Monday, March 29, 2010

Colleges without administrators; colleges without faculty

We are at a funny time in the history of higher education, where our current conditions--high cost, uncertainty about the depth and breadth of student learning, very complex institutions, unrest about traditional roles, and new technologies--might push higher ed in two opposite directions at the same time.

In one direction, we might see more "colleges" created and run solely by faculty. These would be small institutions, with limited curricula, and teaching much more on the model of mentorship or apprenticeship that flourished earlier in the history of higher ed (think Oxford, or even earlier, think Socrates). If one of these colleges ever got too large, faculty could just form a new one, perhaps using the model of growth favored by WL Gore and Associates, where if a factory or work group has over 120 employees, then a new one forms.

In the other direction, you can imagine institutions of higher learning where the traditional faculty no longer exists. Instead, you have a team of educators--some who design content, others pedagogy, others assessment, and others still who coach students who together ensure the delivery of courses and the assessment of student learning. Here it would be like taking the model of Western Governor's University to its furthest end.

Given that each of these options seem viable (setting aside the problem of accreditation for a minute) which do you suppose is more likely to flourish? To lead to student learning? Do these two possibilities suggest anything about the particular ills of higher ed and the solutions to them?

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