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Steven Mintz’s article Five Ways that 21st and 20th Century Learning Will Differ does a beautiful job of laying out how "teaching and learning in the early 21st century differ from its 20th century”.

The far-reaching developments for learning that Mintz’s foresees include:

  • A 21st century education will be geared toward 100 percent proficiency.
  • It will rest on the science of learning.
  • It will be data-driven.
  • It will be personalized.
  • It will take advantage of technology in ways that truly enhance the learning experience.

How will these changes be operationalized?

What organizational shifts and investments will be necessary on our campuses to bring Mintz’s vision of 21st century teaching and learning to life?

Some ideas:

1. Teaching Will Become a Team Sport:

The shift towards courses that are developed and run by a team will come first and most pervasively to large, introductory courses. Teams will be headed by faculty members, and will include learning designers, librarians, media specialists, and assessment and analytics experts.

A team approach to course design is already common for online and blended programs (as well as for open online courses), and is commonly seen in large scale course redesign efforts. This approach will be extended more widely throughout the curriculum.  

2. The Instructor Will Receive More Support:

The other half of teaching becoming a team sport is that teaching faculty will enjoy greater levels of support and assistance. The goal will be to maximize the amount of time that instructors can spend teaching, and minimize the time spent doing the range of other tasks (from logistical to audiovisual to media creation) that can be allocated to other members of the teaching team.   

More attention will be paid to the need to maximize the value of the expensively trained and scarce faculty member. Institutions that prioritize deep connections between educators and learners, meaning lots of personal contact and mentoring, will be in the best position to survive in an age of abundant online information and free open online courses.

3. We Will Seek Out Deeper Partnerships:

We have a big challenge in front of us to create data driven and personalized learning experiences. We will need help.

No longer will it make sense to re-invent the wheel on every campus.

We will look to learn from our peers. And we will look to partner with other organizations, some of which will be for-profit-companies, in improving teaching and learning on our campuses.

The next decade will provide enormous opportunities for companies that can improve productivity in postsecondary education. We will need to improve educational quality at a faster rate (much faster) than we can grow costs, as to fail to do so will put us in a diminished competitive position.   

The next decade will also be the era of cross-institutional collaborations. There is a long history of consortial relations across higher ed, (a fact known by any collegiate sports fan), and these relationships will begin to extend much more deeply into the realms of teaching and learning. 

4.  We Will Shift Resources Up The Value Chain to Learning:

Traditionally, higher education has not been very good at substitution. We are good at starting new initiatives, we are bad at ending existing ones.  We do a poor job of re-purposing our workforce to where the demand for academic labor has migrated. Our units, departments, and schools are siloed and autonomous.

This state of affairs provides higher ed with lots of running room to improve productivity. The relatively straightforward effort of bringing previously separated non-faculty educators together to work with faculty on a course can have terrific outcomes. Bringing more people who work on campus closer to the class process, closer to the professor and the student, can yield real benefits for improving learning.   

Services that were previously produced on campus but that were not core to the educational mission, such as provisioning e-mail and storage, can be sourced to specialized providers in the cloud. The scale of these cloud providers should in the medium-to-long run drive down costs (as initial transition and integration costs are high), eventually yielding opportunities to invest more in learning and less in infrastructure.

How is your campus evolving to support and catalyze 21st century learning?

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