I’ve been at the Higher Learning Commission annual meetings for the past couple of days. Although this is not a technology-focused conference, the best speakers that I’ve seen have had a technology angle. Maybe I'm the only who thinks this, so I guess there's a chance that I'm biased.
Mark Milliron, former CEO of the League of Innovation in the Community College and now a V.P. at SAS, delivered a great keynote about “Insight.” Basically he makes the case that we have a lot learn in Higher Ed from the Amazon.coms and 1-800-Flowers of the world about how to relate to our customers/students. He is an extremely polished speaker and always has an important message to share (I’ve probably heard him speak 10 times over the past 5 years).
A few takeaways from his talk (although none of these were his main points):
- Why do we continue to show a two-year program planner to students when only 5% of them finish a “two-year” degree in two years. Similarly, why do we continue to call them two-year degrees and two-year schools? Who are we trying to kid?
- Suggested reading list:
His point about data-based decision making is a good one. We need to be able to make real-time decisions using data, not two to four years after the fact. We should be collecting student data to help students, but not just help the students who will come to us at some point in the future after we have figured out what we are learning from the current batch of students. In other words, students want to know: “How can you use information about me…to help me?”
Another great session was offered by Mark Taylor of
Taylor is another speaker who makes the point that we cannot continue to use old-school approaches to educating the youth of today. He comes at it from a slightly different angle than some of the other "we will soon be irrelevant" evangelists (whom I happen to agree with), but he does offer reasonable solutions to bringing higher ed into the 21st century, even though so many of us old fogies are stuck in a world that will never exist again.
The sad truth for me is that I did find much of the rest of the conference to fall into that "same-old, same-old" school of thought. Not many new ideas, not much thinking outside of the box, and not much real evidence of significant change in how well we (and other levels, especially K-12) are educating the students of today.