Original version published at: Life of an emerging technologies librarian in the health sciences: http://monthly.si.umich.edu/2013/01/17/life-of-an-emerging-technologies-librarian-in-the-health-sciences/ or on this blog: Part One: Then; Part Two: Now
The Bubble: http://prezi.com/usxsqmpip_ro/the-bubble/
Trend: The dot-com bubble burst. The real estate bubble burst. Now they say the higher ed bubble is bursting. Somewhere in between real world economies and the “graying of America,” people have been figuring out that lifelong learning means they can learn on their own through community colleges, MOOCs and digitally curated collections, and that they can learn and teach with others in online social learning spaces. It’s harder to get a formal degree, but with questions about if degrees pay off and a shifting hiring emphasis on skills and competencies, new approaches like badges may take the place of degrees.
Impact: Resources for learning are shifting to new spaces. Students will come from those learning environments, which will present new learning and outreach opportunities for patients and public. How do we position ourselves and our institutions in these new learning and teaching spaces in order to market our expertise, to engage our public, and to provide outreach and community support?
I’ve been deeply focused on observing the “bubble” movement and conversations, as well as concepts, resources, movements, and organizations that are spinning off from that central theme. I have almost two hundred bookmarks that I’ve tagged simply “bubble” as being relevant to these thoughts, a few of which are shared here. Last Spring I did a workshop called “Online Social Learning Spaces” that focused on the range and diversity of spaces that are evolving online as alternatives to formal higher education.
Online Social Learning Spaces: http://www.mindmeister.com/161977476/online-social-learning-spaces
I am very fortunate to be working at an institution of higher learning that has been aware of these trends for a very long time, and which has planned and prepared for them. While rank and file faculty may not have this in the front of their minds, the administrators do, and many students are asking the same questions that are being asked nationally. Is it worth it to spend this much money on education? Can I make a living with this degree or working in higher ed? Are there other (perhaps better) ways to make a living, or to learn what I want to learn? Is the structure of higher education fair to both teachers and students? And many more.
Here, administration has been staging changes that will help us position ourselves in this new and emerging educational market. Gradually, we are shifting toward more openness and transparency in what we teach and how we teach it. Open Michigan is a big part of this, as is Deep Blue, our institutional repository. Engaging the students in the process of creating online content, through programs like DScribe is a great way of making the initiatives sustainable. Consolidating our institutional brand (the Block-M) across all units on campus gives us a more unified identity for our online spaces, and this gives us more clout and power and reputation when it comes to the point of trying to teach online-only courses internationally, with a fee for the actual credits or credentials. Joining programs with national presence and local prestige, such as Coursera helps to encourage more of our own faculty to start building the skills they need to teach effectively in the online environment, thus broadening the base of faculty able to work in these new spaces.
Just to give you an idea of how long Michigan has been thinking about this and preparing for it, here is a 2008 video of John L King, then Vice Provost, in which he describes why we needed to be preparing for this — where education has come from, and where it is going. (Don’t worry, the title says “librarianship” but it really is a much broader thinkpiece.)
Librarianship, Now and in the Future: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwAAUFFD6js
So, we aren’t there yet, not everyone has bought into this vision, not all students are independent enough to manage themselves taking an online course, not all faculty are able to make the transition. But. If I was a new young faculty member, a recent graduate of a teaching programs, a student, I would most definitely be practicing the skills to survive in the online educational environment. You don’t need to do everything there, but chances are very high that sooner or later you will be doing something there, and that “something” will be more and more of what you do. It isn’t just higher education, either. All those parents homeschooling their young kids? You just bet they are exploring online options to fill in where their skills are a little weak. This is a growing space, and it is expanding to fill blended spaces that combine face to face instruction with online resources in coffeeshops and church basements. It isn’t all about the ivory towers, not any more, not if it ever was.