Future of Higher Education (Part 3)

What will it mean to be an educated person in the 21st century? As Future of Higher Education – How Technology will shape learning  study indicates, sweeping technological changes will effectively change the skill-sets of the future workforce, as well as its approach to work in general. As a result, societies around the world will need to consider how to make the most of these new opportunities and thus ensure that they remain competitive in the global marketplace.

Here is an abbreviated summary: 

Technological innovation, long a hallmark of academic research, may now be changing the very way that universities teach and students learn. For academic institutions, charged with equipping graduates to compete in today’s knowledge economy, the possibilities are great. Distance education, sophisticated learning-management systems and the opportunity to collaborate with research partners from around the world are just some of the transformational benefits that universities are embracing.
But significant challenges also loom. For all of its benefits, technology remains a disruptive innovation—and an expensive one. Faculty members used to teaching in one way may be loath to invest the time to learn new methods, and may lack the budget for needed support. This paper examines the role of technology in shaping the future of higher education. The major findings are as follows:

  1. Technology has had—and will continue to have—a significant impact on higher education.
  2. Online learning is gaining a firm foothold in universities around the world.
  3. Corporate-academic partnerships will form an increasing part of the university experience.
  4. University respondents view technology as having a largely positive impact on their campuses, but acknowledge that operational challenges may hinder the full benefits from being realised. In addition, technology may be disruptive in ways not intended: respondents note a rise in student plagiarism, cheating and distractability, which they attribute to easy and ready access to mobile technologies.
  5. Higher education is responding to globalisation.
  • What are the major challenges to educators in higher education?
  • What changes do you think are necessary to meet up those challenges?

School of the future

Here is a video on the school of the future: Microsoft School of the future.

How many schools are already using this approach? Would this happen in some of the schools of your districts?

Will Higher Education adopt such a school system? Cisco’s Vision for the School System of the Future

I think some of the on-line Universities are already using such approach in delivering their programs. More researchs may be needed to study the merits and limitations of those approaches.

  1. Do you think this will happen in your school/higher education institution? 
  2. What are the implications of such schools?
  3. What are the challenges for educators?
  4. As an educator, how would you overcome those challenges?

The Future of Higher Education (Part 2)

This paper on No Stimulus Money For Colleges by George Leef provides a stimulating insight into higher education.

The higher education establishment wants us to believe that having more formal education coursework under your belt necessarily makes you better educated (and vice versa). The sad truth, however, is that for many young people these days, college courses impart very little in the way of skill or knowledge. Due to the erosion of academic standards throughout much of our K-12 system, hordes of students enter college with extremely weak academic preparation.

Students like that want a college degree, but have little interest in education. Having a degree is important because many employers now use college credentials as a means of screening out people who haven’t gotten their degrees and are presumably harder to train. Consequently, many students enter college simply to get that fancy piece of paper….

Many colleges and universities are very accommodating to students who want a degree but are averse to serious work. While there are still islands of academic rigor, students can easily sail around them, picking up enough credits in courses where the expectations are slight and the grading easy……

After we process these young people through to their degrees, what awaits them in the labor market? Often they end up in mundane jobs that call for no academic training. Lots of college graduates now work as travel agents, retail sales supervisors, aerobics trainers, and so on…

Why indeed? Despite all the hype about the wonderful intellectual and economic benefits of a college education, the reality is breaking through—for many young people, college is a poor use of time and money. The reason why the percentage of Americans 25 to 34 who earn college degrees is starting to fall is that families are figuring out that a college degree is neither necessary nor sufficient for a good life.

The report on measuring up 2008 higher education provides an update on the US higher education. It highlights the uneven distribution of higher education opportunity and achievement in the United States.

The core message of Measuring Up 2008 is that despite our historical successes in higher education, the preeminence of many of our colleges and universities, and some examples of improvement in this decade, our higher education performance is not commensurate with the current needs of our society and our economy. Our nation and our states can do better. As we have done many times in this nation’s history, we must reach higher. We must educate more young people and adults, so that more Americans have the college-level knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

So, what may be the solution? Here are some thoughts from Mark in his post on Inflexion Points

In this near future world, students are the administrators. All of the administrative functions have been “pushed down” into a substrate of software. Education has evolved into something like a marketplace, where instructors “bid” to work with students. Now since most education is funded by the government, there will obviously be other forces at play; it may be that “administration”, such as it is, represents the government oversight function which ensures standards are being met. In any case, this does not look much like the educational institution of the 20th century – though it does look quite a bit like the university of the 13th century, where students would find and hire instructors to teach them subjects.

The role of the instructor has changed as well; as recently as a few years ago the lecturer was the font of wisdom and source of all knowledge – perhaps with a companion textbook. In an age of Wikipedia, YouTube and Twitter this no longer the case. The lecturer now helps the students find the material available online, and helps them to make sense of it, contextualizing and informing their understanding. even as the students continue to work their way through the ever-growing set of information. The instructor can not know everything available online on any subject, but will be aware of the best (or at least, favorite) resources, and will pass along these resources as a key outcome of the educational process. The instructors facilitate and mentor, as they have always done, but they are no longer the gatekeepers, because there are no gatekeepers, anywhere.

In response, Alex Reid’s mentions in his Redrawing the college classroom that:

When we look at the classes of participants in higher education–students, faculty, administrators, staff–as well as those who invest in higher education or have a stake in the outcome of the process–parents, politicians, trustees, corporations–we see many conflicting agendas. The university has evolved as a way of managing those agendas (to no one group’s satisfaction). The answer to Pesce’s final question is simple. For the most part, students are not in the business of getting an education; they are in the business of getting a degree. And we shouldn’t view that as a negative thing. It simply is what it is. If students were in the business of learning for the sake of learning, then they might be able to proceed as Pesce suggested. This would certainly change the business of teaching as well: students would say we want to learn x, y, and z, and a teacher would then accommodate that.

But that’s not what higher education is about for students, at least not primarily. Students want to be vetted and certified. Faculty, administrators, accrediting bodies determine the definition of a particular degree. Students who earn the degree attain a particular identity. Are we going to allow students to determine their own curriculum and then at some self-determined end state that they are now certified to be public school teachers or lawyers or doctors? I suppose we could, and then we would leave it up to the employers (school districts for example) to determine if students were qualified. But I don’t really see anyone wanting universities to abdicate that responsibility.

And there is also the Peer 2 Peer University that may provide an alternative avenue to higher education through the networks.

There is still some way before network learning could fully take the place of formal education in universities and colleges.  Rather, open education in the form of network learning may complement and supplement what may be perceived as weaknesses  in existing higher education courses. 

 There are many challenges that are yet to be overcome, especially in the area of accreditation of courses and curriculum and the assessment of students under open education and network learning. 

The following are some of the questions relating to open education and open education institutions/learning networks:

  1. How would the government grant accreditation of courses and curriculum?
  2. Who are going to oversee the accreditation of such degrees award associations or networks ?
  3. Will there be any funding provided by the government to these open education institutions/networks?  How are these institutions or networks financed?
  4. How would the employers and employers associations perceive the qualifications obtained through such avenues?
  5. How are the qualifications articulated or transferred across universities and these open education institutions or networks?
  6. Who are the educators of those courses in the open educational institutions or networks?
  7. Who are the learners in those open educational institutions or networks?

So, will there be significant changes in the higher and further education sector in the coming 3-5 years?  What sort of changes will there be in 2009?

Will open education or education networks be able to fully replace the “formal education” that are offered by the universities?  Time will tell.

More discussion and debates on the future of higher education are deemed necessary.  Your comments are welcome.

Connectivism – Are you connected to your workplace and colleagues?

Measuring the strength of a workplace can be done with twelve questions (adapted from a source that I couldn’t trace).

These 12 questions don’t capture everything you may want to know about your workplace, but they do capture the most information and the most important information.  They measure the core elements needed to attract, focus, and keep the most talented employees.

Give a score of 1 to Yes and 0 to No.

1. Do you know what is expected of you at work? Yes (1) /No (0)

2. Do you have the right materials, equipment, tools, instructions and procedures you need to do your work right?  Yes (1) /No (0)

3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? Yes (1) /No (0)

4. In the last 14 days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good work? Yes (1) /No (0)

5. Does your supervisor, manager, or leader, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person? Yes (1) /No (0)

6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development? Yes (1) /No (0)

7. At work, do your opinions seem to count? Yes (1) /No (0)

8. Does the mission/purpose of your section or company make you feel your job is important?  Yes (1) /No (0)

9. Are your co-workers committed to doing quality work? Yes (1) /No (0)

10. Do you have a best friend at work? Yes (1) /No (0)

11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress? Yes (1) /No (0)

12. This year, have you had the opportunities at work to learn and grow? Yes (1) /No (0)

Now add up the score and write it down:………….

My suggested interpretation of score:

If your score is 9-12 – congratulations, you must have enjoyed working with a fantastic workplace, with supportive supervisor and colleagues.  Your workplace must have attracted and kept the most talented employees – including you.

If your score is 5-8 – good that you are working with a nice workplace, with generous support from your peers.  But you may have to rely on yourself for future learning and career development

If your score is 0-4 – I am not sure what has happened to you or your workplace regarding your work.  You may be dissatisfied with your work or workplace, and may start to look for another workplace soon.  Or you may be working rather lonely in your workplace, without much support or feedback from others.   Are you working too hard yourself? What changes would you like to suggest?  To yourself and/or to your workplace?

The above questions are intended to stimulate reflections only.  

You are welcome to share your comments here.  

Looking forward to a happy and prosperous 2009.

I will create another questionnaire on learning connections.   It’s forthcoming!

Learning at work: e-learning evolution or revolution?

The paper Learning at work:e-learning evolution or revolution? Latest trends and blends in management & leadership development is based on a study conducted in the UK by Professor William Scott-Jackson, Terry Edney and Ceri Rushent from the Centre for Applied HR Research at Oxford Brookes University. It involves an online survey of 1087 CMI members and in-depth interviews with fifteen leading public and private sector organisations.

Some of the important conclusions  include:

There is no doubt that the use of blended learning is on the increase. The simple combination of ‘face-to-face’ programmes and e-learning has both shown the benefit of combining more than one type of learning and brought e-learning into the mainstream training arena.

There are still challenges however – both technical and cultural. As well as a cultural change amongst employees, where they see learning as an important and ongoing process, the training and development function itself will have to adapt to a new role.  This may be the biggest barrier to blended learning as the skills required to design effective learning are very different to the delivery skills traditionally required, and valued, in training professionals.

The research demonstrates the continued growth of managers at all levels using online technologies to select and access their learning resources.  Through the case studies we are now seeing the evolution of a more integrated, blended learning offer, where both online resources and traditional face-to-face training and development are offered as a complete learning experience.  It is by clearly identifying the desired learning outcomes and mapping this to career paths that organisations can seek to align personalised blended learning experiences to ensure they are building the management and leadership capabilities required to drive performance.


The following are examples, arising out of the current research, in which organisations are using ‘blended solutions’, and demonstrate how the move towards blended learning can be introduced incrementally.

1. Put assessment online.

2. Follow up with a community of practice.

3. Make reference materials available.

4. Deliver preparatory online learning.

5. Provide online office hours.

6. Use mentoring/coaching as a tool.

7. Access experts.

8. Maximise communications and messaging.

My reflections on blended learning, some of which resonated with the report findings are listed below. 

For me, blended learning has been my favourite since 2000.  I am intrigued why it has taken such a long time for the implementation of  blended learning in management development amongst managers in business and industry.  One of the issues may be a lack of promotion of blended learning in the workplace.  This may be due to a misunderstanding of blended learning amongst employers and employees in the past decade.  Another issue was the inadequate application of the first generation e-learning where e-books and web-based resources were used in training, which were based on factual information and were presented in a linear structured fashion.  Some of the learning resources were hardly interactive or of a multi-media type.  This led to a loss of interests and motivation in the learners in completing those e-learning programmes.  Fortunately, the contemporary ICT including Web2.0 such as mobiles, blogs, wikis and social network tools provide more options for personal learning, and have allowed more interactions and connections amongst the learners.

My experience in mentoring and e-mentoring in industry and online learning reveals the importance of support and  guidance for developing managers.  A manager also needs to immerse in both group learning and networks (such as intensive management workshop and networks) and integrate the learning with individual mentoring development program to reap the full benefits of blended learning.  The use of mentoring, coaching, blended with e-learning and on-the-job training would deliver cost effective solutions, and could provide excellent results, if it is supported by the organisation.  This is also highlighted in the findings of the paper. 


The traditional use of management development workshops on top of e-learning management programmes may be of value if there are follow on application of the skills acquired in the workshop.  


However, I have noted that many top CEOs, senior executives and managers are not buying in with the typical “flavour of the month” management development workshops because of the “brainwashing” one-off type of training.  Some of these “guru-delivered” type of training conferences or workshops are often short-lived due to their limited applications at work.  Some other training became another “Management training fads of the month” and dies off as soon as another “Management training regime came in and replace the previous one”.  


It would be worthwhile to introduce e-conference or “hot topic conversation” where executives and managers are invited to share their leadership, management, communication and training experience.  This could be integrated with a Community of Practice approach to allow managers to adopt best practise and benchmarking their performance across the supply chain, rather than the sole improvement of performance in their organisation.  More extensive training and learning of technology and tools such as: blogs, wikis and social networking tools would also be helpful in equiping the managers with skills required for success in the workplace.

  1. What do you think about a Community of Practice for Managers or Leaders?

Please also refer to my previous post on Distribution Centre Training on some of the findings in on-the-job training.