the future of higher education in "the age of disruption"
It is by now a cliché to suggest that higher education is being "disrupted." Everything, it feels like, is being disrupted: from the way we drive to watch TV to shop to do business to, yes, teach and learn. Optimists proclaim this a revolution. Skeptics see old wine in new bottles. Yet as one begins to dig beneath the surface, one finds immense turmoil and uncertainty as individuals and institutions scramble to make sense of and work within the changing norms and patterns of higher education. This course provides an introduction to these issues.
Specifically, this course will examine the future(s) of higher education in the current moment of societal, cultural, and technological “disruption.” It will take the role, relevance, and function of higher education as a question, thus allowing us to ask foundational questions of how it might look otherwise and what it is supposed to actually do. The course will provide conceptual tools and case studies by which to understand “disruption” in higher education and examine several key issues and drivers of such disruption: for example, the demographics of the “new student majority”; technological advances in online learning, data analytics, and MOOCs; the disinvestment from public higher education; and the unbundling and adjunctification of faculty work.
Ultimately, the course will ask – and expect students to begin to answer – how this current moment allows us to create (or perhaps prevents us from creating) a better postsecondary educational system.
Midterm Paper The midterm paper is your chance to carefully and critically explore one of the key issues in the first half of the course. The overarching goal is to demonstrate that you can describe, analyze, reflect upon, and synthesize the key aspects of this issue. One way to do so is to address the thematic focus of this course through a specific focus, such as: vision; teaching and faculty work; learning; the student experience, digital learning technologies; structure and sustainability; equity & social justice. Thematic focus: disruption in higher education (whether technologically-, culturally-, or market-driven) is an opportunity, as it forces us to confront the limits of what we have been doing and rethink how we can do things differently. This encompasses everything from faculty work to the student experience to the vision and structure of higher education. This will be a painful process as it will intrude upon just about every facet of our daily lives; supplementing, complementing, and replacing aspects we have long taken for granted. Yet it is incumbent on us to embrace this process. We cannot control these larger societal changes; what we can control is how we choose to be a part of them.
Guest Speaker Host & Moderator We will have numerous guest speakers in this course. Some may join us in person; others by Skype. I expect that these will be informal discussions lasting 30-60 minutes, though some guest speakers may have a prepared talk. Your job will be to act as the host and moderator for one guest speaker. I will make the initial introductions for you, and it will then be your job to coordinate all aspects of the individual’s visit. This will include all communication with the individual, preparation for the visit, and research on the individual and his/her accomplishments and/or job responsibilities. You will be required to provide the class with reading materials at least one week in advance such that we are all prepared for the topic of the talk/discussion. You will also (with the professor) moderate the discussion. This may be done on your own or in a group.
Ethnography of an Online Course You will be required to take an online course. (You are required to enroll in it; it is up to you if you actually want to complete it.) The course should be either through a MOOC provider or through a competency-based format. I have provided a suggestion below of two such providers; both providers offer courses that are free of charge. Please speak with the professor if you would like to take a course from a different provider not on this list. Your goal for this course is not to be a “student.” It is to be an “ethnographer.” In other words, you will be documenting your experience as an “outsider” in order to better understand this model of course delivery. You will be required to produce a summary of your experience in this course as well as give a short presentation to the class about it. In general, I expect you to be able to describe the course, explain the relevance of this type of course delivery vis-à-vis our notions of “disruption,” and offer insights regarding key aspects of this course, focusing primarily on one of the following issues: vision; teaching and faculty work; learning; the student experience, digital learning technologies; structure and sustainability; equity & social justice. This may be done on your own or in a group.
StraighterLine.com was founded in 2009 as “a solution to the rising costs of college education…This year, 15,000 students just like you will take StraighterLine courses before getting their degree and advancing their careers.”
edX was founded in 2012 by MIT and Harvard and is “an online learning destination and MOOC provider, offering high-quality courses from the world’s best universities and institutions to learners everywhere.”
Case Study of Disruption You will choose one institution from the list below of “disruptors,” those “disrupted,” or an institution that disrupts our traditional model of higher education in another way (what I think of as “retro” disruption). Please speak with the professor if you would like to use an example that is not on this list. You will be required to produce a case study report on this institution as well as give a short presentation to the class about it. In general, I expect you to be able to describe the organization, explain the relevance of this institution vis-à-vis our notions of “disruption,” and offer insights regarding key aspects of this institution, focusing primarily on one of the following issues: vision; teaching and faculty work; learning; the student experience, digital learning technologies; structure and sustainability; equity & social justice. This may be done on your own or in a group.
Final Project You will be expected to choose a topic of your choice for the final project. The overarching goal is to demonstrate that you can articulate, analyze, reflect upon, and synthesize the issue chosen for the final project. The final project can be fulfilled through multiple formats, such as a final paper, case study, report, or implementation project. It can be solely focused on the issues raised in this class or aligned with and linked to your capstone project. There will be regular “checkpoints” with the professor throughout the semester to provide opportunities for discussion of your final project topic, focus, guidelines, and expected outcomes. You will present a summary of your final project in the last class session. This may be done on your own or in a group.
Dan Butin. (2012). “I Am Not a Machine” New England Journal of Higher Education, November 30, 2012.