higher education

Announcing Education Futures Review

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The hard truth is almost nobody reads research papers.

With over 100,000 scholarly journals across all fields (and growing), expanding bodies of information and knowledge, and high subscription costs, many journal articles fail to get noticed. One-in-three social sciences articles and 80% of articles in the humanities fail to get cited at all. We can only speculate as to how many people are actually looking at any of the articles.

And, we’re always busy. This is especially true for leaders and organizational decision makers. There is a lot of great research out there, but we have little time to filter through the noise to find that which is most relevant for innovating in education.

Let us help.

On February 15, 2016, we will launch Education Futures Review: A digest of essential research and news in education.

For the time being, subscriptions are offered for free at https://www2.educationfutures.com/review

Education Futures Review is curated by top experts for decision-makers and leaders in K-12 and higher education. The newsletter is distributed as a monthly email.

The newsletter covers “pre-K to grey” education news and research from around the world, with an approximately equal focus on both primary/secondary and tertiary education. Topical areas include: learning technologies, new approaches and concepts about learning, innovation in education, insightful research, and case studies for leaders, incorporating experiences from around the world.

The challenge decision-makers and other leaders face with academic research in education is that there is a LOT of it, and much of it is out of reach: ignored on library bookshelves, behind paywalls, or even written in ways that are not appealing to general readers. Education Futures Review cuts through these obstacles to provide an expert-curated and global perspective of the changing educational landscape. We intend to build this publication into essential weekly reading for every decision-maker and leader in education.

The publication’s target audiences are decision-makers and leaders in the education industry that either do not have the time to keep current on the latest research and ideas in learning or those that do not have the resources to access the hundreds of journals and news sources to keep current to lead with vision in their fields. These groups are particularly important to sponsors as they have the greatest influence on purchasing and resource allocation within their organizations.

Photo credit: Johann Dréo https://www.flickr.com/photos/nojhan/3392024746/

 

The university of the future: Marching toward obsolescence?

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A couple weeks ago, Carlos Scolari interviewed me for a project on pedagogical innovation and disruptive practices in higher education at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). The aim of the project is to produce a document on the “university of the future,” including diagnosis, trends, and proposals for moving forward.

With his permission, I am sharing my responses to his questions:

CS: How do you see the situation of the universities from a pedagogical point view? I’m thinking in the situation of teaching-learning processes inside these big institutions.

JM: From a pedagogical viewpoint, universities have invested too much in a monocultural approach to education. Most universities are using the same methods to teach all the same stuff. This is very dangerous as the world is changing so quickly that entire fields and bodies of knowledge risk being outdated/outmoded very quickly.

I believe that we need to start to expand the ecology of options that we have in higher education, including pedagogical approaches. Otherwise, we run the risk of failing universally.

CS: Why do you think it’s so difficult to change the teaching-learning practices in the universities?

JM: I think change is difficult within universities because we rely heavily on academic “traditions” that are built on faulty assumptions of teaching and learning. Some of most troubling assumptions (which are not based on science) include:

  • Motivation: We assume students must be externally motivated to learn, otherwise they would not learn anything. This is akin to assuming the natural state of humans is laziness and non-curious.
  • Age segregation: We assume people learn best when segregated by age or ability. We tend to compartmentalize education into certain discrete levels (i.e., primary, secondary, and tertiary education), and further segregate students by age. There is very little reason to support this practice, and evidence suggests that cross age/ability integration enhances students’ learning.
  • Power structures: We assume that the only “qualified” knowledge generators are the teachers at the head of the classroom, who download knowledge into students’ heads. In today’s world where the magnitude of change is accelerating at an exponential pace, information and knowledge is always in flux. Rather than relying on static “experts,” we need to start recognizing and attending to new power structures where we all serve as co-learners and co-teachers.

The good news is that “traditions” are things that we invent all the time. I am optimistic that we can create new traditions that are relevant to modern society.

CS: How can we improve the teaching-learning processes in the universities?

JM: I think we should look at new uses for software and social technologies to enable all participants at universities to become life-long co-teachers as well as co-learners. This means that students (and teachers) need to stop behaving as consumers of education, but become creators, producers, and prosumers. At the same time, learning needs to become more immersive and personally-meaningful (subjective experiences) to each learner. This means that we are likely to not have one master narrative for learning at universities, but we may have many different ones, enabling students and faculty to express themselves as postdisciplinary knowledge experts (possessing unique knowledge at the individual level).

CS: Could you please indicate three (3) innovative/disruptive teaching-learning experiences? They could be single practices (i.e. flip teaching) or institutional ones (i.e. Coursera).

JM:

  1. Democratic education: Educational institutions tend to run as dictatorships, and are structured to preserve themselves. By horizontalizing our relationships, and making sure to give each stakeholder an equal voice, we could see significant, positive disruption as students and faculty become co-responsible for attending to all aspects of the educational experience.
  2. Quest-based learning: Thieu Besselink wrote an excellent chapter on this in Knowmad Society: http://www.knowmadsociety.com
  3. Co-teaching: This is best expressed by what E-180 and the Shibuya University Network already engage in.

CS: How do you imagine the university of the future? Please indicate three (3) characteristics.

JM: This question is perhaps faulty in that it assumes that we will have universities in the future. Maybe you should start with the question: Does the future need universities?

Let’s assume that the future does need universities. In that case, I envision near-future institutions will operate in an environment where…

  1. Any form of information delivery that can be commodified, will be. We see this today with the emergence of MOOCs, Udemy, Coursera, etc. Any non-unique content delivery (especially through download-style pedagogies) will be provided through these platforms, and through a small group of providers. This is particularly threatening to junior colleges, general education courses at mainstream universities, and perhaps also to secondary education.
  2. The gap between top tier schools and everybody else will widen. The top schools may not have superior educational offerings, but they have powerful brands. Why pay to take a course at the University of Minnesota when you can participate in a free, online experience that is affiliated with a top school, such as Stanford or MIT? My take is that the top-tier schools with powerful brand identities will “own” higher education; and, in many respects, other universities will become subscribers to their products and services.
  3. Smaller, “boutique” programs outside the formal, accredited system will boom in presence and market share. Small, but highly specialized, programs such as KaosPilots, Knowmads, YIP, Hyper Island, and the Shibuya University Network operate outside of formal education, and have each developed their own approaches to teaching and learning. In an era where mainstream society are beginning to question the value of a university degree, these programs offer alternatives, and employers will become much, much more receptive to the “graduates” of these alternative education/credentialing programs.

I think that, apart from the very few elite institutions, universities are marching themselves toward obsolescence, and they may be the last to figure it out. Remember, as Anya Kamentz pointed out in her interview at Education Futures, the Roman Senate continued to meet for several centuries after the collapse of the empire.

When governments try to understand open learning platforms

In the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning, Katherine Mangan raised the alarm: Minnesota has informed Coursera it is outlawed. From the article:

Coursera offers free, online courses to people around the world, but if you live in Minnesota, company officials are urging you to log off or head for the border.

The state’s Office of Higher Education has informed the popular provider of massive open online courses, or MOOC’s, that Coursera is unwelcome in the state because it never got permission to operate there.

It seems to me that the entire issue is moot. Coursera is not a university, and does not award university credit. Furthermore, attempts to limit Minnesotans’ access to alternative learning platforms could violate fundamental rights to association and assembly.

As we’ve seen the rapid growth of phenomena such as Coursera, MITx, Stanford’s d.school, Khan Academy, unschooling and uncollege movements, education leaders across the PreK-21 spectrum are scrambling to figure out “what’s next.” Policy makers and university leaders are at a loss of how to confront futures that may be radically different than what we enjoyed in the past, and they’re scrambling to find answers. This crisis, as I view it, is reflected in the drama President Sullivan experienced at the University of Virginia, MIT’s one-month blitz to find a new president, and even the University of Wisconsin’s scramble to develop a “Flexible Degree” program.

I think that we can expect these institutions to make more mis-steps as they try to understand the new learning landscape and their roles. This includes new ideas, language, and platforms where degrees may not be the end goal for learners. The unfortunate reality is that most policy leaders are playing catchup, not leading.

Review: Generation on a tightrope (by Arthur Levine and Diane R. Dean)

Book: Generation on a tightrope: A portrait of today’s college student
Author: Arthur Levine and Diane R. Dean
Publisher: Jossey-Bass (September 4, 2012)

If, as the saying goes, our understanding of the past is 20/20, capturing the zeitgeist of the present — and, in particular, of a group outside of your own — can be tricky. Arthur Levine and Diane Dean took on the challenge, and produced a vivid portrait in Generation on a tightrope: A portrait of today’s college student.

From the introduction:

Today’s undergraduates and students who attended college before them were optimistic about their personal futures, pessimistic about that nation’s future, committed to the American Dream, little involved in campus life, disenchanted with politics and government, more issue oriented than ideological, engaged in community service, utilitarian in their goals for college, weak in academic skills, beneficiaries of inflated grades, heavy users of psychological counseling services, consumer-oriented regarding higher education, and partial to sex and alcohol, among other things.

Levine and Dean engage in a discussion of findings gathered from a number of studies, including Dean’s ongoing Portrait of today’s college student study, and the book is intended to complement Levin’s studies on previous generations: When hope and fear collide (1998), and When dreams and heroes died (1980). Generation on a tightrope is based on new research of 5,000 college students and student affairs practitioners from 270 college campuses.

At first glance, the book appears to work with the familiar theme of generational attitudes toward the digitalization of society. Rather than emulating Marc Prensky’s binary perspective of youth and technology (digital immigrants vs. digital natives), however, Levine and Dean provide a much more credible viewpoint that the variables involved are numerous and sometimes contradictory. Moreover, they recognize that tremendous socioeconomic change is still underway. This provides for a more fluid interpretation of the present that is informed by its past, tries to understand itself today, and looks toward the future.

By looking at strengths and challenges within the current generation of college students, the authors take a pragmatic view that they should be undervalued compared to previous generations, but rather:

[…] this generation requires a different brand of education that will enable them to attain their personal dreams and to serve the society they must lead. The education we offered to previous generations, whether successful or not, will not work for these students. (Chapter 8)

Will universities take on the challenge?

The bottom line: Generation on a tightrope provides a snapshot of the present that is informed by our past. The strength of the book is reflected in the depth of discussion of many dimensions shared by today’s college students. The resultant snapshot should be used to inform university administrators, policy makers, parents, and students as they build universities that are relevant for the future.


Note: The publisher provided a copy of the book for review. Please read our review policy for more details on how we review products and services.

Pew/Elon: Technologies poised to outpace universities

A survey of technology experts suggest higher education in 2020 will be quite different than it is today with expectations of more-efficient collaborative environments and evaluation schemes.

In the Pew Internet/Elon University survey, 1,021 Internet experts, researchers, observers and users, 60% agreed with a statement that by 2020 “there will be mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning to leverage expert resources…a transition to ‘hybrid’ classes that combine online learning components with less-frequent on-campus, in-person class meetings.” Some 39% agreed with an opposing statement that said, “in 2020 higher education will not be much different from the way it is today.”

The full report is available here.

Although the survey methods employed do not yield scientifically meaningful results, it does suggest that there is a rift forming between university leaders and technologies on their visions of the “university of the future.” From the report:

A historical perspective was offered by Dan Ness, principal research analyst at MetaFacts, producers of the Technology User Profile. “The evolution of higher education might best be measured along a geologic timeframe than mere years or decades,” he wrote. “As a former college professor in Silicon Valley (before it was called that), I’ve seen new technologies emerge which promise to evolve higher education. In the 1970s, we talked about the exciting promises of distance learning and on-campus technology, only to meet the inertia of the administration and educators, as well as students. Certainly, education continues to evolve. However, expecting a dramatic change by 2020 may be bit sensationalistic.”

The year 2020 is only eight years away. Can universities pick up the pace and lead change, or will they follow the leads of others?

A conversation and workshop with the KaosPilots and Knowmads

For those of us in the Minneapolis area, I’m pleased to share news that the KaosPilots and Knowmads will visit with the University of Minnesota for a free event on redesigning university education.

Here’s the official announcement:

Following on the activities of the College of Design’s Design Intersections symposium (http://intersections.design.umn.edu/), the University of Minnesota community is invited to join in a FREE follow-up workshop, co-sponsored by the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development and the Jandris Center for Innovation in Higher Education:

Rethinking Teaching and Learning at the University of Minnesota: A Conversation and Workshop with The KaosPilots and Knowmads.

FULL EVENT DESCRIPTION: http://z.umn.edu/rethinking

Friday, March 30
9 am – noon, lunch follows
Shepherd Room, Weisman Art Museum

Registration will be limited to 50.

Join us for a FREE co-creation event at the University of Minnesota featuring global creatives from the KaosPilots (Aarhus, Denmark) and Knowmads (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) —innovative schools focused on applied creative and design thinking, business, and social entrepreneurship.
We will discuss the future of education and what it means for the University.

  • How can we rethink how we learn, share, and apply what we know in this time of accelerating technological and social change?
  • How we can apply design thinking principles to transform how we teach, learn, live and work in Minnesota?
  • How can students and faculty at the University of Minnesota be engaged in democratic, participatory ways in co-creating new approaches to teaching and learning?
We welcome the University community and others interested in education for building a creative and innovative Minnesota.

Event co-sponsors:  College of Design; Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development; Jandris Center for Innovative Higher Education; Humphrey School of Public Affairs; Carlson School of Management; and the Weisman Art Museum

For more information, visit http://z.umn.edu/rethinking or contact Virajita Singh (singh023@umn.edu) or John Moravec (moravec@umn.edu).

The university as a flag of convenience

This morning, Inside Higher Ed posted an article by Steve Kolowich on students from universities around the world earning credit by participating in an experimental Stanford University course that is being broadcasted at no (additional) cost:

That A.I. course was the flagship of a trio of Stanford computer science courses that were broadcast this fall, for the first time, to anyone on the Internet who cared to log in. This made Stanford the latest of a handful of elite American universities to pull back the curtain on their vaunted courses, joining the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare project, Yale University’s Open Yale Courses and the University of California at Berkeley’s Webcast.Berkeley, among others.

The article continues to describe the MOOC (“massive open online course”) scene, and how the online broadcasting of courses is causing institutions and students to question our traditional approaches to teaching. This is nothing new, as these activities have been going on for at least a decade. BUT, toward the end of the piece, Kolowich strikes gold:

“I don’t think its significant that ‘Stanford’ is doing this, I think it’s significant that [Stanford Professor] Peter Norvig is doing this,” says Michael Feldstein, a senior program manager for Cengage Learning and author of the popular education technology blog e-Literate. “He’s essentially using his reputation in the field to provide his stamp of approval on a student’s performance, independent of his institution.”

This raises the question, are we starting to see a shift away from organizing higher education around institutions, and instead reorienting toward a greater focus on individuals? Where we see the knowledge and expertise of individuals emerge and shadow institutions, will particular universities be sought out as mere flags of convenience for nomadic (knowmadic) faculty and their students, who, likewise may not be fully connected with a particular institution?

For non-elite universities, this presents a challenge. Unable to attract “top shelf” faculty, they will likely not be able to collect as much attention or potential revenue from MOOCs and other online initiatives. Instead, I predict they will pursue one of two pathways:

  • Subscribe to courses broadcasted by Stanford, MIT, and the other elites at the cost of shrinking their own teaching faculty.
  • Focus on doing what they do best: Provide industrial-style education at high cost.

For talented faculty at non-elite schools, can they afford such affiliations any longer?

Read Kolowich’s article at Inside Higher Ed.

Whose crazy idea is it anyway?

As the 21st century digital revolution continues to disrupt the economy, and the traditional knowledge claim held by experts of the 20th century is making way for a global entrepreneurial mindset, (university) education finds itself on the verge of its most radical transformations since the industrial revolution. Whose Crazy Idea Is It Anyway is an academic endeavor that has the ambition to set the agenda in the educational landscape of the coming decade.

The work conference takes a specific angle to tackle the education issue: the (presumed) tension between entrepreneurial and academic values. Where do these values overlap and when do they contradict each other? What kinds of learning environments can start to emerge when both these worlds join forces? And how can these new learning networks be equipped to address urgent societal issues?

Following a “Yes – No – What the F*ck” intermission exercise facilitated by the Knowmads business school in Amsterdam, I gave a keynote talk that centered on invisible learning, and how higher education can contribute toward building Knowmad Society.

Later, I chatted with Andrew Keen on how we might foster entrepreneurship and expressions of innovation in higher education. Unfortunately, the studio lighting couldn’t mask my jet lag and emerging head cold:

Other interesting interviews:

Parag Khanna

Zoltan Acs

Thieu Besselink

Hrobjartur Arnason

Matching learning to the real world: Forget the box!

I met up with Ali Hossaini in Amsterdam and Noordwijk earlier this month. In this short interview we made, Ali states that “to think out of the box, you have to start out of the box, and we’re not letting people leave it right now in the current educational institutions.” He advocates for approaches to learning that are collaborative and reflective of real world problem solving that allow people to become experts on the fly (and not just in business, but also in art, academia, etc.). The development of creative thinking, he argues, is one thing that Western educational institutions could develop as their competitive advantage.

Ali does a lot. Read his bio posted at ArtLab.