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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Demise of the University

Don Tapscott in the Edge on the demise of the University. Universities like MIT are posting their coursework online. Libraries are online. Wikis allow knowledge to be gathered and tailored in new ways. I don't think the demise of the University will happen soon, credentialing will still be there, but do think there has to be considerable adapting by all institutes of learning to retain their position.

Update: Or will cell phones replace learning?


stanrdyck said...

Franz, Eponymous Pickle community -

I see several issues:

1) Jobs are moving overseas (Bangalore, Shanghai, etc.). This means that the idea of "training" talent for American industry has become arcane in many instances. Internationalization of curriculum and processes to do that effectively are important. On the other hand students may be well advised to simply study abroad. As soon as foreign schools realize how much money they can make easily off American students, this will accelerate.

2) The affordability of university education is in rapid decline given cost/tuition escalation well-above any reasonable inflation rate in many places and dwindling research funding. Universities are increasingly about business models not learning. There is incredible competition for the continuing education dollar also such that enrollment aggression exceeds value-added.

3) I really wonder whether innovation based on alternative learning might not supersede credentialing esp. in fields where standardization/systematization are so feasible (IT, accounting, etc.) and lend themselves to offshoring (Daniel Pink's - A Whole New Mind)

4) In the experience of my two who have been or are in college (5 schools), that it is extremely rate to find any teacher who is interested in and capable of fostering or inspiring learning in any way shape or form. The baccalaureate is merely a required stepping stone to more expensive credentials - part of the wider part of the pyramid which funds the peak. Therefore, one has to conclude that as the baccalaureate portion falls apart, the edifice will crumble (bus model won't work)

5) Going forward the more/most successful leaders will be the ones who are able to marry traditional and non-traditional brilliance.

Stan Dyck

Vic Uzumeri said...

I read Tapscott's blog article and I have several disagreements. First, let me disclaim that I have been teaching for nearly 20 years in a business school in a land-grant university.

That said, the points of disagreement are not so much pedagogical as they are operational.

Tapscott sees the mass lecture as a poor pedagogy. Teachers (like me) are supposed to do less of those and more small group and one-on-one interactive feedback to a generation that has come to expect that.

There are several problems with that:

1. Moving from a one-to-many toward a one-to-one or one-to-few model is operationally very difficult. Universities, under tough budget constraints, aren't giving out those sorts of class ratios. Teaching loads are rising and class sizes are getting bigger. That kind of personal attention rapidly becomes infeasible, especially if universities demand (as they do) that faculty spend at least 50% of their time doing research.

2. As much as one might hope that technology would help a bit, the eLearning technology in universities is just plain awful. Applications like Blackboard are designed to make the student's life easier - at the expense of the instructor. You try keeping up with 50 or 60 students who all submit assignments in weird word processing formats - every one labeled "assignment 1". They figure that I must know who sent it because it came from their account. In a forensic sense, they are right. But that doesn't help when you want to download and print 50 files that don't contain an author's name so you can mark them up with comments.

3. The range of teachable material has exploded. When I studied my subject (business) lo these many years ago, the relevant bodies of knowledge were fairly limited. It was possible for a faculty member to keep up with reasonable reading.
In this technological age, game-changing technology and practice is emerging every year or two. Most faculty have a terrible time keeping up. If Google puts out a potentially game-changing technology like Wave, why would you expect that a busy faculty member could learn and assess it any faster than a bright undergraduate. In a rapid change knowledge economy, faculty's reservoir of knowledge is eroding just as quickly as anyone else's.

4. In the pursuit of students, tuition, and state support, universities have bought into the concept that students are their "customers". The job of faculty is to create customer satisfaction. That's total BS. What would satisfy my students in a class wouldn't make them worth a plugged nickel to an employer. I know because I also own my own business and I hire students (no, not my own).

Higher education is broken in so many ways, it is difficult to measure. The generational differences play a role, but the operational models of higher education are by far the bigger problem.

Alison said...

Today's post from Seth Godin, Graduate school for unemployed college students, is relevant too. I loved grad school - but his list sounds even better.