Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It’s Time to Reimagine Higher Education (4a) - A Portfolio of Responses for 2010-2013 – Academic and Learning Environments

OK, so you have articulated the imperative to realign your institution to financial sustainability by 2020. You have focused attention on the need to change from “muddling through” to “strategic” in 2010-2013. And you have established the planning and budgeting principles, practices, and processes needed to proceed. What are a portfolio of possible responses that your institution can take on the path to discovering financial sustainability?

Each institution’s responses will be distinctive, but there are similarities in the issues that are on the table. Consider the following set of possibilities in four intersecting areas which can be launched in 2010-2013 and executed through to success by 2020.

• Academic and Learning Environments
• Administrative Environments
• Resources to Support Reinvention and Realignment
• Tools and Structures to Support Realignment

In this posting (Part 4a), we’ll deal with reimagining the Academic and Learning Environment.

Academic and Learning Environments

To switch from muddling through to strategic thinking, institutional leadership must deal with the academic and learning environment. Financial sustainability cannot be achieved without tackling the need to enhance productivity, raise student performance and success, reinvent approaches to online and blended learning, and discover fresh approaches that align with the world of ambient technologies, mobile learning, and new patterns of engagement. Your institution should follow authentic versions of the following that fit your distinctive circumstances.

Reimagine Academic Roles, Relationships, Partnerships, Workload, and Productivity. As discussed in earlier blogs, academic roles have been shifting for decades, with the numbers of adjunct and part-time faculty increasing, and tenure-track faculty declining as a percentage of total. As part of the reimagination process, institutions should explore and discover a sustainabile mix of different faculty roles and responsibilities, more productive practices, and reinvented course experiences.

Redefine the Roles of Different Academic Professionals and the Mix for an Institution. Roles should be rethought in the face of ubiquitous technology and mobile learning, reinvented online and blended learning practices, and a fresh look at the power of community-based learning and use of peer learning mentors. And what is the role of research and faculty scholarship, at different types of institution sin the New Normal?

Reimagine Academic Workload and Productivity. Institutions need to take a fresh look at productivity and workload. In the short-run, workloads may need to increase simply to deal wit resources cuts (institutions with a 2+2 course workload in fall and spring terms may need to raise that to 3+2 or even 3+3, plus raise summer assignment. In the long run, institutions may need to trim their course catalogs, change the mix of academic staff, and reinvent courses into team-based, broader learning experiences using communities of learning and practice.

Build on Existing Reinvention Initiatives, Demonstrate New Behaviors. Carol Twigg and the National Center for Academic Transformation have demonstrated how course reinvention can reduce costs and improve performance. But the real payoff is not reinventing individual courses, but in scaling reinvention across whole departments and colleges, and using insights from reinvention to change learning experiences. Institutions should build on existing innovations, but look at taking them to scale.

Enhance Student Success, Reduce Total-Cost-of-Learning. Many institutions have demonstrated that attention paid to retention and student success has a dramatic return on investment. Initiatives like those supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Education Trust, and the National Association of System Heads are showing “what works” in improving retention in different settings. The increasing diversity of the student population suggests that many institutions will need to implement these measures just to maintain existing success statistics.

Embed Analytics into Decision Making to Improve Student Success. Many institutions are using embedded analytics to monitor student engagement and performance in real time, and to intervene with students to keep them on course. Building organizational capacity to use and leverage analytics is a key element of realignment to the New Normal.

Dramatically Reduce Remediation, Boost Retention and Student Success. In the long run, the best way to reduce remediation and improve student performance is to improve the performance of high school learning environments. Bridging, concurrent enrollment, and early college high school programs can help. K-16/K-20 improvement initiatives are ongoing in every state and can be shaped in this direction. The techniques, resources, and practices from OER/OEP can be useful as well.

Reduce Time-to-Degree and Total Cost of Learning. Institutions need to aggressively address this issue. State institutions where students regularly take five years to complete a baccalaureate degree should use online learning and aggressive monitoring to enable students to complete degrees in four years. By reaching down in to high school, institutions can provide three-year and even two-year completion paths for able students. Some students will be interested in “no-frills options”.

Create New Pathways to the Workforce. Community colleges and high schools are exploring ways to accelerate the development of vocational learning options and means of preparing such learners for rapid preparation for and employment in, the workforce. Partnerships with unions and trade associations are leading to apprenticeship programs. Many vocational programs are finding learners want to take a course or two - enough to achieve employment - then complete their associate degree or certificate while employed.

Reinvent Online and Blended Learning and Resources. Most institutions have created models of online and blended learning that are actually more expensive than traditional, face-to-face learning. Nor have they used the online environment to create “community of practice”-based settings that can better address learning” to address knowledge gapsTo realign to the New Normal, institutions should move to more advanced stages of online and blended learning that can be used to reinvent practices in K-20, reduce costs, and better link .

Reinvent Online Learning so its Marginal Cost is Fully Covered by Tuition. Institutions like the Western Governors University, Lamar University, and Florida State College at Jacksonville have demonstrated that reinvented and unbundled online learning can be dramatically reduced in cost to the point where its marginal cost is less than tuition. This enables public institutions to meet demand, supported by tuition alone. Having this capability as a part of an institution’s “mix” will be critical to thriving in the New Normal when institutions are blending a portfolio of offerings, experiences, and price points.

Advance the Use of OER/OEP and Reach into High School. MIT has advanced its Open Courseware (OCW) and Open Educational Resources (OER) initiatives in a new venture called “Greenfields” which adds “Open Educational Practices” – the course notes, research-based pedagogical insights, and guides to faculty practice that show how to optimize learning for particular types of learners in different contexts in different disciplines. If OER/OEP were embedded in reinvented online and blended learning, these practices could be used in high school as part of the effort to improve performance, accelerate effective transitions to college, and reduce times to degree.

Use Blended Learning to Reduce the Need for Physical Facilities and Reduce Trips to Campus by Commuting Students. Commuter institutions and those serving adult learners are currently using online and blended learning to mitigate the need for physical facilities, reduce the times learners must come to campus, and reduce learner “opportunity costs.” These practices will be redoubled in the future and could dramatically reduce and change the nature of campus facility needs.

Capitalize on the Advances in Open Learning Environments, Free-Range Learning, and Demand for Certification of Prior Learning. Anya Kamenetz’s book, DIY U dramatized the spectrum of choices facing Millennial learners who are finding traditional offerings too expensive, too constraining, too slow to adapt to changing needs, and largely unable to deal effectively with credit for prior learning. As open learning options emerge over the next ten years, institutions will be under increasing pressure to incorporate these practices into existing learning pathways. They will also face opportunities to create new types of learning experiences.

Create Online Learning Communities Aligned with Professional Practice. In addition to the learning pathways that result in certificates and degrees, practicing professionals require perpetual refreshment of their skills and targeted learning to fill “knowledge gaps” that are caused by the rapid pace of change in the global economy. Filling these knowledge gaps requires stronger “feedback loops” than are provided by existing Advisory Committee Structures and more rapid response than can be provided by curriculum committees.

Successful colleges and universities in 2020 will have discovered how to partner with corporate enterprises, trade and professional societies, local governments and economic development agencies, and other partners in order to create and support the next generation of community-of-practice-based learning.

Use Knowledge Gap Learning to Embed Skills in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. As institutions develop the capacity to focus on specific knowledge gaps, they will use this capacity to enable learners in certificate and degree programs to enrich their learning acquisition with insights on innovation and entrepreneurship. This will be a critical requirement of the realigned college nad university of 2020.

Maximize International Educational Opportunities to Build Global Competencies. Tomorrow’s successful colleges and universities will prepare their graduates to be good global citizens and effective practitioners in global contacts. This will be facilitated by the new generation of online and blended learning capacities, community-of-practce-based conversations, and use of ambient technologies.

Align Learning Activities with the Realities of Technology-Rich Environments. Technology both extends the campus and creates nodes of intensive embedded technology on campus. In the evolving world of mobile learning, every place is a learning place.

As the cornucopia of personal devices evolve and the use of cloud computing matures, institutions will find that learners will demand that they be able to use their personal devices as part of the learning environment. Moreover, the use of virtual reality, augmented reality, 3-D techniques, and other advanced visualization tools embedded in physical locations on campus will create demand for fresh learning and application experiences.

Future blogs will complete this conversation on “A Portfolio of Responses for 2010-2013:

• Academic and Learning Environments (Done)
• Administrative Environments (To come)
• Resources to Support Reinvention and Realignment (To come)
• Tools and Structures to Support Realignment (To come)

These will be presented soon.

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