you lost me at the job promise

'letters' photo (c) 2006, liz west - license: article in the recent EDUCAUSE Review, by the new Chancellor of WGU Texas, Mark David Milliron, “An Open Letter to Students: You’re the Game Changer in Next-Generation Learning.” Some smart rhetoric, given his largely academic audience in this publication, to first challenge students to “get on-purpose, engage, and be tenacious” before giving them their marching orders to make some demands of higher education. Faculty readers are more likely to entertain these demands after he has enunciated many of their complaints about disengaged students.

Also smart to have laid out the attempts by faculty and their technology partners to be innovative and to offer technology-enabled experiences that are valuable–if students put in their portion of effort. I can say that I was ready to listen to what Milliron wants students to demand from us, hoping to hear something new that wasn’t simply a call for more MOOCs or more Khan Academy-style videos. Here are Milliron’s three demands in the form of “pathways”:

  1. Learning-Centered Pathway. Sounds good, but the explanation was a little fuzzy. I think he might have been challenging tradition (read: lecturing) as not being effective for learning, but it was not clear at all what he considers to be effective learner-centered teaching, unless I can find out at his reference to the Open Learning Initiative link at CMU. This one needs more work, but I think we all already agree that learning and student success is our purpose.
  2. Data-Rich Pathway. Even though I am not a data wonk, this one was a little more interesting than most of the recent claims for analytics. Just saying it almost put me to sleep for a minute. If data can help students find the right path, as well as help those who do the huge task of advising students, I’m all for it. His reference here is the book on my desk right now, Game Changers: Education and Information Technology. He elaborates examples in enough detail to make them credible and interesting, as long as I don’t have to do the collecting or analysis.
  3. High-Value Pathway. Okay, this is where you lost me. “[Y]our credential should help you obtain . . .a good job in the promised career field”–seriously? You think the purpose of higher education is job training? It would be great if we all got jobs in our fields, but as Milliron, himself, admits at the end of this section, “we are probably preparing you for jobs that don’t exist yet and life experiences you can’t anticipate.” True that, so why demand job skills? Why not return to that old outdated idea that a broad, deep education can prepare you to navigate through multiple and varying jobs?

Milliron is good intentioned, and I don’t expect any one person to have all the answers or express them perfectly. For me, although this open letter ended in dissonance, there was enough interesting in it to go into that pot of what’s next for education.

Categories: innovation, learning, student-centered learning, teaching, technology

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