some of us are brave
Tom Vander Ark has a book called “Getting Smart: How Digital Learning is Changing the World.” He also has a website, Getting Smart. Vander Ark also knows the future of higher education:
Next-generation higher education systems will share ten elements:
States replacing accreditation with performance contracting around outcomes (including real writing and math standards).
Learners bundling from multiple providers; stackable credits and credentials (WA policy is better than most).
Broad access to low cost high-support environments (e.g., community colleges wrapping MOOCs in student services).
Broad access to college credit opportunities in secondary schools: AP, dual enrollment, and MOOCs.
Broad access to low-cost competency-based job certificate programs (also the best entry point for standards in postsecondary).
Alternative market signaling strategies including badging, certification, portfolio, and references augment or replacing degrees in dynamic job categories (e.g., web design/development).
Traditional colleges will reduce costs and boost completion rates with blended and adaptive learning.
Colleges, companies, and associations focused on powering lifelong learning relationships.
I find the predictions all very darling…and complicated.
I cannot make highered predictions but I can tell you that any promise about the future of higher education that does not consider, seriously and soberly, the reality of the labor market is more spin than analysis. I have talked before about “working one side of the equal sign” and this is a good example of that phenomenon in higher education reform-disruption-analysis.
As I once told a Very Important Person, if I have a credential worth something and you try to convince me to go into the business of verifying “completion and achievement” — effectively granting my institutional legitimacy while giving away all of my authority and autonomy — I’m going to introduce you to a little catchphrase from The Wire. Which isn’t to say overwhelmed university leaders, pulled by a dozen competing pressures — won’t do it. But they shouldn’t.
There is no clear aggregate market for badges and alternative credentialing. A higher education system that produces a credential the labor market did not request and is not organizationally suited to reward will be (further) marginalized.
I do not know how a “low cost high support” learning environment isn’t an oxymoron. Support equals resources equals money in a capitalistic market economy. The students going to college are more resource intensive than almost any previous generation of college students. The idea that we can support them well on the cheap is a bit of magic I’ve not yet figured out.
I may not be able to predict the future of higher education but there is some evidence about the future of the other side of that equal sign. Our labor market continues to pull jobs like salt water taffy, i.e. along opposing, unequal ends of a pole. Competition for the jobs at the top of that pole will drive the demand for any kind of edge, including all manner of credentials. But that demand should not be confused for quality, value or associated occupational and social rewards.
Those falling from the middle and towards the bottom of that pole will seek out credentials as insurance. That will continue to create some short term demand for credentials. But, unless the labor market starts providing some evidence that a credential is the insurance against job insecurity within the fast growing bottom tier of low-wage jobs, a lot of people are going to become quite disillusioned with the education gospel.
Technology will continue to be proffered as a solution to anything caught in the last seen outfit of a problem. At best, technology is an evolutionary phase of pedagogy but it does not challenge a single trend in the labor market that is acting back on the pressures constraining higher education.
I do not do predictions but if I did, I’d say the trend of over-promising on technology and ignoring the other side of the equal sign is likely to go unchanged in 2014.