My overwhelming reaction is one of gratitude.
Gratitude at our great good fortune that conversations about learning have moved to the center of our higher ed strategic discussions.
Gratitude that our community of academic learning professionals, folks battle tested by years of developing online and blended programs, are in place to make long-lasting educational gains from short-lived educational fads.
Gratitude that I work within a community of mission oriented, data informed, and passionate advocates for learner-centered courses and institutions.
My gratitude, while real and deeply felt, is tempered by the shadow of a concern that I can’t seem to shake as our ELI 2014 discussions continue.
This is the worry that we are only talking about what we can do, should do, will do.
We don’t seem to be talking about what to stop.
I fantasize that in some alternate universe a conference is going on where higher ed people are presenting about what they are no longer doing. They are talking about centers that were closed, programs that were ended, jobs that were transformed.
At ELI we learn about some terrific strategies for advancing learning across dimensions of quality and access.
Defining our goals. Create teams to collaborate with faculty. Leverage the educational data that are newly available as teaching moves to digital platforms. Prioritize active learning. Flip the class. Re-think the course.
All of these strategies are wonderful. None are cheap.
If we are going to invest resources in courses than we will need to stop paying for something else. (Is this right?).
If we are going to allocate time to partner with faculty than we will have to spend less time doing something else. (Is this right?).
There is a sense at ELI that we’ve been able to finesse the resource question under the cover of the excitement around MOOCs. There is a realization that the clock is ticking on this strategy to fund innovation in learning. At some point we will need to get to sustainability.
What’s wrong with this perspective? Is the pie not as closed at it may appear?
Maybe we can fund the diffusion of innovation via the introduction of new, revenue generating (usually blended and online) programs.
Perhaps the opportunity to increase retention by improving our courses will fund these course investments through retained tuition dollars.
Maybe higher ed budgeting is byzantine to a degree that learning people (the people attending ELI) are better off focusing our energies on cultural and programmatic change initiatives rather than financial concerns.
Fellow ELI 2014 participants (and everyone else). Are you as confused about the relationship between postsecondary innovation and scarce resources as I am?