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Impending Disruption to Higher Education

I have spent a lot of time in the last week thinking about what disruption to Higher Education will really look like. I got to spend some time with Richard DeMillo after I read his book, “Abelard to Apple“. The book is an excellent review of what Higher Ed was and in some cases still is. And Richard offers sound ideas about the obvious need to adapt education to our current information rich world. What struck me was that he identified the significance of MOOCs before they had evolved as we see them today under flags of Coursera, Udacity and edX.

DeMillo was a guest speaker for our NWACC Summit which happened to be our 25th anniversary with a major strategic planning purpose. So it also surprised me that discussion amongst the 30+ CIOs from the Northwest also focused heavily on the ramifications of the MOOCs. You see MOOCs are not the disruption, they are just exposing the problems so that we will finally need to deal with the disruption that is already upon us. Many have chosen to focus on the MOOCs themselves, determining how they will inevitably fail to compete academically and with respect to profitability. But it is not about the MOOCs succeeding in our traditional measures. The MOOCs have been funded by venture capitalists who tend to know when a profit is to be made and the Monetization value of MOOCs is starting to become clear. Exposure brings fame and fortune and access to valuable data or clients does as well. Coursera Career Services is not just about about helping their students find a job. I believed for many years that there was no way Amazon could ever make a profit, now I realize there are bigger forces at play.

The disruption comes from the MOOCs exposing the weakness of our traditional Higher Education course and degree delivery system. An obvious threat comes from the career service aspect. That is a domain that Higher Ed needs to control. Our degrees need to be the preeminent standard for validation that learning has  been accomplished. At the foundation of our system is the credit hour. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced this week that it is rethinking the value of the Carnegie Unit for which we have defined the credit hour. Higher Education; we need to respond to this disruption with innovation rather then denial.

Spring Conferences

Spring approaches so we prepare for higher education technology conferences that focus on specific disciplines. It makes sense, we start of the year with the more broad university technology conferences highlighted by Educause. And the summers seem to be good for our affiliation conferences that accommodate our regional or institutional peer groups. But the Spring is our time to recap what has worked and what we need to work on. EdTech gatherings are taking place and then come our enterprise user group conferences. We can’t participate in all so we delegate our attendees, but for me EdTech issues in support of teaching and learning justify my attention.

With the release of NMC’s Communiqué from the Horizon Project Retreat that identifies the 10 most significant Meta-Trends shaping educational technology, and now the 2012 Horizon Report, the stage is set for a great, February 13-15 in Austin, TX. Our university has been a strong supporter of ELI as it has offered valuable resources and collaboration that enables us to be innovative with our use of technology in teaching and learning. Whether we are fine tuning our online or hybrid delivery or re-envisioning our smart classrooms ELI is one of the most valuable partners. Our Northwest Academic Computing Consortium, NWACC, also has strong ties to ELI as we promote our own for our EdTech professionals. I am especially looking forward to the gathering since I have recently joined the ELI Advisory Board.

Another good Spring Conference that I am speaking at is the CraigMichaels Technology Summit on April 1-3.

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