Transforming Higher Education

Why this presentation is Power Point Less!

For the past half dozen years I have - whenever possible - avoided Power Point for presentations.  The concept of developing a presentation that is not native to the Web, that is proprietary in form, and that does not easily promote broad sharing and participation is not consistent with our approach to teaching and learning in the 21st century.  Instead, I have used presentation blogs, Google Sites, Prezi, SlideShare, and other Web-based, open tools.  I believe that these model the practices we should encourage broadly.

The Coming Paradigm Shift in Higher Education - the Wall Street Daily 1/27/2012

The online education landscape is changing at a rapid pace, thanks to new platforms that allow students to take full, quality courses online.

Take Apple’s iTunes U, for instance. Then there are websites like Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare and Coursera. Similar to iTunes U, these websites offer courses ranging from Introduction to French and Developmental Psychology, to Computer Graphics and Game Theory. What’s great about these platforms is that you’re not learning from someone with zero credibility. In fact, many courses are taught by professors from institutions like Stanford and MIT (in the case of MIT’s OpenCourseWare, all the material is by MIT’s faculty). Not to mention, they’re free. So anyone with an internet connection can take Ivy League-level courses without accumulating massive student loan debt. Which is one reason a Stanford professor is ditching his tenure and starting up an online university of his own.

Free courses may shake universities’ monopoly on credit - Jon Marcus, The Hechinger Report 1/23/2012

Just as the Internet has made news free and music cheap, it may be about to vastly lower the cost of one of the most expensive commodities in America: college. Several new companies and organizations with impressive pedigrees are harnessing the Internet to provide college courses for free, or for next to nothing. And while many traditional universities are slowing this trend by refusing to give academic credit toward degrees to students who complete such programs, several no- and low-cost startups are doing an end-run around this monopoly by inventing new kinds of credentials that employers may consider just as good.  “If I were the universities, I might be a little nervous,” said Alana Harrington, director of,a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit established by entrepreneur Michael Saylor that offers 200 free online college courses in 12 majors.  Among other similar initiatives are Peer-to-Peer University, or P2PU, which also offers free online courses and is supported by the web-browser company Mozilla and the Hewlett Foundation, andUniversity of the People, which charges $10 to $50 for any of more than 40 online courses, and whose backers include the Clinton Global Initiative. Both are also nonprofits.

Education Gap Grows Between Rich and Poor, Studies Say -Sabrina Tavernise, NY Times 2/8/2012

Now, in analyses of long-term data published in recent months, researchers are finding that while the achievement gap between white and black students has narrowed significantly over the past few decades, the gap between rich and poor students has grown substantially during the same period. “We have moved from a society in the 1950s and 1960s, in which race was more consequential than family income, to one today in which family income appears more determinative of educational success than race,” said Sean F. Reardon, a Stanford University sociologist. Professor Reardon is the author of a study that found that the gap in standardized test scores between affluent and low-income students had grown by about 40 percent since the 1960s, and is now double the testing gap between blacks and whites. In another study, by researchers from the University of Michigan, the imbalance between rich and poor children in college completion — the single most important predictor of success in the work force — has grown by about 50 percent since the late 1980s.

Sebastian Thrun Announces Udacity

MITx online learning may be more appealing to employers - Stephen T. Gordon, Boston Globe
MIT, a pioneer in making course materials available online for free, announced in December that it will begin to offer a credential for completion of online courses through a new program called MITx. The program is intended to offer MIT’s teaching materials to a wide range of students. Though it will carry some costs for students, the university’s press office has stated, “The aim is to make credentialing highly affordable.” Now, imagine a personnel manager at a mid-sized corporation who’s looking for an employee with some particular knowledge. There are two candidates: one with an appropriate college degree from the local state school, a second with relevant MITx certificates. Let’s say all other things between the candidates are equal. Which should the manager choose? Given the caliber of professor at MIT, the online student may have learned just as much. The candidate who went to college probably enjoyed his experience more, but the potential employer is unlikely to care about that. Finally, there’s the financial reality: To some extent, the student debt of the job candidate dictates his salary requirements. If the MITx candidate has the knowledge required and far less student debt, he probably can be hired more cheaply. Ultimately, the cheaper option will win.

First MITx Course Attracts 90,000 Students, Proving the Popularity of Online Learning by Lauren Landry, BostInno March 6, 2012

When MIT first introduced MITx in December, we knew the courses would be popular. Not only are they free, but they allow anyone to receive an MIT-sanctioned certificate. With the first course launching today, however, we’re seeing just how popular the program is — 90,000 people popular. Coined “6.002x (Circuits and Electronics),” the class first opened in February, already garnering that immense amount of traffic.  “This is an exciting day,” said MIT Provost L. Rafael Reif, in a release. “MITx is designed to allow MIT students and faculty to explore ways to use technology to augment the MIT education: We are eager to see how MITx courses can add even greater value to our traditional, time-tested approach to teaching. MITx will also offer MIT teaching to people beyond our campus, widening access to education and offering new connections between the Institute and learners around the world.”

Class Size = 1 Billion, MIT OpenCourseWare's Goal for the Next Decade by Education@Google

Ten years ago, MIT helped launch a revolution in access to education when it announced it would place the core teaching materials from its entire curriculum online for anyone to use at no charge. Today, MIT OpenCourseWare shares materials from more than 2,000 MIT courses and more than 250 universities around the world have joined MIT in publishing their own course materials openly. Sites like, Khan Academy, have emerged to explore this new territory of informal online learning. In December, MIT announced a new online learning initiative, MITx, which will offer a portfolio of free courses through an online learning platform that features interactivity and assessment. In this presentation by Cecilia d'Oliveira, MIT OpenCourseWare's Executive Director and Shigeru Miyagawa, Chair of MIT OpenCourseWare's Faculty Advisory Committee and Head of MIT's Foreign Languages and Literatures Department, we'll examine the how open educational resources are changing the educational landscape and meeting the global demands for open knowledge.


Open Learning Initiatives Proliferate:

And many more.. 

Open Educational Resource University (OERU) by Paul Stacey, February 22, 2011

The OER university is a sustainable international system which will provide free learning to all learners with pathways to gain academic credit from formal education institutions around the world. It is rooted in the community service and outreach mission of tertiary education providers to evolve parallel delivery systems (now possible with the open web and free content licensing of learning materials) that will augment existing educational provision. The OER University is an open network and public-private partnership (PPP) including post-secondary institutions, the private sector, non-profits, government and international agencies. The OER university concept is based on the strategic enablers where it is more effective to collaborate on selected components of the OER university concept, for example shared course design and development. However, collaborating institutions retain their core operational services associated with assessment and credentialisation. This OER ecosystem aims to serve both formal and informal learners by creating more flexible pathways for diverse student needs.

Disruption: Coming Soon to a University Near You by Bill Fischer, Forbes 1/19/2012

Science-fiction writer William Gibson is famously known for the observation that “the future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed,” which when it comes to disruptive innovation are probably the truest words ever uttered.  If we follow Gibson’s lead, and consider lead users who are struggling to redefine the nature of the education industry, where we should be looking, I believe, is to such fundamentally non-traditional, technology-assisted efforts as the TED lecturesthe Kahn Academy, Stanford’s amazing prototype “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence (with its 160,000 enrollees), or to the forthcoming MITxinitiative. Each of these is a “lead-user” initiative, authored by individuals or groups less interested in competing in the new industry’s wave of offerings as they are in solving their own problems [although, to be fair, both Stanford and MIT are very much incumbent leaders in the industry, but one gets the sense that maintaining industry leadership was not the primary motivation for these initiatives -- they were and are prototypes]. At some point, perhaps even “augmented reality” will become a part of future educational offerings? All of this is very different than the prevailing offerings, as disruption should be, and threaten to challenge some of the most sacred of assumptions regarding learning, as disruption should do. As with any disruptive innovation, there will be winners and losers.

College debt report raises alarms by Don Lee / Tribune Washington Bureau  March 6, 2012

Some experts have called the nation’s soaring college debt load a “ticking time bomb” — a looming crisis threatening young adults, their families and the broader economy.  A new report raises even more alarms: It’s likely that as many as 1 in 4 borrowers was carrying a past-due student loan balance in the third quarter, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Monday.  That’s a much higher delinquency rate than previously thought. By a more conventional measure, the New York Fed said, 5.4 million of 37 million borrowers with student loan balances had at least one past-due student loan account — a 14.6 percent rate.  The New York Fed report concluded that “student loan debt is not just a concern for the young. Parents and the federal government shoulder a substantial part of the post-secondary education bill.” The New York Fed said the past-due balances on student loans amounted to $85 billion, or about 10 percent of the total owed. The same 10 percent rate applies on average to other types of consumer delinquent debt, such as mortgages and credit cards.  But Fed researchers said delinquency figures for student loans understate the magnitude of the problem. That’s because the calculations don’t take into account that federally guaranteed loans, which make up the bulk of student debt, typically don’t require repayment while borrowers are still in school and for six months after graduation.

Could Many Universities Follow Borders Bookstores Into Oblivion? By Marc Parry, Chronicle of Higher Ed March 7, 2012

Higher education’s spin on the Silicon Valley garage. That was the vision laid out in September, when the Georgia Institute of Technology announced a new lab for disruptive ideas, the Center for 21st Century Universities. During a visit to Atlanta last week, I checked in to see how things were going, sitting down with Richard A. DeMillo, the center’s director and Georgia Tech’s former dean of computing, and Paul M.A. Baker, the center’s associate director. We talked about challenges and opportunities facing colleges at a time of economic pain and technological change—among them the chance that many universities might follow Borders Bookstores into oblivion.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy

Sal Khan: Building a better university - Scott Olster, Fortune/CNN Money 2/8/2012

Fortune: Judging from the counter on your site, it looks like Khan Academy is not too far away from delivering its 120-millionth lesson. What has surprised you the most about all those users?

Sal Khan: I've been surprised at how motivated a lot of people are that you wouldn't traditionally think would be that kind of a motivated student. They were the kid who failed out of college, failed out of high school, hated academics.  I gave a talk last week to a bunch of chief learning officers from companies and one woman came by and said, "My husband hated school. He's dyslexic. He was a fireman and he just started watching the videos and he got really into it. He got really into math, really into physics. Went back to college, got a math degree and a physics degree, a master's in physics, and is now teaching physics." And so, it's this reality that there are people like that out there that have completely gotten frustrated and disengaged with the traditional model that tends to judge you and label you in very early stages and really doesn't let you learn at your own pace.

MOOC (massive open online class) 


Badges and other alternative certifications

Some sample badges:

Microsoft Certified System Engineer Sample Badge    Adobe Certified Instructor Sample Badge  Sample Certified Professional Search Engine Marketer  sample certified professional horticulturalist badge   

How Will Mozilla's Open Badges Project Affect Higher Ed?  by Audrey Watters, Hack [Higher] Education - Inside Higher Ed

The Open Badges Project is a recognition that "learning looks very different today than traditionally imagined. Legitimate and interest-driven learning is occurring through a multitude of channels outside of formal education, and yet much of that learning does not "count" in today's world. There is no real way to demonstrate that learning and transfer it across contexts or use it for real results," Mozilla's Erin Knight told me in an interview for O'Reilly Radar. Mozilla is responsible for the design of the technical infrastructure of the badge ecosystem. This means, no surprise coming from Mozilla, that the technology is open-source (documentationsource code). In the organization's words, the infrastructure is "designed to support a broad range of different badge issuers, and allow any user to earn badges across different issuers, web sites and experiences, then combine them into a single collection tied to their identity. This collection of badges can then be shared out to various audiences across the web, resulting in real-world results like jobs or formal credit." Of course, making an open source and openly accessible system like this flies in the face of the proprietary systems that currently control those "real-world results like jobs or formal credit" -- namely, universities. The proposed Open Badges Project challenges not just certification, but also assessment. 

  • What does it mean that anyone can issue any sort of badge? 
  • Does a badge offer a better representation of skills or competencies than having a formal degree? 
  • If so, when? 
  • Will these badges be meaningful -- to students, to schools, to employers? 
  • Will they be accepted? 
  • If so, by whom?

Beware: Alternative Certification Is Coming by Richard Vedder, Chronicle of Higher Ed [Innovations]

Enter ETS and CAE. ETS has operated the famed SAT test for the College Board and owns and operates many other iconic tests, such as the TOEFL, GRE, and Praxis. Through affiliated organizations, it is big into employee testing. Via StraighterLine, students, for a modest fee, will be able to take the iSkills test that “measures the ability of a student to navigate and critically evaluate information from digital technology.” CAE is a powerhouse organization, with a board laden with leaders from the college world (e.g, Benno Schmidt, former Yale president; Charlie Reed, chancellor of the Cal State University System; Michael Crow, president of Arizona State; Sara Martinez Tucker, former Under Secretary of Education). The CLA assesses critical learning and writing skills through use of cognitively challenging problems. It is the test used by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa to support the research in Academically Adrift, my favorite recent higher-education book. Hundreds of universities use the test.  Students can tell employers, “I did very well on the CLA and iSkills test, strong predictors of future positive work performance,” and, implicitly “you can hire me for less than you pay college graduates who score less well on these tests.”

 ~ How Will We Adapt?

  • What are our strengths?
    • Reputation
    • Infrastructure
    • Contacts and placement
    • Ability to roll out high-quality programs very quickly

  • What are our weaknesses?
    • Cost of admission

  • What are the opportunities?
    • Just-in-time learning 
    • Learning that requires significant academic depth
    • Specialty areas where we have rare resources and knowledge

  • What are the threats?
    • That open learning opportunities will siphon away our student base

 ~ What Is the Sustainable Model?

  • Market our reputation for quality and our placement record
  • Launch new programs that are relevant, up-to-the-minute, and in demand
  • Assess the strengths of our faculty resources, our physical resources and our alumni resources
  • Avoid trying to be all things to all people - instead, play to our strengths
  • Minimize risk by considering revenue-sharing approach rather than payment for service approach


Ray Schroeder Daily Blogs

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Contact information:

Ray Schroeder
Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs
University of Illinois Springfield
One University Plaza
Springfield, IL 62703
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