The College of the Future: The Learning Team

Regardless of the specific model, the college of the future will operate through its professional and support staff very differently. Although the phrases are somewhat old and hackneyed, shifting roles for faculty will move them from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side.” That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Why? Because the technology and data analytics which will be supporting the different models will require very different operating relationships among college staff and faculty as well as between them and the learners.

  • The main change will be a significant reduction in the historic autonomy of the faculty, controlling the curriculum, the teaching, and the evaluation of learning in their classrooms with the door closed. On the horizontal plane, they will be joined by learner advisor/advocates, assessors and curriculum designers in integrated teams that serve the learners collectively. The faculty member will have to fit into the new team as the subject matter expert and coach who is supporting the learning activities and projects generated by the learners’ interaction with the curriculum. In a world where superb content is accessible and free, the question for the faculty member and learning support team is “what do we do with it to maximize learning and evidence of learning?”

In this staffing framework, the following roles will exist in one form or another.

  • Each learner might well have an “advocate” who is with her for the duration of her learning journey, as well as an academic advisor to support program planning and completion,
  • The learning resources and competency-statements used throughout could well be framed by professional design staff, advised by the faculty.
  • Finally, the actual assessment of evidence-based learning may well be done by someone other than the faculty member who guides the learning to independently assure quality. The team, collectively, will be responsible for the learners’ success.
  • On the vertical plane, the integrated team will be supported by an increasingly sophisticated technology and data apparatus. That apparatus will be developed, supported and improved by a different set of technicians. Think of it this way. When I was growing up, all car engines were fundamentally the same and ran on technology that was relatively simple, accessible, and easy to fix. If you took the time to learn how, anyone could tune their car engine.

Now, however, we have multiple types of cars – gas, diesel, electric, and self-driving – that are run by increasingly sophisticated computers which are not remotely simple, accessible, or easy to fix. The college of the future is becoming a fancy, computer-driven electric car. Experts are needed not only to build it, but also to keep it running and improve it continuously. At the tip of this iceberg live the learners and their integrated support team. They are riding in the car while planning and executing the trip.

Without successful, matrixed work on both planes, the learner’s journey will lose quality and be disrupted.

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