This is a formal invitation for anyone, at any level, to join several of us--it's becoming a small army!--in distributed team-teaching of many different kinds of classes on the future of the university, to be offered simultaneously and concurrently in Spring 2014. No formal structure. Anything counts as "team teaching" as long as we exchange ideas, on whatever level, and post those to the widest possible audience in order to inspire more thinking about how we got where we are and how we can go constructively and creatively to a better place. We'll communicate via HASTAC, via Twitter and Facebook, via anyone who wants to blog and reblog anything, but the purpose will be to come up with tons of new, exciting ideas (including some workarounds you are already using) for relevant, important teaching for this generation.
I personally will be teaching an undergraduate 12-week face-to-face course at Duke on "The History and Future of Higher Education." I will also conduct a graduate seminar focusing on that topic but with a specific emphasis on the future of the humanities. I will also be co-leading an informal seminar in our PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge on this topic. Along side all of these, there will also be a Coursera course open to all on "The History and Future of Higher Education." I find the Sage-on-the-Stage video method of Coursera pretty boring but the possibilities for global conversations in the Forums offered by Coursera is incredible and we've only begun to tap the potential. I am hoping this combination of situated courses and the Coursera platform for those who want to sign up will make for a very exciting moment in thinking about education.
Logistically: I'll do a six-hour version of a Coursera course on "The History and Future of the University" to begin January 2014. It will run over six weeks. Anyone is invited to watch the videos, but not required. But if you sign up for the course, for free, and if your students do, you are welcome to participate in the discussions and Forums and anything else offered by the course. Since it takes about six hours to read a text book, I'm "assigning" the Coursera course to my face to face students but then we will also be participating in many other ways, doing research, contributing, and learning from this global community. The platform is stable for massive communication. Let's use it meaningfully and creatively! Can you imagine of 2000 or 10,000 of us were sharing ideas about all the ways we teach and learn together around the world? That to me is very exciting. You have to register to Coursera to use the platforms but we will run simultaneous Forums on HASTAC for anyone who wants to read them there.
The point is it shouldn't just be corporations and elite private universities offering ideas about better ways to teach and learn. My pet peeve these days is to see friends of mine who less than four or five years ago could have told you and would have told you every antiquated, frustrating, irrelevant, and meaningless inheritance of the contemporary university, who could have told you all the ways the modern university was designed to support and reinforce industrial capitalism . . . . but now, because of all the attention to MOOCs, they are defending the status quo of the university as if it were flawless, perfect, relevant, new, exciting, urgent, and meeting the needs of students today.
NO! Because the proposed "fix" doesn't work, doesn't mean that the system isn't broken! If the proposed fix isn't working, what can we come up with to offer alternative, great, egalitarian, fair, just, equitable, excellent, inspiring, and supportive better ways to improve higher education? That's the kind of attitude I'm hoping that, together, we might come up with. I'm hoping we have high-level policy suggestions . . . and classroom-level pedagogical suggestions. I hope for those who successfully and creatively teach online (which many of us have been doing for a good decade before the MOOC came along!), we can find out how, and what we can do even better. I hope this is a teacher ed course for high school teachers (I've heard from several who want to be involved---and there is even one progressive middle school that is interested in participating) and for college professors and for students, parents, policy makers.
I hope it is for anyone of any age in any country who cares about the future and wants to see real ideas not for making money off kids but for preparing kids to lead our future. I want this to be a movement. A new movement. A big one. Because I think we are all ready for some great new ideas that are about learning, not about making the most money off new technologies. This is just one contribution to an ongoing conversation and I hope you will join us.
Risk is very low. Cost is very low. We don't have to raise any VC to make this work. All we need is energy, ideas, and a lack of cynicism, a spirit of, heck, let's try it and see if it works and, if it doesn't, see what we can do to make it work better. Hack Higher Ed!
My motivation for doing my version of Hack Higher Ed is manifold but here is the biggest:
We must change the current US higher education system which, because of price cutting of public education and the soaring costs of private education, is increasingly aimed at the "global 1%" (the wealthiest top tier of the world) and the "intellectual 1%" (that subset of smart students who are unfailingly studious, do great on tests, don't question authority, and earn the kind of perfect records that get you into college today). As I note in all my lectures, the current average GPA of a student entering the Univeristy of California at Irvine is 4.1 on a 4.0 scale--and they have perfect test scores, scads of AP classes, tons of community service to boot: I do not want to live in a society that expects young people to be that perfect and then has the audacity to tell them they have to "learn to fail" and "take risks": no, we have set up a system where even a tiny mis-step is disaster.
The cost to society of the cutbacks to higher education are tremendous. We cannot keep teaching only to the 1%. We need a far more wide-ranging, educated citizenry to lead us in changing, crazy, wildly-swerving and topsy turvy times. I'm hoping that our Hack Higher Ed/History and Future of Higher Ed Forums will be so extensive, with so many engaged participants, that we can make a conversation that will turn the public policy conversation about the necessity of restoring support to higher education (and K-12) in productive, inspiring, important new directions. We are abdicating the future if we do not support learning, in all its forms, now. This won't reverse a trend, but it might help inspire ideas that begin a reversal of a downward spiral that has to stop. Now.
Stay tuned for more information as it is available but, in the meantime, think about joining this conversation in Spring 2014.