Wednesday, October 22, 2014

October 22, 2014: De Lange Follows Ups: Keynote Speakers

[Last Monday and Tuesday I had the honor of being invited to attend Rice University’s De Lange Conference IX  as a Social Media Fellow, helping to create conversations about and around the conference theme (“Teaching in the University of Tomorrow”) and talks. It was a wonderful experience, and I wanted to follow it up this week with posts on a number of the issues and ideas I encountered there. Whether you attended as well, followed on Twitter, or just have thoughts on any of these topics, I’d love to hear from you!]
On three provocative questions raised by the conference’s keynote addresses (not including Ruth Simmons’, about which I blogged yesterday). To be clear, I don’t have any answers to any of today’s questions, but I wanted to make sure to highlight them here, so we can all continue to think about them!
1)      What we can learn from MOOCs?: All of Tuesday’s keynotes (by Anant Agarwal, Kevin Guthrie, Daphne Koller, and David Pritchard) focused on one or another aspect of MOOCs, the open-access online courses that have become such a central part of 21st century higher education. I’ll admit that I have considered MOOCs entirely as an alternative to, and thus competition for, traditional universities. But all of these speakers argued for versions of the opposite, that instead we can and must learn from MOOCs, find ways to make some of their work part of ours, bridge the gap between these two modes. If you’ve taken or taught a MOOC, and/or otherwise have any thoughts on whether and how we might connect these modes, I’d love to hear them!
2)      How do administrations and faculties best work together?: Many of our speakers were current or former university presidents: José Antonio Bowen, William Bowen, Nancy Cantor, George Rupp, and Ruth Simmons. So it’s probably no surprise that a frequent topic was shared governance, and more specifically the challenges that such governance (especially as it often plays out) seems to present to changing, reforming, and improving universities. It’s fair to say that all of the speakers called upon faculty to accept changes to such models in one way or another, although with greatly varied emphases (William Bowen’s the most overtly critical of faculty inaction and intransigence, for example). I understand that position, but would also emphasize the need for administrations to be equally willing to accept changes and new options. What do you think?
3)      How do we change external perceptions of higher ed?: The first two questions are about internal conversations, in one way or another; but I think it’s fair to say, as many of our speakers did (especially Nancy Cantor in her Monday lunch address), that addressing increasingly negative external perceptions of higher ed (especially its costs, but also its separation from the rest of society and other related issues) presents at least as vital a challenge for the universities of tomorrow. Cantor focuses specifically on building fuller connections to and relationships with local communities, which is an ongoing goal and passion of mine as well. But there’s no one or right answer for how we impact these perceptions and narratives, I don’t think. So I’d love to hear some of your thoughts, as with all these questions!
Next follow up tomorrow,
PS. So what do you think?

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