Online Education as a Catalyst for Organizational Change?

More discussion of the MIT Online Education report.

April 4, 2016

Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reforms  The Final Report from MIT's Open Education Policy Initiative.

“...learning-science-based online education (including the blended model) is disrupting the existing higher education teaching paradigm."

Recommendation 4: Foster Institutional and Organizational Change in Higher Education to Implement These Reforms

What do you make of this recommendation?

The MIT report argues that like other legacy sectors, higher education is due for disruption. This higher ed disruption will come from a combination of learning science, new (scalable) online learning technologies, and an altered set of economic and political arrangements (such as competency based learning and government / employer supported alternative credentialing).

Disrupting the power / position of legacy higher education institutions, according to the MIT report, will not be easy. The higher education status quo is supported by a nexus political (state support, accreditation), economic (tuition, credits, degrees, research funding), and social (discipline based organizational structures, status hierarchies) factors.

In order for the discipline of learning science and the practices of online education to disrupt the postsecondary status quo, the MIT report argues that 4 elements must emerge:

1 - Innovation: In the MIT conception, these innovations are centered in the disciplines of learning science and the practices of learning engineering. These innovations will run across multiple levels of scale, from residential, blended and online courses, degrees and programs - all the way up to advances in learning experiments and competency assessment at scale.

2 - Thinking Communities: Thinking communities, from what I can understand from the MIT report, are groups or organizations on (or across) campuses that conduct and advocate for evidence-based learning experimentation and innovation. Thinking communities are communities of practice around learning science research and learning engineering methods.

3 - Change Agents: Change agents are educators (at every level) who are using their training and experience in learning science to lead organizational and institutional change. Change agents work to evolve the structures, culture, and organizational arrangements of colleges and universities in order to drive a campus learning agenda.  Change agents may not be only individuals, and they need not only work on campus. Professional organizations, government agencies, and (I assume) edtech companies can also play a change agent role.

4 - Role Models: Role models are successful examples of organizational change driven by a learning science perspective, undertaken by learning science / learning engineer informed change agents.  Successful role models have upended traditional economic, social, and political postsecondary practices.  Role models change institutional culture by demonstrating the feasibility and viability of learning science / learning engineering inspired change.

The MIT report ends with the following charge:

"Thought leaders in higher education should encourage the development and maturation of these elements in their own community in order to introduce new educational models that take advantage of online education, learning science, and other advances to extend the reach and effectiveness of their institutions."

What do you think?

Is online education a catalyst for higher education reform?

Should organizational change be part of a discipline of learning science?



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