The Role of Aura

Questioning Lectures

The old-school lecture has taken a thumping lately. In a world where more and more of our experiences are web-based, disconnected from location and time, the idea that we would find it logical to get students to get together in a single location at a specific time to hear a presentation seems increasingly odd.

“Imagine”, Donald Clark writes, “if a movie were shown only once. Or your local newspaper was read out just once a day in the local square. Or novelists read their books out once to an invited audience. That’s face-to-face lectures for you: it’s that stupid.”


Continuing education (CE) units in colleges and universities have historically been given little attention, and often little respect. But few departments have played as important a role in stimulating change within higher education.

But conditions are changing and CE going to be increasingly subject to new forms of competition from outside of higher ed. These changes have implications far beyond CE alone.

Continuing Education as Instigator

For the past few decades continuing education units across the OECD have been at the forefront of many of the most important changes in higher education:

  • the frequent birthplace of online education in colleges and universities;
  • craft programs…

Colleges and universities are looking more intently for new sources of revenue; for ways they can leverage their people, spaces, and other resources profitably. The ways in which they go about this task, with whom they partner, and how the institution perceives its strengths and weaknesses is frequently informative and, occasionally, counter-intuitive.

The recently launched venture by Arizona State University, “Cintana”, is especially interesting. It reflects, I propose, the limited confidence universities have in their capacity to develop new sources of revenue without private sector involvement — even when, as in this case, the venture involves activities that are seemingly…

Two-sided markets are platforms that bring together two parties — buyers and sellers — to help them meet their respective needs efficiently. eBay, for example, is designed to enable individuals to sell items to those that wished to buy them.

Two-sided markets work best when the needs of both parties are well-understood and can be clearly defined. Airbnb, for example, asks its buyers — people seeking accommodations — to define their accommodation needs. How many bedrooms? Price range? Neighbourhood? The sellers in this case — property owners — define their offerings in similar and familiar terms.


Buyers and sellers cannot…

What follows is the third post on alternative credentials and providers and the relationship with higher education.

№1: It’s the Credential Economy, Stupid: Alternative Credentials, Competition, and Higher Education

№2: Alternative Credentials and Providers: A Second Look

I suggested previously that the provision of alternative credentials by accredited colleges and universities may, in the long run, act to amplify — rather than diminish, as intended — the rise of alternative providers of education:

“Given the importance of credentials to higher education as a stalwart against competition, the decision to move into the Alternative Credential space seems odd, at best — especially given that the motivation for this venture is to combat competition. The move places traditional institutions in a market…

A recent study nicely illustrated the strong bond between higher education, the credentials they offer, and the labour market. It describes how employers have raised the credential requirements for job candidates. As colleges and universities produce more graduates at every level, employers have followed in lockstep by requiring more advanced degrees (from traditional institutions). The degree requirements have increased even though the work doesn’t necessarily call for additional qualifications. (If you’re over 40 years of age, you likely know a few people who would no longer be considered for the jobs they now occupy.) Rather than deviate from higher education…

Starting in earnest in 2014–2015, a number of colleges and universities in North America began offering “alternative credentials” — digital badges, verified certificates, nano-degrees, and others. Reports suggest that many more plan to join the party.

This means, among other things, that traditional institutions are offering credentials substantially the same as those provided by a growing number of organisations outside of higher education — professional associations, non-profit groups, private companies, etc.

If maintained over time, the move into alternative credentials by traditional colleges and universities will ultimately bolster the capacity of alternative education providers to compete in the post-secondary education…

“What would become of such a child of the 17th and 18th centuries, when he should wake up to find himself required to play the game of the 20th century?”
Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, what we might now call “the early days” of online higher education, advocates of technology-mediated learning imagined themselves as outsiders, rebels working on the margins of higher education. Their goal, broadly, was to deliver the transformative power of Internet technology to a change-adverse, centuries-old institution. …

Dr Sean Gallagher is the Chief Strategy Officer for Northeastern University’s Global Network. Sean is a nationally recognised expert with more than 15 years of experience in strategy and innovation in higher education. His first book, “The Future of University Credentials: New Developments at the Intersection of Higher Education and Hiring,” was published in 2016.

KH: If you publish a book in 2016 that deals with the relationship between higher ed and hiring, I would imagine that you find yourself invariably wading into the headline that’s been bouncing around for the past couple of years: that higher ed is no…

A university president once confided in me that while he loved to see innovative work being done within his institution, its impact was ultimately of little value if no one outside of the university hears about it.

His larger point was that reputation is the fuel on which universities run; it’s the means by which we attract new students, impress potential donors, attract high-profile academics that bring in research dollars, and other tangible benefits.

This may strike some as more than a little cynical. …

Dr Keith Christopher Hampson

Advisor to institutions and companies in online higher education.

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