Future of universities – an age old problem

I’m in the midst of preparing some additional slides for a presentation/experiment tomorrow around alternatives for the LMS and the lecture. In part, this presentation connects with the future of universities – and perhaps learning in general – a topic that seems to have gotten increasing airplay in the last year or so. Especially in the form of pundits predicting problems with current practice. This post is in part about showing that this is not a new thing, but also about saving some nice quotes for future use.

As part of the work on the slides, I was doing a quick Google on “origins of the lecture”. One of the the bits I came across was a book titled In search of the virtual class: education in an information society in which I found the following quotes leading off chapter 4

Learning processes are lagging appallingly behind and are leaving both individuals and societies unprepared to meet the challenge posed by global issues. This failure of learning means that human preparedness remains underdeveloped on a global scale. Learning is in this sense far more than just another global problem: its failure represents, in a fundamental way, the issue of issues. (Botkin et al, 1979, p9)

I like the idea of “issues of issues”. Placing this problem of education as a fundamental problem for so much else. I also like that this comment was made 30 years ago. Something that illustrates one or more of

  • The long-term importance of the idea.
  • The on-going difficulty of doing anything meaningful about this problem.
  • The on-going market that exists for people to profess fundamental flaws within the education system.

A similar quote in the same location

There is only one problem and that is education, all other problems are dependent on this one (President Domingo Faustino Sarmiento – founder of Argentina’s national education system)

This one adds the potential observation that if all you have is a hammer (i.e. you are in the education business) then everything you see is a nail (education is the solution).

The book

The book these quotes come from seems, from my current limited reading, to be on the predictive books from the mid-1990s arguing for how technology can/will radically improve/change learning and teaching. The following is from page 73

Why is education out of step with society’s needs? Does the problem lie in the way education is administered, the methods of instruction and the content of the curricula? These are the issues that advanced industrial societies focus on as they attempt to find a solution. Our concern si with the extent to which the problem lies with the classroom as a communication system for learning. Our argument is that the classroom is a technology that emulates the way people live and work in an industrial society. It does not relate to the way people will live and work in an information society. Some countires are sufficiently into a transition to an information society for the discrepancy to be obvious.

Part of the argument is that the classroom approach is wasteful of resource of space and time.

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