The Future of Education | By Futurist Gerd Leonhard | A Video for EduCanada — from futuristgerd.com

Per Gerd:

Recently, I was invited by the Embassy of Canada in Switzerland to create this special presentation and promotional video discussing the Future of Education and to explore how Canada might be leading the way. Here are some of the key points I spoke about in the video. Watch the whole thing here: the Future of Education.

 

…because by 2030, I believe, the traditional way of learning — just in case — you know storing, downloading information will be replaced by learning just in time, on-demand, learning to learn, unlearning, relearning, and the importance of being the right person. Character skills, personality skills, traits, they may very well rival the value of having the right degree.

If you learn like a robot…you’ll never have a job to begin with.

Gerd Leonhard


Also relevant/see:

The Next 10 Years: Rethinking Work and Revolutionising Education (Gerd Leonhard’s keynote in Riga) — from futuristgerd.com


 

From DSC:
Inflation way up. Real wages way down. Not a good mix for higher education. And faculty members aren’t the only ones impacted here. These developments may cause the rise of additional alternatives to institutions of traditional higher education out there. 


One of the resources mentioned in Isha Trivedi’s article out at The Chronicle of Higher Education that’s entitled “Faculty-Pay Survey Records the Largest One-Year Drop Ever” was this one:

The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2021-22 — from the American Association of University Professors (AAUP)

Key Findings (emphasis DSC):
Provisional results were released in early April 2022, including summary tables and institution-level datasets. Key findings include:

  • From 2020–21 to 2021–22, average salaries for full-time faculty members increased 2.0 percent, consistent with the flat wage growth observed since the Great Recession of the late 2000s.
  • Real wages for full-time faculty fell below Great Recession levels in 2021, with average salary falling to 2.3 percent below the 2008 average salary, after adjusting for inflation.
  • Real wages for full-time faculty members decreased 5.0 percent after adjusting for inflation, the largest one-year decrease on record since the AAUP began tracking this measure in 1972.
  • In 2021–22, 97.2 percent of full-time faculty members were covered by retirement plans, a 2.8 percentage point increase from 2020–21.
  • Institutions reported full-time faculty salaries for women that are 81.9 percent of those for men in 2021–22, on average. The gender pay gap is greatest at the full professor rank.
  • From 2019–20 to 2021–22, the number of full-time women faculty members increased 1.6 percent, compared with a 2.5 percent decrease for men.
  • In 2020–21, average pay for adjunct faculty members to teach a course section ranged from $2,979 in public associate’s institutions without ranks to $5,557 in public doctoral institutions.
  • In fall 2020, about three in five (61.5 percent) faculty members were on contingent appointments.

Also relevant, see:

 

From DSC:
The following items made me reflect upon the place of COVID-19 in causing the current ills within higher education — but also thinking about the ills that were present long before Covid hit us.

Key point:
We should be careful not to conveniently use COVID-19 as the scapegoat for all that’s wrong within higher education.


On the faculty/staff side of the house


The Season of Our Professorial Discontent — from chronicle.com by Paul Musgrave
The pandemic irrevocably changed the student-teacher relationship — and not for the better.

Excerpts:

As pandemic slides into endemic, it’s worth asking: Did the pandemic break something fundamental about academe? Was the spring of 2022 the end of pandemic disruptions, or the start of a new normal?

This time, as I delivered the lines to an audience of 30 in a course with 200 students enrolled, I was wondering whether I wanted to give a lecture ever again.

From DSC:
Regarding the first quote…several things were broken within academe long before COID-19. Re: the second quote, what should that tell us if only 30 students showed up in a class with 200 students in it?

Faculty autonomy and faculty satisfaction are being whittled away.

From DSC:
From what I can tell, that’s been happening for years within the K-12 learning ecosystem. It seems like this trend is now occurring within the higher ed learning ecosystem. (I could go off on a tangent about why we didn’t help our fellow educators within K-12 — whose “product” directly impacts those working within higher ed — but I better not. This posting is already packed with reflections.)

Below are some relevant quotes from Kevin McClure’s 5/27/22 article out at The Chronicle of Higher Education (emphasis DSC). I agree with much of what Kevin is saying here.

Don’t Blame the Pandemic for Worker Discontent
It hasn’t just been a tough two years. It’s been a tough two decades.

Excerpt:

The pandemic alone didn’t cause the low morale and turnover you might be seeing among your faculty and staff members just as the lack of personal protective equipment didn’t solely give rise to the Amazon Labor Union. Yes, today’s workers are re-evaluating their workplaces, seeking reassignment within their institutions, and in some cases resigning from jobs altogether. But they are doing so for many of the same reasons they did 20 years ago — poor working conditions.

So burnout isn’t just about people struggling to cope with stress; it’s about people struggling in workplaces where stress never subsides.

In my own interviews on morale, higher-education workers have talked about leaders who aren’t listening, low compensation, and understaffing.

We see our workplaces differently, and our tolerance of poor working conditions has evaporated.

 


On the student side of the house


“It hasn’t just been a tough two years. It’s been a tough two decades.” The same — and likely more — could be said for the student side of the house, especially in regards to the price of education and how relevant/up-to-date the content has been. As the prices of obtaining a degree have skyrocketed over the last several decades, students and parents now HAVE to ask, “What’s the Return On Investment (ROI) here? Am I gaining the skills in college that will get me hired after college?”

Again, the point I’m trying to make here is that we should be careful not to conveniently use COVID-19 as the scapegoat for all that’s wrong within higher education.

Along these lines, the following two quotes seem relevant to me from Beth McMurtrie’s (6/2/22) Teaching e-newsletter (also from The Chronicle):

I asked Walton to tell me more about the setup at his university. He said classes were fully in person but instructors were encouraged to record lectures and be highly flexible with due dates. The result: Most days he had less than 50-percent attendance, and he received a lot of last-minute emails from students who said they woke up that morning with a headache or otherwise not feeling well. A few filed documented absence requests, but not many, suggesting that these were not serious illnesses, like Covid.

I’ve never had more incompletes for courses than in the last two years, so signaling to students that their distribution courses are flexible and accommodating has only let them de-emphasize them even more.

There’s likely a variety of causes/possibilities here — and I’m sure that Covid-related reasons are among them. But it makes me really wonder if students don’t think that the content is all that valuable or relevant to begin with these days. Is college even worth it anymore? Why am I here in the first place? Where is the motivation coming from? Is it extrinsic or intrinsic motivation?

Perhaps it’s time to change the curriculum/content as well as the price.


Daniel S. Christian: My concerns with just maintaining the status quo (from 2009).

A graphic I created back in 2009, with Yohan Na’s assistance.


 

From DSC:
The items below reminded me that things aren’t looking good for higher education these days. Having a son a quarter of the way through college makes this even more relevant/personal for our family.


The Big Quit | Even tenure-line professors are leaving academe. — from chronicle.com by Joshua Doležal

Excerpts:

We have become accustomed to the exodus of graduate students, postdocs, and adjuncts, but before Covid it was still possible to see tenured and tenure-track faculty members as relatively immune from the stresses of working in higher ed. No more. A 2020 study by The Chronicle and Fidelity Investments found that more than half of all faculty members surveyed were seriously weighing options outside of higher education: either changing careers entirely or retiring early.

“If a return to normal simply means restoring the burnout conditions that the pandemic inflamed, then the rumble of faculty members leaving may build to a roar that no amount of magical thinking can explain away.”

Here’s a relevant quote from a weekly newsletter — Teaching — from The Chronicle of Higher Education (by Becky Supiano)

The bottom line? “You don’t get student success,” McClure says, “unless you have invested in faculty well-being.”

The quote is from Kevin McClure, who is “trying to get the challenges front-line faculty and staff face on the radar of more college leaders.” As primarily a former staff member, I appreciate that he’s including staff members here. Staff are important members of the academe as well.


Drop in Spring-2022 Enrollment Is Worse Than Expected — from chronicle.com byAudrey Williams June

Excerpt:

New data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center provide a final tally on enrollment for the spring of 2022 — and reveal a persistent trend: College attendance continues to decline.

Undergraduate enrollment fell 4.7 percent from a year earlier, a shortfall of more than 662,000 students. Since the pandemic began, the undergraduate student body has dropped by almost 1.4 million students.

But also in play, he said, are students who increasingly question the value of college, are wary about taking out student loans to pay for it, and who have options to join the labor market instead.


Michigan colleges experience nation’s worst spring enrollment dive, new report shows — from mlive.com by Samuel Dodge

Excerpt:

College enrollment across Michigan plummeted 15% during the spring semester this year, dragged down by a 20% hit to four-year public universities, a new report shows. Spring enrollment across all sectors dropped to 360,220 students, a decrease of more than 62,000 from 2021 to this year, according to data released Thursday, May 26, by the National Student Clearinghouse.


[Cost of Inequity]  The Student Loan Crisis — from businessinsidre.com by various
How the student loan industry put a $1.7 trillion price tag on the American dream and the proposed reforms that could pay the bill.


A somewhat-related item:

The Future of Higher Education Is the Hybrid Campus — from campustechnology.com by Dr. Jeffrey R. Docking
Blending the best of face-to-face instruction with the flexibility of online learning can enhance the higher ed experience for all types of learners, lower the cost of a degree and better prepare students for the workforce.

Excerpts (emphasis DSC):

What Students Want
Students and families are increasingly rethinking whether a traditional college education is worth the investment, leaving higher ed leaders searching for innovative ways to showcase their school’s value and entice students. When we think about what students really want, they want more than a degree — they want skills training that will ensure a well-paying, rewarding career. In fact, 62% of college students say they would be more likely to re-enroll if their institution offered “new programs and certificates tailored to the new economy” with high-demand majors and education that connects them to employability. This makes sense since employers are continuing to find value in students developing a “broad skill base that can be applied across a range of contexts.”

But over the last several years, and after seeing the success of it at Adrian College, I’ve become convinced that the future of residential colleges is not face-to-face or online, but an intelligent blend of both modalities.


A somewhat-related item:

Navigating career turbulence — from ted.com by Adam Grant; with thanks to Deirdre Honner for this resource

Description:

Everyone’s career will hit some turbulence at some point. Instead of pushing harder against the headwinds, we’re sometimes better off tilting our rudder and charting a new course. In this episode, host Adam Grant speaks with people who have taken unusual steps to battle uncertainty, rethought their approach to finding and landing a job and reached out for help in unexpected places — as well as an expert on recessions who forecasts the future by looking to the past. Listen and subscribe to WorkLife with Adam Grant and more podcasts from the TED Audio Collective wherever you’re listening to this.

 

Above video from Steve Kerr’s statement on school shooting in Texas

From DSC:
Steve Kerr has it right. Powerful. Critically important. 

“Enough!”  “We can’t get numb to this!”

 

From DSC:
The items below made me reflect on the need to practice some serious design thinking to rethink/redesign the cradle-to-grave learning ecosystems out there.


Real World Learning in Action — from gettingsmart.com by Shawnee Caruthers

Key Points

  • The Real World Learning initiative was created to address a simple, but equally complex challenge: How do you prepare students for life after high school?
  • The traditional, go to classes, earn some credits, participate in some activities and earn a diploma wasn’t working, at least not equitably.

Creating a new high school experience starts with innovative thinking and advocates willing to say yes. As a result of collaborations, visiting best practice sites and numerous convenings, the Kansas City region is now a hub for pathways, wall-to-wall academies, microschools, innovation academies, student-run businesses, strong client-connected project examples and more. Educational stakeholders can now go across state lines to see future-forward thinking for students.

Also relevant/see:

Framing and Designing the HOW — from gettingsmart.com by Rebecca Midles

Key Points (emphasis DSC):

  • The referenced circle graphic is intended to guide how we talk about our work as a system, internal and externally.
  • It also is about understanding our why on a personal level.
  • Learning systems are specifically designed to get the results they have, and to change results, we have to redesign the system.

Also relevant/see:

Fewer People Are Getting Teacher Degrees. Prep Programs Sound the Alarm — from edweek.org by Madeline Wil

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

As teacher dissatisfaction rates rise and concerns about teacher shortages intensify, colleges of education are sounding the alarm: Enrollment has been steadily declining for the past decade, and the pandemic has likely made things worse.

Smaller and Restructured: How the Pandemic Is Changing the Higher Education IT Workforce — from educause.edu by Jenay Robert

Excerpt:

Several prominent themes emerged from the analysis of these responses and are supported by other recent EDUCAUSE research:

  • Though most respondents reported a reduction in force, some were able to justify adding new positions to their units in 2021, primarily to meet new institutional needs.
  • Budget cuts were the main cause of reductions in force.
  • Work factors such as flexible, remote work options and competitive salaries are playing a central role in attrition and recruitment.
  • Increased workloads and personal stressors related to the pandemic have resulted in widespread burnout among staff.
  • IT units have plans to reorganize in 2022 to become more agile and efficient and to respond to the evolving needs of their organizations.

Allan: With $175G Grants, Accelerate ED Looks to Better Link K-12, College & Work — from the74million.org by Sara Allan

Excerpt:

Today, most states require high school students to complete a set of defined courses, assessments and experiences in order to graduate on a career-ready pathway. However, the number of schools that fully embrace coherent programs of study that connect K-12, higher education and employment remains frustratingly small.

.


What if every high school student had the chance to take an additional year of courses related to their interests and earn enough credits to complete their associate degree one year after high school while gaining valuable experience and career preparation—at little to no cost?

— from Seamless Pathways to Degrees and Careers

From DSC:
The above quote is the type of “What if…” question/thinking that we need to redesign our cradle-to-grave/lifelong learning ecosystems.


A relevant addendum on 6/1/22:

 
 

From DSC:
After seeing the item below, I thought, “Hmmm…traditional institutions of higher education better look out if alternatives continue to gain momentum.” Perhaps it’s wise to double down on efforts to gather feedback from students, families, parents, businesses, and other stakeholders in the workplace regarding what they want and need — vs. what the faculty members of institution ABC want to teach.


A Third of U.S. College Students Consider Withdrawing — from news.gallup.com by Stephanie Marken

Excerpt:

Editor’s Note: The research below was conducted in partnership between the Lumina Foundation and Gallup.

About a third (32%) of currently enrolled students pursuing a bachelor’s degree report they have considered withdrawing from their program for a semester or more in the past six months. A slightly higher percentage of students pursuing their associate degree, 41%, report they have considered stopping out in the past six months. These are similar to 2020 levels when 33% of bachelor’s degree students reported they had considered stopping out and 38% of associate degree students said the same.

 

Education Needs a Reset. We Can Start by Listening to Our Teachers. — from edsurge.com by Elissa Vanaver

Excerpts:

What too few politicians and parents are talking about, though, is the dire state of the career pipeline for teachers, the ones we’ll be depending on to lead the post-pandemic learning recovery in our classrooms over the next few years—not to mention for the next generation.

Valuing teachers is the systemic path to centering students. In order to move the needle, we must go beyond what teachers need to do to address root causes that require cultural and systemic change. Here are a few things it will take:

  1. Understanding that teaching and learning are inherently relational and the power relationships have on student and teacher success.
  2. Centering the joy of learning and making classrooms a place students and teachers want to be.
  3. Creating an empowered teaching culture to advocate for children and encouraging creativity that optimizes engagement.
  4. Fostering culturally responsive methods through continuous mentoring by exceptional, experienced educators.
  5. Developing partnerships with quality teacher preparation programs for coherent and supportive career pathways.

From DSC:
When I used to work in customer service and also in technical support at Baxter Healthcare, I always thought that management should be listening closely to those employees who were on the front lines — i.e., those of us who were in regular contact with Baxter’s customers. Similarly, the teachers are on the front lines within education. We need to give them a huge say in what happens in the future of the preK-12 learning ecosystems. We also need the students’ voices to be heard big time.

Also popular last month from edsure.com, see:

 

From DSC:
There are many things that are not right here — especially historically speaking. But this is one WE who are currently living can work on resolving.

*******

The Cost of Connection — from chronicle.com by Katherine Mangan
The internet is a lifeline for students on far-flung tribal campuses. Too often, they’re priced out of learning.

Excerpt:

Affordable and reliable broadband access can be a lifeline for tribal colleges, usually located on or near Native American reservations, often in remote, rural areas across the Southwest and Midwest. Chartered by their respective tribal governments, the country’s 35 accredited tribal colleges operate in more than 75 campus sites across 16 states, serving more than 160,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives each year. They emphasize and help sustain the culture, languages, and traditions of their tribal communities and are often the only higher-education option available for Native students in some of the nation’s poorest rural regions.

Also relevant/see:

Tribal Colleges Will Continue Online, Despite Challenges — from chronicle.com by Taylor Swaak
Other institutions could learn from their calculus.

Excerpt:

Two years after tribal colleges shuttered alongside institutions nationwide, many remain largely, if not fully, online, catering to students who’ve historically faced barriers to attending in person. Adult learners — especially single mothers who may struggle to find child care, or those helping to support multigenerational households — make up the majority of students at more than half of the 32 federally recognized institutions in the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program. These colleges are also often located in low-income, rural areas, where hours of daily commute time (and the cost of gas) can prove untenable for students simultaneously working part- or full-time jobs.

Also relevant/see:

Why Tribal Colleges Struggle to Get Reliable Internet Service — from chronicle.com by Katherine Mangan and Jacquelyn Elias
For tribal colleges across the country, the pandemic magnified internet-access inequities. Often located on far-flung tribal lands, their campuses are overwhelmingly in areas with few broadband service providers, sometimes leaving them with slow speeds and spotty coverage.

“You can be driving from a nearby town, and as soon as you hit the reservation, the internet and cellphone signals drop off,” said Cheryl Crazy Bull, president of the American Indian College Fund and a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation. “Students would be in the middle of class and their Wi-Fi access dropped off.”

Worsening matters, many students have been limited by outdated equipment. “We had students who were trying to take classes on their flip phones,” Crazy Bull said. Such stories were cropping up throughout Indian territory.

 

K-12 education in America is like quickly moving trains that stop for no one.

K-12 education in America is like quickly moving trains that stop for no one.

From DSC:
A family member struggles with spelling — big time. This causes her major amounts of anxiety in school.

Another family member had some learning disabilities and reflects back on school with some bad memories.

Another family member struggles with social graces and learns at a much different pace than her peers — the move to her education being (predominantly) done via homeschooling has helped significantly.

A friend of mine has Dyslexia. He recently said that school was hell for him.

Another person I know doesn’t understand his daughter’s learning disabilities — at all. He’s asking a fish to climb the tree and yells at his daughter when she doesn’t produce like the other kids do. Her school is for college-bound learners, and there’s always pressure to maintain the school’s “blue-ribbon” status (i.e., sorry if you don’t fit in…but please board the train anyway, as it’s about to depart).

These people and stories about their educations got me to reflect on all the people who went through the school systems in the United States (over the last few decades) that didn’t work well for them. In fact, not only did the systems not work well for them, they were the sources of a great deal of pain, anxiety, depression, anger, frustration, and embarrassment.  Instead of being a place of wonder or joy, school was a painful, constant struggle to get through.

For those who can keep up or even excel at the pace that the trains travel at, school isn’t that much of a problem. There are likely different levels of engagement involved here, but school is manageable and it doesn’t cause nearly the stress for someone who struggles with it.

For those with learning disabilities, I’d like to apologize to you on behalf of all the people who legislated or created rigid, one-size-fits-all school systems that didn’t understand and/or meet your needs. (Why we allow legislators — who aren’t the ones on the front lines — to control so much of what happens in our school systems is beyond me.) I’d like to apologize on behalf of all of the teachers, administrators, and staff who just accept the systems as they are.

Please help us reinvent our school systems. Help us develop the future of education. Help us develop a more personalized, customized approach. For those who are working to provide that, thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

To everyone working within Pre-K through 12th grade, help us offer: More voice. More choice. More control. The status quo has to go. School should not be a constant source of pain and anxiety.

Learners need: More voice. More choice. More control. -- this image was created by Daniel Christian

 

 

Teacher Job Satisfaction Hits an All-Time Low — from edweek.org by Madeline Will
Exclusive new data paints a picture of a profession in crisis

Excerpts:

Teachers’ job satisfaction levels appear to have hit an all-time low this year as the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage schools.

That’s according to the Merrimack College Teacher Survey, a nationally representative poll of more than 1,300 teachers conducted by the EdWeek Research Center and commissioned by the Winston School of Education and Social Policy at Merrimack College.

In interviews, teachers say they still love teaching—but they’re fed up with everything else. They feel burdened by a constantly growing workload, especially with more students having greater academic and social-emotional needs than ever before. They don’t feel like they’re paid appropriately for all the work they do. And they don’t feel respected as professionals.

Also see:


From DSC:
But it’s not just in K12 where our learning ecosystems are malnourished:


  • Ep.77: Turnover, Burnout and Demoralization in Higher Ed — a podcast from insidehighered.com and hosted by Inside Higher Ed Editor Doug Lederman
    Excerpt: 
    Faculty and staff members are leaving colleges and universities in droves. Other employers are experiencing these trends, too, but are some issues unique to higher education? Employers of all kinds are struggling to hold on to their employees in the wake of the pandemic and amid a white-hot job market. Data recently released by the University of North Carolina system, for instance, shows that faculty and staff turnover in the first half of this academic year was about 40 percent higher than the average of the last four years. Are colleges and universities just dealing with the same issues other industries are facing? Or are there unique problems in higher ed that campus leaders need to acknowledge?

Also relevant/see:

Between this academic year and last, faculty members aw a 5-percent drop in inflation-adjusted average salary.

 

 

From DSC:
Hmmm…many colleges and universities keep a close eye on their peers and often respond with similar strategies that their peers are pursuing. But who is an organization’s peer? The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s posting below — “How a College Decides Who Its Peers Are” — stated that “there is clearly no shared definition of what constitutes a peer institution.” 

Plus, I found this item especially interesting:

Harvard University selected only three peer institutions: Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. But 22 institutions, including Bowdoin, named Harvard as a peer. Bowdoin, a small, liberal-arts college with about 1,800 undergraduate students and no graduate programs, chose 98 “peers,” including the entire Ivy League and many large universities, some of which enroll more than 10,000 students. Bowdoin itself was picked by 35 institutions as a peer. All of them were small, liberal-arts colleges or universities that primarily serve undergraduates.

I have often thought that colleges and universities should care far less about what their peers are doing. Rather, they should move forward with their own solid visions, bold actions, and well-thought-through strategies — as there can be a great deal of danger and risk in the status quo.

Too many alternatives have been appearing — and will likely continue to appear — on the lifelong learning landscapes. Most likely, these new organizations will offer in-demand credentials/skills as well as the capabilities of helping people constantly reinvent themselves — with far less expensive price tags associated with these types of offerings.


How a College Decides Who Its Peers Are — from chronicle.com by Susan Poser
Questions of institutional identity are at the core of the process.

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

The mismatch between whom an institution chose as peers, and the colleges that reciprocated, pervades the data set. It raises the question of how institutions designate peers, which is a mystery. In some cases it is likely to be decided by someone in the Office of Institutional Research or the provost’s office in response to the Ipeds survey, while in others perhaps some process leads to a consensus among administrators. Regardless, there is clearly no shared definition of what constitutes a peer institution.

Also relevant/see:


 

Per Johann Neem, the innovations that promise to save higher ed are a farce.

The University in Ruins — from chronicle.com by Johann N. Neem
The “innovations” that promise to save higher ed are a farce.

From DSC:
First of all,
I appreciated Johann Neem mentioning and/or discussing several books in one posting:

  • Ronald G. Musto’s The Attack on Higher Education (2021)
  • Arthur Levine’s and Scott J. Van Pelt’s The Great Upheaval (2021)
  • Bill Readings’ The University in Ruins (1996)
  • Ronald J. Daniels’ What Universities Owe Democracy (2021)

And as a disclosure here, I have not read those books. 

Below are excerpts with some of my comments:

It’s already happening. Today, we walk among the ruins of an institution that once had a larger purpose. It’s not clear what role universities should play in society, and to what or to whom they are accountable, other than their corporate interests.

To some, that’s not a problem, at least according to Arthur Levine and Scott J. Van Pelt in The Great Upheaval (2021). They see higher education undergoing the same transformation that reshaped the music, film, and newspaper industries. Rather than place-based education overseen by tenured professors, they anticipate “the rise of anytime, anyplace, consumer-driven content and source agnostic, unbundled, personalized education paid for by subscription.”

Between Musto’s existential fears of disruption and Levine and Van Pelt’s embrace of it lies a third path. It takes the form of a wager — outlined by Ronald J. Daniels in What Universities Owe Democracy (2021) — that universities can and should continue to matter because of their importance in civic democratic life.

The article covers how the learning ecosystems within higher education have morphed from their religious roots to being an apparatus of the nation-state to then becoming a relatively independent bureaucratic system to other things and to where we are today.

Along the journey discussing these things, one of the things that caught my eye was this statement:

Hopkins, in this sense, lived up to its founding president Daniel Coit Gilman’s 19th-century aspiration that universities be places that acquire, conserve, refine, and distribute knowledge.

From DSC:
While I completely agree with that aspiration, I think more institutions of higher education could follow what John Hopkins University did with their efforts concerning the Covid-19 situation, as Neem mentioned. Generally speaking, institutions of higher education are not distributing knowledge to the levels that Gilman envisioned years ago.

In fact, these days those working within K12 are doing a whole lot better at sharing information with society than those who work within higher education are. For example, when I search Twitter for K12 educators who share content on Twitter, they are out there all over the place — and many with tens of thousands of followers. They share information with parents, families, fellow educators, students, school boards, and others. Yet this is not the case for those working in higher education. Faculty members normally:

  • aren’t out on Twitter
  • don’t blog
  • don’t have a podcast
  • don’t write for society at large. Instead, their expertise is often locked up — existing behind paywalls in academic journals. In other words, they talk to each other.

Later on…

As Daniels intuits, without a larger purpose to hold them fast, there is nothing to prevent universities from being buffeted by winds until they have lost direction. That is what Readings foresaw: Globalization liberates universities from national fetters, but at the risk of ruin.

From DSC:
While globalization may have something to do with universities becoming unanchored from their original purposes, globalization isn’t at the top of my mind when I reflect upon what’s been happening with colleges and universities these last few decades.

To see but one area of massive change, let’s take a brief look at college sports. There are now multimillion-dollar stadium projects, enormous coaches’ salaries, and numerous situations where tax-paying citizens can’t even watch sporting events without tons of advertisements being thrown into their faces every few seconds. Personally speaking, on numerous occasions, I couldn’t even access the games at all — as I wasn’t paying for the subscriptions to the appropriate providers.

Also, as another example of becoming anchored — and going back to the 1980’s — I attended Northwestern University for my undergraduate degree in Economics. While I have several wonderful lifelong friends from that experience for whom I’m deeply grateful, even back then NU had already moved far away from its motto which is based on Philippians 4:8.

Instead, please allow me to tell you what that learning community taught me and strongly encouraged me to think about:

  • You are only successful if you have the corner office, drive the higher numbered BMW’s, and have many people reporting to you.
  • If you make a lot of money.
  • You are supposed to compete against others vs. being in relationships with others. As but one example here, our test scores were published — by our Social Security numbers — outside our professors’ offices for all to see how we measured up to our classmates.

In fact, I’m not even sure that I would use the word “community” at all when I reflect upon my years at Northwestern. Instead, a WIIFM approach was encouraged (i.e., What’s In It For Me? where you are supposed to look out for #1). It took me years to unlearn some of those “lessons” and “learnings.”

But I realize that that’s not the case with all learning communities.

As Neem alluded to, I love the idea that an institution of higher education can — and often does — impact students’ hearts as well as minds. That was the focus at Calvin College (now Calvin University). Our oldest daughter went there and she was profoundly and positively influenced by her experiences there. In that context, students were encouraged to be in relationships with one another. There was plenty of hugging, praying for one another, etc. going on in that setting. There truly was community there.

***

Neem doesn’t think much of Levine’s and Van Pelt’s perspectives. He claims there’s nothing new in their book. He seems to discard the arguments being made about the cost of higher ed and, like many others, clings to the intellectual roots/purpose of higher ed.

While I’m not against intellect or pursuing knowledge — in fact, I’m all for it — I just have a problem when the price of doing so continues to become out of reach for soooooo many people.

Personally, I’ve tried to lower the cost of obtaining a degree within higher education for many years…but I was/we were only successful in doing so for a few years (and that was during a pilot of online-based learning). Yohan Na and I created the graphic below in 2008 for example — as I was trying to raise awareness of the dangers of the status quo:
.

.

So from a cost/access perspective, Levine’s and Van Pelt’s perspectives here sound pretty good to me. It appears to be much more affordable and realistic for the masses. Otherwise, the image/reality of the ivory tower is maintained…allowing “intellectuals” to continue to live and operate within their own sphere/hive/tribe.

Also, we need an AI-backed system of presenting which skills are needed and then how to get them. The ways things are set up today, institutions of traditional higher education have not been able to deal with the current pace of change out there.

As a final comment here…
The changing directions/purposes of institutions of higher education present a good example of why I entitled this blog Learning Ecosystems — as the systems that we use to learn and grow in are constantly morphing:

  • People come and go
  • Tools and vendors come and go
  • Purposes, focuses, and/or mission statements change
  • Our sources of information (i.e., our streams of content) come and go
  • Etc.
 

A skier going off a cliff

Will Your College Survive the Demographic Cliff? — from chronicle.com by Jon Boeckenstedt
National trends are interesting — but enrolling students is a local challenge.

Excerpts:

We are at a critical moment: Declining enrollment even in one sector (say, community colleges) is troublesome because of downstream effects. Declining revenue and wavering state support, coupled with fewer high-school graduates, fewer families that don’t need financial help, and an increasingly negative attitude from the public toward higher education, may take us to a long-rumored tipping point.

If it’s true that all politics is local, then in some sense so is (almost) all college enrollment.

 
© 2022 | Daniel Christian