What does a radically different future of higher ed look like?

tl;dr There’s no real answers in this post, so if you’re looking for an actual future in this particular post, you’ll be disappointed.

In a recent paper around “flexible learning” (pdf) we argued that what is often described as an accommodating approach to online learning (aka flexible offerings that allow students who work and who have a family to complete their studies) may end up being oppressive (aka in addition to all other responsibilities, individuals are asked to make space for study, to upskill, to reskill, to efficiently fill in the remaining time that is remains in those paltry 24 hours with more productive activities… after work is done, after the family is fed, and so on). In other words, to pursue more education, the individual student is asked to be more flexible. To do more.

This, along with other work that I’ve been following, like Catherine Cronin’s and Laura Czerniewicz’s reflections from OER19, raise many questions about what a radically different future of education looks like. If, as some believe, there isn’t much difference between public higher ed and for-profit higher ed, then what does a public higher ed that is radically different look like?

  • Would it look to alternative areas to support one’s studies rather than the individual? In the example above, the onus on the individual invites one to subscribe to a particular ideological position. Why shouldn’t the employer make space for the employee’s study? Why is the individual asked to be flexible and not the employer?
  • What does teaching look like in this radical future? Who does it, and why? How do we harness field expertise, pedagogical expertise, and digital expertise without requiring instructors to be experts in all of these areas?
  • What do courses look like?
  • What is the role of instructional designers in developing visions for the future and how does one ensure that their voices are heard and valued in this conversation?
  • In a radically different future, are institutions “selective” or do they they open their doors wide?
  • In this future, do all institutions look alike? In proposing a radical future, should we be proposing multiple futures?
  • Whose interests are being served in radically different futures?
  • What would higher ed look like if it were more kind, more inclusive, more equitable?


Zed Creds at Royal Roads


In education, what can be made more flexible?

1 Comment

  1. We like to think we’re (relatively) quietly helping to define another quite different path, perhaps similar to what you’re asking about at the OERu (https://oeru.org/how-it-works) – we’re a global network of higher education institutions of many kinds coordinated by a charitable foundation… Our main goal is low cost, equitable education opportunity on a global scale. We’d like to see a world where everyone can afford to reach their educational potential.

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