History and Future of Higher Education

Today is the first day of a six-week course I’m taking online, The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education. Its core question is how we can design educational institutions to be future-ready — that is, ready to think and solve problems in ways that are only possible in 2014 — rather than mindlessly traditionalist.

If you were designing a new university today, would it look like most universities of today? If not, we need to ensure that our institutions and our curriculum are responsive to the outcomes and methodologies we want our students to have at the end of their degrees. No doubt that’ll mean keeping most systems in place — like the end-goal of a degree — but nothing is sacred: departments, disciplines, and even the idea and format of a ‘course’ are up for discussion. Are they fostering 21st-century literacies? And how exactly would they? Just what are those literacies?Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 08.14.29

I’ve been an administrator (Associate Dean for Teaching & Learning) for just two months, but so far I’m struck by how much time I spend responding to things as they are: applying course policies, hiring sessional instructors, recruiting students for existing programs. The number of committees tasked to think differently, to be responsive to the future, are outweighed by those that apply the rules and standards of the past. (That’s both good and unsurprising: we can’t spend all day imagining a world that doesn’t exist yet. Only Fridays.)

So here’s to rethinking Higher Education, and reading some disruptive manifestos, and thinking carefully about how to make my own institution (classes, department, faculty, and university) more nimble and flexible.

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