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The Future of Higher Education: a #digped Discussion

 Published on December 5, 2012 /  Written by , , and /  0

This Friday, December 7 from 1:00 – 2:00pm Eastern (10:00 – 11:00am Pacific),Hybrid Pedagogy will host a Twitter discussion under the hashtag #digped to consider the future of higher education. The conversation curated and archived via Storify.

Over the last twelve months, Hybrid Pedagogy has published 74 articles by 16 authors. It’s no surprise for us to report that the articles we’ve published about MOOCs have been some of our most-read articles of the year. The MOOC is not a bandwagon, though, but something needing careful interrogation with “discernment but not judgment.” Jesse argues in “Online Learning: a Manifesto,” that “to get lost entirely in the stories being told about MOOCs is to miss the forest for the trees, so to speak.” There is a deeper discussion underlying our anxieties (and excitement) about MOOCs — a discussion about the efficacy of open education, online learning, and digital pedagogies. A discussion about the future of education.

Cathy Davidson argues in Now You See It, “Learning is the constant disruption of an old pattern, a breakthrough that substitutes something new for something old. And then the process starts again” (5). According to Davidson, our system still operates on old models of industrialization, which we can see reflected in the compartmentalized ways many of us think about the brain. Davidson sets out to deconstruct the idea that our brain works like a linear, mechanized machine. She writes, “Because we’re in a transitional moment, most of us aren’t aware of how structurally different our life has become because of the Internet. We don’t see how radical the changes of the last decade or so have been” (11).

We’ve seen headlines all year indicating that the “business” of education has become, sometimes, an emaciated shadow of its former self. A recent article in The New York Times describes the spike in numbers of adjunct teachers on college campuses — from under 50% three decades ago to close to 75% currently. States continue to call for more cuts to university budgets. Those of us whose research, teaching, and/or professional networks have become digital are familiar with the administrative push toward online resources in order to lower bottom lines. Negotiating between pedagogical principles and cost-cutting imperatives creates tension that must eventually be resolved systematically. As we wrote in “The Myth of Efficiency,” “Availability and efficiency aren’t the only things a student needs for education to be productive; students require a lifestyle that makes learning important and meaningful.” They also need a dedicated and institutionally-supported pedagogical community.

Not every issue facing higher education makes headlines, however. As instruction and learning become ever more digital, there are subtleties that need discussion and exploration. While MOOCs, digital literacy, and the political economies of an evolving higher education steal our attention again and again, there are quieter, less in-the-spotlight issues that need careful consideration. Editorial pedagogy,citation, the nature of peer review and collaborationorganic writingcopyright and fair use — all of these topics have stirred conversations in the corners, and while they may not be as sexy as other trending topics, they deserve our critical attention.

During our next #digped discussion, we will consider the large and the small, the loud and the quiet, the sexy and the just merely handsome. Here are some questions to consider in advance of the discussion:

 

  • Where is higher education headed? What do we value about its traditions that we want to keep in place as we move it forward? What can we shed? What needs to be revised and repurposed?
  • What’s the next conversation we need to have about higher education? What areas of change are the most relevant to analyze and critique? How do we keep our conversation productive and not judgemental or condemning?
  • Who are the stakeholders in this conversation? Who do we need at the table, and who might guide this conversation? Think in terms of strata, not personnel: 4-year institutions, community colleges, K-12, corporations, etc.
  • If MOOCs aren’t the answer, what is? We’ve argued on this journal that MOOCs are more a strategy than a solution; and if they are, to what do they point?
  • And below all these questions, what are the questions we’re afraid to ask? The questions that unnerve us? Can we be imaginative enough, and creative enough, to ask those questions?

Join the conversation on December 7 at 1:00pm EST (10:00am PST). For those unable to attend this week, Hybrid Pedagogy’s #digped occurs on the first Friday of every month. Our next #digped conversation will occur on Friday, January 4, 2013, same time, same place. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments below or tweet to @hybridped.

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