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What lessons should we be learning from the closure of the University of Texas System’s Institute for Transformational Learning (ITL)?  

We will all have many conclusions from the ITL story (what are yours?), but for me the big takeaways are all about how we think of innovation in higher education.

What higher ed innovation is? Who does higher ed innovation? And where higher ed innovation efforts should be located?

In thinking about the Texas story, and about higher ed innovation, I keep coming back to one conclusion: INVEST IN EDUCATORS!

We need to understand that the real innovators in higher education are the professors.  Any innovation effort should be about getting resources to those educators.

Rather than spending money on new technologies, we should be devoting our precious resources to our professors - and the classes that they teach.

Of course, the best way to do this would be to simply pay faculty more money. To fight for better job security and career progression for faculty who don’t have that, and for more compensation and autonomy for those faculty fortunate enough to be on the tenure track.

The real work of campus innovation will not be found in some new software platform, or some new use of big data. Rather, the authors of meaningful innovation in higher education are the professors - and the real action is occurring in the classes that they already teach.

We are often blind to the creativity, passion, and energy that professors bring to designing and teaching their courses. Most professors have evolved their courses over many years of experience. Their courses are disciplined experiments.

The professors know best where a little bit of money can make a huge difference in the learning outcomes of their students. We should ask them.

If you really want to improve student learning, invest in the professors. This seems like an obvious conclusion, but it is one that is often ignored by those making institutional resource decisions.

How much progress could have been made in Texas if the professors were asked where money should be invested?

$75 million could have went a long way in overcoming the barriers that faculty have in enabling students to reach their educational goals.

What do you think we should learn from Texas?

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