentation contains eighty-eight slides full of interesting and thought-provoking information.  Her message is that the evolving web forces us to re-imagine everything.  For those of us in faculty development, it is suggestive of changes that will impact our classrooms – however “classrooms” are defined in the coming years.

Several trends stand out to me:

  • USA adults who own tablets or eReaders has grown from 2% to 29% in three years
  • Mobile internet traffic has surpassed desktop internet traffic in India.  When will that happen in USA?
  • During the recent Black Friday shopping, one-quarter of shopping traffic was on mobile devices rather than desktops, up from only 6 percent two years ago.

This presentation focuses on business, but if the world is moving to “beautiful, relevant, personalized, curated content for consumers,” will not the same be expected in higher education for students?

Meeker has some interesting before and now visualizations in her “Re-Imagine” section.  I do not know that any by themselves are earth-shattering, but taken together, they certainly suggest a world that is evolving at an ever increasing pace, which raises questions on how we adapt.

As always, I would be interested in your views.  What stands out for you?

 

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What is the Future of Education?

I have no real idea … just some notions, but I am lucky enough to be attending a neat retreat focused on just this question.

I am attending a retreat hosted by the New Media Consortium, which publishes the Horizon Report annually.  With well over one million downloads and 27 translations in the past ten years, the NMC Horizon Report series annually charts the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, research, creative inquiry, and information management.  I was on the Board of Advisors for last year’s K-12 report, and found the experience rewarding and enriching.  Some forty of us from around the world examined a range of technologies and focused in on those we felt collectively would emerge in the next year, two to three years and five years down the road.

This year will be the tenth year for the Horizon Project, so Larry Johnson, CEO of the NMC, and Lev Gonick, VP and CIO at Case Western Reserve University and Board Chair Emeritus of the NMC, have invited one hundred of us from current and past boards of advisors to come together January 24-26, 2012 in Austin to reflect on what technology will mean to educational institutions in the next decade.  The are calling this retreat “The Future of Education.”

Their goal as stated at the above retreat website is to “…produce a 30-page-ish report that does two things:  One is to capture meta-learnings drawn from our research of ten years into the uptake of technology, which technologies seem to be “sticky” and persist, which are generative (in the sense of shaping perceptions that allow subsequent technologies to take traction) — and how to know one from the other. The second is to use those meta-learnings to frame a set of recommendations for strategic technology planning to inform the next decade of decision making across all sectors of education.”

One of those “sticky” persisitent uses of technology in education is the online education movement.  This past week, my colleagues and I at the VCU Center for Teaching Excellence launched our first totally online faculty development initiative for faculty who want to teach online.  Eighteen of our colleagues are in the first pilot of this online “course”…though course is not quite the right word.  We have crafted a learning environment and have 18 fellow faculty along for the ride.  They have done well this first week getting to know one another, researching the pedagogy behind online teaching, and in some cases, struggling with learning in an asynchronous environment.

But while I do believe “online” is a part of the future of education at both K-12 and higher education levels, I am not as sure about other aspects, such as terms like:

  • course
  • degree
  • discipline
  • professor
  • class
  • semester
  • …the list could go on

Bill Gates and Salman Khan certainly are interjecting some radical ideas about the future of education and the use of online learning…as are others.

So, while I am enjoying the launch of our online faculty development initiative – it follows established models of online course design.  I am looking forward to having my thinking pushed the next three days as we grapple with the future of education and the role technology might play in that future.

{Photo Credit: Mark Chapman, Steve Jervetson}

 

 

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The School of Me

nookbookI just finished reading my first ebook on my new NookColor: Nick Bilton‘s I Live in the Future and Here’s How It Works.  It was an interesting experience, done primarily on the Nook, but thanks to the B&N apps, I also could read it on my PC and on my Droid phone, which I did.  I will definitely be reading more books this way.

Bilton’s book continues themes surfaced by Shirky and others that I have discussed in this blog, but he had some interesting nuances.  One of the fascinating glimpses of the not-too-distant future in his book was that every chapter had a QR code under the chapter title.  Using my Droid, I could snap from the chapter code to supplemental websites that provided additional background information for the chapter as well as videos of Bilton discussing the chapter.  I could easily visualize the future textbooks having similar functionality,qr01 with our students actually using their smartphones for learning!

After reading a book, I like to go back and thumb through it.  Having it now on my PC makes this just as easy to do, and I found that areas I highlighted either on the Nook or on my Droid showed up highlighted on my PC … so the three screens were sync’ed.  Bilton talks about the three screens in Chapter 8, where he discusses the concept of 1:2:10.  You tend to hold your smartphone one foot from your eyes, look at a desktop or laptop screen two feet away, and watch your TV from about ten feet.  Bilton suggests that in the future, we will engage with content seamlessly across all three screens, though designing content to do so raises interesting challenges.  For instance, Bilton imagines a scenario where I could be watching this weekend’s Army-Navy game (GO NAVY!) on TV and have to leave at half-time for an engagement.  Under his scenario, my phone would know that I was leaving my TV and begin automatically providing updates on my phone until I got to my destination and fired up my laptop, where the information would shift over seamlessly to that screen.  I cannot automatically do this now…but Bilton suggests this will be the norm before too long.

In other words, my view of the Army-Navy game would be customized for me and delivered as an experience, not just content.  This individualization and customization theme permeated the book.

One of the most intriguing concepts in this book was in Chapter 6.  Bilton notes that when you take out your smartphone and click “locate me”, a map appears with you in the center.  Maps and charts (maps used at sea) have been part of my life for years.  Mercator came up with the projection used by most map makers over 400 years ago, but maps always were based on places and landmarks.  You would go into a store and buy a map of Richmond VA or Nebraska or the subway system.  You would never go in as Bilton suggests and ask, “Oh, excuse me, can I buy a map of me?”

Yet, when ever I use FourSquare on Facebook, that is precisely what appears, a map of me!

4sq

Bilton uses this image of being in the center as a metaphor for life today.  Rather than getting news from mainstream sources, we now use Twitter and Google Reader to customize our news experience.  For many of our students, their main source of news is the “news feed” from Facebook (an application correctly named from their perspective!).  We listen to our own collections of songs on our iPods or customized channels on Pandora rather than using CD’s or radios.  As Bilton describes it, digital will more and more mean “immediate” and “infinite” and “extremely personalized” in the digitally narcissistic world where the customer is always at the center of the map.

It should not be too great a leap to take this shift from content or subject base to personal base and visualize it in the classroom of the future.  Our students are growing up in a world where they are always at the center of the map…everywhere except in the classroom.  In listening to some of the frustrations expressed by my students, I hear of too many teachers continuing to try and keep this personalization out of teaching.  A doctoral student last week defended her dissertation (and did a nice job), but her study of eighteen high school teachers who had been in a 1:1 laptop initiative for EIGHT YEARS found that 15 of the 18 continued to teach as they always had with no demonstration that they had integrated technology into their teaching.  Sad but not surprising.  My students want to change as well, but express concerns that too many administrators and fellow teachers continue to view digital media as simply new ways to do the same old things.

Outside the classroom, our students are experiencing a rich world centered around themselves.  When they buy applications, they do not buy content, they buy experiences.  Driving around town, they can use their phone now to locate local shops or restaurants on the fly..or with Foursquare, locate their friends.  Some are now suggesting that the majority of our access to the internet will be via our smartphones, and when you couple access to information with yourself in the center of the map, all sorts of possibilities explode.

What if we took this concept to education?  What would a school of me look like?

If the student was at the center of the learning process, then instruction would be personalized based on that student’s prior knowledge and abilities.  Personal learning networks would be more the norm, and through networked learning, students would create their own knowledge base (and content).  Students could access not only facts off the internet, but connect to others with similar interests and passions about the learning topic they are studying.  I have used her before, but Wendy comes to mind when looking at a school of me.

One also gets a glimpse if one looks at the nominees for this year’s Edublog Awards. The nominees across the 23 categories are out on the cutting edge when it comes to using digital media for learning (and be sure to vote for this year’s winners).

What would it take to move schools towards a school of me?  Leadership.  Vision.  Risk.  Yet, could a “school of me” be an answer to the challenges facing education…particularly the challenges in which we seem to be falling behind much of the world.  The Asian dominance in this year’s PISA test scores suggests that continuing to educate as we have is a prescription for further failure.

Bilton’s final chapter says “they’re not coming back.” He is talking about traditional consumers, traditional media, and traditional brands.  Yet, while our students have evolved and continue to change, education has for the most part not changed.  How can you worry about going back if you never left?

What are your thoughts?  Can technology deliver a School of Me?  Is it the right direction to take?  I would be interested in your thoughts.

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Learning Swarms?

coverWired Magazine in the August issue has a cute article discussing the future that never happened.  When I was growing up, I watched the Jetsons and Johnny Quest every week, but the cold reality is that my flying car and jet packs just have not materialized.  But while that is true, the world has changed in ways George Jetson would never have imagined.

I was thinking about that as I read a new article from the Gartner ResearchTom Austin gives his predictions in “Gartner Says the World of Work Will Witness 10 Changes During the Next 10 Years”.  I am not saying that I disagree with Tom when I said I thought about the future never happening.  Tom is a group VP, Gartner Fellow, and research area lead for applications that augment how people work.  A smart guy who I think is on target.  My concern is with higher education.  I am worried that higher education will continue to assume the future looks like the past and will not readily adapt to these coming changes.

Given that I spent twelve years in community and technical colleges, it should not be surprising that I see a strong role for higher education in preparing our students for the world of work that Austin discusses.  One could argue that higher education has a mixed record when it comes to the efficacy with which it has performed that role in the past, but with the world changing so radically, it is becoming more of an imperative.

In the article, Austin notes the following changes that are coming:

1. De-routinization of Work
Every job can be described in terms of skills required. Austin suggests that routine skills will be automated, and increasingly, jobs will be marked by the non-routine; areas like “discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning.”

2. Work Swarms
Austin labels a new form of teaming “swarming”, which form swiftly to meet a specific need, often with individuals outside the organization. David Weinberger might label this crowdsourcing.

3. Weak Links
With swarms, the strong ties of typical networks give way to looser ties.  I tend to visualize the nearly 500 people I follow on Twitter that way.  I would not be following them if there was not some connection to me and my work, yet I could not say those are strong links.

4. Working With the Collective
Austin calls the informal organizations that exist outside direct control of an enterprise, but groups that can impact the success or failure of that enterprise, “the collective.”  Increasingly, businesses will have to tap in to the chatter in Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to ferret out business intelligence. An example of that occurred to me this past weekend, when Sears replaced my home air conditioner.  The work did not complete on time, requiring an unexpected motel stay.  When I tweeted my frustration to no one in particular, I was contacted by Sears social media group, who are now negotiating some compensation for my troubles.  Good on Sears for doing that…it is an example of a business tapping in to the collective.

5. Work Sketch-Ups
If work is becoming more non-routine and crowdsourced, then detailed plans will be a luxury.  Many plans will be done using informal sketch-ups and fly-by-the-seat-of-ones-pants.  Messy but agile, which will probably be the competitive mark of the future.

6. Spontaneous Work
Spontaneous does not mean reactive, rather it is a proactive attempt to identify new opportunities. Sounds like the work we do in our Center for Teaching Excellence!

7. Simulation and Experimentation
Austin suggests that the film Minority Report will illustrate the future of work, where individuals will seamlessly shift through a hyperlinked world to examine the analytics and look for new patterns.

8. Pattern Sensitivity
Spotting and adapting to new patterns will become increasingly important, because much that happens in the world can no longer be predicted by a linear model.

9. Hyperconnected
Hyperconnectedness not only applies to the ubiquitous nature of the web and its impact, but also to the multiple connections businesses will have with both formal and informal groups of people.  Relationships will therefore increase in importance.

10. My Place
People will still have a “place” that they think of in conjunction with work, but that place may or may not be affiliated with a formal organization.  The nine-to-five job will fade in favor of the 24/7 virtual worker.

So what do these ten changes suggest for higher education?  Some degree program seem to look to the past to predict the future.  Austin would suggest that is foolish.  Having said that, let me be quick to note that not all institutions of higher education think this way.  I love the  Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver advertisement campaign that ran last year, which they called The Top Ten Jobs of 2015 Don’t Exist Today.  They get it.  If one agrees that higher education should prepare students for the future, then we need to prepare students for jobs that do not currently exist.  Memorizing facts alone will not help these students…but learning how to learn and how to think critically will.

swarm2I like the concept of work swarms.  I can see a parallel with the Massive Open Online Course that George Siemens and Stephen Downes conducted last fall. With 12,000 learners in a single course, George and Stephen could not “teach” in the classic sense.  Instead, they facilitated and developed an environment in which the learners could take ownership of their own learning.  In the near future, I can see faculty members listing the facilitation of learning swarms on their CVs.

This fall, I will be having my grad students blog rather than use the safe discussion board inside the walled garden of Blackboard.  I have always enjoyed facilitating discussions in online classes and have done so for a dozen years.  But I increasingly feel that I am not preparing my students for life in the hyperconnected world…and if I do not prepare my students (who are all K-12 teachers), will they be equipped to prepare the next generation that is rising through our school system.  If my personal learning network is any indication, there is power in the swarm.  Our students need to experience that power.

I do not have the answers, but I feel that I have to start adapting and reaching out to others who are adapting, so that we can prepare our students.  What is your take?  Is your school system or college or university on top of these changes, beginning to react, or not even aware they are coming?  I would be interested in your views.

{Photo Credit: Wired Magazine, Chris Rudge}

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