(Looking Back and Looking Forward takes a look at the articles and posts I found interesting from the previous week, along with reflections about how the trends they point to might shape my thinking about education and technology.)
I’m sure there will be a plethora of conversations, inspirational hype, and appropriate gasps of excitement and incredulity at this week’s ASU+GSV conference. After all, it is the intersection of investors, large philanthropic organizations, educators, and educational technologists, all looking to define (and some, to make money from) “What’s next.?” “What are the sources of innovation that will disrupt the way(s) we do education?” Equally important, “How can we take advantage of the disruption(s) already underway?”
With that in mind, here are just a few of the disruptive fissures we can already see in the education landscape, just from looking at last week’s news.
Community colleges seem, in many ways, to be the proverbial canary in the coal mine. The latest reports show that overall community college enrollment is down, but skilled-trades programs are booming. We also see a decline in students pursuing a 2-year degree at public colleges, but an increase in students enrolling in career-focused certificate programs. The news here isn’t that community colleges are in trouble, but rather that there is a shift in the motivations of the students who have traditionally enrolled in community colleges. Students are weighing the costs of getting additional education (time and money) against concrete employment opportunities and wage increases. In other words, ROI is taking the lead over general promises of opportunity and flourishing.
Okay, if that’s the case, then why on earth are politicians in California making a third attempt to close Calbright College? Isn’t Calbright, an online community college focused on skills and helping students attain a positive labor market outcome, a good model for how to promote and deliver positive ROI to students? Possibly. But Calbright is also an example of the dangers of leading with hype and over-inflated expectations. In a perfect world, Calbright would have an opportunity to prove that it can live up to its original promise. But with more than 100 community colleges in California, all of them looking to adjust to a world demanding more transparent and concrete ROI, the competition is stiff and everyone is worried about their own future.
This report on micro-credentials in rural communities is another example of the shift in thinking about the needs of different populations related to higher education. Proposed changes to the “gainful employment rule” and new organizations like the Workforce Talent Educators Association will also add to the pressure on higher education for institutions to better demonstrate how well they set graduates up for jobs.
Being more quixotic than most, I tend to be drawn to the more “far out” innovations, such as Hope College’s Hope Forward pilot. Under this “pay it forward” model, students pay nothing upfront. Their “tuition is funded by the gifts of others. And they then make a commitment to give something to Hope after they graduate.” I’m also fine with turning the entire design for degrees on its head.
Finally, as I’ve worked on different projects over the past week, I have realized, once again, how pervasive and powerful no-code applications have become. From Smartsheet and WordPress/Divi to Airtable and Confluence, companies and employees are increasingly able to design, manage, and develop processes and products with non-specialists.
A no-code model for education? Anyone? Anyone?