DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education

By Norris, Donald M. | Planning for Higher Education, July-September 2010 | Go to article overview

DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education


Norris, Donald M., Planning for Higher Education


DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education The transforming of higher education continues. Can we see the light yet? Reviewed by Donald M. Norris Chelsea Green Publishing Company 2010 208 pages ISBN 978-1-60358-234-6 by Anya Kamenetz

Anya Kamenetz has become a familiar voice in the blogosphere, channeling the experiences of young people getting started in the forbidding economy of the 21 st century. Her first book. Generation Debt: How Our Future Was Sold Out for Student Loans, Bad Jobs, No Benefits, and Tax Cuts for Rich Geezers - And How to Fight Back (Kamenetz 2006) analyzed the travails of Millennial in the workforce, years before the Great Recession turned bad conditions even worse. She followed with articles in Fast Company, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and her blog "The Narrow Bridge" (see anyakamenetz.blogspot.com). In late 2009, her article in Fast Company, "Who Needs Harvard?," declared that free online courses, Wiki universities, and Facebook-style tutoring networks that enable "do-it-yourself" (DIY) learning were being deployed by a cadre of Web-savvy "edupunks" in a manner that could transform American higher education (Kamenetz 2009). This article was acclaimed by many champions of open educational resources and developers of Web 2.0-based approaches to learning and competence building. It also resonated with the legion of educators waging ongoing campaigns to change prevailing institutional cultures and practices.

Kamenetz's latest book, DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, sets an even higher goal. Its purpose is to inspire people to think seriously about profoundly changing our approach to postsecondary education, personal learning, and employment. The American model for universal higher education is acclaimed around the world. It has even become a sort of "cargo cult" for developing countries. But the author finds our current version to be too expensive, too complex, and too bundled. Moreover, American higher education is based on physical campuses that have been participating in a form of competitive arms race of campus amenities, expanded services, and proliferating administrative functions and staffs.

The author asserts that technology is key to transformation, enabling the learner to be placed at the center of the equation. Technology also enables the separation of experiences, resources, and functions (such as teaching, learning, research, socialization, public services, assessment, and certification of competence) that are currently interwoven in today's complex university. She identifies four trends as supporting this transformation:

* The 80/20 rule. By this the author means that there is much more to American higher education than the medallion universities and liberal arts colleges and their population of high-achieving learners interested in traditional learning pathways. The great mass of students learn in unselective institutions, community colleges, and market-driven institutions, including the working adults addressed in Michael Offerman's blog "The Other 85 Percent" (see www.theother85percent.com). Most of these students would benefit from the transformation of learning options and pathways available to them.

* The great unbundling. Complex, bundled enterprises and professions such as music, film, and journalism are being deconstructed all around us, their old practices dissolved by the solvent of technology and new media. Similarly, unbundled, specialized learning competitors are appearing on the learning scene and are likely to increase dramatically in coming years. Traditional institutions will not disappear, buta wide array of fresh options will erode their appeal to certain types of learners.

* Techno-hybridization. The author cites research by the U.S. Department of Education stating that "blended" learning experiences are superior to traditional learning or fully online learning alone. …

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