Title

Technology and 6 Higher Ed Worries

What we talk about when we talk about edtech.

July 5, 2019
 
 

What worries you most about the future of higher education?

The higher ed issues that occupy my mind include:

1. Public disinvestment

2. Fragile colleges

3. Student costs

4. Contingent faculty

5. Bending the cost curve through personalization at scale

6. Managing non-profit/for-profit partnerships

What would you add to this list?

The problem with edtech, as I see it, is that too often the conversation leads with technology.

We are likely to focus on those technologies in which we are most enamored, rather than the large problems that technology could play a role in addressing.

How many articles do we read on AI, VR, blockchain, mobile, adaptive learning platforms, or analytics?

It is not that these technologies, and the impact that they may have on higher education, are uninteresting or unimportant.  I could happily spend hours chatting with you about any of them.

The question is, is technology what our edtech community should be talking about?

Should our edtech community admit, at least to ourselves, that after decades of following a technology-first approach that we have done little to drive progress in the core challenges facing higher ed?

States are disinvesting from public systems at a faster pace than ever.

The number of tuition-dependent schools that are unable to find a sustainable and resilient economic model, and are at risk of radical shrinking and closing, continues to grow.

Student costs and debt continue to outpace wages.

We seem to be losing our ability to create secure tenure track faculty positions, compromising both instructional quality and educator career advancement.

Experiments in online education at scale are promising, but have yet to be embraced by a critical mass of institutions.

Partnerships between schools and companies in the online program management space continue to grow, despite a lack of research about the impact of this industry on schools and students.

You might say that the failure of educational technologies to solve any of these issues does not mean that they have not made positive contributions.  All of these problems might have been much worse without investments in technologies that colleges and universities have made over the past few decades.

That all may be true.  But it is also true that while educational technologies may play a positive role in higher ed (and I believe that they do), the impact of our work in edtech appears to be marginal, incremental, and ultimately inadequate.

How depressing would it be to spend 40 years working in higher ed technology, only to retire from a higher ed ecosystem that is in worse shape than at the start of one’s career?

Technology has driven productivity improvements in every industry save higher education.  Why is this so?

How is it that in 2019 that the future of higher education, as an industry and an ecosystem, feels so fraught?

What would it take for the leaders of the various components of our edtech ecosystem, the CIOs and heads of professional associations and companies and think tanks, to declare that we need change?

That we need to stop thinking that we can keep trying to solve the big problems of higher ed how we’ve always approached them, and to try something different?

How many more edtech conferences can we attend where the marvels of new technologies are expounded on, only to watch the fault lines of higher education grow deeper and wider year-after-year?

Yes - we should keep thinking and talking about technology.  But maybe we should confine our energies to areas in which we are using our edtech expertise to address the broader higher ed challenges.

Can you give us an example where technology has been successfully implemented to address the challenges of costs, access, and quality simultaneously?

What about the future of higher ed keeps you up at night?

Read more by

Be the first to know.
Get our free daily newsletter.

 

Back to Top