Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Higher Education at the Crossroads

Last night on TVO's always-intelligent The Agenda with Steve Paikin, there was a very interesting discussion of higher education.  Many people are convinced that higher education is in for a huge disruption, enabled by new digital learning technologies that not only allow many people to experience education and do it in a cost-effective way, but arguably improve the learning experience on several measures by allowing it to be personalized and self-paced.

The Agenda's panel of intelligent, articulate folks from Ontario post-secondary institutions weren't buying it.  They fervently felt that online education was very much a sustaining innovation that could improve the existing institutions.  Only the participant from Athabasca University, a flexible online post-secondary institution, saw the possibility of online education displacing existing institutions.  (I'm oversimplifying here).  Most were creatively looking at how they could exploit the technology to improve their existing offerings - like some University of Toronto approaches that 'flip the classroom'.  But most gave off an air of relative complacency, especially the participant from a community college.

As for the idea that Paikin floated about whether we needed to have more co-operation between universities and community colleges, there were some platitudes, but true feelings emerged when there was a bun fight about whether university or college graduates experience higher employment placements.

Interesting program.

I am in the midst of teaching my Managing Innovation course to MBA students at Queen's and their final project is to come up with a great innovation in the post-secondary education field.  I'm dying to hear what approach they'll take.  Will they go for a sustaining innovation that sticks to the existing business model but makes it much better (either through introducing online learning or some other approach completely) or will they jump into disruption with both feet and seek to overturn the existing system?  Will they look at the total population, or focus in on some segment of the market (perhaps business education, since that's what they've involved in themselves)?  I'm open to all approaches, and I can't wait to hear what they have to say.

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