Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hacking Higher Education--Part II--Delving into Areas of Vulnerability to Disruptive Forces

Taking the previous conversation further, we come to the second hack needed in higher education, that being the use of emerging technologies by faculty in regards to instruction. The vision and purpose and mandate of education as seen by the university determines how instruction and the use of technology takes shape. Alvin Toffler made it quite clear in his work under such 20th century titles such as "Future Shock (1970)" and "The Third Wave (1980)", the danger of proceeding without a carefully examined vision of whatever enterprise you are involved in. Education is such an enterprise.


Hack #2: Use of Emerging Technologies By Faculty in Instruction

In this age of technological integration into all levels of life, when it comes to the education that learners receive, it must have the following qualities:

  • The learning experiences must be irresistibly engaging! The old concept that a learner comes to an educator with a mind that is a "tabula rasa" waiting to be filled is naive at best and reflective of pedagogical incompetence of the instructor at its worst. Learners do not want to be treated as a passive audience and just a face among many faces, although the physical environment of many universities still adhere to encouraging this type of design. We can learn much from observing a large university class and judge the level of thoughtful engagement with the instruction.

For university instructors, maintaining the "sage on the stage" approach to instruction reinforces the idea in the minds of students that they are still "widgets on an assembly line" being acted upon, tested for quality control and then moved on to the next instructor who repeats the process. What learners really desire is an honest admission by faculty that they are willing to be co-learners with them and mentors on the side.

  • Instructors MUST NOT take their written material that they have used for years and in an uncritical fashion put it in an online format just to prove that they are in sync with the times. Using PowerPoint slides does not mean that you are high tech. How you change your pedagogy to take advantage of the many useful resources of the online world and create engagement that not only allows students to use the technology to collaborate with others in the class and the world in a tasked problem AND includes you as a mentor or player, speaks volumes to students. In such a scenario, other things that were previously distractions such as checking Facebook or Twitter, are now used to engage students in their learning.

  • Given the great flux in the way that people live in this age, education must be able to be highly personalized and individualized. One attempt that universities have made to address this issue is by the development of MOOCS. However, although some MOOCS are successful, many have a number of inherent problems that stem from university motivation for their creation, lack of reasonable cost for courses and lack of mentoring relationships between instructors and learners. It is my opinion that in order for MOOCS to overcome the problems such as the high percentage of learners not completing MOOCS,  all of the mentioned problems need to be addressed and resolved. Perhaps, as one author suggests, MOOCS need to evolve.


  • The instructor should develop pathways to networks of value that the student can have access to, present ideas to receive real world feedback and then be able to share out conversations with the class that they are a part of. What is an essential in this approach is that the instructor is not the fountain of knowledge and does not deliver content for consumption. What the instructor needs to hone is his or her ability to ask effective questions that allow the students to clarify their thinking and lead them to question and consolidate information and then synthesize what they have discovered through collaboration with other students. Teach students or learners how to think and learn in an online environment. Again, students should have 24/7 access to the online learning environment using whatever technology, including mobile technology, that is available to them. Ultimately, the goal is to create global online learning communities.
  • Evolving pedagogy that involves the use of problem solving scenarios, simulations and gamification will enhance a deeper, more resilient learning and repertoire of 21st century skillsets. Technology is slaved to pedagogy and not the other way around.

Credit: www.
Considering all that is at stake, there will still be higher education faculty that will be highly resistant to any change in the status quo. Perhaps they would take time to ponder their stance. In a highly mobile world, if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. This quote would also reinforce that idea.

Next... More on evolving pedagogy enabled and empowered by emerging technologies

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