Goucher College eliminates 12 programs, fails to roll the Hard Six

Using publicly available data, Atkins said that general math at Goucher — one of the programs to be cut — led to four degree completions in 2016. That means an entire major was supporting perhaps 12 students, or very few even for a relatively small college such as Goucher.

“It’s a tough decision; I wouldn’t want to make it,” Atkins said. “But when there’s actually no program in the first place? It’s not a cut if no one’s majoring in it.”

Cuts to Liberal Arts at Goucher

I know this sort of program reduction is upsetting to many in Higher Ed, but it really shouldn’t be. Goucher isn’t eliminating all courses in Biology, Math, Music and the other eliminated Majors. It’s just eliminating the ability to major in those courses at Goucher. By the university’s own accounting, those Majors have very few students in them, even for a college the size of Goucher. By eliminating these majors, Goucher frees up resources to invest in other areas that, long-term, provide a more sustainable future for the college.

We’re going to have to get past this notion that every university and college must supply every major. It’s a relic of the 20th Century, and one that, for an increasing number of SLACs and Regionals, is no longer financially viable.

However, where I think Goucher and other institutions eliminating programs like this fail is that they are half measures. They address the current financial challenges, but they don’t fundamentally transform higher education’s failing business model. Inevitably, more cuts will have to be made. And the cycle repeats until the institution goes under or undergoes M&A.

I’d rather see these institutions Roll the Hard Six. Take the risk and fundamentally rethink what it means to be a college or university for the next 100 years, not the last. Instead of piecemeal elimination of underperforming programs, why not start from first principles and rethink how the university can provide value to students, faculty, communities, businesses, not-for-profits, etc.

What emerges would look very different from what we have now. A better, more sustainable institution of higher learning. We need to start imagining that together.

If you’re interested in beginning some of this exploration of preferred futures at your institution, using a range of participatory foresight and business strategy techniques, please contact me here to discuss what that foresight and business model design process might look like.

Disruptive Technology for the Traditional Lecture Model

At the request of Vince Kellen, CIO of the University of Kentucky, I produced the following chart exploring a continuum of the potential of various technologies to disrupt the traditional lecture model of course delivery.

Lecture Disruption Technology Chart

(Chart (c) 2010 University of Kentucky All Rights Reserved)

The idea behind the chart is to examine a continuum of the potential for disruption to the traditional “sage on the stage” model of course delivery posed by a variety of technologies.

To the left of the chart, we find those technologies that are most conducive to the preservation and enhancement of the traditional lecture model. Technologies such as slideware (PowerPoint, Keynote) and the Learning Management System (Blackboard, Mookle, Sakai) serve to reinforce those traditional aspects of this model by making it easier to conduct extant course functions. As one moves to the right on the chart, however, we see the introduction of technologies that increasingly disrupt the lecture model, as well as what we think of as the traditional face-to-face course. Color-coded columns are an attempt to group these technologies together into categories. For example, I’ve placed Second Life and Adobe Connect Pro into the same column as they – at a basic level – seek to preserve an existing classroom form and function, but pushed out into the online setting. The goal of both in education has, heretofore, been an effort at preserving a synchronous environment. Certainly, Second Life can (and sometimes does) go beyond that, but in my analysis, has not gone as far as it could toward the asynchronous experience.

The maximally disruptive technologies on the right are categorized as such because they do the most to take learning outside the traditional classroom environment, bounded by static and predictable time and space, and move learning out into the world in an asynchronous manner.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing a series of posts to further explain my thinking behind this continuum, and explore the technologies within each category and their disruptive potential.

Originally published at EduFuturist.com

The Future of Higher Ed #1: Accrediting Individuals, Not Institutions

I’ve been thinking a lot about Higher Education lately, specifically future scenarios mapping probable and preferable trajectories for universities. One thing that continues to be a real point of concern is the issue of accreditation – the process by which universities and colleges are certified by outside institutions to provide degrees. The current system is predicated on the idea that institutions are accredited by meeting certain guidelines. But does this necessarily HAVE to be the case?

What would Higher Education look like if individual scholars were accredited rather than institutions?

Image going back to a more Socratic method of education (not pedagogy, necessarily). Socrates wasn’t a tenured faculty member. He was someone who provided an education in collaboration with his students. In modern language, he was his own brand, and educational rockstar, as it were. What if, instead of accrediting universities, accrediting institutions bestowed this legitimacy on individuals?

Individual faculty would then be like modern “free agents,” to whom students would go to or stay away from based on the strength of their personal brand. Students could take online or f2f courses with the faculty of their choice, regardless of location. Universities would remain degree conferring institutions, largely serving the function of certifying that students had obtained sufficient credits from accredited faculty to be awarded a certain degree. Universities might differentiate by devising innovative degree programs and serving as a collaborative hub between individual scholars.

Faculty would have to learn to market themselves by developing and providing innovative, superior education in an on-demand fashion. Groups of academics, either from the same or different disciplines, could form “bands” (like Cory, Mark, Xeni et al at Boing Boing) to aid in their marketing and intellectual collaboration. Academics would be free, then, to create their own departments/committees, structured however they like in terms of organization, curriculum, revenue sharing, marketing, etc. Eventually, these academic “bands” might want to enter into a deal with a university to develop a degree/curriculum in return for the university taking on the marketing, payroll/taxes, etc., or to provide lab equipment, etc. This is similar to the arrangement the Boing Boing folks made with Federated Media, allowing them to focus on content while FM focused on the business back end.

Many academics would oppose this, of course, due to its elimination of the Tenure System. However, the tenure system in the United States is coming to an end. I’ve seen studies which suggest that 2/3 (or more) of all faculty at 2- and 4-year institutions are contingent faculty. Actually tenured faculty only make up about 10% or so of the system. So, tenure, if not already dead is dying in a hurry. By keeping accrediting power with the universities, academics essentially set themselves up to all be low-wage contingent labor. If academics could get past the seduction of tenure, they might find the system I’ve described to not only be more intellectually and creatively rewarding, but also more financially rewarding in the long term.

As we rethink the role, purpose and design of textbooks and traditional classrooms and pedagogy, we might also benefit from rethinking the entire operational structure of higher education.

What do YOU think?

Foundations for Strategic Foresight (Slideshow)

Attention Conservation Notice: I’m currently doing research/training in Future Studies, and am collecting helpful online material for this. Ran across this great presentation on Forecasting and am blogging it for future reference.

[slideshare id=478095&doc=futureperspectiveseminarwaddellbiblicalfoundations-1214005395861126-8&w=425]