30 Day Challenge – Day 11 – Relevancy

NMC Horizon ReportThe NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition for 2014 lists six challenges which the review panel believes are very likely to impede technology adoption over the next five years.  These challenges are sorted into three categories defined by the nature of the challenge — solvable challenges are those that we both understand and know how to solve, but seemingly lack the will; difficult challenges are ones that are more or less well-understood but for which solutions remain elusive; and wicked challenges, the most difficult, are complex to even define, and thus require additional data and insights before solutions will even be possible.

These challenges will impact policy, leadership and practice…and it is the area of practice that I find most interesting.  The report raises an interesting point:

“Each of the six challenges identified by the expert panel presents numerous impediments for advancing teaching and learning, but perhaps the most wicked challenge related to these practices is keeping education relevant. Employers have reported disappointment in the lack of real world readiness they observe in recent graduates who are prospective or current employees. With both technology and the value of skills rapidly evolving, it is difficult for institutions to stay ahead of workforce needs.”

The challenges listed for this year:

Solvable Challenges

  • Low Digital Fluency of Faculty
    • “…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.”
  • Relative Lack of Rewards for Teaching
    • “…There is an overarching sense in the academic world that research credentials are a more valuable asset than talent and skill as an instructor. Because of this way of thinking, efforts to implement effective pedagogies are lacking.”

Difficult Challenges

  • Competition from New Models of 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.”
  • Scaling Teaching Innovations
    • “…Current organizational promotion structures rarely reward innovation and improvements in teaching and learning. A pervasive aversion to change limits the diffusion of new ideas, and too often discourages experimentation.”

Wicked Challenges

  • Expanding Access
    • “…expanding access means extending it to students who may not have the academic background to be successful without additional support.”
  • Keeping Education Relevant
    • “…As online learning and free educational content become more pervasive, 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.”

Relevance has lots of layers, like an onion.  Relevance of discipline, relevance of skills, relevance of path.

work4relevanceClay Shirky in “The End of Higher Education’s Golden Age,” focused on the unsustainable fiscal model of higher education, stating:

“…The number of high-school graduates underserved or unserved by higher education today dwarfs the number of people for whom that system works well. The reason to bet on the spread of large-scale low-cost education isn’t the increased supply of new technologies. It’s the massive demand for education, which our existing institutions are increasingly unable to handle. That demand will go somewhere.”

It seems that there are connections across these challenges.  Increasing digital literacy of faculty could help address challenges of access, scale, and relevancy.  My question for the 30-day challenge for today is:

Day 11 – In a digitally mediated and data-driven world, what practices will leverage what faculty do best – “…facilitating inquiry, guiding learners to resources, and imparting wisdom that comes with experience in the field” (to quote from the Horizon Report) while taking advantage of the affordances of the web to add value to the higher education student experience?

Figuring this question out could help address our relevancy.  Doing nothing would be wicked indeed.


{Graphics: NMC, Steve Heath}

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