Are we at the crossroad in Higher Education?

This article on the death and life of Higher Education provides an interesting insight into how HE could be run in an entrepreneurial manner, where “the  most powerful solution will be a combination of concepts: (1) Superman and Heroes, (2) Google and Gaming, (3) Alcoholics Anonymous, and (4) the Boy Scouts.”

I wonder what these mean, when superman and heroes are introduced into education.  It is intriguing to learn that: “We have found that it is relatively easy to convince students that they are “heroes on a hero’s journey,” destined to change the world. Tapping into this deep human need and encouraging learners to find their most precious gifts—and use those gifts in a way that brings them joy and helps others—is providing powerful motivation to do the courageous work required for transformational learning.”

I think some students are very eager and ambitious in “changing” the way they learn, as could be evidenced with the numerous postings of Youtube videos and the creation of networks, blog posts.

If you are still not yet convinced that we are at the crossroad in Higher Education, here:

The diversity of our learner profiles with a wide range of educational backgrounds, skills, and aspirations makes the offering of a one-size-fits-all approach increasingly ineffective, and frustrating to both the institution and learners. There is no doubt in my mind that the future of higher education will be digital, open and mobile.

Is it a fantasy?  Higher Education will be digital, open and mobile, rather than the brick and mortar, as it is now.

In this EPIC 2020: Higher Education in the Year 2020.

I don’t think I am convinced of the “transformation of higher education” yet, even with the dramatic introduction of Sal Khan Academy, or the recent MOOC movements, though they are creating enough “disruptive technology” to the HE itself.

Why?  Transformation of education comes at a price, in terms of the paradigm shift, and the pedagogy that best appeals to educators and learners.  Education wouldn’t be changed much unless there are associated changes in the way we teach and learn.

Even if you could prove that a huge number of students could “succeed” in completing online courses, by passing with good marks, there are still certain “commodity” that cannot be challenged or exchanged.  What is it?

The values well laden in the “qualification market”, where qualification is still the number one hall mark for a number of professions.  For instance there are certain professions which would only accept formal qualifications, such as those who practice as doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, pilots, and even professors.  Universities in the HE are still the gate-keepers of all qualifications, and that would likely be the case in the coming decades.

Is there really disruptive technology in education?  John Dvorak argued that disruptive technology was just a myth, back in 2004.  I am however, more than convinced that disruptive technology is indeed a reality as revealed through its adoption throughout the ubiquitous networks, and cheaper mobiles and emerging technology are quickly replacing the old technology.

Who would want to break through in education (or Higher Education) via technology – be it sustainable or disruptive technology?

If the innovator’s dilemma in this is providing the right direction then:

Even after correctly identifying potentially disruptive technologies, firms still must circumvent its hierarchy and bureaucracy that can stifle the free pursuit of creative ideas.  Christensen suggests that firms need to provide experimental groups within the company a freer rein.  “With a few exceptions, the only instances in which mainstream firms have successfully established a timely position in a disruptive technology were those in which the firms’ managers set up an autonomous organization charged with building a new and independent business around the disruptive technology.”  This autonomous organization will then be able to choose the customers it answers to, choose how much profit it needs to make, and how to run its business.

What seems to be happening with the numerous initiatives such as MITx, EdX, Udacity, Coursera etc. have been rightly predicted and charted out by Professor Clay Christensen.  Those “x” extended from the institutions would become an autonomous organization to experiment with new potential and emerging disruptive technologies (the MOOC) and (research resulting from the MOOCs).

This would probably be a route with no return in this sort of experiments, and Higher Education movement.

Higher Education CAN only afford to succeed, under the current economic climate, as more administrators are looking for alternative ways to fund their programs, and students are also looking for cost-effective  solutions to their own education.

What would then be necessary to drive this education in a way that would guarantee success, rather than risking for failures?   There is simply no magical formula here, as our future is driven by “complexity”, and is likely governed by “complex” though strange attractors that would lead to a whole different world of education, even in a few years time.

I have once predicted that this sort of future education would soon make its turn towards mass education with personalized learning, like the MOOC movement.  However, what sort of technology would uplift the HE to another higher level?  Is disruptive technology playing as the strange attractor here?  Are the sort of investments based on disruptive technology giving more choices for the learners?  Or will education become a commodity managed under a entrepreneurial business setting?

Who has the crystal ball?