Have We Really Transformed Higher Education?


– Faculty, I think maybe 20 years ago, were more resistant to
instructional design help, right? Why would I want you, an
instructional designer who doesn’t know the subject matter, telling me how to teach? And I think on many
campuses, that’s changed. There’s almost a demand
for faculty to think about, you know, I need
instructional design services even in my face-to-face course. – For those early adopters, when they look I believe at online education today, they would say that they know more, they’ve got more technology
tools to bring to bear and that when we do it
very well, we do that, their role is a bit different. That they work in a team. It’s much more of a
collaborative kind of an effort to offer that education in a way that that is successful for students. – I think there’s evidence of
gradual system level gains. For example, the other
day I was researching retention trends over time, so
the proportion of first year students who are still there
in second year, full time, part time and in aggregate
they continue to creep up. So all this investment in support services and nudge technologies
and all the rest of it, you know it’s hard to
pinpoint cause and effect but cumulatively you know if
we just make some assumptions about what’s going on,
you know we’re not seeing dramatic leaps not surprisingly
but given that we’re talking y’know 20 million students and
a few thousand institutions, to me that’s quite impressive to see that steady incremental gain. – I think the real
evidence that I’m seeing that we’re starting to gain some traction is in the level of awareness. The fact that, I think,
even four years ago when I started in the
Kirwan Center there were still enough lot of faculty that weren’t reading the chronicle and the inside hirad and all these other daily
rags on a regular basis that we read and know, come to understand the real pressures on higher education. Most faculty don’t so you
know I think what we’re beginning to see as faculty saying okay, I get it now, we’ve got to change, something’s gotta transition here. – What I’ve seen in higher
education is a move away from some of what we were
seeing around the dawn of web 2 dot 0, people
experimenting in various ways with certain kinds of
open pedagogical practices and toward this idea of institutionalizing varied kinds of automated,
well-measured and ultimately I think kind
of soul-less approaches to degree completion, student
success, all these things that sound so great on the surface. What are the things
we’re trying to optimize in contemporary higher education? Graduation rates? Well, but that’s a proxy measure. That doesn’t necessarily
mean you’ve learned critical thinking or
you’ve learned to be able to approach a new problem insightfully. It means you got your diploma and if you optimize for getting diplomas inevitably the process is going to be optimized for the process of getting
through credit hours. It’s not going to be
optimized for learning which is messy, which can be uncertain and those are features not bugs. – One thing I’ve really noticed changing in the last decade is this move from um faculty or even institutions in general being gatekeepers of education
to student advocates, um particularly in the
public university space. That we’re no longer
trying to restrict student access to education, that
we’re becoming advocates. We’re really thinking about equity, we’re really thinking
about expanding access, um we’re really trying to find solutions to economic hardship for students. – Unfortunately I see not
a great deal of evidence that higher education is transforming. I see some bold experiments,
the kind of things that are being done at Arizona
State University for example. I see some new and effective players like the Western Governors University
and so I do see change but broad transformation is
something from where I sit I don’t yet see. – If we’re looking at the
underserved post-secondary population, we’ve seen
great strides in this. The team at ASU and Plus
research lab is just releasing a study that
shows across six different institutions the impact that
digital learning has had so I do think that we’re making strides. I also think we’re transforming the way we look at higher ed. We know that the now majority
of people are adult learners not the traditional learner,
so I think in looking at how we serve those learners, and looking for connections to the workforce and the workplace and offering those different
types of credentials and how we stack them and
provide those opportunities for adults, I think we’re
really kind of reinventing and transforming how we look. It’s what the student,
I think more so what the student needs, when you’re
serving that adult population than what the institution
thinks the student needs.

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