When I first started my phd, I wanted to research the future of higher education – what is changing in the world that will impact education. I spent a fair bit of looking at university models around the world, change pressures they were facing, and the (potentially significant) peripheral trends that had the potential to drive systemic change. It’s a rich area of inquiry and one that I somewhat regret shifting away from.
I’m concerned about the narrowness of thought in higher education reform today. The southern California ideology of “software is the answer” is now being applied to education. Startups, personal control, freedom, and openness, in the wrapper of entrepreneurship and the pursuit of venture capital funding, now defines much of the higher education conversation. I’m not yet fully convinced that this trend is significant. I am, however, very confident that the integrative systems being created now by Pearson Ed, McGraw Hill (new motto: earn AA+ grades with us!), and Blackboard are significant.
Articles like Get out while you can are myopic. Proclamations by folks like Gross and Thiel misrepresent the complex systemic nature of higher education. If you have one solution to the problem of education, you have missed the true nature of the problem. Many, many stakeholders have a vested interest in what goes on with our universities. Doing a better job of giving learners control and better tools for creating and accessing content is not enough. Most of reform suggestions are at best additive to the current model. None that I’ve seen have the prospect of replacing it. This is especially true as emerging economies are investing enormous resources in creating a higher education infrastructure.
I’m in Pretoria, South Africa for the next week presenting on how higher education is changing…and perhaps ought to change. Both the problem and the solutions are complex and evolving rapidly as new systemic shocks and change pressures arise. The slides for my opening keynote are below. I’ll post my workshop slides over the next week.