(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, technology, and culture.)

It seems that things are always and increasingly a bit “in flux” in the higher education world. Last week’s news that the U of Arkansas System was contemplating the purchase of what was once the leading online education provider, the University of Phoenix, is just one more example of the ongoing shakeup. But this shifting landscape is about more than just big systems swallowing up other players to extend their reach and strengthen their competitive score. There are also small non-profits, like the private Catholic institution Hilbert College, that are looking to improve their lot by acquiring or merging with another school.

From where I’m standing, the many changes and attempted innovations we’re witnessing are akin to the “perpetual pivot dance” entrepreneurs and their startups perform to survive and thrive in competitive markets where unanticipated evolutions abound. There’s Arizona State turning to YouTube to try and reach potential students on the fringe, and Western Governors University upping its competency-based game with peer-to-peer support. But there are also other players in the ecosystem hoping to liberate public universities from perceived structural constraints that limit their ability to compete.

The problem with all this, as some are beginning to point out, is that education, in general, is facing a sea change and smaller, incremental changes may not be enough.

George Siemens does a nice job of positioning this argument in his recent post. Here is his foundation statement about the future of universities.

My core thesis is that the future of universities will be determined by what we as a society are able to do with information. Technology creates new ways of being and acting that existing systems are slow to incorporate. Consider the pedagogical model prevalent in most university courses: centralized expert instruction, learning activities shaped by the instructor, and assessment to determine the degree to which learners have mastered course concepts. The entire model is antithetical to digital networks. While information changes rapidly and requires constant updating, education still has a view of teaching and assessing individuals memory systems rather than equipping learners to navigate nuanced, ambiguous, and complex landscapes. Most instructors and learners, unfortunately, do not have the skills and abilities to create a different system – one that reflects these global information networks.

The larger context for Siemens post is the information disruption posed by AI, and we continued to hear educators and educational technologies share their thoughts about the challenges posed by new technologies.

Of course, the above conversations aren’t happening in a vacuum. They are taking place against a general technology background in which AI and LLMs are already proving to be disruptive. Not surprisingly, this has led some tech behemoths to take early and big stakes in the AI game, such as Microsoft with its multi-billion dollar partnership with Open AI. In addition to integrating ChatGPT and other AI tools in its Office suite, some see this investment as an opportunity to supercharge the company’s Bing search engine.

Naturally, the question many people are asking is, what does all this really have to do with me? It’s a good question, probably the “right” question, and one that this copywriter answered with a bit of fear and trembling.

See you next week!

Further Reading

Higher Education

We Can’t Go It Alone – Forging Business and Industry Partnerships to Transform Higher Education

University of Texas Will Offer Large-Scale Online Master’s Degree in A.I.

Bill: North Dakota presidents could fire tenured faculty

Incremental Change Didn’t Save Blockbuster. It Won’t Save Education, Either

Report: U of Arkansas system may buy University of Phoenix

When a religious institution absorbs a for-profit college

Education Department official renews call for free community college

Western Governors University Adds Peer-to-Peer Support to Competency-Based Courses

You Need to Address Skills Gaps Before It’s Too Late. Here’s How

Arizona State turns to YouTube to reach learners on the margins

Only 22% of bachelor’s degree recipients would pay off loans under income-driven repayment plan

College enrollment gaps: How academic preparation influences opportunity

Online Learning, Learning Design, and Education Technology

The Nerdy Teacher: An Argument for Project-Based Learning

Is blockchain the key to college success?

PROOF POINTS: One expert on what students do wrong

Let’s get off the fear carousel!

Educators Need to Get With the AI Program. ChatGPT, More Specifically

AI, Instructional Design, and OER

AI, ChatGPT, instructional design, and prompt crafting

This Time is Different. Part 1

Chat Je Pétais

Stephen’s Web ~ This Time is Different. Part 1

Technology and Culture

How ChatGPT Could Take Microsoft’s Search Engine Bing Into the Future

Smartphone Shipments Suffer the Largest-Ever Decline with 18.3% Drop in the Holiday Quarter

I’m a copywriter. I’m pretty sure artificial intelligence is going to take my job

ChatGPT Wrote $600 Article in 30 Seconds: Freelance Writer

OpenAI and Microsoft announce extended, multi-billion-dollar partnership