DeMillo – Revolution in Higher Education

DeMillo.3Richard DeMillo began his critique of higher education in Abelard to Apple, starting in 12th century Paris and ending with the rise of MOOCs. In Revolution in Higher Education his critique is more pointed – taking on tenure, governance and accreditation. This is balanced with the stories of innovators who “are making college accessible and affordability.”

A recent conversation about the new book resulted in three videos:

As an academic with Silicon Valley ties and a global perspective, he sees the pros and cons of technology in American colleges and universities as clearly as anyone. DeMillo argues that traditional methods cannot satisfy the need for increased access and affordability. He sees technology as the only means to increase the scale of student opportunity and reduce costs.

DeMillo tells an insider’s story and the thread of technology runs through it. He was there as digital alternatives began to expand the scale and reach of institutions. He has had the late night business conversations with leaders in American higher education and high tech companies. He sees the threats to traditional institutions and the promise and limitations of online programs and MOOCs.

As with others, DeMillo anticipates a shakeout forever changing those institutions that survive, yet he finds hope in the stories of a few innovators. In addition to the stars of the MOOC movement, he sees heroes in more traditional institutions.

At Jackson State University, one of the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, he sees remarkable innovation in teaching methods and increasing enrollment. He tells of different innovations at Southern New Hampshire University and Arizona State University. Each of these institutions, with its own unique mission, is staking its future on expanding access, increasing affordability, and improving achievement.

In closing, DeMillo acknowledges the frayed relationship between the nation and higher education. He reminds us of the founding principles of our democracy and the need to reweave the social contract and commitments of higher education. For those seeking to understand and respond to the systemic challenges faced by American universities, this is essential reading.

An earlier conversation on the pace of change in higher education is here.


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