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?

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: Further research, learning and education reforms, and open education

I have just read the up-dated principles on connectivism by George Siemens. I am glad and impressed that he has added one of the most important elements in connectivism – the emotional dimension in learning, and that he has highlighted its primacy in connectivism.

I am intending to research in this area – the emotional elements which are critical in the personal internal and external connections building, formation, development, and sustaining, using technologies (such as Web2.0, internet and other digital media).  And how a person’s principal style of learning (i.e. director, relater, reflector and thinker) will have an impact on such connections under connectivism.

Though there has been numerous researches done in the psychological domains (Self Determination Theories), learning styles theories, learning styles, on-line learning and Web 2.0 application in various context, what I found were often conflicted views on the theories and their limited validity in different contexts and use, especially in personal learning.

I tend to conclude that theorising the teaching and learning using a pedagogical approach would sometimes lead to over-generalised conclusions at this digital age. Experience and knowledge accumulated in the CCK08 have already hinted that diversity of views on knowledge formation and development(by Maru, Viplav and Carlos) could only be meaningful and applicable if there are significant merits in reflecting what, how and why people learn in a networked environment.

Charlotte Allen’s “Postmodernism’s Dead End” provides an interesting account on what is epistemology.

The review was less about Cusset’s book than about Fish himself and Fish’s own ideas about the postmodernism: the notion, promulgated by the ur-postmodernist and Fish idol Jacques Derrida, and now the reigning orthodoxy in college literature departments across the country, that essentially there’s no such thing as reality, and there’s also no such thing as a “you” or “me” with sufficient rational ability to know anything about that reality. All we have are “texts” or “narratives” that may purport to tell us what is real (example: a scientific article) but are actually no more than self-referential expressions of ideology (such as belief in scientific progress). Fish wrote: “All we lose (if we have been persuaded by the deconstructive critique, that is) is a certain rationalist faith that there will someday be a final word, a last description that takes the accurate measure of everything. All that will have happened is that one account of what we know and how we know it — one epistemology — has been replaced by another, which means only that in the unlikely event you are asked ‘What’s your epistemology?’ you’ll give a different answer than you would have given before.”

This has a significant implication when it comes to the transfer of knowledge across domains and the significance of epistemology from an individual and network perspective.

The transfer of knowledge from one domain to another domain is therefor another important area of research study. This could have a significant impact on domain experts’ interpretation of what makes “valid and reliable” knowledge. The multi-faceted view of knowledge and learning perceived by domain experts need to be examined and researched systematically under an open system, from an ecological perspective. It’s imperative that networks of diverse domain experts be invited and encouraged to re-examine the impact of technology in learning and education in this era.   And both the educators and learners to develop methodologies that could be used to validate the knowledge under a network approach.  The e-learning network conference presentation and discussion, community of practice networkswiki (wikipedia) and (institutional, educational and personal) blogs, and research papers websites have provided viable solutions to such validation.  Further research are required to consolidate the findings of such validation approaches.

The transformation of such transfer of knowledge along the networks will accelerate the learning and educational shifts at grass roots and institutional level.

This also means that grass roots level’s urge of  a shift of learning paradigms and the associated institutional educational reforms must be weaved with those developed by domain experts and grassroots network to ensure that both paradigm shift and reforms are sustainable, at least at a local, community or national level.   As each community has its immediate needs, it would best be addressed at such a level by the community networks.  Educators, learners, community networks and institutions (governments, educational institutions and businesses, and unions) must also be involved and consulted throughout the different stages of development of such educational reforms.  This ensures transparency in policy and principles, equity in access (to networks and resources such as technology) and resource support (financial and technical) are thoroughly considered.  Again a network approach to such consultation is desirable to ensure the Wisdom of the Crowd are feedback to the networks, with increased wisdom and learning  for the networks and institutions in response to changes.

How could this be achieved? The development of free open education courses (or open learning networks) on the global market would encourage more people who are ready “learners” to be engaged in active learning at a grass root level. This could be based on the MIT OpenCourseWare or Yale’s University course model. When professors, professional teachers and enthusiastic graduates, and learners are involved and inter-connected in such open learning networks (or in such open course at a university  level), a synergy of learning will give rise to a proliferation of high quality, cost effective network learning. Such approach will lift the community of practice approach near to its ideology, and would be an added value to professors’ and teachers’ credibility in reaching the learners in a proactive manner, beyond the traditional educational boundary.  Such a learner centred approach will truly enshrine the learning networks that are developed, and will inspire more educators and learners to join in to build a better community.

The leverage of this open education approach will further accelerate a community’s education and learning on a cross domain level, culminating the merits of “liberal arts education”, “vocational education and training”, “community education” and “university education” as required by individuals and societies. This will also lessened the boundary that existed in the fundamental educational institutional, public and private educational and training providers’ setting.

The educators and learners of different levels could cross “cultivate, teach and learn” their knowledge and experience under such a free education and knowledge network. The e-mentoring approach which has long been promoted in education, business and industry could be incorporated under such a network model. Both educators and learners (or mentors and mentees) grow and develop together in “multi-visions and missions” networked learning ecology.

There are many implications to this open education or mentoring approach apart from those mentioned by Dave Cormier on his 3 little pigs story on MOOC and the pre-requisite knowledge in order to build a solid foundation on the open education course:
(a) Will substantial research in this education initiative be needed? Do we need to ensure that educators and the administrators are fully aware of the merits and risks in the design and development of curriculum and network formation?
(b) How will funding and costs be established under such open education courseware, networks or “university”?  Who will fund such initiative?
(c) How will stakeholders and their interests be considered to ensure long term growth and sustainability?
(d) How would market segmentation be considered? Is it necessary to aim for the right target market of “educators” and “learners”?
(e) Whether a blend of “educational” and “business” approach is preferred in an open market educational programs?
(f) Should the establishment of such University or networks be based on some sound business and education principles? What are those principles?
(g) What are the visions and missions of both the University or networks and the associated networks (i.e. the University or institutions that are associated with this open education networks)?

It’s also imperative to look at the Trends Shaping Education 2008 and a blog post by Don Ledingham that summarises the Trends Shaping Education 2008.  This report on Trends Shaping Education provides important roadmaps for future changes in education in the OECD member countries.

Open education is not a dream, this is already happening around us.

  1. How would we be able to meet up these challenges – on research, development of networks and open courses and learning networks?
  2. What do you see will be the most important areas of research in network learning under connectivism?
  3. How could such researches be achieved?
  4. What sort of open courses are useful for your community?  Will it be in Liberal Arts Education for the adult learners?

The Future of Higher Education

After reading the posts below, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, it seems that older adult learners prefer liberal arts education, to fulfil their aspirations. On the other hand, some younger adult learners prefer to take up courses like business/ commerce or vocational education and training to prepare for their future “career”, or for building competencies for their existing career, in face of rising costs of higher education that has become a burden to them and their family.

  1. Is this a trend or just part of the pendulum swing, or a result of the economic crisis/tsunami?
  2.  Will technology lower the cost of delivery of “quality education”?
  3. What is the future of higher educational institution?

Would a forum discussion/Elluminate/UStrem/Facebook chat help in unfolding some of the issues and sharing feasible solutions, using a network approach. I think experts ideas such as those shown below are great, however, would community responses add further values to such debates or discussion?  And would we like to start from here?

Here are some extracts for reflection:


By Kevin Carey

If colleges use productivity gains from technology to restrain prices, they’ll continue to thrive in a world that values their product more than ever.

Fed up with unaccountable colleges and uncontrollable prices, the public will gradually withdraw from its historic commitment to higher education, weakening institutions that are vital for the nation’s competitiveness in the twenty-first century.

Students, meanwhile, will likely turn in increasing numbers to the for-profit universities that are aggressively moving into the market by offering convenient, no-frills degree programs over the Web.


 By Donald Downs

The idea of “bubble” has been on everyone’s mind since the escalating housing and economic crisis first erupted in July 2007. Throughout these turbulent times, one institution appeared to be coasting along above the fray: Higher Education.

Obviously higher education will (and should) survive. But there is no reason to think that higher ed will be immune to the shakeouts and reorganizations that have affected so many other institutions in this age of globalization.

And perhaps fewer young adults will attend college. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for the growing gap between aspiration and reality, and between cost and benefit is not a healthy phenomenon. Millions of young adults might be better off attending schools or apprentice programs that train them to perform such important and responsible jobs as carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and mechanics.

Meanwhile, liberal arts programs for older students might flourish, attracting individuals who have finally discovered the motivation to learn and expand their intellectual horizons that they lacked in their earlier years. To borrow from Shaw, who famously lamented that youth is wasted on the young, liberal education is often wasted on young adults, many of whom are prone to be impatient of and unreceptive to the wonderful intellectual benefits that liberal education can bestow.


“Education is a global currency” By Rupert Murdoch

For most of us, the best path to success is through an education that will allow us to fulfil our potential. That begins by setting high expectations, adhering to real standards and ensuring that when you do leave school, you leave with the tools that will help you get ahead in life.

Another way of putting it is this: it’s not that the poor are getting poorer. It’s that the economic rewards to the skilled are making them much richer. This is clearly understood by the leaders of developing countries. But it seems beyond the comprehension of much of the developed world.

That is one reason I have two key criteria for education programs that News Corporation supports: schools must be focused on achievement and they cannot make excuses for why some students are supposedly poor scholars.