Friday, October 24, 2008
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
This year Alan Mandell, Xenia Coulter and myself facilitated a preconference workshop devoted to the question about the future of "progressive" pedagogy in the digital age. The group of interested and interesting educators that met together numbered about 20 or so, grappling with the question of whether John Dewey and Lev Vygotsky's ideas could be successfully brought forward into the digital learning future. People wondered if Dewey's remarkable insights into learning, themselves arising out of a revolution in thinking (what Morton White aptly called "the revolt against formalism" ) at the turn of the last century (circa 1890s-1930s) could remain cogent and vital in this new age of standardization of syllabi, platform creep i.e. Learning Management Systems, and (too often) objectivist assessment criteria. The impetus for the workshop grew out of a book with the same themes being edited at this moment by Carla Payne longtime Alliance member and retired member of the Vermont College and Union Institute faculty.
Despite the enormous lip service paid to "student-centered" learning, the folks at our workshop raised questions about the real role of "constructivist learning" in the traditional classroom setting where one still sees all too much "straight" lecturing and little meaningful discussion or involvement by students in their own learning. Of greater anxiety to all, was the growing power of "platforms" (LMS) to dictate through their architecture the manner and flow of the learning process. For some persons, concern was also raised regarding the genuine viability of the LMS or even the asynchronous discussion board to create the passion and deep learning sometimes achieved (at its best) by face-to-face discussion. As we argued and debated, pondered these weighty questions it seemed useful to me that perhaps we could use this blog with comments to see how we might use one of the instruments of the digital learning future to deepen and extend our workshop (and conference) conversation and dialogue. So, I invite all the participants of the AHEA Mobile 2008 conference to add your thoughts and ideas to this blog; we'll see about linking this digital and f2f discussion to the AHEA website as well.
Thursday, September 4, 2008
I and several colleagues wrote articles for a special edition of the digital journal On The Horizon Volume: 16 Issue: 1; 2008. I have linked one of the pieces in the edition here and will link and copy the others in subsequent blogs. I do so because Emerald (the publishing house for OTH) has a high subscription fee and higher firewall to get the relevant pieces (unless you have a corporate or university subscription). I have secured the necessary copy permissions and have linked the articles in RandomLearning for your use and comments:
Constructing the Cafe University: Teaching and Learning on the Digital Frontier: Cornel Reinhart (see below)
Constructing the Café University
Teaching and Learning on the Digital Frontier
Cornel J. Reinhart
Centre for eLearning and eLiteracy
Please do not quote without permission of the author.
Commons copyright, April 26, 2007.
Constructing the Café University: Teaching and Learning on the Digital Frontier
Author: Cornel J. Reinhart
Article Category: Conceptual Paper
This paper examines changes occurring in the organization and delivery of learning at the level of higher education, and argues that it is possible today to envision the shape and structures of the future Digital University.
Beginning with a history of the basic organizational paradigm underlying the traditional university, this paper systematically explores the impact on this paradigm of new technological and pedagogical innovations: learning management systems (LMS), learning objects, iPods, blogs, student e-mail, wireless connectivity, Google's search capacity, distance (web-based) education and blended learning on the pedagogy of tertiary education
The physical structure of the university is a consequence of the hierarchically organization of knowledge, the predominant model from the late Middle Ages through the Industrial era. As knowledge becomes more extensive and complex, the old organization is proving inadequate. The organization of knowledge in several dimensions will bring a massive restructuring of institutions of higher education. The new digital university will have the web rather than disciplines and the library at its virtual center with (nearly) infinite access to the larger peripheral world. No longer holding a monopoly on information, the post-modern Café University competes with commercial, for-profit institutions of learning offering traditional and new adult learners immediate access and enormous learning flexibility. We can expect students of all ages to find and aggregate their learning experiences from any connected institution, commercial or traditional, located anywhere in the world.
Originality/Value of paper
As a comprehensive and systematic consideration of the impact of digital tools and processes on the contemporary university, this paper offers guidance to university administrators, faculty members and others involved in the educational process. I
That literacy is a social practice is an insight both banal and profound. It is banal, in the sense that once we think about it it is obvious that literacy is always practised in social contexts and that even the school, however 'artificial' it may be accused of being in its ways of teaching reading and writing, is also a social construction. (Street 2001, p. 18)
Commenting on the conjuncture of Martin Luther's theology and the Gutenberg printing press, Eric Erikson warned: "it would be fatal to underestimate the degree to which the future always belongs to those who combine a universal enough new meaning with the mastery of a new technology" (Erikson 1962, p. 225). Assuming the truth of Erikson's observation, it seems fair to ask: to what extent has evolving digital "technology" influenced the forms and structures, indeed, the "meaning" of the modern university? How has "technology" transformed the learning process itself? What, for example, constitutes literacy today? What are the goals of educators, the goals of the contemporary university? Can the university remain competitive in the delivery of information? When does the modern university become a post-modern institution?
Fraught with complexity, the answers to these questions challenge the university's deepest organizational structures, the beliefs and routines of faculty and administrators, and the prejudices of those of us raised in an earlier academic world. Have we, to paraphrase Erikson, combined a sufficiently new universal meaning, a new learning pedagogy, with the mastery of digital technology? While this essay addresses these questions, I am primarily interested here in the learning goals and teaching processes of higher education. Teaching and research necessarily overlap; still, as far as possible, my remarks are devoted to the university as a pedagogical institution.
We are experiencing an economic and cultural transition every bit as revolutionary and dislocating as the movement from feudal to industrial society. The World Wide Web now gives us the capacity to reach individuals directly, point-to-point, for marketing, access to data, and for educational purposes. However we might feel about these developments, as educators they are going on with or without us. Students who just ten years ago had little computing or internet literacy come to us now reasonably sophisticated users of both. The post-modern Café University permits faculty, administrators and learners of all ages to gather in their local coffee shop connected horizontally to the internet, to their colleagues and to the world; an unprecedented array of digital tools for searching and analyzing, for teaching and learning, lie as close as the next cappuccino. We can argue whether the changes confronting our older educational institutions are "revolutionary" or "evolutionary," but it seems clear that profound changes are taking place.
The Oxbridge Model
Thomas Kuhn suggested that when the weight of new information grows too heavy for the prevailing scientific (or ideological) theory to support and integrate, it collapses in favor of a new paradigm. Perhaps, in this context, we can take a moment to sketch the outlines of the modern university. Volumes have been written about the emergence of the Western university, its appearance in the late middle ages, its structures and organizational architecture, its functions (see, Rashdall 1936, Brooke 1993 and a useful collection of web sources http://www.beloit.edu/~hist190/universities.html). From Cambridge University's A Brief History comes this interesting description:
"Meanwhile during the late fourteenth century and after, the University began to acquire property on the site today known as Senate-House Hill, and to build on it a group of buildings called the 'Schools' - some of which survive today as the 'Old' Schools. Here were the teaching rooms of the higher faculties, where lectures and disputations were held, the chapel, the library, and the treasury, with its chests and muniments. Most of the land and buildings in the town was still in private hands . . . although from the late thirteenth century much was already passing to the new institutions called Colleges."
Western academics recognize readily these ancient institutions. The forms and structures of the modern university were accreting their powers and privileges in the early thirteenth century. We see in this one sentence all the familiar structures of the contemporary Western university: "here were the teaching rooms of the higher faculties, where lectures and disputations were held, the chapel, the library, and the treasury, with its chests and muniments." This model: the library, the colleges, the lecture halls, the administrative building, faculty governance (eroded, in time, to be sure) all remain today. The physical architecture of the contemporary university demands these buildings with their associated functions: the paradigmatic architecture. The core of the model however is not physical, it is rather an ancient learning paradigm: the master scholar, disciplines organized by faculties, the lecture, the text and rare manuscripts housed in the library, all erected to serve a specific locale: Bologna, Cambridge, Oxford, Wittenberg, Leuven, Glasgow, Harvard (to serve New England elites), the Sorbonne, the University of Heidelberg, the University of the Free State. Today, of course, these universities, like others worldwide, attract students from across the globe—but they remain residential institutions in their core mission.
Our concern here is primarily with the present organization and delivery of learning at the contemporary university and college level.
It is possible today to begin to envision the shape and structures of the new digital university. For years, especially as distance education became more popular for administrators and faculty alike, we heard cries of alarm and joy alike that the older university of brick and mortar was soon to be displaced, bulldozed onto the scrapheap of history. Those calls proved to be premature, the old buildings still stand and more important the older teaching structures and routines continue apace.
The central organizing feature of the traditional "Oxbridge model" learning complex was the lecture (and disputations), the face-to-face meeting between the master and his students. The text lay close at hand to be read and studied, written about and discussed. The earliest examinations were oral with written work, theses, dissertations, essays and articles following. Soon thereafter, scholars organized themselves, and, most significantly, their specialized information, into disciplines, into faculties, to verify master's licenses while establishing and maintaining their discipline's standards (University of Cambridge 2004, The Medieval University).
Administrators appeared almost simultaneously with disciplines and colleges; their titles remain familiar today: chancellors, vice chancellors, deans, registrars and a host of lesser denizens. Administrators and administration were as essential to the Oxbridge Learning Model as the master and lecture (University of Cambridge 2004, The Medieval University). Lectures (particularly for undergraduates and in the more democratically "open" universities), had to be scheduled, buildings synchronized with schedules, students needed to know where to go to meet their professors, their masters.
Industrialization heightened and intensified these organizational imperatives. Time, efficiency, economies of scale were as important to good administration as learning—yet, despite some tension they reinforced each other. One major change was that the geographical organization of the university gradually became more extensive and complex. The Oxbridge model required lecturers and lectures; the university served a local market disseminating information to residential students, the text resided in the university library and each institution competed to amass the largest collection of volumes and rarest of manuscripts.
What were these scholars, the masters, and their universities attempting to do? The end of the medieval period or beginning of the early modern is distinguished by the French Encyclopedists valiant effort to amass and organize all known information in the L'Encyclopédie project (Berthier 1752, Pannabecker 1994 and Darnton 1979). The early modern university structures, disciplines and faculties, were organized to collect all the information deemed relevant to their discipline, understanding that the master would memorize the appropriate information, and its sources, then serve as a font of learning for his students. Disciplines were organized hierarchically and vertically, into, for example, the science or humanities faculties and further sub-divided by specialized areas of knowledge into biology or physics, philosophy or history. Denis Diderot, the most prominent of the French Encyclopedists, described disciplines in his article ART in the first volume of the Encyclopédie:
We began by making observations on the nature, service, usage, qualities of beings & of their symbols; then we gave the name of science or of art or of discipline in general, to the center or unifying point to which we related the observations that we had made, to form a system of either rules or instruments, & of rules tending towards the same goal; because that is what a discipline is in general (cited in Pannabecker 1996).
On the different approaches of Rousseau and Diderot to their common interest in the L'Encyclopédie, Pannabecker writes: "Diderot's approach was to represent the mechanical arts as disciplinary content; he felt this content needed to be better organized, systematized, written down, and illustrated in order to facilitate dissemination, critical thinking, and progress" (Pannabecker 1996, 33/4). Human development then, for Diderot and Rousseau, was dependent upon proper collection, organization and dissemination of information: "Diderot probably contributed as much to popularizing the rational systematization of the mechanical arts as Rousseau did to popularizing the importance of the stages of human development in their relationship to pedagogy." (Pannabecker 1996, 33/4)
as early as 1851 and before 1900 Triposes in law, history, theology, Indian languages, Semitic (later oriental) languages, medieval and modern (European) languages, and mechanical sciences (later engineering) were all established. To develop these new branches of learning a number of new or remodelled professorships were established by the University and by private benefactors, the earliest being the Disney Professorship of archaeology in 1851. The numbers of other established teaching posts remained small, and most undergraduate teaching was done by lecturers, appointed and paid by the Colleges, or by private coaches. As numbers of students grew during the last half of the century (matriculations increased from 441 in 1850 to 1,191 in 1910), much accommodation was added to existing Colleges . . . . (University of Cambridge 2004, The Revived University of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries).
The lecture served as the critical point of contact between masters and students. As universities grew in size, so also did the lecture hall and class size. Martin Luther's development as a young lecturer at the University of Wittenberg provides a glimpse into the early modern scholar's institutional role. "Luther the lecturer," Erikson observes, "was a different man from either preacher or monk. His special field was Biblical exegesis. He most carefully studied the classical textbooks . . . and his important predecessors among the Augustinians; he also kept abreast of the humanist scholars of his time and of the correctives provided by Erasmus's study of the Greek texts and Reuchlin's study of the Hebrew texts" (Erikson 1962, p.198). Similarly, Luther utilized the latest technologies of his day to disseminate his revolutionary (and later counter-revolutionary) ideas: "Literacy," Erikson writes, "and a conscience speaking the mother tongue—these pillars of our present-day identity had long been in the building. But Gutenberg had, as it were, waited for Luther; and the new technique of mass communication was thus available to Luther's theological performance, which so attracted the charisma, the personality cult, of a nation." (Erikson 1962, p.225)
Of course this organizational model persists today, with junior lecturers handling the great mass of undergraduate students in large halls while senior "masters" pursue their own research, offering specialized disciplinary seminars to small numbers of elite post-graduates. Tragic, but instructive, lecturers today in large American universities, as elsewhere in the world, encounter students in a single lecture class routinely numbering from the hundreds to a thousand or more. Despite these daunting statistics, administrators and faculty continue to affirm the benefits of face-to-face contact.
Like Diderot and the Encyclopedists of the Enlightenment, educators (and the public alike) living and working in the Digital Age confront the monumental task of organizing and disseminating information. Our new digital Encyclopedists are busy creating algorithms they hope will categorize, identify and bring to our laptops information requested a scant second ago. Google's momentary primacy lies in its capacity to organize a nearly infinite range of discrete bits of data, bringing the scholar or layman those "facts" most relevant to their search. We've known since Socrates, and before, that information is not knowledge. Knowledge is something more, at its most profound a philosophical and pedagogical mystery. But for the purposes of the Oxbridge learning model, it was sufficient to believe that information
organized by disciplines and masters yielded knowledge and could be disseminated to undergraduates and post-graduate students in time-honored ways.
Today, however, we are awash in information, each digital search yielding thousands of references to the requested information point. Each of these myriad bits of data is linked to an equally voluminous set of new and interesting references—some scholarly, some ridiculous--but in the end nearly impossible to research and organize exhaustively as scholars were expected to do just a decade ago. As Martin observes, "the infinitude of information that is now accessible through the internet dwarfs any attempt to master a subject – it is simply no longer possible to know what is to be known in any area. The responses are to focus on ever narrower or more esoteric disciplines or interests, or to admit that all that can be done is to sample the field." (Martin 2006, draft version 2.5, p. 7).
The explosion of data … has all but destroyed the premise of understandability. Inundated by perspectives, by lateral vistas of information that stretch endlessly in every direction, we no longer accept the possibility of assembling a complete picture. Instead of carrying on the ancient project of philosophy – attempting to discover the 'truth' of things – we direct our energies to managing information. (Birkerts 1994, p. 75).
The Old Oxbridge Learning Model seems increasingly unable to bear the weight of the social and technological changes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Old Model antedated Guttenberg's printing press and survived, indeed flourished, after adopting mass printing to its own purposes. Oxbridge also adapted to the industrial age, since the end of World War II becoming more and more corporate in its language and structures.
What strategies will, or can, faculty and administrators develop to confront these new challenges to Oxbridge: from challenges to the university's regional hegemony posed by the internet's global reach, to pedagogical problems caused by a rising flood of information and the increasing irrelevancy of the lecture and disciplinary master. Still, these daunting issues haven't slowed student demand for a higher education: student numbers grow exponentially as adolescent and adult learners, South American, Asian and African, acquire the technology and resources to demand a university education. Relevant humanist and digital literacy is, arguably, more necessary now than at any other period in human history (Golden 2006).
In the last thirty years, the academy has been roiled by repeated waves of educational curricular reform: great books, the old (dead, white, male) canon, the new (feminist, diversity, voice and identity) canon, post-modernism, writing across the disciplines, interdisciplinarity, and the most current and, perhaps comprehensive, the universal calls for active or student-centered learning with the application of rigorous assessment processes to higher education. These curricular clashes suggest (despite the occasional hyperbole of each wave's adherents) that content may not be central to the learning experience. Nor, it seems, is discontent with the Oxbridge learning model exclusively a technological phenomenon.
The lecture has been dying a slow intellectual death for some years now. It is widely and loudly denounced at most contemporary academic conferences and meetings. Active-learning strategies have long since swept the field, now taken up by most accrediting institutions as the standard for excellence in learning. Assessment discussions and institutional assessment plans likewise feature active-student engagement as a core principle for learning in higher education. Technology certainly has played a role in accelerating these trends but it is not the sole driving force.
Norm Friesen, in an extraordinarily insightful essay has explored the divergent, and later, convergent, paths traced by the Anglo-American term didactic and it's similar but different German (and northern-European) concept: Didaktic. At the turn of the twentieth century, John Dewey's notions of instructional theory closely paralleled the Germanic Didaktic, a broad, humanistic understanding of learning and human development. By century's end, however, Edward L. Thorndike's behaviorism had eclipsed Dewey's pragmatic and "experiential" philosophy, carrying "didactic" away from Didaktic.
Friesen sees these two different learning traditions now converging, partially as a result of developments in learning technology: specifically, as both traditions struggle to incorporate microlearning scenarios characteristic of much web or computer-based instruction. "In other words," Friesen explains, "learning displays a contextual and organizational complexity that is irreducible to the 'generalized structures' of pre-defined classifications and sequences." By "pre-defined classifications and sequences" Friesen means: Learning Object Metadata, Simple Sequencing and Learning Design among other "components" presently engaging Anglo-American researchers interested in "re-arranging small, recombinant resources to constitute given instructional sequences. . . ." (Friesen 2006, p. 9) Similarly, and ironically, other educators and technologists, borrowing from the Didaktic model are busy trying to "recontextualize" these same resources: "microcontents," Friesen concludes, "cannot be recontextualized simply in accordance with the established sequences of a given Web Didaktiks. What is important instead is that these same contents should not be so completely de-contextualized that they cannot be recognized as relevant and put to use in highly contextualized circumstances" (Friesen 2006, p. 10).
How do Friesen's insights help us bridge the transition from the ancient lecture model to web learning? I would suggest that understanding the struggles of the older learning paradigms, either didactic or Didaktic, to incorporate digital learning, offers us a point of departure from which to evaluate the learning usefulness of current or future digital instructional tools, such as learning objects, learning object metadata and learning management systems (all Anglo-American efforts to "decontextualize" "granular" learning resources).
"Technology," in the form of web-based or online learning, grew out of the adult education movement that created numerous distance programs in and outside major residential universities and colleges beginning in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In America, these years saw the appearance of the College Park division of the University of Maryland (actually created after WW II to serve American military personnel and their families serving abroad), some twenty-five Ford Foundation funded University Without Walls programs, Empire State College in New York, and many similar adult outreach programs for adult learners across the nation (Maehl 2000).
In Europe, similar pressures to educate adults free of residential requirements led to the appearance of Great Britain's world renowned Open University and similar institutions on the continent. Most of these efforts, however, necessarily focused on individualized studies. With adults scattered by geography, work and the pressures of family life, the only viable means of reaching these non-traditional learners was by mail and telephone (later by fax and e-mail). By the late 1990s, the appearance of the internet created opportunities for genuine classroom experiences using first the synchronous chat room and quickly after the asynchronous bulletin board to create a seminar and learning community experience for adult students at a distance (Reinhart 1998, http://www.aln.org/alnweb/magazine/maga_v2_i1.htm and Reinhart 2005).
While traditional residential enrollments in the U.S. are virtually stagnant, the number of online, non-traditional students is exploding. At UMass Online enrollments have quadrupled to 9,200 students since 2001. The majority of these online enrollments are non-traditional students between the ages of 25 and 50; 30% are from outside Massachusetts—this despite paying slightly higher tuition than their residential counterparts. Pennsylvania State's online program is also growing rapidly with a total of 5,691 students in 2006 up 18% since last fiscal year. Noting the rapid expansion of American public universities into the online environment, Gary Miller, associate vice president for outreach at Pennsylvania State, a public land grant institution, asks, : "the question in our case wasn't, 'Should we do this?' but 'How do we do it right?'" (Golden 2006). "Doing it right," may be as much, or more, a pedagogical question than an economic one: to put more precisely, online pedagogical choices, online "environments," may have as much to do with economic outcomes as student learning.
Skidmore College's University Without Walls program offers a useful instance of these significant technological and pedagogical developments. From its inception, Skidmore College has been one of America's small but prestigious residential colleges, in its earlier years serving elite young women from America's most distinguished families. In the late 1960s, a slim majority of progressive faculty members decided to support an unusual experiment—to create an individualized studies program offering Skidmore College's bachelor's degree to adults living at a distance. The resulting University Without Walls program was funded for a short period by a Ford Foundation grant (the same funding source for over twenty other UWW programs at large and small colleges and universities) then later formally adopted by Skidmore College in 1972. Until 1997, all of UWW's adult students, scattered around the globe, were served by surface mail, telephone, fax, and e-mail. During the spring term 1997, UWW offered its first online course, America in the Sixties, abruptly revolutionizing how UWW worked. Suddenly, the technological means were at hand to create genuine "classes" of widely dispersed students; learning communities grew from individual students meeting and talking with each other, first, in a single class, later from contact in numerous learning experiences. Currently, UWW has expanded its catalog of online courses to well over 100 (a tiny fraction compared to larger adult distance programs like Empire State College, University of Maryland at College Park, the SUNY Learning Network, UMassOnline, or Penn State, to name just a few).
Borrowing from John Dewey's notion that information is not knowledge, indeed, that knowledge is socially constructed; the UWW asynchronous seminar was from the beginning quite successful. UWW's pedagogical and Didaktic approach sought to duplicate--online--the seminar experience of a quality post-graduate education (Reinhart 2005).
UWW built its online learning architecture—the core of its new learning paradigm—around the asynchronous "bulletin board," consciously rejecting lectures as simply another reading online, eschewing as well the use of the then more current synchronous "chat room." For adult learners, the synchronous "chat room' simply makes no sense whatsoever: it requires adult student learners, not in residence at the college or university, with jobs, family responsibilities and, yet more difficult, scattered over disparate global time zones, to be at a computer at a specific time, a "synchronous" moment convenient only to the instructor. More significantly, the "chat room" was a dreadful learning environment—it offered the worst possible metaphor for an Oxbridge "face-to-face" discussion imaginable. Student and faculty comments and questions could not be handled with deliberation or any degree of reflection; facilitator and students alike crowded onto a queue that crawled inexorably "up" the page until good comments and suggestions simply disappeared. If anyone, including the instructor, couldn't type, or think sufficiently quickly, the entire "learning" experience became a nightmare of hoping to get a word or phrase into the conversation, somewhere, somehow (Payne & Reinhart 2004).
Despite these apparently overwhelming obstacles, the "chat room" seemed for many faculty and administrators most like their familiar Oxbridge model. The resulting struggle at UWW yielded a compromise: faculty who wished to use the "chat room" could do so, but as an "office hour." In this way, students could "arrive" voluntarily at the faculty member's "office" and, with fewer learners in attendance, actually expect to have their questions answered. Later, valued dialogue from this "office hour" could be sifted, copied and posted to the asynchronous bulletin board for other students' more thoughtful, less pressured consideration and comments. It is interesting how unsuccessful the chat room as pedagogy is, while students engage continuously in instant messaging!
Learning Management Systems
UWW also chose to build the remainder of its prototype web course site—the first Skidmore College online course: America in the Sixties-- from the raw language available then to create applications for the web: HTML (Hyper Text Markup Language). Quickly however, the first commercial Learning Management Systems (LMS) appeared on the market to "facilitate" better student and faculty administration with a promise to create online architecture congenial to good learning. Blackboard and WebCT (now merged) rather quickly came to dominate the marketplace. Almost as quickly, a range of criticisms emerged from faculty, students and administrators alike about these commercial products. From an economic perspective, they were hailed as inexpensive until the first, and subsequent, contract renewals came due. Likewise, they "branded" their "LMS" product to the larger exclusion of the college or university client. More troubling from a pedagogical point of view, they were often boring, clumsy to use for students and faculty and suffered from template rigidity, so inflexible that faculty could not find ways to create their unique individual "voices." Having trained faculty at an enormous social cost it seems useful to allow them to express their specialized creativity. Likewise, entire disciplines found the LMS almost useless for learning in their areas, especially true for the arts, humanities and history faculties.
In this context then, Norm Friesen's valuable observations regarding didactic and Didaktic instructional traditions help us to reconceptualize the learning goals, architecture and implications of contemporary "learning management systems." Friesen calls our attention to Lucy Suchman's observation (1987) that plans serve only as rough guidelines for activities, gaining their full meaning only when realized in action or, expressed differently, human plans (read LMSs) only attain their full potential when they shift from "control structures that universally precede and determine actions, to discursive resources produced and used within the course of certain forms of human activity" (Suchman 2003, p. 299 & cited in Friesen 2006, p.10).
Characterized as "tools," the early LMS was typically designed by persons with excellent technical skills but little understanding of learning, practical or theoretical; in effect a "didactic" tool designed without a clear understanding of its broader contextual purposes. The rapidly expanding interest in open source LMSs draws its vitality from the dissatisfaction experienced by both faculty and administrators with the host of problems associated with commercial LMSs. Moodle in Europe and Sakai in America seem for the moment to be the most viable open source systems and will undoubtedly grow and flourish as additional colleges and universities come to adopt either system.
In a short time, the less than perfect learning "systems," the early core of an emerging digital university model, came to dominate the adult distance education market springing up not only all over America, but—as another manifestation of globalization--around the world as well. Despite deep reservations on the part of some faculty and administrators, LMSs, especially WebCT and Blackboard, were soon being used by residential institutions and faculty to supplement their face-to-face lecture format. This variant on distant education (and the Oxbridge model) was quickly popularized as blended learning. At first, blended "classroom" instructors found web connectivity useful primarily to post assignments, make announcements and offer reminders. Soon this early pragmatic utility gave way to seeing the pedagogical value of opening one or more asynchronous bulletin boards so that students could discuss with each other ideas perhaps already raised in the lecture but where time and numbers precluded fuller discussion. Similarly, in the most recent use of the LMS, lectures, once the centerpiece of the Oxbridge learning model, are posted, archived, as "learning objects" for students to download and read at their leisure while the course increasingly proceeds online in small discussion sections created and facilitated by one or more instructors. In effect, the early adult education distant programs, characterized by individualized asynchronous studies, flexible schedules, and non-residential student learning became the learning frontier for the new digital university. To shift metaphors, the LMS adult education snake--swallowed its lecture-centered, residential, fixed buildings and rigid schedule--tail.
Several useful examples of these general observations can be taken from the experience of lecturers at the University of the Free State, a residential institution of 25,000 students located in Bloemfontein, South Africa. At a recent WebCT faculty development workshop, two presenters discussed interesting "cutting edge" uses of blended learning in their own residential classrooms. Nel, from the Department of Computer Science and Informatics drew her audience's attention to the crucial need for purposeful online course design, building in student-faculty interactivity: "interpersonal interaction can only be effective if it is intentionally designed into and integrated into the course" (Nel 2005, and cited in Nel: Strijbos, Martens, & Jochems 2004).
Thomas, from the Economics Department, described the overwhelming task of instructing 1400 residential students registered for her fall term 2006 Introduction to Economics module/course; imagine 1400 students for a single face-to-face learning experience! With numerous regional languages in the Free State province, the University offers all modules in two languages (English and Afrikaans) and, in this instance, in twice daily sessions (day and evening). For the University, these concerns create an enormous scheduling challenge. For Ms. Thomas, the difficulties are equally daunting. Since many students fail to see the value of sitting in a cavernous hall, they gradually stop attending; only a tiny fraction of those actually enrolled are physically present. Likewise, Thomas, as any good instructor, wants to believe her students are learning and her efforts are not in vain. From necessity, and wishing to deepen her student's learning, Thomas turned to the University's LMS, WebCT, to solve these complex logistical problems.
After several false starts, Thomas currently prepares two weekly lectures (once in English, largely for black students and again in Afrikaans, for white students) as posted reading items—essentially "learning objects" that all students can access whenever convenient, ending the absolute necessity for all students to attend scheduled classes. Thomas meets with those students who do come to the twice weekly "lectures" but now these once mandatory classes have the "feel" of an authentic learning experience—a give and take between facilitator and interested learners. Only those students truly interested come and those participate more fully, asking questions and exploring ideas with Ms. Thomas.
These extreme face-to-face conditions help us to understand why the intellectual center of the module gravitated to the small group discussion sections Ms. Thomas organized on her own initiative. Thomas reassigned her upper level student tutors, originally designated grading assistants, as discussion facilitators. Now, each tutor is given several small "discussion" groups (10-20 per group). Yet, even here, the complexity of time and available physical spaces is overwhelming. Thomas' solution utilized a bulletin board with each junior facilitator meeting their group asynchronously. It is here, with Ms. Thomas monitoring in the background and periodically meeting with her numerous "discussion facilitators," that the difficult questions regarding macro and micro economic theory, bell shaped curves, supply and demand interstices and related complexities are expressed, discussed and ultimately transformed from "information" to "knowledge" (Thomas 2006).
Recent innovations (or challenges) to the Oxbridge lecture model have also proved to be useful and exciting pedagogical experiments for online learning. Simulations have been around for some years in residential classrooms, the most famous and widely adopted in America being the highly successful Model UN and Model OAS. Perhaps not surprising, given the resistance of higher education administrators and faculty to bend or transform the lecture-centered format, these exciting simulations of real world diplomatic institutions were introduced in America by high school and elementary level teachers. Simulations, of course, grew from the felt need of many teachers and some university educators to directly involve their students in the learning experience, to move from unidirectional lecture to multidirectional interactivity; to allow students to bring their own interests, research, diversity and complexity to the center of the learning activity, in short to move from passing along information to socially creating knowledge.
The creation of a Harvard University Model UN course, bringing numerous high school Model UN programs to Cambridge, Massachusetts each year, immediately lent legitimacy to the simulation as valid pedagogy. Still, limitations of classroom architecture and the challenges of synchronous scheduling create difficult logistical (putting aside traditionalists' pedagogical concerns) barriers to the wider use of these powerful simulations.
While the drama of the General Assembly session remains and will probably always remain a wonderful learning experience for students, nevertheless, a common website and useful simulation software could greatly enhance simulations like the Model UN and Model OAS. The internet's capacity to connect classrooms widely scattered around the globe, coupled with the computer's enormous capacity to build models, to design interactivity, to access and maintain data, makes for an extremely valuable tool, enhancing existing face-to-face simulations while equally successful entirely online simulations evolve. Many of these same remarks apply to online service-learning modules or courses (Naudé & Reinhart 2005).
Another exciting example of the potentialities of online simulations is evolving at Second Life (http://secondlife.com) a website developed by Linden Lab. Launched in 2000, Second Life counts among its key investors, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar. (Newitz, September 2006), http://www.popsci.com/popsci/technology/7ba1af8f3812d010vgnvcm1000004eecbccdrcrd.html also Siklos, 2006). Linden Lab offers educators a discount to host their classes or modules on Second Life servers and "inside" its software architecture. Educators are free to use Linden Lab's model creation tools or to find and purchase "inside" Second Life (using Linden dollars), the models or simulations already created by other educators (or Second Life subscribers). This concept has enormous educational potential. Imagine for a moment that Second Life was the sanctioned creation of a real world university or consortium of universities, legally certified to grant educational licensees, certificates and degrees. Safely ensconced inside the software boundaries of Anywhere State University, Second Life faculty and students meet to create virtual worlds, bringing their own "real world" experience, scholarship and research to their learning, in the process creating stimulating educational models: historical, medical, biological, geographical, chemical, anthropological or other disciplinary or transdisciplinary exercises.
Imagine further, a "course," or synonymously, a "world" where slavery exists. A world populated by the diverse characters, "avatars," involved in the pernicious trade in human beings, a legal trade spanning four centuries and encompassing the entire globe. Learners can be expected to develop, elaborate and give context to their avatar's "identity," drawing upon real world historical records, primary and secondary. We encounter in our virtual world: the captains of slavers (slave ships); merchant traders from Bristol, Glasgow, Boston, Providence, Porto, (among many other old and new world harbors) shipping to the coast of Africa and beyond; plantation owners from Brazil, the Caribbean and the American South; African kings, their kingdoms and empires; slave-owning priests and evangelical slave traders; black and white abolitionists; individual slaves, field hands and house servants; industrialists and financiers. Given an opportunity to develop their characters personalities, to play roles within the limits of historical validity, learners can be expected to identify with their characters and interact passionately with the other avatars populating their self-created world, a world made by slaves and slave-owners alike (Genovese, 1969).
Such a simulation offers opportunities for true transdisciplinary work, testing the skills and developing the digital literacy of all its learner inhabitants, teaching the tools and perspectives of historians, geographers, anthropologists, economists, the skills of business, graphic arts, cartography, music and drama. Similarly, the student and faculty participant-creators of this virtual world might represent every region of our real one: some, hailing from former slave trading ports of Europe and America; others, growing up near the great Portuguese "castles," the several west African "Doors of no Return;" Afro-Caribbean and African American descendents of slaves.
Student Group Web Projects
The internet also offers instructors and students opportunities to create and share research assignments—group web projects. Like simulations and journals, educators have utilized group projects for years, especially at the elementary and high school levels. Educators at the university level assigned group projects with some regularity from the mid-to early 1960s. Like simulations, group projects created structured occasions for direct student class participation; instructors knew, from experience, that students learned more by discussing their research findings together and, as an educational bonus, developed useful social cooperation skills. Group projects in synchronous class situations also demand that instructors devote considerable classroom time to project presentations. Asynchronous web projects solve many of these logistical problems while permitting learner teams to share their work globally.
Blogs and Other "Learning Tools"
As quickly as tools and terms emerge from new digital technologies, educators now are adapting and adopting them for their own pedagogical purposes. In fact, students bring them to the traditional classroom faster than instructors discover them. "Blogging," like the use of the iPod and wireless connectivity is creating yet a new generation of pedagogical possibilities in this already revolutionary digital age. Since at least the mid-1960s, students have been asked to keep journals. As with simulations, innovative faculty members sought new methods to "talk' with their students, to broaden one-sided conversations. Increasingly, instructors asked students to record their more private, introspective reflections on their formal learning. Typically, instructors' evaluations were quite broad, ranging from simply noting their occurrence to structured reflective exchanges. The single failure of these innovative pedagogical exercises was journal observations created at best a two-way dialog, better than a monologue, but marginally.
Amazingly, the online journal (blog) turns this seldom used pedagogical innovation on its head. Offered an opportunity to "blog," students create enormously interesting learning edifices willingly sharing wonderful insights with fellow students and instructors. Since students choose what to include, and share, issues of confidentiality fade away. Learners employ their blogs as personal spaces to record sorrows and joys, the death of a grandparent or friend, a career success, a life milestone. Building camaraderie and lasting friendships, these postings "soften," personalize and communalize the online classroom. As important are the learning "threads" students build—unimagined by the instructor and perhaps unimaginable at course's outset; students blog to bring new information—initially perhaps of unique interest only to themselves—to the entire class. By sharing with others, students begin constructing knowledge, socially; they create new conversational threads--the sinews of learning. These conversational threads, discussion tracks, can be viewed, switching metaphors, as laying new neural tracks in the brain itself. Yet acquisition of information is crucial but not sufficient; the process of acquiring and reflecting on new information marks only the first stage in learning. It is in the sharing and discussion of acquired information (new or old) that students begin constructing knowledge. (Dewey 1996 (edn), Winn 1997).
The major caveat to blogging's heuristic value concerns the possible loss of spontaneity and authenticity occasioned by instructor-assigned blogs. Steven Downes worries about the loss of creativity:
It seems clear that although blogging can and does have a significant and worthwhile educational impact, this impact does not come automatically and does not come without risks. As many writers have noted, writing a weblog appears in the first instance to be a form of publishing, but as time goes by, blogging resembles more and more a conversation. And for a conversation to be successful, it must be given a purpose and it must remain, for the most part, unconstrained (Downes 2004).
Only recently have educators begun to consider the usefulness of electronic portfolios for individual students. Limitations of computer memory and the absence of adequate database tools precluded serious consideration of creating and maintaining learner electronic portfolios. Already students maintain digitized records of their curricular and extra-curricular activities. Soon educators will routinely admit students after evaluating electronic portfolios; institutions at all levels will be asked to facilitate student digital work and we can expect portfolios to be internet-stored and accessed.
Even now, as more robust databases become available to institutions of higher education (similar to the capacity and organizational power of corporate databases), we see growing interest by faculty and administrators for creating individual portal accounts allowing learners access not only to routine administrative functions like registration, fee payments, schedules and university news, but as importantly, to maintain a record of their writing, research and creative work. At its most exciting, individual portals afford students opportunities to assemble their own learning tools from among many of those considered here but also from a range of emerging digital learning resources: a student's digital "kit" arrayed in the service of a constructivist learning paradigm.
Portable and wireless technology continues the digital erosion of the Oxbridge model. A recent survey of American college students indicated that 25% (up from just 15% in 2005) owned Apple Computer's market dominating music delivery system, the iPod. Ironically, but not surprisingly, recording lectures and making them available for downloading from Apples iTunes Music Store is the first genuine educational use for this enormously popular portable technology. Apple has set up an exclusive section at iTunes--iTunes U-- available only to students and faculty of participating universities. Apple officials have also hinted that they might sell textbooks, course packets or other educational products through their rapidly evolving iPod U ('Information Technology', 52/27, p. A28). The BBC reported on its website and in its video broadcast, the then cutting edge news: "LECTURER DROPS LECTURES FOR PODCASTS." "Some lecture classes have 250 students," said Bill Ashraf, a microbiology instructor, "so I question the effectiveness of a didactic lecture for an hour" (Donald Spicer [firstname.lastname@example.org] on Sloan-C list-serve, BBC 26 May 2006).
While podcasting offers extraordinary flexibility and immediate visceral appeal it remains crucial that it, like similar valuable digital tools, serve the learning purposes of the contemporary age, the active-learning strategies of the Constructivist Digital University. Portability is extraordinarily important, but as a mechanism to deliver lectures—even as "learning objects"—it has limited utility. The crucial missing element is interactivity; allowing students to record and share their self-created learning experiences with facilitators and, more importantly, with fellow learners. Any effort to recreate the Oxbridge lecture model, either online, with iPods, or in any other fashion, is doomed to failure if it runs counter to the constructivist pedagogical movement of the last half century. Technology must serve the goals and purposes of educators, not the reverse.
Other "Cutting Edge" Resources
We are running out of terms to describe the depth and speed of new technologies. It might be useful here to consider briefly a thin slice of the "learning object" notion. When the concept first appeared it was difficult to understand and did not seem immediately useful, precisely for the "contextual" objections raised by Friesen. Placed in the context of constructivist pedagogy, the value of learning objects becomes clearer. Since thousands of instructors in residential universities and colleges, teach the same or slightly modified course or module every term, it seems obvious that if we can archive the "standard" Psych 101 lecture so that other faculty members can use it for their course, we can save thousands of hours by eliminating duplication, often taken from the same text and reference works. MIT's decision to put all of its lecture materials online is already a major step forward in this regard. (online at http://ocw.mit.edu/OcwWeb/index.htm) While frightening to some, the reality is that this material is often not worthy of copyrighting; the time to prepare these introductory lectures could be better spent on creative enterprises. Similarly, the lecture as "learning object" is now made available for students to read (or listen) at their leisure, asynchronously and without the necessity to attend a classroom to hear the same material presented to fifty, a hundred, or more somewhat bored students.
Murray Turoff, an early digital learning pioneer, recently offered an interesting illustration of these exciting learning opportunities in a discussion thread appearing on Sloan-C, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation website, http://www.sloan-c.org/. Struggling with the typical array of conflicting state regulations, university policies, enrollment and disciplinary restrains, Turoff creatively advertised four separate special topic courses: two at a distance and two face-to-face, encompassing both graduate and undergraduate learners. The combined "course," Design of Emergency Management Information Systems, quickly enrolled a total of twenty-eight students, sufficient to satisfy the minimum of 15.
Recording his face-to-face classes, Turoff divided the lectures into 30 minute segments. Using his SONY editor, he converted the proprietary audio files to wave files, then utilized "itunes" to convert these to an MP3 format. Lastly, these files were "uploaded" as attachments to a WebBoard entry. Students could view Turoff's PowerPoints and/or listen to the lectures and face-to-face discussions on their PC or could download the audio to their iPod. Not satisfied with simply podcasting his lectures,Turoff's most innovative active-learning strategy involved creating an asynchronous bulletin board requiring all students, face-to-face or at a distance, graduate or undergraduate, to participate in a common learning conversation (Turoff 2006, working draft, posted on Sloan-C list-serve, May 16, 2006).
The Constructivist Digital Model
Taken together these illustrations provide a glimpse of the emerging digital classroom. The web will supplement or replace the traditional classroom, and do so rather quickly. The current struggle over the form, function and texture of learning management systems will sort itself out and (one can only believe) the victory will go to the most open-sourced, flexibly designed, learner-centered environment (commercial or open source). The extension of the asynchronous seminar (bulletin board) space, pioneered by distance learning instructors, to traditional classroom settings holds the promise of engaging the majority of learners
in meaningful written exchanges with fellow students and the professor alike. Likewise, collaborative student projects seem to be an obvious use of the web, both for creation of team activities but also for sharing their productions with other students (and observers) locally and worldwide. Blogs, simulations and archived student efforts, that is, ePortfolios that travel with students during their entire academic careers, begin to sketch the outlines of a new learning paradigm, a non-residential Constructivist Digital University offering asynchronous flexibility and enormous opportunity for creative active-learning strategies.
While we seem to have acquired the necessary digital tools to see the faint silhouette of post-modern tertiary learning, we are still some distance from reshaping, reconceptualizing, the Oxbridge university model. Perhaps the two most significant remaining barriers to fundamental change are the university library and the ancient disciplines. Both of these hoary Oxbridge units appeared virtually simultaneously with the University during the late fourteenth century (as previously noted, University of Cambridge 2004, A Brief History).
It is ironic but fitting that Cambridge University's Library now leads the effort to open source all or most of its library holdings. The ambitious objective of the DSpace@Cambridge Project is to develop an institutional repository to preserve and disseminate digital materials created or associated with Cambridge University. The project utilizes DSpace™, an open source digital repository software platform developed jointly by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries and Hewlett-Packard Laboratories (online at www.lib.cam.ac.uk/dspace/index.htm, 2005). We are still a long way from Alexander of Macedonia's dream of collecting all the knowledge in the known world in one location, the Alexandria Library in Egypt, or the similar goal of the Enlightenment's Encyclopedists, still, never before could humans envision a time when the collected works of the world's largest and most important libraries would be available to scholars, students and the lay public alike. Using the powerful search tools currently deployed by Google, with the near certainty of newer search technologies emerging, the world's entire repository of knowledge will soon come to the individual researcher rather than he or she having to travel at great expense to local repositories, primary and secondary. The need for each and every institution of higher learning to acquire significant library holdings to support student and faculty research and study is, in truth, already behind us.
Like the library, disciplines (schools, colleges, faculties, departments) lie at the organizational heart of the Oxbridge university model. Authority flows from the universities vertically-organized disciplines; faculty lines are embedded in dean's and chair's budgets. As refined by Wihelm von Humboldt at the beginning of the nineteenth century in his plans for the University of Berlin (now HumboldtUniversity), which became the model for the modern research university, there is also a hierarchy of disciplines with Philosophy at the apex. This is intended to give cohesion to the separate areas of study, integrating all knowledge into an elaborate pyramidal structure. Work across the lines of disciplines has tended to undercut this organization, and for that reason it is condescendingly regarded as "speculative" (Humboldt 1963).
Evolved to collect relevant information, the issue for disciplines today is not can we gather sufficient information or support a faculty with adequate library resources, but rather too much information. For some time now, the central administrative fault line runs between the ancient disciplines' pedagogical authority and budget dominance and the insatiable pressure for transdisciplinary "projects," academic enterprises and funding that cross traditional research and pedagogical boundaries (Sax, 2006).
The essential problem confronting contemporary administrators,steeped in Oxbridge traditions, but often ill-trained digitally, is that information—its collection and dissemination--is now a multi-dimensional enterprise. Data arrives and departs from multiple nodes, an almost infinite variety of web-accessed or distributed information, processed with a perplexing array of digital tools, hardware and software, requiring specialized knowledge and training. We are drenched in information; the web allowing each of us to follow "facts," data, wherever our interests and research imperatives take us. The web's hyperlink capabilities offer horizontal and vertical discovery; we routinely track information across any and every disciplinary boundary. As the logic of the discipline-centered university erodes, the remaining organizational vestiges inhibit the growth of replacement structures.
Disciplines will no longer behave as vertical towers of information gathering and dissemination, as organizational entities with exclusive budgetary and decision making responsibilities. Still, the elevation provided by standing on the wreckage of the "Old Schools" doesn't allow us to peer far enough into the future to see clearly the organizational structures of the new university. Yet, sifting through the accumulating ruins of the "Old Schools" can perhaps offer useful insights and delineate contextualized trends.
The extraordinary capacity of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), for example, to layer and spatially-relate disparate databases, models the infusion of digital mastery into a traditional discipline. At a recent GIS conference, Professor Barker argued that the traditional geographical curriculum provides the framework, the grammar, which all geography students, first year to doctoral, must master to earn their disciplinary degree. He noted, however, that the vocabulary of contemporary geography is GIS (GIS Conference, Bloemfontein, SA, August 22, 2006).
Provoked, the delegates debated the essential nature of GIS software: was GIS simply another "tool" like Microsoft Word or Excel or was it an integral part of the "real" curricular imperatives of the discipline, at bottom concerned primarily with imparting spatial relationships to students. Clearly, GIS software has so infiltrated the processes and products of the traditional geographers' craft that they are inseparable. In less than 15 years, the entire modern geographical disciple, dating from the mid-nineteenth century, has undergone fundamental transformation. Once tiny bastions of academic enterprise, with faculty and students laboring over maps and drawing tables, today geography departments are awash with students of all ages clamoring to attain the GIS literacy requisite for professional employment.
More important for illustrating university-wide trends, GIS is increasingly a vital transdisciplinary tool for sociologists, anthropologists, historians, criminologists, urban planners, indeed any practitioner, academic or otherwise, trained in a traditional discipline that wishes to organize and/or represent data spatially. Facts are no longer gathered, transmitted and disseminated only vertically, up or down, the disciplinary tower. Rather, the post-modern Café University encourages administrators, faculty, and learners to work in their local coffee shop connected horizontally to the internet, to their colleagues and to the world. Their wireless laptops replace the text and the library carrel; an unprecedented array of digital tools for searching and analyzing, for teaching and learning, lie as close as their next cappuccino. If form truly follows function, as it must, we can safely predict that the new university will organize itself along the lines of its emerging structural imperatives, following the lateral vistas produced by the infusion of digital processes and digital languages into the informational heart of the "Old Schools" (Birkerts 1994, p. 75).
While we continue to grope for a completely satisfactory new teaching/learning and technology paradigm, perhaps the outlines of the new digital Café University are becoming clearer. If information collection and the "Old Schools" are no longer at the center of the new university, what is? The web's capacity to archive and access information, to serve as a repository for enormously powerful software tools and processes, suggests a useful organizational metaphor: like the spider's web it harkens, the internet allows a digital structure: a central organization with infinite points of contact on the periphery: total, non-residential interconnectivity. The new digital university will have the web, rather than disciplines and the library, at its virtual center with nearly infinite access to the larger peripheral world.
What might the "periphery look like? Most likely, we will see an extension of the array of contemporary institutional forms, but with evolutionary advances. Undoubtedly, the major well-established research institutions will continue, but with increasing cross or transdisciplinary work. Programs rather than disciplines will continue to garner a larger share of budgetary resources. Absolutely certain, we can expect a proliferation of the online extension of university programs, certifications and courses to traditional and non-traditional students alike: By early 2008, Lois Romano reports in the Washington Post "about one in 10 college students will be enrolled in an online degree program" (Romano, Washington Post, May 16, 2006, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/05/15/AR2006051501496.html) Adult learners, graduates and professionals especially, will look increasingly to university centers for online certificate programs to develop or renew professional skills.
Many of these same observations apply to the enormous array of medium to large universities serving American states, other countries, provinces and regions worldwide. These less well known institutions are already under pressure to compete with distant institutions for students and resources formerly theirs by right of location. Often unaware of the institutions already encroaching on "their" traditional territory, mid-level institutions will need to specialize and do so rather quickly in order to survive the next several decades. Already behind in database and other administrative services, institutions in developing nations must further reorganize their administrative and academic sectors to respond effectively to new global competitors.
Small community colleges and similar public institutions will simply find it difficult to survive. In the United States, "Junior Colleges," now called community colleges, were established specifically to meet the needs of under serviced locales—often a county-sized region—and groups: working people and adults (non-traditional learners). However regretfully, it is difficult to imagine how these small institutions can survive in the numbers and form in which they exist now. They will almost certainly be pressured into larger units, aggregating (and reducing) their current face-to-face courses online. The SUNY Learning Network and UMassOnline http://www.umassonline.net/Home.html offer such an option now for these two large states with numerous community colleges.
Also at the periphery, we can expect to find increasing numbers of commercial institutions (like Phoenix University) with increasing commercialization of the learning space: a variety of competing LMS, learning simulations ("serious games"), student and faculty digital services, digital portfolio companies, and ubiquitous advertising of numerous products, many not learning related.
Competitive pressures on small private colleges will continue and grow. The most prestigious will flourish as social incubators for the children of elites worldwide; those less favored by reputation and endowment will either meet their competitors' online challenges or close their doors. Equally profound, the Café University, like the disappearing "Old Schools," will no longer hold a monopoly on information. Disciplinary structures provided the university with an invaluable commodity to trade with the local community. The ancient "rights and privileges" granted to the newly capped master, as well as to the town's parochial university, were given by the city or state in implicit exchange for access to the university's monopoly on information, information of enormous utility for the local tradesman, manufacturer, policymaker, agriculturalist and the general public. Digital languages and processes travel both ways; they penetrate the university and the community alike. The Café University already finds itself concerned as never before with service learning projects and community engagement. The new university is competing with commercial, for-profit institutions of learning giving scant credence to the hoary traditions of the ancient academy, offering instead enormous flexibility and immediate access to a host of new adult learners situated globally. We can expect learners of all ages to find and aggregate their learning experiences from any connected institution, commercial or traditional, located anywhere in the world.
Faculties, as individuals, departments and disciplines will have to re-think their approach to their core responsibilities: teaching and research. Despite enormous pressure for disciplinary change, we still hover near, or at, the level of individual "pioneers" (Kobulnicky 1999). To proceed from here, ICT must receive, at a minimum, some recognition in the promotion and tenure review process. To date, at most institutions, and in most disciplines, recognition is granted primarily for disciplinary research (defined in the strictest traditional terms) with evaluation of teaching performance a more subjective process. In either instance, ICT innovations or efforts have been given little, or no, acknowledgement or credit towards either promotion or tenure. Indeed, digital mastery remains for many a technical matter, not really an integral part of any particular discipline except perhaps Computer Science and Geography.
Administrators will need to rethink the necessity for new physical structures in light of their learning purposes. Lecture halls and large lecture spaces must yield to smaller and more flexible arrangements. As students access their instructor's archived lectures, easily finding primary and secondary sources, indeed, information of all kinds, as they engage in interactive discussions from coffee houses, dorm rooms, and home, as they study abroad, talk with fellow students and scholars around the world, they will be able to maintain connection to their "home" institution and its programs. Computer labs with their enormous capital and maintenance costs seem far less useful than simply distributing hardware and software to students directly. Indeed, even these options will likely—and rather quickly—disappear in favor of offering entering students wireless connectivity to the web via a range of emerging mobile digital devices. We can now see an end to the enormous administrative task of scheduling synchronous classes.
For Steven Downes, an online learning guru and practitioner of radical educational deinstitutionalization, the original web, Web 1.0 was a "reading" web, an enormous archive from which one "pulled" information. Web 2.0, like its learning embodiment, eLearning 2.0, is more interactive, more expressive of human interests, needs, capacities. Web 2.0 permits users to create their own learning environment, their own portals, using search engines and software, RSS feeds for instance, to seek and bring back, "pushing," any information the learner might conceivably desire. Students or faculty interested in the slave trade, for example, can easily request their own search tools, to find everything published, cited or being published (digitally) up to the very moment the request is made. The web is morphing before our eyes into a portal driven experience, an active learner-centered, learner-controlled, digital environment; an interactive, intuitive, extension of our human capacity to acquire, classify, express and retain new information.
Ironically, the Oxbridge model was already showing the paradigmatic wear predicted by Kuhn. The emerging complex of ICT resources, however, strengthens directions long urged by progressive faculty: a student-centered, life-long learning environment. Digital tools have little value unless we harness them to the constructivist learning paradigm of the emerging global Digital University. It's not too early to declare the lecture-learning paradigm—the ancient Oxbridge model—dead, if not entirely buried.
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