Is It Time to Say Goodbye to Universities?

On June 8, Harry Keller shared Philip E. Auerswald’s article, “First Newspapers, Now Universities: It’s Transformation Time” (Washington Post, 8 June 2010), with the ETCJ staff. As a result, Harry and two other ETC writers, Judith McDaniel and John Sener, submitted articles responding to Auerswald:

Harry Keller, “Universities Vanishing?
Judith McDaniel, “View from an Online Classroom
John Sener, “Chill Out at a Tailgating Party

Here are the opening lines from Auerswald’s article:

The commencement season that has just drawn to a close has been, once again, a wonderful time to celebrate our enduring rituals of collegiate education.

Now prepare to say goodbye to them.

This isn’t to say that traditional four-year colleges are going to disappear overnight. They won’t…not any more than major-market newspapers have. But leaders in higher-ed have reason to pay serious attention to the disruptive changes technology has forced upon journalists and other knowledge workers: our industry is next.

[click here to read the rest of Auerswald’s article]

Universities Vanishing?

keller80By Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

A recent article by Philip E. Auerswald suggests that colleges and universities must choose between evolution and extinction. He points to five recent trends:

  1. Students are not showing up for lectures anymore.
  2. Rising tuition costs are pricing more and more students out of higher education.
  3. Tightening credit markets make student loans more difficult and expensive to obtain.
  4. Alternative means to a college degree are becoming more numerous.
  5. Global corporations are more willing to accept graduates from alternative institutions.

These five dry trend statements mask the true underlying drivers, which are the interrelated forces of costs and technology. You might say the traditional colleges and universities have brought this problem upon themselves by setting tuition increases far beyond cost of living increases and even far beyond the increases in health-care costs. Although many students were already unable to afford a college education, these extreme increases have pushed even more to look at alternatives. Continue reading

View from an Online Classroom

Judith McDanielBy Judith McDaniel
Editor, Web-based Course Design

After reading the article and the comments (Philip E. Auerswald’s “First Newspapers, Now Universities: It’s Transformation Time,” Washington Post, 8 June 2010), I was certainly disappointed in the quality of the conversation. Many of the comments are written by those who have never taken or taught an online class, nor have they considered the things that make an online course an exciting intellectual experience. Without the knee jerk reactions, I think it is past time to recognize that online education is with us for the duration. It won’t go away because it is a very exciting and viable alternative to traditional education. Continue reading

Chill Out at a Tailgating Party

John SenerBy John Sener

I’m tempted to say “see my previous commentary on this topic” — this article (Philip E. Auerswald’s “First Newspapers, Now Universities: It’s Transformation Time,” Washington Post, 8 June 2010) is similarly annoying. But I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s the form or the substance which is annoying, or both. (I think it’s both.)

First, the form. The article’s next-to-last paragraph seems reasonable enough at first glance:

What all of this means for leadership in higher education is that while resistance is futile, obsolescence is far from assured. The coming transformation in higher education will be gradual, and it will be incomplete. Many of today’s elite institutions will not only survive, they will prosper. Other institutions that clearly define, measure, and communicate the value they bring to individual students – and not just to society as a whole – will prosper. As for those whose strategy is to repackage past glories as a vision for the future on forlorn trips to bankrupt legislatures, [it won’t work] . . .

Why then create such cognitive dissonance by covering a plausible conclusion with an attention-grabbing, contradictory, absurd coating? “Prepare to say goodbye” to universities? “Learning is still in for today’s students, but school’s out”? Continue reading