Friday, January 16, 2009

What part of education can be reclaimed from institutions

Excellent article in Educause Review by David Staley on the development of new forms of education that take on the task that Universities have traditionally performed in an industrial education setting.

"Why do universities exist? What function do they fulfill that cannot be fulfilled by some other organization or mechanism? Asking this question allows us to explore the larger implications raised by wikinomics: Will a new form of organization emerge that will perform the same or similar tasks as the university? Will a new form of organization emerge that will fulfill certain functions not currently being performed by universities? Will a new form of organization emerge that will be better and more efficient at providing the services traditionally offered by the university?"

Better question might be, What parts of the natural social function of teaching, learning and knowledge production have universities performed because we didn't have a better way to do it at the time? Now that we have mechanisms that make communication and dissemination of knowledge simple, easy and cheap, what functions can society reclaim from universities? How much of what universities stake claim to is necessary or rent-seeking?

Interesting analogy put forward in the article about MMRPG's.

“There is the theme-park approach and the sandbox approach. . . . Most games are like Disneyland . . . which is a carefully constructed experience where you stand in line to be entertained. We focus on the sandbox approach where people can decide what they want to do in that particular sandbox, and we very much emphasize and support that kind of emergent behavior.”

Article asks the question are universities, theme parks or sandboxes. I agree with the tone of the argument that they should be more like sandboxes. Second Life is a MMRPG that allows for user-generated content from the get go. You learn how to use the tools then you use them to create content. When the tools don't do what you want you learn how to make new tools. It has to be the same for higher ed.

Love this description of a wikiversity.

The wiki-ized university

* is a “platform,”
* is permeable (no formal admissions process),
* consists of voluntary and self-organizing associations of teachers and students,
* consists of a self-organizing and intellectually fluid curriculum,
* does not offer tenure to professors (professors’ longevity is determined by the community),
* is governed by protocols based on community values and mores rather than on administrative rules and fiats,
* does not grant diplomas or certificates, (reputation not certificate)
* encourages play (and even failure),
* is governed by “intellectual barter” and makes all knowledge created therein free to anyone,
* is managed by administrators who “bubble up” from among the members of the community,
* is managed by administrators who maintain the platform as “choice architects” and lead via cultivation and care, not command and control, and
* has a fluid temporal structure: there are no “semesters”; teaching and learning are ongoing activities.

How people will be rewarded for activity in this environment. They figure it might happen for love but this type of enterprise would take a lot of involvement and people gotta eat. Don't want to leave it to the dilettante elites who are basically in charge of the current systems and are labouring hard to protect their status quo through rent-seeking behavior.

It will be interesting to see how this rolls.
Staley, D. (2009). Managing the platform: Higher education and the logic of wikinomics. Educause Review, 44(1), 36-47. Retrieved January 16, 2009, from

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