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Crowdsourcing the Future of Higher Education

Crowdsourcing the Future of Higher Education

Over the last few months,  I've been writing a series for the @CoExist blog of Fast Company on "Changing Higher Education to Change the World."   The point of the series is to rethink the basic groundrules of higher education--while also providing some sanity in the crazy, often misguided, and sometimes misleading rush to create MOOC's (Massive Online Open Courses).  Don't get me wrong:  I think MOOC's have an invaluable place in the world.   But if people think they will solve all higher ed's problems or substitute for current college education, they are just wrong.    We have to think better, not replicate what we have by putting the status quo of current education on line. 


Below, I've listed all the pieces I've done so far in this series, with short descriptions and with the relevant links.  The most recent is I the "Start-Up Core Curriculum for Entrepreneurship, Service, and Society" (a little hokey--it spells SUCCESS), an idea for how to make the most of liberal arts, general education and closing the untenable binary between "deep, critical thinking" across the curriculum and specialized "vocational training."  

I then have four more pieces that will bring the series to a close:  one on assessment; another with Mozilla Executive Director Mark Surman on Webmaking as the 4th Literacy; one on the cost and benefits of higher education; and then a conclusion.  


Once the series ends, we're going to repost it on HASTAC, not just for open peer review but for real contribution, "crowdsourcing" the future of higher ed by showcasing the innovative work of our HASTAC network members.   We haven't worked out the format yet, but it will probably be similar to the chapter-by-chapter reviews in Race After the Internet project that we posted earlier this year.   There will be plenty of opportunity for HASTAC network members to use the Comments section not just to give feedback but to add their own pedagogical ideas, classroom tricks, insights, syllabi, programs, and other content.  The point is not just to talk about educational reform but to model it realistically, by highlighting innovative work we are already doing.  Sharing ideas about where education is already for many of us helps others to see what it needs to look like not just in the future but right now.   And helps pave the way . . .   To me, that is the key. 


  • Media expert and prognosticator Clay Shirky likes to say that "institutions tend to preserve the problems they were created to solve." 
  • Thomas Friedman has written recently that "big breakthroughs happen when what is suddenly possible meets what is desperately necessary."  
  • David Theo Goldberg and I (we cofounded HASTAC together in 2002) have said, in the Future of Thinking, that "institutions are mobilizing networks. 

All three are correct.

It's hard to change institutions.   But when the possibilities for change are as strong as the need for change is desperate, change happens.   And it is those of us who are part of the institutions of higher education--as teachers, as would-be teachers, as students, as concerned parents--who are brought together by the specificities of our shared passions and who can use those points of shared commitments to mobilize towards institutional change.   I think, together, we can crowdsource the future of higher education!


Here are url's for the current pieces that have appeared as part of my "Changing Higher Education to Change the World" series on @CoExist at Fast Company: 




(1)  "Reinventing College to Prepare Us For the Future, Not the Past"College was designed to prepare students for a 20th-century economy, and it’s not catching up fast enough to the realities of the modern world. How can we overhaul the entire system?

(2) "Going From One-Size-Fits-One to One-Size-Fits-All"We need to teach students individually, and in a way that doesn’t emphasize memorizing the right answer, but more realistically reflects how we learn and succeed in the real world.

(3)  "Why Flip the Classroom When We Can Make It Do Carthweels?":  Adding some technology to the educational process is one thing, but truly revolutionary learning experiences take a deeper sort of innovation, which you can see at a program at Duke working for change in Haiti

(4)  "Can We Replace Professors With Computer Screens?"  Quite possibly, but an education just from YouTube videos would miss the true point of a college education.


(5) "A Core Curriculum to Create Engaged Entrepreneurs":    It’s time to transform the focus, mission, and rhetoric of liberal arts and combine its focus on cross-disciplinary critical thinking with real world experience. Here’s one proposal.


**How We Measure Determines What Counts and What We Value    If universities don't change their methods of assessment, the rest of education is stuck with early 20th century forms of impoverished, high-stakes, end of grade testing that misses the point of true learning and eductaion

**Webmaking as the Fourth Literacy with Mozilla Executive Director Mark Surman     Isn't it time we added "webmaking" to reading, writing, and arithmetic as a basic literacy we need now?   Require it in college and it will be part of kids' learning games from preschool on--and it has the added advantage of helping with the lack of women and minorities in the high-tech world and erases the "two cultures" problem: webmaking is creative, fun, empowering!

**Why Does Higher Ed Cost So Much--And What Do We Want to Do About it?    An attempt to unravel the different ways educational expenses are rising in the public and private sector and what we, as individuals, a society, and as educators, want and need to do about it.

**Conclusion:  How Does Changing Higher Ed Change the World?:  Where Do We Go From Here?



Cathy N. Davidson is co-founder of HASTAC, a 9000+ network committed to new modes of collaboration, research, learning, and institutional change.  Along with a steering committee of scholars across many fields, Davidson has been directing HASTAC's operations since 2006, when moved to Duke University, where she also co-directs the Ph.D. Lab in Digital Knowledge.   She is author of The Future of Thinking:  Learning Institutions for a Digital Age (with HASTAC co-founder David Theo Goldberg), and  Now You See It:  How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn (Viking Press). She is co-PI on the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions.   NOTE:  The views expressed in Cat in the Stack blogs and in NOW YOU SEE IT are solely those of the author and not of HASTAC, nor of any institution or organization. Davidson also writes on her own author blog, [NYSI cover]












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