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New Project: Digitizing Higher Education

In fall, I’ll be running a course on edX with a few colleagues on Digitizing Higher Education. This course is part of a larger initiative that I’ll be rolling out later this month focused on helping universities transition into digital systems: University Networks.

Here’s the pitch:

Higher education faces tremendous change pressure and the resulting structures that are now being formed will alter the role of universities in society for the next several generations. The best time to change systems is when it is already experiencing change. A growing number of consulting agencies and service providers are starting to enter the higher education space, bringing visions that are not tightly focused on learner development and service to knowledge advancement in research domains – i.e. a shift to utilitarian views of education. I’m concerned that in the process, universities will lose control over their enterprise and will become some version of corporate lite.

I recognize that universities need to change. They need to start with a basic question: If we were to create a model of higher education today that serves the needs of learners and society, what would it look like given our networked and technologically infused society? . The answer is not pre-existing. It’s something that we need to explore together. Societies and regions that make this change will benefit from increased employment opportunities for citizens, higher quality of life, and greater control over their future.

The project, University Networks, involves working with a small number of universities, or specific faculties and departments, that are committed to rethinking and redesigning how they operate. My goal is to bring on 30 universities and over a period of 4 years, rethink and redesign university operations to align with the modern information and knowledge ecosystem. The intent is to impact 1 million learners over the next four years through offering innovative teaching and learning opportunities, utilizing effective learning analytics models, integrating learning across all spaces of life, and creating a digital and networked mindset to organization operations.

A few details:

  • This is a cohort model where universities learn from each other and share those resources and practices that can be shared – for example, shared curriculum and shared quality rubrics. The cohort model enables more rapid change since the investments of all universities in the network will increase the value of the resources for everyone.
  • We provide centralized consultancy (this is a non-profit) where we enter a university for two weeks of in-depth analysis of existing practices and work with leadership to plan future investments and goals. Once this analysis is done, each university will enter one of ten modules based on their current progress. For example, a university without an LMS will enter module one whereas a university with advanced infrastructure but looking to develop online programs will enter at module four.
  • The shared consultancy and cohort model results in universities working with a fraction of the investment needed in working with a traditional corporation or consultancy firm. Clearly enabling partners will be needed and we’ll support and advise in that area as well. Our focus, however, is on rapid innovation owned and controlled by the university.
  • My motivation for this is twofold: 1. to serve the advancement of science through modern universities that reflect the information age and the changing economy. 2. to actively research systemic transformation in higher education.
  • As partners in university innovation, we (through Interlab) have deep expertise in machine learning, systemic innovation, networked learning, online learning, and digitization of organizations. More on our group here: http://interlab.me/collaboration/. What does this mean? Basically that we are committed to repositioning higher education for the modern era and that we have the skillsets to deliver on that commitment.
  • If you are interested in learning more, please email me: contact me. We are hosting an information event on June 30. We’ll provide more information at that time about the project, getting involved, and our expectation of university partners.

    We have an excellent advisory board directing this project:

  • John Galvin (Intel)
    Dror Ben-Naim (Smart Sparrow)
    Katy Borner (Indiana University)
    Al Essa (McGraw-Hill)
    Casey Green (Campus Computing Project)
    Sally Johnstone (NCHEMS)
    Mark Milliron (Civitas)
    Catherine Ngugi (Open Education Africa)
    Deborah Quazzo (GSV Advisors)
    Matt Sigelman (Burning Glass)

One Comment

  1. You write, They need to start with a basic question: If we were to create a model of higher education today that serves the needs of learners and society, what would it look like given our networked and technologically infused society?

    I think the question needs to be even more basis: If we were to create a model of higher education today, who or what would it serve?

    Because I don’t see learners and society ranking high on the list most academics would write.

    Thursday, June 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

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