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Flexibility, Differentiation, Restructuring & Financing

In the video below Rick Luce, Tracy Futhey and Joel Smith discuss the future of higher education at the Educause 2009 Conference. It is clear that the future holds a promise of more students and less money to service the needs of learning. The speakers discuss productivity and flexibility. The goal is to have learners and faculty who are productive but to do that they believe that there must be more flexibility and fundamental changes in delivery.

Although the group is discussing higher education, the suggestions translate across all levels of education. EduCitizenship 2020 believes that flexibility will be a key to any sustainable future. No matter what plans are recommended or implemented, all organizations should remain flexible and open to new possibilities to keep up with the rapid technological changes in society. Support systems that promote continuous innovation will need to be put in place.

Implication of The Death of Distance

With more and more learning available online, schools in all areas will face a more competitive environment. In the past, educational institutions competed mainly against other local institutions. In the case of higher education, the competition may have been local as well as state to state where students would move to live in residence or near campus. While many students in the future will still want to make such moves, some may opt to choose a total online learning experience and others still will move to a campus but still take some online courses offered elsewhere. That "elsewhere" will not just be local or national, it will include global institutions. Already in three British primary schools part of the math curriculum is being outsourced to India through a company called BrightSpark. It is a controversial program that some teachers are threatened by; however, the company and educational leaders are calling it a supplemental tutoring program. (See British Kids Log On) The future will be about competition and options. Schools will need to continuously improve online and in-class offerings to remain effective and competitive. To be sustainable, schools will also have to work to create relationships and agreements that facilitate students' choice and movement across organizations.

On November 4, 2010, many college leaders attended the TIAA-CREF Institutes 2010 Higher Education Leadership Conference. Jack Stripling reports in Inside Higher Ed that consensus is that, "Those in higher education who continue hand wringing over the relative merits of online learning and other technology-driven platforms will soon find themselves in the dust of an up-and-coming generation of students who are seeking knowledge outside academe." He notes that Mark David Millron of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation raised the point that we are not far away from a time when students use open courseware to learn and then apply to their own college for a prior learning assessment. Matthew Goldstein, chancellor of the City University of New York said that the problems with higher education are a national security problem, “It's not that we're going to get bombed...It's that our competitive position in world markets is going to be seriously compromised.” Many at the conference recommended "cutting to invest," in other words, grow some programs and eliminate others.(The Rise of the Edupunk)

An October 2010 report, The Benefits of Greater Differentiation of Ontario's University Sector, by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) on sustainability and accountability advises that funding for Ontario post secondary institutions should be based on whether institutions differentiate themselves, set measurable goals based on their strengths and meet those goals. The report based on student groups, university and college leaders, leaders in post secondary education thinking and their research recommends that universities and colleges must differentiate themselves. HEQCO president and CEO Harvey Weingarten says in order to have a quality system that is accountable, sustainable and competitive, "Students should have clearer choices from a larger number of higher quality programs...They should have greater clarity on which institutions best serve their career and personal aspirations. They should have more mobility within the college/university system."

According to the report, some differentiation in higher education has already taken place but it needs to go further. Universities and colleges will have to focus on what they do best, not just what every other institution is doing. Students need a wider more differentiated choice of unique and quality programs at all levels of higher education. Weingarten says this," encourages institutions to build on institutional strengths and niche areas of expertise, to recognize the value of teaching and learning activities, and to reap the rewards of competitive innovation and entrepreneurship activities. We're already on the road. It's time for the next big steps." These recommendations don't mean more money, rather money spent differently. (University Report: Strengthen system quality, sustainability and accountability, CNW Newswire October 26, 2010)

In an October 29, 2010, Toronto Star article Universities Change with the Times, Mamdouh Shoukri, President and Vice Chancellor of York University, believes that universities need to change with the times. To be sustainable they must share resources and create partnerships with other universities internationally to provide students with international experience. With more and more budget constraints, he believes it may become necessary to rethink how university classes are taught. According to Shoukri, "During a time of budgetary constraint, small classes being taught by faculty who spend 40 per cent of their time teaching and the rest dedicated to research is no longer feasible. Already universities throughout North America are resorting to part-time teachers. A team of respected academic experts has offered several alternatives, including creating a new stream of faculty focused on teaching with limited research functions, and undergraduate-only universities." Shoukri believes that universities have an obligation beyond just educating citizens. They must be engaged in social and economic development and they must facilitate,"the transfer of knowledge from faculty and students to society. (Universities Change with the Times, Toronto Star, Oct 29, 2010)

Doug Lederman in "Is Higher Ed ready to Change?" (Inside Higher Ed, Nov 17, 2010) writes that there was acknowledgment at the the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Conference this year that "the business model for many higher education institutions is unsustainable, and that fundamental changes in how most colleges operate will be necessary if the institutions are not only to meet the current and growing demands on them but continue to excel and progress." Sessions at the conference included forward moving institutions such as Carnegie Mellon who is using open-learning software, Rio Salado College's use of students' learning data to predict which students will need help and Indiana's outsourcing of online education for adults to Western Governors University, as well as colleges and universities sharing human resources and business services.

Teacher education in the US is already undergoing changes. In a Nov 19, 2010 article "New Effort to Turn Teacher Education 'upside down'" in eSchool News the authors report that eight states are piloting a program that will put those taking teacher training into classrooms earlier and more often. Following the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel On Clinical Preparation and Partnerships for Improved Student Learning by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, teacher training would be more like doctor training where students make rounds and work with mentors. (read more in eSchool News)

As Tony Hursh, of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign says, "I don't expect the University-as-we-know-it to last out the decade, actually. Change or become irrelevant." (From a Posting in facebook Nov 10, 2010)


Our digital nation is made up of students who are eager to load their YouTube videos, blog about their last date, follow celebrity tweets or simply chat with friends on X-Box live. How can schools keep up? How can educators prepare 21st century students to be active and competitive citizens in a world that is constantly changing and with tools that need constant maintenance? In order to prepare them properly, administrations, districts and educators need to be constantly and significantly invested in the future of education.

Many educators look at the new tools, initiatives and curriculum changes and immediately shut down. They think that they cannot work with such advancements or simply that they don’t have the time or money to finance such dreams. However, putting such barriers aside, educators and administrations have to acknowledge and embrace the fact that teaching and schools are changing. Technology is changing the way lessons can be approached, curricula can be developed and even the role of educators in this digital world. This costs money and time.

Furthermore, schools are taking on new shapes and new roles; they are becoming community staples, resource centers and information hubs. As the role of the teachers and learners changes, so does the curriculum, the tools and the face of the environments that are engaging students. Administrators can incorporate and embrace new technology, new educational practices and initiatives in every part of their schools. Technologies such as networked or stand-alone computer workstations, along with suitable software and applications, can aid teachers in the creation of learning spaces that support the development of investigation, communication, collaboration and production skills.

Educational changes cost money. This is not something new to educators or administrations alike. While sports equipment, textbooks, landscaping and other school expenses may have an allotted set of funds each year, technology cannot be afforded the same costs each year. Because it is always changing, updates, new software, new programs, new trends and tech support are in constant demand. It is difficult for administrations or districts to allocate the correct amount of funds to support technology programs or equipment because new and improved technology is constantly being created.

So, where can schools fund their visions for the future? Who can help pay for the new learning space that serves as a cafeteria, information center and study area for students? Where will the money for new computing programs, digital books, and virtually supported classrooms come from? Examing different funding strategies and options can be the first step for technology acquisition, implementation and prepartion for the classroom of the future.

Funding Strategies for the 21st Century Classroom

According to the 2010 Horizon Report, a yearly report that examines new trends and technologies in education, mobile learning, cloud computing, digital books and resources, open source, augmented reality, gesture-based computing, and visual data analysis are the newest technologies and trends that will change education for 21st century learning. The Horizon Report is produced each fall using a carefully constructed process that is informed by both primary and secondary research. Nearly a hundred technologies, as well as dozens of meaningful trends and challenges are examined for possible inclusion in the report each year. The use of Delicious bookmarking is constant so that reviewers can have the newest and latest trends and technologies effecting education. What’s more is that many funders review the Horizon Reports findings and use it as a resource when making decisions on how to allocate their funds. Be sure to look at the 2010 Horizon Report and see which technologies and trends may receive funding. Also, see our pages on Emerging Trends : Open Access Education and Resources, Digital Books and Resources, Mobile Learning- Cloud Computing, Simple Augmented Reality-Geolocation, Gesture Based Computing and Visual Data Analysis.

For educators it is important to keep up with new trends, curricula and classroom environments. Likewise, it is just as important to be knowledgeable of resources where funding for 21st century learning can be found. For schools that are looking to integrate more technology and to prepare their students for education in 2020, using the following strategies can be helpful:

Funding Options for the 21st Century Classroom

Next up, see Partnerships & Collaboration