Inevitable Thresholds

Adam Barger wrote a post this week in the Educause Review blog entitled, “Educational Technology Leadership and Practice in Higher Education: The Emergence of Threshold Concepts.”  “Threshold” is an interesting term that grabs your attention!  Merriam-Webster defines “threshold” as (a) the plank that lies under a door, (b) the place or point of an ending or a beginning, or (c) the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced…a point or value where things become “true.”

In this post, Adam used Meyer and Land’s definition of threshold concepts “…as ideas or ways of thinking that transform the internal view of a subject.”  He noted three such threshold concepts for educational technology:

  1. Higher education is no longer about access to information; rather, it is about access to experiences.
  2. Use of educational technology in most higher education settings is standard practice rather than the exception.
  3. Educational technology both follows and fuels effective pedagogy.

I would agree that these are indeed points that have become true.  It is an easy leap to align them with Kevin Kelly’s 2015 book, The Inevitable, which noted twelve technological  forces (or verbs) that are inevitable for the future:

  1. Becoming: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions
  2. Cognifying: Making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud
  3. Flowing: Depending on unstoppable streams in real-time for everything
  4. Screening: Turning all surfaces into screens
  5. Accessing: Shifting society from one where we own assets, to one where instead we will have access to services at all times.
  6. Sharing: Collaboration at mass-scale. Kelly writes, “On my imaginary Sharing Meter Index we are still at 2 out of 10.”
  7. Filtering: Harnessing intense personalization in order to anticipate our desires
  8. Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombine in all possible ways
  9. Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximize their engagement
  10. Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
  11. Questioning: Promoting good questions are far more valuable than good answers
  12. Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix

Adam noted that higher education is no longer about access to information, but rather it is about access to experiences.  Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl and I made that point in our 2009 White Paper, “Building from Content to Community: [Re]Thinking the Transition to Online Teaching and Learning.”  Kelly’s verbs of accessing, flowing, filtering, interacting, and questioning all weave into this threshold concept as well.

Edtech has definitely become a standard practice globally.  This is evident in our Twitter discussions at #EDU6323 and #EDU6333 where Masters students in Northeastern’s program share their realities and hopes concerning edtech.  In this standard practice, one can see Kelly’s verbs of becoming, cognifying, screening, sharing and remixing.  I like Adam’s note that:

“In essence, the saturation of technology use in higher education allows for more individualized approaches to educating all students.”

Adam’s final threshold places pedagogy before technology…and suggests that experimentation and play are worthy endeavors for education.  I agree, and have certainly attempted to embed a certain degree of playfulness in all my courses. Cognifying, filtering, and questioning all have pedagogical applications.

I have also attempted to embed a certain degree of optimism in my teaching as well.  I like Elsie’s image of “Threshold” at the top of this post…as it suggests moving from the darkness into the light.  That is a threshold worth crossing!

{Graphics: Elsie Godwin, Viking Press}

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?

 

Faculty Development of the Future

Yesterday, I noted that I was beginning to dive into the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looked at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals.  Based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, the report noted ten trends, the first of which is the organization of the future.

The chapter in the Deloitte report on “The Organization of the Future: Arriving Now” was authored by Josh Bersin, Tiffany McDowell, Amir Rahnema, and Yves van Durme…a global team which in itself models what follows.  The report noted that organizational design was top of the trend list because high-performing companies today operate radically different than they did 10 years ago (which is when I first moved in to faculty development).  I would suggest that – as in business – the trend in faculty development is to move faster, adapt quicker, and facilitate rapid learning.  This may suggest a different organizational structure for centers for teaching and learning (CTLs).

Organizations …including CTLs… were designed in the past for efficiency and effectiveness, which led to a typically hierarchical structure.  Yet, as Harold Jarche has noted often, networks are the new companies…and in today’s environment, networks can be both on site and digital.  The Deloitte report suggested that high-performing organizations are shifting from hierarchies to team-based (and project-based) nodes.

networks of teams

In the past decade, we have seen CTLs grow nationally.  Two years ago, I looked at the trends across 42 public and state institutions.  There was no one pattern to center design.  Nationally, there were 8 megacenters that covered both teaching/learning and edtech, 28 centers that focused just on teaching and learning, and 15 centers that focused just on edtech/online.  Seven institutions had no centers of any kind.  Center staffing ranged from one part-time member to 90+. The average CTL had a staff of 5.7, the average edtech center had a staff of 25.9, and the average megacenter had a staff of 30.3.  Those that split the duties tended to staff the edtech side better, and there generally was duplication of services when centers were split.

Whether staffed with 6 people or 60, it would seem that the CTL of the future would involve teams that would form, deliver and disband…potentially using faculty in temporary CTL roles (such as Northeastern’s CATLR Faculty Scholars program).  The Deloitte report suggested an intriguing concept (at least intriguing when it comes to faculty development) of using organizational network analysis (ONA) software to study who is talking to who, allowing an organization to tap into existing networks.  The report also suggested that the leaders of these networked teams would need skills in negotiation, resilience, and systems thinking.  The past skills that allowed leaders to rise to the top might be the wrong skills for agile networked teams!  These new networked teams would not necessarily be co-located, and would use a variety of social collaboration tools such as Slack, Trello, Facebook’s Workplace and/or Google Team Drives.

Building off this chapter’s “rewriting the rules” …the title of the report… the following emerges:

Old Rules New Rules
Organized for efficiency and effectiveness
Organized for learning, innovation, and faculty impact
CTL viewed as hierarchy, with chain of command decision process
CTL viewed as agile network, empowered by team leaders and fueled by
collaboration and knowledge-sharing
Structure based on academic functions
Structure based on work and projects
Advancement based on longevity
Advancement based on accomplishments through multiple assignments
People become leaders through promotion
People create followers to grow in influence
Culture ruled by fear of failure
Culture of safety, risk-taking, and learning through innovation
Rules-based
Playbook-based
Roles and job titles clearly defined
Teams and responsibilities clearly defined, but roles and job titles change frequently
Process-based
Project-based
Lead by direction
Lead by orchestration

.

Would higher education embrace such a model?  It is difficult to say.  In some respects, higher education continues to look forward by looking in the rear-view mirror.  Yet, there are calls for change…and CTLs have been innovators in the past.  Quickly evolving times call for new approaches.

I would be interested in your thoughts?  Is this realistic or a pipe-dream?

{Graphics: Deloitte Press}

 

 

The Metaphor of Sloths

 

Thinking Outside Box

Back in 2014, one of my colleagues, Enoch Hale, posted the following blogging challenge:

“I want to pose an open challenge: Post an out-of-the-box question about teaching and learning each day for 30 days.

What followed was an amazing six weeks (we decided to do 30 work days) of out-of-the-box brainstorming.  Our collective questions were captured here.

Yet, while it was fun and intellectually stimulating, did it change me?  Maybe…it certainly flavored my teaching.

I thought of this thought-exercise as I was reading Joe Brewer’s Medium post “The Look and Feel of 21st Century Science.”

Brewer noted that humanity is going through unprecedented global change.  And while some processes adapt to change very quickly (our use of smartphones for instance), other things move more slowly.  He noted historical sloths such as academic disciplines at universities and libraries.

His point about libraries reminded me of Dave Weinberger’s earlier book, Everything is Miscellaneous.  Weinberger noted that in a digital age, there is no one way to classify information.  Rather than trying to put books in one place (like the Dewey Decimal System does), he suggested that information can live in multiple places.  This premise of information and knowledge living in multiple nodes and the concept of networked knowledge was expanded in his book Too Big To Know, which is the textbook for my ILD-831 classJoe BrewerBrewer noted that “…libraries are “going digital” and building up a network ecology framework for organizing the knowledge of societies.”

Brewer suggested that science is currently in crisis alongside the political and economic systems of the world.  He points out:

“So we must envision a look and feel for science in the future that is networked, agile and ever-evolving, relevant to the pressing issues of the day, and deeply, DEEPLY ecologically human.”

Brewer suggested that part of the problem lies in our adoption of systems thinking…the “illusion of separation between machines and living things.”  He pointed to the need to adopt instead ecological networks.

“…The look and feel of 21st Century science will be human through and through. There will be holism and integration; emotion and reason recombined in resonance with findings from the cognitive and behavioral sciences. And it will be ecological; embedded in human networks which are themselves embedded within physical and social geographies.”

Weinberger in Too Big To Know captured some of that library thinking when he concluded:

“…We thought that knowledge was scarce, when in fact it was just that our shelves were small.  Our new knowledge is not even a set of works.  It is an infrastructure of connection…”

Coming back to our 30-Day Challenge, Enoch had us questioning our teaching in ways that surfaced holism and integration…that surfaced integration of human and technology.  I have tried to bring aspects of that thinking into my current courses – Creighton University’s ILD-831 – Technology and Leadership – and Northeastern University’s EDU-6323 – Technology as a Medium for Learning.  In both classes, I struggle to move past the sloths of old…of hierarchical thinking in leadership…of classrooms based on scarcity of knowledge.  Yet, I am encouraged and even buoyed by ideas surfacing from my students in our blog aggregation for ILD-831 and our Twitter hashtag discussions in #edu6323.  The first stirrings of ecological networks appear to be developing!

I would be interested in your thoughts.  How do we move the sloths of academia and leadership in our digital age?

{Graphics: Bud Deihl, Brewer}

A Philosophy of Faculty Development

In my Theory of eLearning class last night, the subject of working with clients came up.  This class is for the Educational Technology track for a Masters in Education in Adult Learning.  This program is designed for individuals who

“…want to gain in-depth knowledge and understanding of adult learning theory and practice, specifically in the fields of Human Resource Development and Adult Literacy, and through exploring technology in learning in today’s digital environment. Our graduates and current students work in business and industry, healthcare, government, non-profit, higher education, and community and human service agencies.”

NMC_HzSo, a program that attracts a diverse group of students … and my class is no different.  Last night, we explored emerging trends in technology for learning, using the 2014 NMC Horizon Report as a launch point.  As one might suspect, this track attracts students who are comfortable with digital technology.  During the class session, laptops, tablets, and smartphones were in constant use.  One student texted a resource to another student with his phone as we discussed it…and no one batted an eye.  So while we discussed the cost/benefit of staying with older technologies versus shifting to the new thing that is out … and facilitating those discussions with clients … their questions had less to do with their own ability to stay current and explore technologies as it did with working with clients who might not share their passion for digital technology.

Using Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation, we discussed backwards translation of their early adoption terminology and practice to the early and late majority clients with whom they might be working.  We also began to discuss general philosophies of instructional designer relationships with clients.

DiffusionOfInnovation

This brought back to my mind an earlier conversation I had with Enoch Hale.  Enoch noted that he had a Philosophy of Teaching, and that he intended to work on a Philosophy of Faculty Development.  It struck me as a great idea … and one I had never personally articulated.

My Philosophy of Teaching notes that teaching occurs in a distributed networked environment.  Per my beliefs regarding teaching and learning, I see my role as:

  • Promoting positive learning, modeling what I teach and learn;
  • Sparking learner enthusiasm for learning and peer-teaching;
  • And providing a strong foundation for lifelong reflective practice.

My role in faculty development is similar, but nuanced due to the collegial nature of the relationship one has (or should have) with fellow colleagues.  In my role as faculty developer, I hope to both inspire and empower faculty.  To do this, I like how Dakin Burdick framed his philosophy around three goals, and I will adopt them for my philosophical statement.

Digital StudentsFirst, our work in faculty development is a means to an end, and that end should impact student learning.  There is little empirical evidence that can directly correlate faculty development with improvements in student learning, and yet, that goal should be at the heart of what we do.  My first priority is to effectively coach the fellow faculty with whom I work to experiment with new practice informed by what we know about how people learn, evolving theories of learning in distributed networks, and the selection of digital tools that lead to active and authentic learning.  I also wish to partner with them to observe the impact and learn from it.

Happy ClientSecond, what we do should enhance faculty satisfaction.  For me, faculty development is all about the relationships I build with my colleagues.  Jeffrey Nugent suggested a mindset with the term “Consultant for Life” that really resonated with me.  Tom Peters noted once that in any organization, we are “all in sales” … but as faculty developers, I believe that we are all in the Human Capital business.  In working with colleagues, I have my passions … but it is equally important to understand the passions of my colleagues … and look for ways to align the two.  I need to see linkages between the digital affordances of the web and the learning goals of each discipline.  By building relationships, I am also able to bring an interdisciplinary lens to these discussions.  If I can help raise the faculty comfort level with digital processes, while keeping true to their disciplinary passions, I will facilitate faculty satisfaction … and perhaps spark some creative juices!

Social ReputationThird, our work should enhance the reputation of our institution.  In a networked world, we have an amazing opportunity to share our celebrations and share our missteps … learning from each other.  The web has evolved in the past decade to be one that is participatory – what danah boyd in It’s Complicated calls “networked publics.”  Through blogs, through Twitter, through LinkedIn … name your social media … we have an obligation to share … and to build community with our faculty colleagues.  My LinkedIn network map below shows five separate nodes … and I have an opportunity to add to our reputation by interacting across each of these nodes… and to enhance my institution’s reputation by learning from my network.  It is a two-way street!

LinkedIn network map

So, inspire, empower, impact student learning, enhance faculty satisfaction, and enhance institutional reputation.  Am I off base?  How would you add to or modify this for your role in faculty development?  If you have published your philosophy, link to it in the comments.  In this remix world of ours, I am looking for additional models from which to draw inspiration and learn.

{Graphic:  NMC, Natebailey, Louisa Goulimaki, BusinessOfDesign, ColumbiaTeachingCenter, LinkedIn Labs}

 

 

Online Learning Summit 2014

Online Summit graphicOver the next two days (thanks to a lot of hard work by Joyce Kincannon), VCU will host its third Online Learning Summit.  The Online Learning Summit invites participation from colleges and universities across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and at last count, we expect about two hundred to participate.  The Summit theme of “Connections and Community: From Course to Commonwealth” reflects the need to engage in critical conversations within Virginia (and elsewhere), and to debate the role of online learning and the future of higher education. This summit provides a timely opportunity to consider and share important ideas about teaching and learning online, as well as issues related to program development, strategic planning and institutional and state policy.

Alec Couros will be our keynoter.  He is conducting a workshop tomorrow morning and then delivering his keynote Wednesday morning.  We are looking forward to hearing his perspective the next two days!

Tomorrow, among other activities, I will be one of three panelists delivering short 10-minute presentations before our combined Q&A session.  My portion is “Discourse in the Open”.

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Looking forward to reconnecting face-to-face with good colleagues from around the state and hearing about experiments in learning that are occurring both on this campus and around the state!

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Evangelizing Teaching

As we approach the end of Spring semester in GRAD-602, our students are beginning to submit their reflections on the book they read for the course.  They had a choice of five books:

books

It is interesting to see these books through the reflections of upcoming PhD’s and post-docs.  They are just starting the transition from expert student to novice teacher…and the future is both exciting and uncertain.  They have been grappling with their own identity as a teacher through our course.

Our identity as teachers continues to surface in my thoughts…given the interesting times in which we live.  In the last month, as Enoch Hale and I explored his 30-Day Challenge, we surfaced some radical ideas about teaching and learning.  In many ways, we aligned with what Tony Bates noted:

“Teaching in higher education is about to go through as major a revolution as one can imagine.”

Here on the fourth floor of the Academic Learning Commons at VCU, we spend a lot of time discussing both the evolutionary and the revolutionary changes for teaching and learning in higher education.  Our evolutionary ideas probably might make some faculty uncomfortable…and our revolutionary ideas might cause sweat to break out.  At the end of the day, though, I come back to the foundation – what does it mean to “teach”?

Jen Ross, Christine Sinclair, Jeremy Knox, Sian Bayne and Hamish Macleod – my professors in the Coursera MOOC E-Learning and Digital Cultures – explored this question in an article this month in the MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching: “Teacher Experiences and Academic Identity: The Missing Components of MOOC Pedagogy.”  They note that the literature on open courses has focused so far on students or the technology, but has been silent on the “matter of the teacher.”  They note that teacher identity is influenced by discipline, the institution and personal contexts:

“…The lecturer will both feel and project a teaching identity through negotiation of disciplinary, institutional, theoretical, professional, and personal stances. Diminishing or mischaracterizing the teacher role could result in a lack of appropriate attention to the ways in which complex negotiations of people, space, objects, and discourse constitute any educational setting, including MOOCs.”

In other words, it is complex!

Focusing on teaching has been central to what I think we have done for the past 7 years at the Center for Teaching Excellence…but I am not sure we have ever “evangelized” teaching.  I started considering that this morning when I read “The Art of Evangelism” by Guy Kawasaki.  Guy noted that years ago at Apple, his job title was “software evangelist,” and then went on to discuss his involvement with a new design company called Canva (which does look pretty cool by the way!).  What I found interesting, however, was his explanation of how to evangelize a product, which I quote in part below:

  1. Make it great. It’s very hard to evangelize crap. It’s much easier to evangelize great stuff. …Great stuff embodies five qualities:
    • Deep.
    • Intelligent.
    • Complete.
    • Empowering.
    • Elegant.
  2. Position it as a “cause.” A product or service, no matter how great, is a collection of parts or snippets of code. A “cause,” by contrast, changes lives.
  3. Love the cause. “Evangelist” isn’t a job title. It’s a way of life.
  4. Localize the pitch. Don’t describe your product using lofty, flowery terms …People don’t buy “revolutions.” They buy “aspirins” to fix the pain or “vitamins” to supplement their lives, so localize the pitch and keep it simple.
  5. Look for agnostics, ignore atheists. It is very hard to convert someone to a new religion when he worships another god. The hardest person to convert to Macintosh was someone who worshipped MS-DOS. The easiest person was someone who never used a personal computer before. If a person doesn’t “get” your product or service after fifteen minutes, cut your losses and move on.
  6. Let people test drive the cause. Evangelists believe that their potential customers are smart. Therefore, they don’t bludgeon them with ads and promotions. Instead they provide ways for people to “test drive” their products and then decide for themselves. Evangelists believe that their products are good—so good that they’re not afraid of enabling people to try before they buy.
  7. Learn to give a demo. “Evangelist who cannot give a great demo” is an oxymoron.
  8. Provide a safe, easy first step. The path to adopting a cause should have a slippery slope, so remove all the barriers.
  9. Ignore titles and pedigrees. Elitism is the enemy of evangelism. If you want to succeed as an evangelist, ignore people’s titles and pedigrees, accept people as they are, and treat everyone with respect and kindness.
  10. Never lie. Lying is morally and ethically wrong. It also takes more energy because when you lie, it’s necessary to keep track of what you said. If you always tell the truth, then there’s nothing to keep track of.
  11. Remember your friends. Be nice to people on the way up because you’ll see them again on the way down.

Guy explained the difference between an evangelist and a salesperson:

“A salesperson has his or her own best interests at heart: commission, making quota, closing the deal. An evangelist has the other person’s best interests at heart: “Try this because it will help you.””

As I reflect on our graduate students and the world of teaching into which they soon will go…I hope that part of their identity involves evangelism.  I hope that they create great teaching and learning opportunities.  I hope that they see their teaching as “a cause”…and love that cause.  I hope that they remember that they are in the business of changing lives, not delivering content.

I hope they teach “Try this because it will help you…”

Peanuts Evangelist

Thoughts?

{Graphic – Charles Schulz}

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30-Day Challenge – Day 30 – The Questions I Did Not Ask

Back on March 5th, my colleague Enoch Hale posted a challenge on his blog:

“I want to pose an open challenge: Post an out-of-the-box question about teaching and learning each day for 30 days.”

3 month statsI took him up on his challenge…though I suggested “thirty work days”…to which he agreed.  Over the past six weeks, we have each posted 58 questions – 29 each.  In the process, we have both improved in our blogging.  The biggest “challenge” in a 30-Day Challenge is blogging consistently each work day.  It stretched me time wise and intellectually…but it also was a lot of fun.  Enoch and I fed off of each other.  And…not surprisingly, when one blogs daily, one’s readership increases.  I topped a hundred page views for Day 20 (The New Nomads) and Day 25 (The Training Wheel Question).

Enoch noted on his first day that questions can drive thinking forward.  Answers stop thinking, but questions keep thinking moving.  Over the past six weeks, I have paid more attention to questions being asked.  I have started following Warren Berger, author of A More Beautiful Question.  Maryellen Weimer blogged last month about “The Art of Asking Question,” suggesting that if we want students to ask thoughtful questions, we have to model that ourselves.

Tony Bates in his studyTony Bates out of Canada has been asking thoughtful questions for 45 years about distance and online learning.  His post yesterday took me by surprise – “Time to retire from online learning?

First, Tony turned 75 this week (congratulations!). He has decided he has reached the point in his life to stop nearly all professional activities.  At 75, he feels he has reached the right to stop (…which could mean I now have 11 years to continue, since I will soon turn 64…).  He wants to stop when he is still at his best.  He has not taught a full course in ten years, and:

“Given the pace of change, it is dangerous for a consultant to become adrift from the reality of teaching and management. It’s time to hang up my boots before I get really hurt (or more importantly, really hurt others).”

Tony then expressed some concerns about the future of higher education and teaching.  Four quotes hit me…and the emphasis below is mine:

“…It’s a full-time job just to keep abreast of new developments in online and distance learning, and this constant change is not going to go away. It’s tempting to say that it’s only the technology that changes; the important things – teaching and learning – don’t change much, but I don’t believe that to be true, either. Teaching in higher education is about to go through as major a revolution as one can imagine. This is not going to be easy; indeed it could get brutal…

…this is a field that needs full-time, professional application, and very hard work, and I just don’t have the energy any more to work at that level. To put it simply, this is not a profession where you can be half in and half out. Dabbling in online learning is very dangerous (politicians please note)…

…And then there’s MOOCs. I can’t express adequately just how pissed off I am about MOOCs – not the concept, but all the hubris and nonsense that’s been talked and written about them. At a personal level, it was as if 45 years of work was for nothing. All the research and study I and many others had done on what makes for successful learning online were totally ignored, with truly disastrous consequences in terms of effective learning for the vast majority of participants who took MOOCs from the Ivy League universities. Having ignored online learning for nearly 20 years, Stanford, MIT and Harvard had to re-invent online learning in their own image to maintain their perceived superiority in all things higher educational. And the media fell for it, hook, line and sinker. This is a battle I no longer want to fight – but it needs fighting…

…Lastly, I am concerned that the computer scientists seem to be taking over online education. Ivy League MOOCs are being driven mainly by computer scientists, not educators. Politicians are looking to computer science to automate learning in order to save money. Computer scientists have much to offer, but they need more humility and a greater willingness to work with other professionals, such as psychologists and teachers, who understand better how learning operates. This is a battle that has always existed in educational technology, but it’s one I fear the educators are losing…”

I need to reflect on Tony’s post much more, but his very personal reflection lays the groundwork for many more thoughtful questions.  It brought to my mind my final question for THIS 30-day Challenge:

Day 30 – What are the questions I did not ask but should have?

There are obviously many more than thirty good questions left to ask…so while this challenge has ended, the challenge for higher education is only getting more intense.  If more educators joined the open questioning within the blogosphere. maybe we can win some battles.  As Tony noted, this is not a field you can be half in and half out.

Thoughts?

{Graphics: Bates}

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30-Day Challenge – Day 27 – Future Proofing

A decade ago, Ernst and Young led a strategic visioning retreat for the technical college where I worked.  Over three days, a mix of college leadership and faculty met in a big room high above the Atlanta scene, looking out over both the city and Stone Mountain in the distance.  The room was reconfigured each day with moveable white board walls and comfortable furniture.  Toys and books lay scattered around the floor.  We spent time drawing our visions on the walls and then looking for common themes.

markers.
It was one of the best strategic experience in which I have ever participated…and so when I see something from Ernst and Young, I pay attention.

Their Australian branch has a study out on “The University of the Future.”  While focused on Australian universities – the study interviewed 40 Australian leaders from public and private universities as well as policy makers – I believe that the lessons are applicable to higher education worldwide.  It noted that higher education is a “…thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change.”

In the report, they state that change will be driven by five trends:

  • Democratization of knowledge and access
  • Contestability of markets and funding
  • Digital technologies
  • Global mobility
  • Integration with industry

Any of us in higher education could probably agree that these trends are not coming…they are already here.  From the perspective of E&Y, universities will need to adapt, creating leaner business models and concentrating resources on a smaller range of programs.  They see universities transforming into three broad lines of evolution:

  • Streamlined Status Quo – broad-based public teaching and research institutions
  • Niche Dominators – tailored education, research and service for specific customer segments
  • Transformers – private providers for new markets

Ernst and Young laid out a framework for assessing and designing a “university future model.”

Ernst and Young modelI was struck by the strategic questions – “Is our current model future proof?  Where should we play?  How should we play?

The model explores higher education as a whole, but it opens up for me questions about each course and each faculty member…and their own approach to teaching.  Teaching today should not be about a steamlined status quo.  To be future-proof, I would suggest that we lean more towards the concepts behind the niche dominators or transformers.  My 30-Day Challenge question for today:

Day 26 – How do I make my course future proof?

By future proof, I mean that I have made my course a space for connections and learning…not a three-credit credential.  My course would be relevant (a moving target) and grow in students the digital skills they will need to be competitive in their future…no matter the field or place.  My course would integrate ideas developed globally…and help students find their voice in a global world.  I do not want my students to “pass”…I want them to be so distinctive that they stand out.  My course should be an opportunity for students to brand themselves.   My students should embody what  Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead stated:

You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”

To me, this suggests playing in the open…using the affordances of the digital web.  While my course might have a start date and a date in which grades are submitted, students would be welcome to stay, continue playing, and play with those that come after them.  The course would be in perpetual beta as I and my students continually updated it to keep it relevant.

Maybe it is….

Drw the Future

{Graphics: CORC, Ernst and Young, Watwood, Gogia}

 

 

 

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30-Day Challenge – Day 25 – The Training Wheel Question

My colleague Jon Becker in our Office of Online Academic Programs here at VCU posted an interesting Twitter conversation in his blog post today.  He noted that it started with a live tweet by Jesse Stommel of Jim Groom’s presentation at #et4online. Derek Bruff responded with what he tagged an honest question, and Jon responded as shown below:

Twitter-jonbecker_@derekbruff@Jessifer@jimgroom

Jon went on to quote Steve Jobs that computers were like bicycles for the mind, and that as such, they allowed us the ability to soar.  Jon’s point was:

If computers are like bicycles for our mind (and I believe they are!), the Learning Management System (LMS) is perfectly analogous to the training wheels.  Riding a bicycle with training wheels on is relatively safe and it can get you from point A to point B, albeit slowly. But, one hasn’t *really* learned to ride a bike until the training wheels come off. Taking the training wheels off liberates the operator of the bike and affords her the freedom to really move and soar and do amazing tricks. Taking the training wheels off of the open web liberates the learning and affords the teachers and the learners to really move and soar and do amazing things.

In many ways, Jon’s point is similar to Lisa Lane’s point three days ago that classes within an LMS isolate students.  To mash up her tweet:

Lisa Lane tweet.
Both Jon and Lisa (and Jim Groom) are totally correct.  But my mind returns to Derek’s point…and questions of policy during a period of disruptive transition.  Very few faculty (at least at my institution) have the digital literacy to drop an LMS cold turkey and move to their own domain.  Our twelve schools and colleges, our IT personnel and  our HelpDesk are not staffed to support faculty in the absence of an LMS.

training wheelsSo weaving a path between Jon/Jim/Lisa’s ideal and the pragmatic realities of a faculty wedded to a decade of LMS use, how do we begin a campus wide conversation and develop a timeline to achieve this excellent goal?  To my mind, the training wheels will not come off until we have faculty buy-in and a clear timeline for transitioning, with a safety net for current faculty as they transition to the open web.  It is not a pipedream to visualize a more open (and amazing) educational landscape.  In GRAD-602, we already suggest that future faculty will teach and learn in an open web, making full use of the affordances of the web (and we model what we suggest with our fully open class website).  But we also suggest to these future faculty that they should approach digital opportunities in a mindful way.  LMS systems solve some problems (FERPA, grades) while creating others (stifled creativity).  Before we dump one, we should solve the problems it has already solved…and do it at scale, so that thousands of faculty are not left scrambling at a time they are already loaded down with research, teaching and service commitments.

Derek’s honest question inspired my 30-Day Challenge question for today:

Day 25 – How do we in faculty development support the digital presence of 3,000 faculty without something like an LMS?

Honest question, indeed.  Be interested in how your campuses are tackling this issue?

{Graphics: Becker, Lane, Motorbike}

 

 

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