Transforming Academia

The transformation framework from the last post can be applied to thinking through the four scenarios for academia from the post before the last one.  Consider the Network U. scenario.  This scenario basically involves changing offerings across the instruction function and/or organization via process and technology changes.  Put simply, teaching would be quite different.

All students would be taught physics by Richard Feynman and economics by Paul Samuelson.  The fact that both of these individuals are deceased will not matter given the state of digital media technology.  They would even be able to lecture on research results that were not known before they died.

Students would no longer sit in crowded auditoriums while professors lectured on the stage.  The lectures could be viewed when and where students chose.  They could watch and listen to the lectures again and again.  Small groups could gather around the presentation media and occasionally put the lecture on hold and discuss the points just made.

The vast majority of physics and economics teachers would no longer prepare lecture notes and deliver lectures.  Instead, they would meet with small groups of students, say 10-20, to discuss the lectures and talk about the implications of the material.  Most teachers would become recitation leaders rather than lecturers.  They would be “guides on the side” rather than “sages on the stage.”

This would also change the bricks and mortar strategies of universities.  Few large lecture rooms would be needed, but many more small meeting rooms would be required.  Perhaps faculty member offices would become more like elementary school classrooms with a work area to one side and, in the middle, seating for the 10-20 students in each recitation group.  A faculty member might meet with 4-6 of these groups each day.

There would be few teaching assistants because the faculty members would now be responsible for far fewer students.  The demands of correcting exams and homework would be eased by technology, including social technology that would engage students in this process.  Collaborative learning would have become the norm for the generations of “digital natives.”

In parallel, faculty research will also become more networked and collaborative, both across disciplines and across academia, industry, and government.  Funding from industry would have increased substantially, while government funding declined due to other demands on these resources.  Networked collaboration technology will be a great enabler, both for work and for translation of research outcomes to practice.


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