Milo Minderbinder University?

Back in March 2008 I wrote a long series of posts (6 posts, around 4,000 words) that considered just how the emerging free economy on the Internet might change what we are doing in higher education. The focus of that series was largely the general education curriculum, but what I wrote had, I think, larger implications for everything we do in higher ed these days and how technology, especially the disintermediation ushered in by the Internet might pose a threat to our current economic model, but also to our approach to teaching and learning.

If you are inclined to re-read what I wrote back in 2008 — and I have to say I found it interesting in light of what’s been going on in the academic blogosphere of late — I’ve gathered those posts together in a single document, edited them for continuity and made them available for your reading pleasure.

Why my musings on the advent of the free economy now strike me as interesting is that, seemingly all of a sudden, the academic blogosphere does seem to be abuzz with conversations about learning badges, massive online courses, free content, etc., etc.

There is also a cottage industry out there in books about the fate of higher education in the age of disintermediation, budget stringency, consumer choice, and other dooms. The fruits of that industry are piled up on my bedside table even now, including DIY U, Reinventing Higher Education, and Academically Adrift.

This is all new?

To be fair, some of it is. But most of it is not. What’s new, I think, is that while various and sundry people in higher education (not just me, of course) have been writing about these issues for a while now, only in the past year or so some heavy hitters have gotten involved, including the MacArthur Foundation, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. That such bigger names have gotten up on the bully pulpit and spoken out (or offered money) means that the legacy media have taken notice.

For instance, a story in U.S. News and World Report¬†from back in October reviews these developments and says, “Maybe with some competition, the insular higher education community will change its tune.”

Insular? Really? These sorts of statements about what is and isn’t happening in higher education always strike me as being written by those who don’t spend much time around college campuses — or on their websites. Still, the author of this particular story is not entirely off the mark in that higher education can no longer (in my view) escape the consequences of disintermediation. For what I think needs to be done about that, read what I wrote lo these four years ago. My views about the essential issues really haven’t changed.

Does that make me insular?