I. The Issue, where should we go with higher education?

In the future of higher education conversation I take the perspective that the future is now, or rather, about following the trends that are discernible now.  It less about what to expect in the future than it is about what should be happening now.  These future questions address 2 potential areas: technology enabled new possibilities and the weaknesses of current pedagogy and curriculum.

1 New possibilities enabled by technology include things like: distance-education, open source content and programing, and increased connectivity through social some.

2 Weaknesses of  current pedagogy and curriculum, (allowing potential university competitors or collaborators) is more interesting because it is about change, a much more difficult process.  It also includes critiques of social science and educational paradigms (such as education, sociology or business MBA programs) and who can potentially tap into areas of discontent, especially discontent over the value of education and continued rising costs.

This will take more than one post and could be a potential research project.  I’ll begin by looking at the critiques of pedagogy and curriculum.

II. The Critiques of the current system

(a) The New York Times has issued debate on teacher preparation.  The debate is wide ranging, but there is significant current around the idea that education degrees do little to prepare you for classroom skills you will need in real schools.

(b) Seth Godin has a similar take on business schools (another arm of the social sciences).  First, Seth say b schools are good for 3 things:

  1. screen for future employers
  2. to build a network
  3. and third

“(and least important) reason to go to business school is actually to learn something. And this is where traditional business schools really fail. The core curriculum at business schools is as close to irrelevant as you can imagine.”

Seth goes on to indicate that the following list is what people really need and that b schools do not supply:

  1. Finding, hiring, and managing supergreat people
  2. Embracing change and moving quickly
  3. Understanding and excelling at business development and at making deals with other companies
  4. Prioritizing tasks in a job that changes every day
  5. Selling — to people, to companies, and to markets

This is an interesting critique, although it’s bait oversimplified.  Seth has completed an alternative MBA program and I’m guessing that his program is more about changing pedagogy with a more open curriculum.  When you think that open source education may open a very large universe of potential curriculum and the new pedagogy is how you navigate through this universe.  It highlights the increasing importance in trust: in yourself, in student, in teachers, mentors, and in the educational aspects of the collaboration process.

(c) Henry Mintzberg (of MiGill University) suggest closing down MBA programs in a Harvard Business Ideacast podcast; (also available through itunes) that management can not be studied out of context and leads to too many false positive decisions (to use a research based metaphor).

III My Take –

(a) People need resources, now more than ever, and university resources are a potentially large source, but we need a longer time view.  If we are forced to leave the university for resources, it will be a hugh loss of potential resources.

(b) How can we devise a pedagogy that is future oriented?  You might learn something today, but you’ll need a reminder 10 years from now, or you’ll need to revisit it in 10 years, or you’ll need that support community in 10 years and all the years in between?  How can we pedagogically organize content (curriculum) so that it can be accessed, synthesized, and further developed in a just in time fashion?  (That last one sounds like a pedagogy and technological question.)  Organizing things must be part of it.  Social media must be part of it.  Teaching process (not content) must be part of it, but an organized layered approach.  Following a rote process will not do (see the post on Bill Starbuck), you need to understand what the process is doing so that it can be shaped appropriately to the context.

(c) We need to re-think what it means to be an educated person in many different fields.  A problem with many programs is a common problem, they think that they already know what to do, and maybe 30 years ago there was an illusion that they did indeed.  What is an educated person; what can they do; who can they become?

I’ll chew on that for a while.