I attended the Sloan-C Conference on Online Learning last week and three themes surfaced as I attended sessions and talked with other participants: Unapologetic Openness and Transparency, Speed, and Marketability of Graduates.
Part 1: Unapologetic openness and transparency
There is a tendency, maybe even a tradition, in higher education to keep things to yourself. It’s a highly competitive atmosphere both among and within institutions. While many of my posts address “openness” in terms of software and content, in this post I am referring to something a little different.
Online education and entrepreneurship
Institutions should not feel that there is a conflict in offering online programs. It was pointed out several times that these programs are a business in and of themselves and a potential source of income, especially in the current economy. However you want to define your market, look at the research, and craft your programs and courses carefully to deliver the learning opportunities and outcomes potential students are looking for. If you are going to do it, do it well and you’ll be that much more competitive and thus sought out by students.
Working with corporate partners
Few schools have the in-house infrastructure and human resources to fully back a cutting edge online offering. Past conferences I have attended, even some of my own presentations, have downplayed the use of a specific product (such as an LMS or virtual classroom). But wouldn’t this be helpful information for others? A corporate partner may have the ability to take your program to the next level, resulting in student retention and recruiting success.
Faculty use of the Internet
There is an opportunity to say what you want to say and disseminate your work in addition to academic journals. I’ve written before about the need, particularly in the field of instructional technology, to get the word out about successes and failures in less time than it takes to go to print in a journal or book. Self-publishing is an opportunity to do this (and blogging is an example). This is not yet an accepted, scholarly practice, doesn’t count toward tenure, etc., but could provide an outlet for faculty and a source for learners.
For Profit/Not For Profit/Public/Private
At the level of the instructor, instructional designer, etc. aren’t we all doing something similar? That is, preparing online programs and courses that are high quality, focused on learning objectives and student needs. There is something to be learned from the ways in which different types of institutions approach the common problems. From a business standpoint, there are areas that are certainly proprietary, but a sharing of experiences has the potential to make us all better at what we do.
All of these approaches to sharing have academic integrity at their core. That’s what has to drive the initiative and what in the end will likely contribute most to a program’s success and longevity. What is your experience with openness and transparency in higher education?
photo credit: Jeff Kubina, Flickr