July 26th, 2012
Carbone at Bedford St. Martin's responded to a query on the POD list at Notre
Dame by pointing to this article:
No, not THAT Bain. The article is intense, portraying a cost scenario for
higher education showing that, outside of elite colleges and universities
and/or those with huge endowments, higher education institutions in the U. S.
in general are reaching an unsustainable imbalance of increasing costs and
The only role that this Bain report mentioned for technology is online
learning. A couple of comments made on the list in response demonstrated
an equal unawareness that technology would play any role in addressing the
financil imbalance described in the report.
One responder said that as we move away from lecture as the singular model of
learning, we only add to the cost because high-impact practices actually are
more labor intensive.
A relevant personal note about my own high-impact practice: in 1985, I moved
my first-year composition class to a computer lab in which the computers were
wired together in a LAN (local area network), a brand new technology at that
time. We found a primitive chat system and we all began writing together
in a writing studio approach: students writing (writing!) to each other
and me in authentic communication with a real live interlocutor for a real
purpose. We had found a way to do pre-writing in a social setting.
Large grants followed to expand this early high-impact practice and multiple
assessments showed that my students, using this networked classroom approach,
improved in their writing much quicker and more deeply than the traditional
I worked less, the students worked more and learned more. A classic
example of active learning and deep learning.
Technology, in this case, allowed me to do what I could not do otherwise --
hand off the work to the students and guide them to engage in their own
others at the time adopted this approach – it was, in fact, an early
high-impact practice. It might now fit under the rubric "writing intensive
is just one example of how technology can alter the learning equation between
teachers and learners. You who are reading this blog almost certainly
know of how eportfolios can alter the equation as well.
the news we hear of MOOCs (massive online open courses) and of open educational
resources (OERs) provided by the top universities in the U. S. We hear of
these same universities offering full courses online; of MITx offering a
version of an MIT degree online. For a time, badges were in the news, and the
badge movement is still alive and well. Entire new learning institutions
are being formed that are structured to challenge enrolled students to accept
much greater responsibility for their own learning.
the point is not that any one model of learning will sweep the
field. Instead what we are seeing is a multiplicity of learning models
and designs and opportunities. And behind all of this is the very basic
fact that information technology allows us to manage complexity.
time when teaching and learning certified as important followed only one model
(with slight variations) is over. We defined and accredited the method
of teaching and not the results. That method is shattering but the
tendency among educators is still to accredit the method (time spent engaged in
that method) and not the learning. We move to high-impact practices and
we change our terminology from "teaching" to "mentoring"
and nothing has really changed. We still assume the "treatment"
or the "intervention" or the "behavior" is important and
all that we can value or count.
still, in other words, deeply believe that the time spent undergoing an
observed treatment measures learning. It seems hard for many of us who
have served as faculty (and perhaps as faculty promoted to administration) to
believe that learners can learn on their own. It seems hard to trust
students: we created a learning paradigm -- the traditional classroom --
that was individualistic, competitive, and behavioristic (far from how
researchers understand how students learn) -- and saw how students increasingly
chafed under this learning paradigm by disengaging and cheating in many cases, and
then concluded that students can't be trusted.
is not as if learners need no structure: just the opposite is
true. But the structure should be the outcome, the goal, the solution,
not constant scaffolding. And it is not that they need no foundational
knowledge at the beginning or that they do not need light mentoring during the
process of working on the problem or the case or the question. But, even
so, the "labor-intensive" is on the part of students, not faculty.
we in this community know, learners now can create a body of evidence, managed
in an eportfolio, that becomes the basis for assessment or evaluation.
This obviates the need for constant observation or supervision.
learning entirely on your own with MOOCs or online degrees or choosing from
OER's or whether you are at an institution that is organized to create learning
communities and to support undergraduate research and other HIPs; or learning
by reading books and online journals; or any other learning method, an
eportfolio can capture your evidence of learning. The "labor
intensive" is your own.
long as higher education institutions continue to believe learners must be
guided and observed at all times -- a pedagogical in loco parentis
approach -- cost issues will find no relief in the area of
"instruction," the term Bain uses.
the end, the Bain study is very useful by making so clear that the current
model of learning in US higher education is unsustainable for all institutions
except the elites and the wealthy. But the report reveals not the slightest
awareness of how information technology can alter the entire picture. The
writers of the report assume the current culture of behavioristic learning
models will not change; they assume the "cost of instruction" will and
should go up.
the report describes a problem but fails utterly to understand this basic
fact: information technology, because it manages complexity that we
cannot do without information technology, gives us the ability to move to a
higher sphere of learning multiplicity. We can operate "above
ourselves." We can try teaching-learning paradigms that result in
deeper learning by using the resources we already have. Higher education
now has options; it has the power to re-engineer as never before. Go
beyond the essential pessimism of Bain; design learning experiences based not
on what we've always done but based on current learning research in cognitive
psychology, anthropology, social sciences, linguistics, educational psychology
and other fields.
can do it.