On Friday I sat in a Commencement (= graduation) ceremony and listened to Stephen J Trachtenberg talk on the subject of the changing face of higher education. With his many years of innovation behind him (and more probably still to come), it was great just to hear him say publicly what so many are thinking. Of course, some of his examples were US-specific but the principles remain the same. There’s a recording of his speech on www.excelsior.edu and a separate discussion on chipgriffin.com
Modern universities need to be more (and less) than the institutions of twenty years ago. Inclusivity, technology, lifelong flexibility and openness are essential. Adults often do not classify themselves as learners and yet they willingly (OK, sometimes not so willingly) take courses to keep up to date or try a discipline that may complement their experience and take them in new and rewarding directions. As universities reach out to these non-traditional audiences so, also, they need to consider their overall communications using some form of a Principles and Communities model. It is, and in this I agree with Trachtenberg, inexecusable that students are not told the format of the course, or its syllabus, before they begin. The detail may change but at least the hours, the venue and the professor/teacher (barring illness or death) should be known. In return, however, the students need to engage with the university and be part of an education community, not ‘customers’ waiting to be given answers in return for a fee.