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May 7, 2014

SCUP Webinar
Campus Landscaping: Impact on Recruitment and Retention

May 20, 2014 | Winston-Salem State University | Winston-Salem, NC

SCUP 2014 Southern Symposium
Executing Campus Master Plans in Times of Shrinking Resources

May 23, 2014 | University of Calgary | Calgary, Alberta, (Canada)

SCUP 2014 Pacific Symposium
Higher Education Innovation in Challenging Times—An Integrated Approach

June 13, 2014 | George Mason University | Fairfax, VA
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July 12–16, 2014 | David L. Lawrence Convention Center | Pittsburgh, PA

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We are one month into SCUP's Change & Disruption MOOC. The ongoing discussion continues, sharing content from within and without the Planning for Higher Ed Mojo.

Last weekend, in "Revolution Hits the Universities," The New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman casually tossed around what should, objectively, seem like astonishing numbers.

  • He noted that in two years, Coursera has gone from 300,000 students "taking 38 courses taught by Stanford professors and a few other elite universities" to "2.4 million students, taking 214 courses from 33 universities, including eight international ones."
  • Last year, MIT taught more students at once in its first MITx course, 150,000, than all the students who had ever attended MIT in 150 years.

So, why are we not astonished? Where's the sense of urgency?

In a recent Planning Interview with Valencia College president Sanford M. Shugart, Donald M. Norris of Strategic Initiatives, noted that from his company's work on campuses: "One of the things that we perceive ... is a sense of "urgency gap" between the leadership who are completely in the know and have such a compelling sense of the difficulties we face in terms of financial sustainability and other things—and the faculty who are engaged in many other things deeply."

He also writes:

We don't have 17 years [that's how long since SCUP published his book, Transforming Higher Education: A Vision for Learning in the 21st Century] to be serious and responding to this. The good news ... is that the tools, the analytics, the metrics, and the sense of urgency on the part at least of leadership who understand the nature of our issues, is far greater than it was in 1995 and hopefully can be marshaled to this end.

Friedman also shares the experience of Mitch Duneier, a Princeton sociology professor, upon teaching his first lecture in a virtual course:

"Within three weeks I had received more feedback on my sociological ideas than I had in a career of teaching, which significantly influenced each of my subsequent lectures and seminars."

Don't just scan that last short quote, read it slowly and think about it. Isn't that astonishing? It sounds unreal, but it's not. 

Within SCUP publications we are experiencing that kind of exponential ability to reach and engage with planning professionals virtually, in ways that create multiple new opportunities and feedback. It really is astonishing, and we really do feel a strong sense of urgency—expressed as responsibility—about it. Thus, the Planning for Higher Ed Mojo and the many other ways in the past three and a half years that we have transformed SCUP Publishing and set it on a new course.

If you want to give an article to someone who has no sense of urgency about change, look to Stefan Popenici. In The Perfect Storm for Universities, he portrays an academy that is assaulted on all sides by external forces, often in quite aggressive language. Here's your sense of urgency:

Deafened by the noise of various bureaucrats and mediocre academics interested to say only what their masters like to hear, some universities and academic groups struggle to see beyond fads and slogans what is shaping the future that will change their existence. This hidden uneasiness is justified. An increasing number of disruptive factors – adding to the obvious and massive impact of Internet and online education – already are changing the landscape for higher education: the significant increase of youth isolation and marginalization, graduate unemployment and persistent underemployment, a concerning economic forecast of a constant slowdown of global growth (with implications for numbers of international students) and issues evolving from the global ageing population (and implications on lifelong learning strategies and numbers of local students). There is even more on the horizon and – while teaching and learning are still organized within university walls by models designed in early 1960s – the pace of change is accelerating.

President Shugart understands the forces, but noted that it's really hard for faculties who have had their heads down paying attention to their discipline and their job to understand the import of external factors like the major increases in the cost of doing business, and the number of traditional graduates who are not employed. 

That sounds like a realistic assessment. Michael Haggans of the University of Minnesota, shared a twist on causes of the urgency gap after participating in our interview with Shugart. In Time's Up! he suggests that certain management "stalling tactics" (my word, not his) may have been, so far, successful in masking the full effect of technology changes and a changed business climate. He writes:

These tactics have worked well, so well that they have disguised the underlying weaknesses of the typical higher education institution.  A point of diminishing returns has been reached.

Could it be that the business side has done so well at shielding the academic side from the influence of external factors, that the academic side is also shielded from sharing a sense of urgency?

What are your thoughts?

Views: 628

Tags: #ChangeMojo, ChangeMojoWeek4, SEN


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Comment by Terry Calhoun on February 7, 2013 at 9:03am

And then more reading. Our executive director, Jolene Knapp, shared "Eight Brilliant Minds on the Future of Online Education" (HBR Blog) in SCUP Links. You can tally the Brilliant Minds as among those who see urgency, of one kind of another. Here's MIT president Raphael Reif:

"We manage this transition very carefully. How can MIT charge $50,000 for tuition going forward? Can we justify that in the future? We see three components to MIT- first there's the student life, then there's the classroom instruction, but for us, the projects and labs activity is where real education occurs. But I don't think we can charge that much for tuition in the future and it's a big pressure point for us." (emphasis added)

Comment by Terry Calhoun on February 7, 2013 at 7:37am

This morning, I read a University Business interview with Tony Bates. Bates, who has spoken at SCUP conference before, is a noted expert in online learning. It's worth a read.

I did not detect any hint of alarm or urgency about the industry in Bates' words. In fact, he specifically mentions physical campuses not looking very different in ten years. He definitely understands integrated planning and identifies a strategic management of learning technologies gap. We're going to try to get him to write for the fall 2013 issue of Planning for Higher Education, which is themed "Infra-Structure," and have him here in the Mojo.

One criticism he had about universities and learning is that they are badly managing online learning and learning technologies.

To be clear, I'm not talking about infrastructure or IT support, which is often very well managed. I'm talking about the strategic management of learning technologies. ...

There should be a statement in the strategic plan about the university’s commitment to learning technology and why it is important. It’s a supportive message to faculty. It should be integrated with the academic plan, if they have one. They should be looking not just at academic content, but also at how they will deliver that content.

Tony Bates is the author of 11 books in the field of online learning and distance education. In addition to his most recent title, Managing Technology in Higher Education: Strategies for Transforming Teaching and Learning (Jossey-Bass/John Wiley & Co. 2011), Bates moderates a widely read blog about online learning and distance education resources at He'll be speaking later this year at UBTech.

Comment by Biff Manikin on February 5, 2013 at 6:21pm

When you have change 

you have to deal with the mess

at one point or another.

This excellent story by Scott Carlson chronicles (pun) the transparent process, and very hard work, that the leadership of Wilson College undertook in order for the small, liberal arts, women-only school to survive. It very much relates to the concept of "urgency gap," and it sounds like president and faculty ended up without much of gap.

"The issues for the college are very real. There are deadlines we have to meet out in the future." Deferring the coeducation decision for a couple of years to see whether the other changes would suffice on their own, as some alumnae have asked her to do, "doesn't meet that requirement."

And she knows that the college has, at this point, taken only the first steps toward sustainability—a lot of difficult work lies ahead, and chances are good that not everything will go smoothly.

Still, she says, "I feel very firmly that this was the right process for us. It was messy, though. When you have change you have to deal with the mess at one point or another."

Comment by Terry Calhoun on February 4, 2013 at 5:31pm

I like the vaudeville concept, Marshall. It was coincidentally in my head all weekend. I was reading The End of the University? by Louis Betty in Inside Higher Ed.  It was very well written, but I took some exception to the three examples that she provided as evidence of the victory of physical presence over virtuality. One was "2. Live Performance. [E]xamples of how technologies of virtualization have failed to triumph over our species’ thirst for physical presence." It's very well written. I highly recommend it.

But as I read it I could not stop remembering my childhood acrobatic performances on the fringes of what was left of vaudeville. Real and physical. We performed not only on an Early Howdy Doody Show, but at small fairs and charitable or seasonal events. Sometimes as often as every other night. There was a lot of physical performance presence going on at the time.

As a Boomer, I've been fortunate to see and live through the changes in entertainment and performance. I know that we value being physically present. Community theater is thriving as an art form. People pay tremendous sums to be physically present in Michigan Stadium for a big game. Physically-present live performance is never going to go away. But it's a tiny piece, now, of the overall entertainment pie.

Traditional live performance is thriving inside its piece of the pie. People will pay a premium for quality or connected physical presence. I expect most traditional higher education institutions will thrive inside our current piece of the pie. What I don't know is what percentage of the tremendously fast-growing whole of higher education will be traditional higher education, involving physical presence. I suspect it will eventually be a tiny piece of the whole. 

Comment by Marshall D. Wilson on February 4, 2013 at 4:10pm

Faculty must feel the burlesque performers felt when movies began to hit the big screen, the way typewriter salesmen at IBM felt in the early 80's and phone booth salesmen in the 90's.  From the examples Terry cites, it is clear that not only does digital education reach more people without geographical constraints (or the same level of salary, benefits, office space, etc.), but also that digital education can offer an effective two-way education as well.   Who will be the new leaders?  Which universities will provide the  sources of knowledge?  To what extent will there be generators of knowledge and distributors of knowledge?  Will they be the same people in the same places?  In a world where information moves so easily, will universities be able to control how degrees are earned and defined or will they be forced to recognize the acquisition of knowledge from many digital sources in the true essence of research and independent study?  What will each individual university's "brand" mean in a world of open access to information?

Public universities have been largely insulated from competitive pressures, but the change is coming fast... perhaps faster than it can be accommodated in a public university environment with tenure, unions, political restrictions and public oversight....

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