Posts Tagged ‘innovation’


Learning Innovation, Scholarship and the Carey Article

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Kevin Carey’s April 1 article, “The Creeping Capitalist Takeover of Higher Education,” in The Huffington Post ignited an intense online debate.

Responses to the piece appeared on Inside Higher Ed (here, here, here, here, here and here), in blog posts (here, here, here, here and here) and in countless tweets.

This article is not another contribution to the debate on OPMs or Carey’s piece, though there is likely much more to say and explore. Nor is it an assault or defense of Carey.

We both tend to agree with much of his criticism of OPMs and the inequities that profit motives are creating in higher education, just as we agree that online education itself has become an underexamined straw man for Carey’s argument.

Instead, we wonder what it means to have this conversation — the conversation about institutional choices and online education that Carey catalyzed — on social media. Is social media a good platform for engaging in meaningful knowledge creation and exchange about higher education?

We wonder if discussions mediated on social media platforms can succeed in surfacing important ideas and debates.

In this specific case, one concern we have is that all the commenting and tweeting will serve to harden — rather than advance — whatever biases and beliefs that already exist. Further, we wonder if the format of the discussion — again mediated through online articles and blog posts and comments and tweets — will make it difficult for anyone who does not have strong beliefs on the topic at hand to form evidence-based views.

We are not arguing that debates on topics about higher education should not take place on social media. After all, we are ourselves active contributors to those online conversations. Rather, we’re arguing for complementing these social media debates with scholarship. We see value in discussions mediated by social media, but we also recognize the limitations of these platforms. Our goal is to lay an intellectual foundation for an academic inquiry into areas such as the growth of the online program management industry.

How might a scholarly and academic investigation on a topic such as OPMs differ from a conversation mediated by social media? We propose in the following three ways: a) hypothesis driven, b) theoretically grounded and c) evidence informed.

Hypothesis Driven

Scholarship, at least in the sciences and social sciences, is hypothesis driven, in that conclusions can never be definitively reached, only supported or discredited by the available evidence. If an idea cannot be disproved, it is not a candidate for scholarly research in these fields.

This does not mean that the researcher comes into the work as a neutral and dispassionate actor. Scholars, like everyone else, have their biases and beliefs.

What this does mean is that a researcher will energetically search for evidence in their search for knowledge regardless of whether it proves or disproves the original hypothesis. If the evidence ends up countering the initial hypothesis, then the researcher must faithfully report and actively grapple with that result.

What might be different about Carey’s piece and the responses if they were to start from a hypothesis rather than a perspective?

Theoretically Grounded

Theoretical frameworks are models of how the world works that help researchers in the sciences and social sciences develop hypotheses and interpret results. Theoretical frameworks assist in the development of testable hypotheses. In the humanities, theories serve often serve as structural models under which or in relationship to an analysis might be developed. The different approaches to theory between the sciences, social sciences and humanities is worth exploring at some point, as these differences may be illustrative of how we adopt certain perspectives.

Each of these areas, however, provides a framework in which we can situate individual events and discrete analysis. Without a conceptual framework, developments such as the rise of the OPM industry can seem disconnected from other changes occurring within higher education and across the broader economy and society.

One common theoretical lens through which higher education is often viewed today is Christensen’s disruptive innovation theory. Unfortunately, it’s rarely the case that disruption theory serves as a framework in which to test hypotheses. Instead, it more often than not serves as a talking point to help reify one’s general assumptions and opinions.

What is needed is the development or applications of theoretical frameworks that are derived from, or at least sensitive to the context of, higher education’s history and structures. We need to develop our own theories to understand higher education change, rather than retrofit existing frameworks (developed for different contexts) to make sense of the future of our colleges and universities.

Evidence Informed

The third reason that we argue that the debate about Carey’s piece playing out across social media is most likely to reinforce and harden current beliefs, rather than move the discussion forward, is the existence of evidence and data. The arguments made for and against the value of online education to students and schools, on both sides of the debate, have been mainly divorced from empirical evidence. When data are presented, they are shared to support a particular assertion.

There are a lot of data available. Social media tends not to be a great place to share these data.

Social media tends to serve multiple functions in today’s society. In our context, it’s just as (or maybe more) likely to serve as a marketing tool as it is a place for critical dialogue. Because of this complex function, it is not a level playing field for the exchange of data and evidence. Social media is too many things to too many people, and as such may not serve well as a place for disinterested scholarship.

We need better mechanisms to collect, de-identify and then analyze the data related to how colleges and universities are, among other things, moving online. These decisions involve dozens of competing factors, not the least of which include how students are learning and the affordances and constraints of an institution’s history and traditions. The objective of studying these data should be to create knowledge that can be shared widely. The conclusions about the impact the institutions make should be grounded in data, not in the preconceived biases of those who have a stake in the outcome of the research.

The question is who will do this research?

Watching the debate about Carey’s provocative story unfold is one of the reasons that we’ve been calling for a new cross-disciplinary field of learning innovation.

This field would bring together the hands-on knowledge of online program creation with the perspectives, values and methods of scholarly research.

How might we begin to evolve the social media debate on the value of OPMs to a research question worthy of serious, sustained and peer-reviewed scholarship?

Smart Title: 
Learning Innovation, Scholarship and the Carey Article
Ad keyword: 
Multiple Authors: 
Edward J. Maloney
Joshua Kim
1 000
Disable left side advertisement?: 
Technology and Learning

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Is Innovation Possible in Latin America?

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

Higher education throughout Latin America is in need of dramatic transformation.

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U


Where do digital learning innovation evangelists gather?

Written by Blog Editor. Posted in Academic News

There is a new sort of gig in higher ed: the digital learning innovation evangelist.

Who are these people? What do they do? Are their jobs really different from leadership roles that have come before? What is their professional home? What is their professional association? And where do they gather?

These are all good questions.

One place where I’ll be trying to get some answers is this summer’s SOLA+R: Summit for Online Leadership and Administration + Roundtable.

This University Professional and Continuing Education Association event brings together folks who are thinking about digital and online learning through an institutional lens.

I’ve gotten involved in UPCEA through my work as an (unpaid) fellow for the association’s National Council for Online Education.

Where does this convening fit in with other meetings for digital/online learning evangelists? I’d classify SOLA+R as a convening that is similar to HAIL Storm (Harvesting Academic Innovation for Learners), in that the event brings together a relatively small number of digital learning innovators to share knowledge and resources and ideas.

Unlike HAIL, which is purely a grassroots effort, SOLA+R is under a larger professional organization umbrella — UPCEA.

The reason that I’m excited about participating in SOLA+R is that I’m looking for a community of practice that recognizes online learning as a powerful lever for organizational change.

Over the past few years many colleges and universities have created these sorts of roles. They go by different names. Sometimes the position is a dean, provost or a director for digital learning innovation.

Other times the role of institutional digital learning evangelist falls to leaders in online and continuing education programs. Sometimes, the push for digital learning innovation comes from units such as academic computing or centers for teaching and learning (CTLs).

While those serving in digital learning innovation roles have different titles and different job responsibilities, they do have some things in common. Mostly, this is a community that is impatient with incremental improvements in postsecondary learning, issues of access, or business models.

This is a community that looks at digital and online learning as a means, rather than as ends. The ultimate goal is not to create more online programs or digitally enhanced blended courses — although those are good — but rather to drive big changes in the way universities fulfill their mission within a rapidly changing knowledge economy.

These big changes may be about bringing quality higher education to scale, shifting the economics of both learning and credentialing from scarcity to abundance.

Or these big changes may mean leveraging the methods of online learning, such backwards course design and partnerships with learning designers, to dramatically improve learning at traditional residential institutions.

Others who work as digital learning evangelists look at digital and online education as an opportunity to improve the resilience and long-term economic viability of the institutions in which they work.

What all the folks working in the digital learning innovation evangelist role need are communities of practice, colleagues and support/resources to do their jobs (our jobs) more effectively.

The June SOLA+R convening will be an important nexus for discussions at the intersection of digital/online learning and organizational change. UPCEA’s National Council for Online Education is dedicated to convening and supporting this emerging community of practice.

One of the advantages that I’ve found in my work with UPCEA is the associations focus on federal and state policy. It is difficult for those of us outside of the Beltway to understand how policy is made that impacts our world of digital and online learning — much less how to have any impact on the process. I expect that the role of government and online learning will be a big focus at the SOLA+R D.C. gathering.

From what I understand, there is still some space available at the June 18-20 SOLA+R convening in Washington. (Although space will not remain open for long, as this is an intimate and intense gathering).

It will be interesting to see if other professional organizations in our space carve out smaller and more focused convenings/organizations to bring together digital learning innovation evangelists.

Can anyone share what is going on with OLC, Educause, WCET or others in this space?

If you, like me, are searching for your people at the intersection of digital/online learning and organizational change then I hope to see you at SOLA+R this summer in D.C.

Smart Title: 
Where Do Digital Learning Innovation Evangelists Gather?
1 000
Email Teaser: 
Where Do Digital Learning Innovation Evangelists Gather?
Technology and Learning

Inside Higher Ed | Blog U