I’m in Austin at the Educause ELI conference. This is an interesting conference, not because I am connecting with my peer CIOs, but instead because I am a CIO minority observing our Higher Education’s world of Tech savvy faculty, Educational Technologists and Instructional Designers. I believe my interest in this area of HE is the reason I was asked to join the ELI Board of Advisors. And I agree, I look at all of this through different eyes, and I believe this community may have to be the change agent that helps Higher Ed deal with the coming disruptional change.
My general observations confirm that Educause’s ELI is putting forth a good effort to support this critical community. The release of NMC’s and ELI’s Horizon Report is a major influence on the conference which is evident from the current trends of Mobility and Pad device utilization. But it is the emergence of Learning Analytics which is moving up the ladder, now expected to be formally adopted within 2-3 years. This topic was also highlighted as the BoA discussed future ELI events. What has caught my attention is that I am seeing a far more varied and complex justification for Learning Analytics then I had previously been aware of. Truth be told, I have avoided Learning Analytics for years. My previous colleague at IUPUI, Ali Jafari, was campaigning for my IT support back in the late 90‘s so that he could develop an E-Portfolio solution. My objection was always that a premiss based on a student’s voluntary submission of coursework would never work. Today we primarily want to mine our LMS data.
I continue to question the justification for investing in Learning Analytics because I still question the validity of the various methods. But I came to this conference with the acceptance that we had to invest in Learning Analytics mostly because of requirements for such data to fulfill various accreditation requirements. I have also noticed that our government appears to be taking a greater interest in some sort of institutional validation that learning is taking place, but I thought that was driven by questions about the quality of the for-profit side of Higher Education.
The ELI conference was kicked off by Adrian Sannier’s talk “If not Now, When?”, Challenges facing American education are formidable and seem to call for change more radical than incremental. Adrian was vintage Adrian with shock and awe. I have heard this talk before but this time I sensed a different undertone of disagreement. Then I took in some sessions focusing on current activity around Learning Analytics and I sensed an elephant in the room. Which was: Learning Analytics was now critical to justify our (Higher Ed) existence. And what was driving that need for justification? I believe it is the emergence of free and massively available access to live open course delivery such as from Stanford, MIT and Harvard. And most importantly the certification that is now available from those courses. If you supplement your education with the Khan Academy and successfully complete some of the advanced courses from these prestigious institutions, you will probably be successful. This can’t really be a concern, can it? It can if you believe that “Disruptive Change” could hit Higher Education and that typically that change comes from where you least expect it. How about the masses of people trying to enter the workforce that are denied an opportunity for a traditional college education?
Higher Education can react to this threat but the first step is admitting that the threat is real.