In response to Dave and George’s request for thoughts about the future of education, I offer the following parody. This twisted view of the future of education is completely undesirable, and yet completely possible. What will you do to prevent it from happening?
Just heard from my friend Bobbi Kurshan, the Executive Director of Curriki, that she will be leaving that post on March 1st. I wish her well.
Curriki will be looking for a new ED shortly and will very much continue to stay active in the OER space (much like Hewlett has continued to do after Mike, Cathy, and Phoenix left).
So, unless I’m missing someone, the list of OER leaders who have moved on in the last few years now includes:
Mike, Cathy, and Phoenix, from the Hewlett Foundation
Ira and Chris, from the Mellon Foundation
Ahrash, from CC Learn
Bobbi, from Curriki
Anne, from MIT OCW
And I suppose I should add myself, from COSL. Perhaps it’s not a big deal to see folks moving on, but it seems somehow significant to me. Inasmuch as the field continues to live and thrive through these leadership changes, we demonstrate that open education is not a radical separatist group led by a few charismatic individuals. Instead we demonstrate that open education is stable, steady, on-going effort to increase access to appropriate, high-quality educational opportunity to everyone worldwide.
The hype continues to build around Chris Anderson’s upcoming book, Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Malcolm Gladwell’s review “Priced to Sell: Is free the future?” in the New Yorker rubbed me the wrong way. Apparently, it rubbed Seth Godin the wrong way, too. In his response, Malcolm is Wrong, he speaks plainly so that no one can misunderstand:
[Malcolm’s] first argument that makes no sense is, “should we want free to be the future?”
Who cares if we want it? It is.
The second argument that makes no sense is, “how will this new business model support the world as we know it today?”
Who cares if it does? It is. It’s happening. The world will change around it, because the world has no choice. I’m sorry if that’s inconvenient, but it’s true.
I must admit to agreeing with this analysis, and there is a message here for higher education. His later comments are even more relevant for those who work at universities that are trying their best to ignore the free / open revolution occurring around them:
Like all dying industries, the old perfect businesses will whine, criticize, demonize and most of all, lobby for relief. It won’t work. The big reason is simple:
In a world of free, everyone can play.
This is huge. When there are thousands of people writing about something, many will be willing to do it for free (like poets) and some of them might even be really good (like some poets). There is no poetry shortage.
Competition! Massive amounts of almost-no-barrier-to-entry competition. Much of it will be poor. I suppose you can take some comfort in that. But some of it will be very, very good. And that should scare existing institutions silly. The education game is about to change, and you (your institution) have three choices:
1. Innovate your way forward. If you allow your business model to become flexible and responsive, you can feel your way forward, influencing the emergent educational context as it simultaneously influences your business model. (A dynamic system!)
2. Wait for others to innovate their way forward. Let them shape the future educational context without your input, and hope that 10 years from now higher education is still a place where your institution is relevant. (If it isn’t, you’ll have only yourself to blame.)
3. Ignore / deny that anything is changing (or will ever change). Higher education is too important, too deeply woven into the fabric of society, too critical for employers, and too big a business to fail. (See you on the other side with GM and AIG.)
Chris’ book may or may not deal with higher education specifically, but higher education will have to deal with his thesis as surely as I’m typing this post. As Lehi taught, there are two types of things in this world – “things to act and things to be acted upon.” The day is close at hand when each university will have to decide which they are.