Universities in the free era
Tenure is broken, said the panelists at “Universities in the Free Era.” And it’s holding universities back, they said.
Glenn Platt, Miami University Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies, and Peg Faimon, Miami University Design Collaborative, talked about why they see the traditional university structure collapsing. First of all, Platt said tenure holds universities back the most. When he started teaching, a counselor told Platt that “universities change one funeral at a time.”
But now they say that because of the collapsing paid university structure we might see new forms of higher education cropping up. And this model is free.
The problems facing the traditional university system are pretty numerous. First of all, the price of attending a private university averages $25,000 a year. Public universities are less expensive because of state appropriations, but those appropriations are decreasing every year. So we might face a situation where all universities are private, or simply around the same price value.
Platt and Faimon used online, collaborative models as an example to a possible alternatives to traditional universities. They said TED, iTunes U, YouTube.edu all offer content previously only taught in the university setting. Platt said Singularity University is taking the TED model and trying to form a degree program around it. Furthermore, as more of this knowledge gets out there others step in as the role of editor and moderator. Even traditional universities are offering Open Courseware, free lectures, notes and even exams offered online. MIT has received a lot of the recognition for providing this, but they aren’t the only one.
Platt and Faimon didn’t leave the traditional professor role out in the cold. But they did say it would have to evolve. They said the traditional professor would have to take on new responsibilities, instead of just talking at their students and expecting them to write everything down. Professors should be prepared to wear many hits, including that of the project manager. The new professor works with students so they can accomplish they’re own goal. Think of the professor as an angel investor, said Platt. They should map out a road for someone to be successful.
They also said the professor should be a life coach, providing students with a ‘yes you can’ attitude.