Fiona Deller – Need to Read No. 3: Dystopian futures, edtech roundup and the social responsibility of universities

One of the many things we do at HEQCO is read the trades. We try to keep up on the latest research, as well as the media commentary, relevant books and the blogosphere. We read the good, the bad, the controversial and the bland. This year, we thought it might be nice to share with you some of the best. We plan to post this column on Fridays every couple of weeks – or more frequently if demand warrants it.

Since my last post, Clay Shirky wrote a piece about the history and future of higher education. There were a number of thoughtful and funny responses, including this Inside Higher Ed post and a post from the wonderful Tressie McMillan Cottom. Some of them even involve David Bowie, so that’s something.

Dystopian futures seem to be all the rage right now. An amusing satire on the over assessment of professors can be found in in the Times Higher Education. However, in another article, the Times seems to be arguing that an over emphasis on teaching skills needed for the labour market could mean a future with no more fun! Egad (unemployment is a laugh riot).

Speaking of change, another article from Inside Higher Ed looks at projected student demographics and what it means for postsecondary education. The Living and Learning in 2034 project also focuses on student needs and experience and how they might be changing over time.   For the edtechs in our lives, here are a few things of note: EDUCAUSE and a consortium of American universities and colleges have published a report on emerging trends in education technology. If you didn’t make it to the British Education and Training Technology Show, here’s a roundup of tech ideas that could transform higher education. Still fast forwarding, educational technologist Mark Smithers offers some predictions for 2014.

On the list of creative (although possibly counter to original mandate) ways of making MOOCs work: Harvard creates MOOCs exclusively for alumni.

It’s been a few weeks; still interested in the American State of the Union and what it means for postsecondary? Read this piece from University Ventures, consistently one of the more amusing and enjoyable blogs on what is happening in the US.   This is an interesting idea: free tuition for the first two years of college. Hmmmm….sounds like a Canadian province I know.

I always enjoy practical guides, especially when they involve an infographic, like this one on the five easy steps to competency-based learning. Segue to competencies: I have noticed a recent trend of pieces about transferable, or life, skills like this one on creativity from the New York Times.  More on this as I read and review Paul Tough’s book on the importance of Grit.  I will also be letting you know what I think of this interesting looking book on How College Works.

What is your thinking on global standards for postsecondary education? Accreditors share their perspectives in this piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education (paywall alert). Meanwhile, AUCC’s University Affairs launches a column devoted to the issues of contract and sessional faculty.

The UK is watching with great interest as Germany prepares to abolish tuition fees less than a decade after introducing them. Times Higher Education explores this news-making reversal. And a hot topic of conversations lately is whether the current postsecondary environment is ripe for growth in online learning. University World News puts some (US) data behind the debate.

Finally, in the ongoing debate about the balance between economic and social returns of education to the individual, it is refreshing to see a piece on the responsibilities of the university as an institution for community engagement and social change.

Happy Reading.

-Fiona Deller, Executive Director, Policy & Partnerships

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