Published on 2012/01/30
Power Share: Next Generation Learning
Advancing technology is providing a legitimate means to move past the traditional brick and mortar institution into a new kind of educational experience. Photo by Steve Hardy

Today, the education construct is rapidly changing due to a convergence of economic pressures and technological innovation. Moving away from closed information systems to open networked 24/7 systems—the world-wide web—the individual is repositioned as a producer of information, no longer merely a consumer.

Personal and institutional wealth slashed in the 2008 recession has drastically reduced the affordability of existing models of higher education. These seismic changes are shaking the hierarchical, puritan origins of university and college structure. “The distributed structure of information, media, and financial networks tends to subvert centralized power and destabilize established authority.” (Taylor p. 71)

E-learning has pushed traditional brick and mortar based education into massive disruptive changes; the tenured professor model is in question. E-learning is not tied to tenure professor performance in many institutions of higher education (IHE) and as a result many professors don’t make the move so adjunct professors are retained. Bite-sized learning morsels, referred to as “learning objects”, enable students to self-serve education selecting what they need, when they need it. Supply and demand, the hallmark of a commodity-based industry, is driving education.

IHE’s are experiencing stormy conditions on all fronts. E-learning pedagogy is “moving from a transmission model to constructivist, sociocultural and metacognitive models. These models use computer-mediated communication and emphasize students’ responsibility for their own learning.” (Howell, Williams, and Lindsay, 2003).  Not to mention escalating costs of higher education ($59,000.00 one year of private college) and slim post graduation employment prospects (19% of 2009 college graduates employed upon graduation) have created headlines calling into question the value of formal education.

The University of California (UC) has ten campuses throughout the state and was born out of California’s state legislature’s desire to establish an education system for residents. In the past, funding came largely from state funds supplemented by very modest tuition, but the reverse is true today. The state has slashed funding for both the UC and California State Colleges; it is clear significant change will occur in order for these institutions to remain viable.

Within this economic climate, UC leaders increasingly view the distributed and interactive features of the internet as a palatable course delivery option. Necessity breeds strange bedfellows. In order to survive deep financial cuts, collaboration will increasingly be seen between for-profit and public institutions. Blurring the lines even further are the emergence of the OpenCourseWare movement and substantial private funding for new models of education as seen by the Bill and Melinda Gates Next Generation Grants, aimed at transforming education through technology.

Ultimately, measuring what a person knows may be the primary business of education and where and how they learned it, secondary.

The tools educational leaders seek to stem financial losses are the same tools that learners and employees use to communicate and form social networks (SN). The implications of the dispersed, open and interactive WWW networks represent opportunity and challenge. The power of an individual and SN’s to influence public opinion and the ability to hyperlink content produced by amateur scholars change the power structure of academia. To have relevance in the future, IHE’s must harness WWW and get out in front with a new vision for education that, like leadership trends, enables a “power share” (Yukl).

 

Works cited:

Taylor, M. (2010). Crisis on campus: A bold plan for reforming our colleges and universities. New York, New York. Alfred Knopf

Yukl, G. (2006). Leadership in organizations (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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Readers Comments

Yancy Oshita 2012/01/31 at 6:30 am

Elizabeth’s analysis on the HE structure as a whole is analogous to what happened in media whereby the “big 3” once controlled and distributed all content. Today, more content is generated by social sites in a week than the networks produced in 50 years. IHEs must focus on sharing power, but more importantly changing to remain relevant in a hypercompetitive, decentralized environment.

carla 2012/02/07 at 1:09 pm

Meyer’s article is extremely thought-provoking and far-sighted. When we think of the word “university”, the word, itself, implies an all-encompassing, connected community. In this article, Meyer helps IHE’s see a future path — not without its challenges, but brimming with possibilities.

Elizabeth Meyer 2012/02/07 at 1:44 pm

This article about Standford professors, Udacity experiment is a must read: http://mindshift.kqed.org/2012/01/legacy-and-lessons-from-stanfords-free-online-classes/

I can feel the ground shaking!

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