Finishing Up #CFHE12 Week 1 – Economics, Ed Futures, & Bucking Tradition

Finishing up the readings from #cfhe12 Week 1.

  • The Siege of Academe:  A piece on the edtech startups dotting the Silicon Valley landscape, and what they mean (or don’t mean) to the future of higher education as we know it.  The piece comes from the perspective of the innovators (stereotyped here as twentysomethings straight out of East Coast higher ed looking to make it big), and the foundation of the piece is that education is a trillion dollar potential gold mine…for the right company that gets the right product out at the right time.  Most interesting to me was the roll call of existing movements in the field (Udemy, EHighLight, the various xMOOCs), as well as the lack of discussion from anyone involved in educational theory or pedagogy.  I will go down this road in a future blog post, but in the world of edtech startups and xMOOCs there is a galling lack of perspective on the future of education from people who study educational theory and pedagogy.  Seb Thrun echoed the sentiment of Sal Khan recently, saying during a keynote at Sloan Consortium’s International Conference on Online Learning that he had been a teacher all his life, and never received any instruction on how to do it, later mentioning that the best Udacity teachers came to the field as something other than teachers.  To be fair, I personally understand Thrun’s gist here…I came to my work in ed theory and pedagogy after becoming a teacher (and I became a teacher with not one ounce of education coursework or theory, just my prior knowledge and a can-do attitude).  I think I brought a good perspective to my early teaching because of my mixed knowledge base; however, the best-case scenario for my early work was that I did a lot of reinventing the wheel, and the worst-case was that I undercut the work of longstanding teachers by ignoring their recommendations only to come to them months or years later.  Might there be institutional problems within the institution of teacher (local and global)?  Sure.  But the research and theory existing in education today is worth looking at, not ignoring boastfully.
  • Why the Internet isn’t Going to End College as We Know It:  This article says the existing model of higher education in America is still the best out there value-wise, and there is more to college than a degree.  Author Jordan Weissmann makes a good point on the networking potential of a face-to-face college experience, but does not ground it in existing research or theory so it reads as off-the-cuff and pie-in-the-sky.  The weakness of the for-profit industry shows up here (and it’s nice to see someone link ed futures such as the MOOC to ed presents such as the University of Phoenix), and it’s especially poignant since just this week the University of Phoenix announced the closing of 115 nationwide locations.  Weissmann states that until online education can hit existing education in the pocketbook, the traditional model will push on.  The comment seems naive of the last 12 months worth of academic, theoretical, press and pundit writing on the subject; just because the hit has not come yet, there is ample evidence that someone is winding up to punch it.
  • Higher Education & Economic Development Efforts:  The Rockefeller Institute of Government at SUNY Albany released a study looking at efforts from higher ed to expand out into their local communities with project-based initiatives designed to grow community and potential economic development.  The study points to a number of case studies looking at developing research parks, urban areas, and housing developments near campuses.  It would be interesting to look at the schools mentioned here (most of which are well-known and subsequently well-funded) and see how such measures have affected endowments, and whether or not there has been any negative press or happenstance due to such efforts.

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