The other day I was scrolling through Twitter when a message caught my eye. It came from George Siemens, a longtime leader in trying to understand the impact of technology on higher ed. He’s the guy who coined the term MOOC, short for Massive Open Online Course, which then was a reference to multiplayer video games.
But this tweet was a biting critique of where higher ed is heading.
“I no longer think there’s a huge difference between for-profit and public higher education. Sit in enough faculty meetings, meet with enough leadership, and it becomes clear that it’s all about money. The difference between for-profit and public is mainly about appearances. In public institutions, we claim the higher ground but almost everything is driven by student numbers, enrollment, and dollars. Education could be less expensive, it could be more engaging, it could have a bigger impact, but we are confined to a system that values dollars first.”
Keep in mind for context here that Siemens is a professor at a public university, the University of Texas at Arlington, and a champion of the values of public institutions. So we called him up to get beyond the tiny character limit of Twitter to hear out his critique.
Not surprisingly, this charge that public higher ed is no different than for-profit higher ed sparked a sharp reaction on Twitter, and plenty of pushback.
“With all deference to your core point, I feel you’ve grossly overstated the similarity,” wrote Shane Mares, a web content manager and market research analyst for the University of Northern Colorado’s Extended Campus. “There is a big difference between revenue and funding, and profit. The changing ecosystem is bound to change all entities that reside there.”
“Yeah, I quite disagree,” added Maria Andersen, CEO and co-founder of …(continue reading)