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  • Build a Strong Higher Education System Based on Current Information Ecosystem
  • Posted By:
  • Chris J
  • Posted On:
  • 31-Jan-2013
  • If you look around, you will find that there are not many traditional learners today. Even the term ‘higher education’ does not have a common definition. Right from proving their capability and value to parents and students to lagging financial support, our universities and colleges are facing a lot of pressures. All these pressures are a direct result of the lack of consensus on what our education should be producing.

    This is not a new phenomenon. Dating back to decades, lack of consensus has always resulted in reduced public support for our educational institutions. If you consider the flagship universities, public support has not been their foundation. When it comes to how many in-state residents they serve, their missions have definitely shifted.

    Our president has called out to everyone to contribute towards increasing the number of graduates with college credentials and lead the world in this respect. Though this is a worthy goal, experts feel that we cannot define success in higher education by pushing as many people as possible through universities and colleges.

    Moving forward, it is the responsibility of the federal and state leaders to make the system more flexible for the future students and the institutions serving them. The one-size-fits-all regulatory and financial-aid system that bases credits on time students spend on classrooms and the 15 week semesters must be focused upon. Making the system more flexible is the only way to ensure that the diverse needs of today’s students are taken care of.

    Innovative solutions being worked out towards controlling costs and improving learning are being crowded by the attention MOOCs are getting from the news media. In spite of interest and backing by traditional universities, competency-based degrees are for example being relegated to the background and not getting enough attention.

    Degrees based on competency are being experimented with this year by traditional universities like Wisconsin, Southern New Hampshire and Northern Arizona. According to these educational institutions, focusing on competency of students rather than the time they spend in classrooms is the only way to clear the jam and get adults requiring postsecondary education an opportunity to achieve their goals quickly.

    They however face many hurdles in the form of a host of Education Department rules and the need to work with accreditors to build the program. There is no harm in building an accountable as well as flexible system even though the rules are designed to attach integrity to college degree and protect students. This is the only way to keep college leaders motivated enough to do something innovative and different and follow a different path to show results.

    According to University of Wisconsin system President’s special assistant Aaron Brower, information now comes with no premium as whatever the professors know the students know. There is a great transformation happening in the learning process with students working collaboratively and toggling between sources to obtain information. It is time for us to tap this information ecosystem and build a strong educational system around it.


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