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.
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?