Possibility of Higher Education Cafeteria Model Creates Opportunities Du’Jour

My brain has been running on overload these last weeks as I’ve been participating in CFHE12 and edstartup101. And I think I’ve had a glimpse of a future . Not THE future. But A future. In this future, we deliver much of the core knowledge curriculum via a mash up of MOOCs + adaptive learning + peer teaching. And students pick the best courses from the best universities with the best lecturers and they create a unique learning path. This allows us to increase accessibility globally while  potentially taking a bunch of cost out of higher ed.  But how can students navigate this process on their own? With regard to CFHE12’s recent topic on Entrepreneurship & Education as well as Edstartup101 – let’s put this on the opportunity list.

Clearly, the keystone of this model, IMHO, is assessment and credentialing. Some people are working in this area, but there’s lots to be done. This goes on the list too.

Perhaps completing a path through the buffet line is enough for many jobs. And maybe there is a segment of the population that is ready to enter the workforce when their MOOC path is complete. But where is the socialization component? Where do our young people grow and bond (in a safe way) which is one of the key parts of the college experience? (We know frontal lobes aren’t done developing until the early to mid 20s).  And how do we get them living on their own so their parents can convert their rooms into the exercise room? Do we have regional residences like that group that’s developing the virtual university that will have all the students live together but learn online? This definitely goes on the list.

And here’s the issue that’s really got me thinking. When you look at what employers want, it isn’t necessarily explicitly core knowledge — which is what we’re delivering via MOOCs etc.. It’s the ability to work in teams, to communicate orally, to make decisions and solve problems. You can read the research from the NACE here. So is there any way to deliver any of this online? Much of this requires personalized feedback and coaching. How do we nestle this in with Udacity and Coursera? Put it on the list. I think I’ll write my name down on this one.

By the way – I know this post is slanted towards the opportunities associated with the experience of students privileged enough to attend a four year residential university. I’ll be honest, that’s my experience both as a student and as a teacher so for the purposes of this post I’m describing the problems/opportunities through that lens.

Does anyone else see the cafeteria model as a possible future of higher ed?