If We Built It … Would It Work?

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During the late Fall, I devoted a number of blogs to the ideas generated through a series in The Chronicle of Higher Education that suggested ways to reinvent college.  I shared and commented on some of the ideas proposed by writers for The Chronicle, and shared some of my own ideas as well.

As I described then, readers were invited to formally propose their own ideas … and a winner was chosen in late December.  There were a number of finalists identified:

      Costco University – Faculty own the institution, and administrators work for the faculty.

      Let's Go Monk! The 21st-Century Monastery, Reinvented – Move higher ed back 800 years and everyone is a monk.

      The Mobile University – College is not a specific place, but every student has four mentors.

      Reinvention Poem – Multiple ideas put to rhyme.

But the best idea, according to The Chronicle, was described as “The College of the Global Village.”  Here’s the concept: “With an emphasis on experiential learning through a multidisciplinary investigation of varied meanings and practices of the good life; an immersion into the experience of new languages, including those of literature, the visual and performing arts, and the STEM disciplines; and the acquisition of an additional spoken and written language through living and learning in a culture where that language is primary, it is the objective of the College of the Global Village, through disciplined engagement, to strive to refocus learning on depth of experience rather than breadth of knowledge.”

Specifically, students would participate during the first year in “four immersive blocks of study,” each block lasting eight weeks. Blocks would include the arts and the humanities or a STEM discipline, Science and Ecology, “the great books,” and language immersion. Emphasis would be on research and writing.

During the second and third years, students would participate in eight additional learning blocks, which are multidisciplinary in their approach.  Examples would include blocks like, "A Guided Inquiry into the Role of Museums and Concert Halls in Civil Society" and "The Transformation of the World from Nation-States to Global Networks.”

The final year provides the opportunity for a “guided internship.”  Students would also participate in “a weekly integrative seminar” in which they would share their various learning experiences.

I must admit that none of these final proposals, including the winning entry, are especially impressive to me.  While both the “Global Village” and the “Mobile University” ideas address current issues in pedagogy, neither seems particularly innovative.  In fact, many of these ideas are already being used in various ways and date back to the educational philosophies of Maria Montessori and John Dewey.

While we can always improve the educational experience … and should … these ideas provide little new thinking regarding access and affordability.  Hopefully, the higher ed community will be even more creative in these areas.  And we can do it in prose and without a visit to the monastery.

(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)



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