Where’s The Innovation? Part 3.
What’s interesting to some people, and down-right scary to others, about the upcoming (and still largely unforeseen) innovations is that they extend significantly beyond the teaching and learning equation. Although there are many new teaching and learning models, disruptive change is occurring in other areas as well. And as they evolve and improve in sophistication and quality, they permit dramatically different economic and organizational conceptions of how post-secondary education can be organized and offered.
StraighterLine(SL). Imagine courses approved by several accrediting or validating bodies such as ACE and DETC, developed by a leading publisher (McGraw-Hill) and offered at a fraction of the cost of public college lower division courses. Add in a special tuition scheme through which you can buy courses by the course or complete them more quickly and pay less money. And finish off with a growing consortium of institutions which will accept the credit if presented with a SL transcript. In essence you, have a non-college offering the most popular lower-division courses in America and other collegiate services at an extremely competitive price. The implications for pricing, patterns of attendance, and a dramatically expanding set of choices for how one “goes to” college are enormous.
The OpenCourseware Consortium (OCWC). As the Open Education Resource (OER) movement has taken root, and the web is filled with free courses from hundreds of colleges and individuals, OCWC and iTunes University represent a seismic shift in the post-secondary education world. Historically, colleges and universities are known for the quality of their faculty and their courses. It is an embedded part of their myth structure and current identity. With the advent of OCWC and its 200+ institutional members from around the world with their 15,000+ contributed free courses, however, the role of content has been stood on its head. Now, a learner can access the MIT Engineering curriculum (as one example) and use that content for no charge. If that learner is enrolled in an appropriate higher learning support program where a mentor can work with her in a guided independent study format, you have just created Mark Hopkins sitting on an electronic log in one of the oldest teaching –learning paradigms that we know of. And it is potentially scalable to as many learners as there are who want to participate that way. Common high quality, readily available content flips the traditional role of curriculum on a local campus on its head.
TheIndependent Collegiate Learning Assessment (iCLA). When the Collegiate LearningAssessment program was launched over 10 years ago, it was hailed as a break-through event. The significant value add, released by CLA was the ability to get an assessment of learning gains between the first and last years of college at a low cost with high statistical validity. Importantly, the learning assessed was crosscutting intellectual learning in areas like writing, critical thinking, and problem solving. Institutions like mine (Cal State Monterey Bay, at the time) seized on the CLA as one more objective and third party source of important information about how well we were serving our students. Still, the assessment was an institutional assessment used for institutional purposes. Now think about the Council on Aid to Education’s (C AE) newest product, the individualized Collegiate Learning Assessment Program. When it rolls out in 2012, at a very low price, individual learners will be able document and store assessments that mark their learning gains in their learning portfolios with the iCLA. Historically assessment of learning has been the province of the faculty, almost exclusively. Now, learners can roam their communities or the Internet, learn informally or in programs that are organized but not accredited, and then see what kind of gain they have experienced in their learning. The implications for assessment independent of institutional learning are enormous.
Knowledge Extension (KNEXT). When the Council for theAdvancement of Experiential Learning (CAEL) was founded forty years ago, the assessment of experiential learning was done randomly and without a core set of principles and standards. Even with the development of principles and standards, the practice remained a boutique practice because of the paperwork and sheer logistical overload involved to prepare a portfolio with proper documentation. What KNEXT, and another similar program called Learning Counts, has done is put the process online, strengthen its rigor and validity and allow it to be taken to scale for thousands of people. Imagine a portfolio assessment process that integrates all the formal and informal learning you have done along with your experiential learning into a single portfolio. You now have a way to track your learning throughout life, drawing on its value explicitly as life’s demands evolve. And, again, the OCWC offerings, or iTunes University become the raw material for learning that can be documented later, and validated by other experts.
These four examples are the tip of an iceberg of innovation that will be revealed over the next few years. They challenge the economics, the academic assumptions, and the organizational structure of most colleges and universities. As Jeff Selingo asks “Where Will the Innovation Begin?” in the October 21 Chronicle ofHigher Education, I answer, “Everywhere”.