I am sitting in the “Program for Presidents and Board Members” at the Higher Learning Commission’s Annual Conference. Over 200 fellow presidents are listening to challenging and provocative presentations on the future of higher education. Terry Hartle from ACE told us that the goals of federal education policy are changing from access to access AND completion. He also shared the signal that gainful employment is gaining ground, especially with respect to community colleges, as a measure of success. He highlighted the new White House College Scorecard that makes public college performance. We heard from Felice Nudelman on the coming MOOCS wave and how to surf it. Sylvia Manning asked us to engage on what form the federal higher ed reauthorization act should take.

City Colleges of Chicago are ahead of the curve with respect to access and completion. The Chancellor has made these goals explicit since she started, and we are tracking and actively working to improve our completion rates. We are on track with gainful employment as we implement our College to Careers initiative.

MOOCS present a disruptive force to all of higher education. Felice Nudelman said they are in version 1.0, still working to figure out what viable business models may look like. How do students obtain credentials through MOOCS that schools and employers will accept as valid signals of content or knowledge mastery? We have work to do regarding the reconcilement of our Center for Distance Learning offerings to the emerging MOOCS model. At the same time, we should work with industry partners to understand what mix of online and classroom instruction will meet their needs as we prepare our students for jobs. On the academic side, I see many more discussions with our transfer institutions as we jointly work through how to incorporate MOOCS courses into our students’ education path.

Finally, there was much discussion of Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. We can expect increased focus on completion and retention. Member of Congress will want completion rates to trigger accreditation actions. Student learning outcomes will receive increased focus. “Academically Adrift” is getting a lot of visibility in Washington, D.C. A meme gaining ground on Capitol Hill is that students are not learning much because they are not working hard. Affordability and student debt is also a major point of discussion. Transparency, based on an assumption that institutions are not providing enough information to families, will prompt discussion on what additional information we ought to provide. Much of these efforts will take hold through changes to what accreditation is charged to accomplish.

The one thing clear from these discussions is that change is coming at us fast. It is likely to be disruptive to all aspects of our operating model. It will require more transparency, accountability, and creativity. Felice Nudelman offered advice I took to heart. Figure out what your sacrosanct core is, and then work through how to deliver on that core. That may require radical rethinking of models for delivery, but these changes should enrich student learning.

Published by Don Laackman

Leader with non-profit, higher education, and private-sector consulting experience.

4 thoughts on “Conferencing

  1. Hi, Don.

    Was anything presented re: any previous such changes?

    While there may not be anything analogous to the technological developments that will surely usher in changes in instructional delivery, previously there have been changes in the composition of students attending college as well as changes in the relationship between academia and the larger surrounding society, so does anyone see anything analogous between then and now? An analogy would help me to navigate my line of reasoning as applied to these changes since the relationship between academia/larger society has been evolving (or been in conflict) for some while now — incrementally — and isn’t some sudden event (right?).

    In other words, if you were provided with any material or a link re: the changing relationship noted above, please share it. A historical/long-range view might really enable the overall discussion — for me, anyway. Thank you in advance.

    1. Juan,

      No one presented data related to new learning styles. They did discuss experiences with MOOCS and how readily students collaborate and form learning communities independent of faculty direction. The speaker attributed this to the digital environment in which this generation has grown up.

      The MacArthur Foundation is doing a great deal of work in this area. A recent announcement about their work with the Mayor appears here:

      They have also sponsored YouMedia at Chicago Public Libraries ( Their focus is on learning how to create collaborative learning communities where students learn by coming together to work on problems or projects.

      The speaker also suggested that we all take a MOOC to understand how the learning environment works. I will be exploring this after I get back down to one college. edX, Coursera, Udacity are all options.

  2. Don,

    Like a number of my fellow faculty, I have taken courses through ION and carried what was learned into the courses I teach. I have come to see some pros and cons re: online/hybrid/enhanced courses.

    However, after I poked around the sites of the three MOOC providers above, the ION courses now seem a bit “primitive” by comparison. Still — at least for the moment — teaching or studying in an ION course seems to be infinitely preferable to what some of these MOOCs claim (e.g. conducting courses with thousand of students).

    Count me in for a MOOC. If your plan is for CCC instructors to experience this together and then share the experience, I suggest that you ask instructors to volunteer to do that during a summer. (This summer works for me.) It might also be a good idea to limit instructors’ choices of courses. Polling instructors might work. edX seems to have the most variety across disciplines.

    Finally, I see MOOCs supplementing degree programs but some limits remain. Students who take online courses are self-starters with good study habits and such, so some students will choose not to enroll. (That’s just caution and experience speaking.)

    Thank you for the prompt reply. I remain interested in analogy/contextualization too.


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