November 2, 2011
Anna Kamenetz, the author of DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, was one of the featured speakers at the recent EDUCAUSE conference, and her presentation caused quite a buzz.? The growing cost of higher ed and the growing burden of student loans along with the dismal job prospects for college grads have made many students look for alternatives outside the walls of a traditional university.? Kamenetz and others suggest that a disaggregated college experience?in which some parts of traditional college life are replaced by social media and self-directed learning?represents a very viable form of higher education. ?Obviously, this is a form in which technology plays a very important role.
A search of online resources shows some of the readily available tools that students might use to create a DIY educational vehicle.
The mission of the OpenCourseWare Consortium is ?to advance formal and informal learning through the worldwide sharing and use of free, open, high-quality education materials organized as courses.?? In the last decade,? OCW Consortium members (including UMass Boston) have published materials from more than 13,000 courses in 20 languages, available through the Consortium’s web site.
The Khan Academy is ?an organization on a mission. We’re a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.? Founded in 2006 by MIT grad Salman Khan, the website supplies a free online collection of more than 2,600 micro lectures via video tutorials stored on YouTube teaching mathematics, history, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, economics and computer science.
These resources (and many others available online) suggest the possibility of an education with much less emphasis on classrooms, campuses, and infrastructure.
The issue then becomes one of certifying competency, however it has been gained. One approach gaining popularity is the idea of ?badges? that indicate competence in a certain area.? Mozilla has recently announced an ?Open Badges? project designed to make it easy to issue and share digital badges that show skills and achievements. Mozilla notes:
Open Badges will let you gather badges from any site on the internet, combining them into a story about what you know and what you?ve achieved. There is a real chance to create learning that works more like the web. Also, this sort of badge collection may eventually become a central part of online reputation, helping you get a job, find collaborators and build prestige.
Institutions ranging from 4H, NASA and PBS to the US Department of Education all have plans to develop digital badges.
This kind of education and certification won?t meet the needs of every student, but they will appeal to many students.? Likewise, these trends don?t necessarily mean the end of the traditional university, but they should cause traditional universities to start rethinking their approaches.? University faculty and administrators should keep in mind the lessons of disruptive technology from other industries such as newspapers, steelmaking, and mainframe computers as they plan the future of their institutions?industry leaders rarely survive the onslaught of a disruptive technology.