Learning Innovation, Consultants and Scholarship

Locating the experts.

March 13, 2019
 

Our friends and colleagues, Allison Dulin Salisbury and Terah Crews, published a terrific, must-read piece in “Inside Digital Learning” last month on how higher ed can change faster.

In that article, Allison and Terah propose four options for how institutions can structure learning innovation initiatives: a) a moon-shot lab, b) R&D, c) internal consultancy and d) accelerator.

The article is smart, tightly argued and informed by the deep networks that Allison (a longtime close colleague of ours since her days at Davidson College) and Terah (formerly a leader at ASU) have developed.

We want to return to the options they propose in a future article, but right now we’re interested in a slightly different question. Not how can innovation happen at colleges and universities, but where does it come from?

While Allison and Terah both have academic backgrounds, they are not today academics. They are consultants. Allison is the president of Entangled Studios and a senior strategist at Entangled Solutions, where Terah is also a partner.

And they’re are not alone. Some of the best thinking about the future of higher education comes from Bryan Alexander, a longtime independent scholar and consultant (although Eddie has recently brought him into the fold; he is affiliated with Georgetown as a CNDLS senior fellow, and teaches graduate classes at the university).

Phil Hill and Michael Feldstein, the founders of MindWires Consulting, are deeply respected for their knowledge and analytical work around learning and technology.

Today, the go-to expert on the online program management ecosystem, and what the growth of for-profit and nonprofit partnerships mean for the future of universities, is Howard Lurie of the consulting company Eduventures.

In trying to navigate decisions related to learning innovation, including questions of partnering with for-profit companies to develop new online programs, schools are increasingly turning to consulting companies such as Huron (where our sometime collaborator Peter Stokes is a managing director), Tyton Partners, EAB, Bain and McKinsey -- in addition to those mentioned above.

These folks are pushing colleges and universities to think differently, to challenge their assumptions and to embrace change.

Good work is happening, but we worry we need a better way of sustaining and sharing it. And we think higher education needs to make room for doing this work itself, at least in part.

However you think about higher education’s need to change, a fundamental function of higher education is to create new knowledge, to do research and to invest in new ideas. But is higher education doing enough to make room for creating new knowledge about itself from within?

Certainly, there are many great books coming out on higher education -- Joseph Aoun’s Robot-Proof: Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Michael Crow’s Designing the New American University and Cathy Davidson’s The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux.

As we’ve been arguing, we think that field of learning innovation is beginning to coalesce.

But is it enough?

The question that our higher education community should be asking itself is, are we doing enough to nurture this expertise on learning innovation from within higher ed?

What examples of scholarship on learning innovation that is coming from within academia do you find most influential?

If you buy our arguments that learning innovation scholarship should also come from within higher education, what steps do you think that colleges and universities can take to promote this research?

Inside Higher Ed's Inside Digital Learning

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