In the 2000 hit movie, Miss Congeniality, Sandra Bullock plays a tough FBI agent named Gracie Hart that must go undercover as a contestant to stop an attack on the Miss United States Pageant. Please don’t judge me for referencing a fourteen year-old movie about beauty pageants in an academic blog; I have been in love with Sandra Bullock for years.

One of the best scenes in the movie is when Bullock’s character is asked during the interview portion of the contest, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?” to which she replies “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators.” The crowd is silent and stunned. Noting the audiences’ reaction, Hart adds, “And world peace!” The crowd cheers ecstatically at this response.

Future of EducationI read today Tony Bates’ article entitled, 2020 Vision: Outlook for Online Learning in 2014 and Way Beyond. Tony paints a picture for learning in 2020 that many of us wish would happen tomorrow. It is where education needs to go. Below are the questions he asks administrators to consider when planning for their institutions’ future:


  • what kind of campus will we need in 10 years time?
  • what proportion of course enrollments are likely to be accessed off-campus?
  • what will be the best way to accommodate more students – online learning or more buildings?
  • what kind and number of teaching spaces will we need?
  • what partnerships or strategies should we adopt to protect our enrollment base?
  • what are our strategies and policies regarding open educational resources?
  • what is our strategy for lifelong learning?
  • what financial models should we put in place to encourage innovation in teaching and to attract students?
  • how do we ensure that faculty have the skills necessary for teaching in a digital age?
  • how can we best reward innovation and high quality teaching?
  • what kind of organization and staff do we need to support faculty in their teaching?
  • how do we best protect student data and privacy (as well as our staff’s) in a digital age?

– See more at:

These are tough questions administrators should be asking and answering. Much of what Tony believes education will look like in 2020 requires some entities that are not known for their ability to be responsive to change, or even want change, to embrace a new model for teaching and learning. I applaud Tony for his vision and challenge those of us in higher education who are ready for a change to make it happen.

Hopefully those fighting change will come around to his ideas…and world peace.


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Excerpt from the article published on

Partnering with an institution can be just as valuable for a higher education institution’s growth as purchasing a service from a vendor.

Institutions should look to consortia models and other opportunities for institutional partnerships for several reasons:

1. Profit Motive While the institution supplying the service will want to cover its costs, profits do not have to be the driving factor in establishing a price…

2. Expertise Colleges and universities house a wealth of experience and knowledge….

3. Shared Risk In many smaller institutions, it may not be feasible to offer a degree program without partnering with another institution….

At eduKan, we help institutions establish their programs online. Currently, we are working with two private, non-profit liberal arts colleges to bring their programs online. The collaboration benefits the partner schools by assisting their faculty in the conversion of their courses, providing high-end learning management systems (which they simply could not afford on their own) and a 24/7/365 call center for their students. And, best of all, they don’t need to be a member of the eduKan consortium to participate.

Read the complete article here and find out how we’ve helped other schools with their initiatives for a fraction of the cost.

My parents live in the mountains of West Virginia; it is where I grew up. Recently, there was a chemical leak into the public water system that shut down nine counties in southern West Virginia. The event has been shrouded in controversy about how and why Freedom Industries allowed 7,500 gallons of 4-methlcyclohezane methanol (MCHM) to leak into the Elk River that supplies water to over 300,000 people.

Poisoned Water in West Virginia

Poisoned Water in West Virginia

Matt Stroud (@ssttrroouudd), who lives in the area, wrote an interesting article that gives both the factual account of what happened along with his personal account of how this impacted his family. Although there is enough blame to go around, this accident highlights is just how fragile some of the very basic infrastructure systems actually are.

This got me wondering whether there are any areas of higher education that could be this vulnerable. Any institution that has a significant online presence knows two minutes of unplanned downtime creates a panic and results in hundreds of frantic calls to the help desk. I have seen institutions switching learning management systems have to shut down for two weeks, locking students out from their work. Consider the potential for state authorization to wreak havoc. I am not sure many people truly know or understand the various implications of compliance for institutions of higher education.

Perhaps the biggest threat to hundreds, if not thousands of institutions, however, is Title IV funding. While there is a constant threat of reducing funding, Pell and other programs have weathered the storm. Currently, the government controls how, when, and to whom the funds are dispersed.  Can you imagine the fall out if the federal government decided to give the funds directly to the student instead of giving the funds to the institution for disbursement?  Or even worse, what if the feds instituted subjective criteria like quality as a means for allocating student aid?

Whitehouse College Score Card

White House College Score Card

If you think this could never happen, then you should check out the White House website on higher education, complete with an institutional scoreboard and a promise to shift federal funds to institutions that are the most cost effective at delivering degrees.

To keep tuition from spiraling too high and drive greater value, the President has proposed reforms to federal campus-based aid programs to shift aid away from colleges that fail to keep net tuition down, and toward those colleges and universities that do their fair share to keep tuition affordable, provide good value, and serve needy students well. These changes in federal aid to campuses will leverage $10 billion annually to help keep tuition down.

While the intent behind this change is good, inevitably there are some unintended yet significant implications for-profit institutions and private not-for-profit liberal arts institutions that rely so heavily on federal student loans because their tuition costs are well beyond community colleges and most state institutions.

West Virginians could not dream of the impact a leak from one plant would have on the most basic elements of their daily life – water. While I have speculated what might be higher education’s 4-methlcyclohezane methanol in the water, no one really knows what will happen. But I have a feeling it could be big.

Net NeutralityYesterday, the Supreme Court struck down key components of the FCC’s Open Internet Rules, effectively ending Net Neutrality. So why did this not make the news? Why are online education providers not screaming? Maybe most people just don’t care, or don’t know what it means, but they sure should.

In the most simplistic terms, net neutrality means that all Internet traffic should be treated as equal. Sounds fair enough, until you look at the other side of the equation. This greatly benefits bandwidth hogs, like Netflix and YouTube, who are able (and willing) to pay higher fees to consume more Internet bandwidth in a minute than the average Joe uses in a month.

NetNeutraltyWhile Netflix can afford to pay a higher premium to be able to stream endless hours of content at the highest speeds to their subscribers, how can a consortium of community colleges in Kansas afford to deliver hours of online education to thousands of students via the Internet? They simply cannot afford to pay the same rates as the media monoliths, rendering students helpless and frustrated as they move through their online coursework at the speed of Methuselah, relegated to the bottom of the bandwidth.

Adding insult to injury, the flush for-profit education giants, like the University of Phoenix, will be able to buy more bandwidth, leaving the smaller private online institutions in the virtual dust.  If your institution has an online presence, you might want to pay close attention to this ruling and the impact it could have on your students.

This is the much anticipated, yet vastly misunderstood Web 3.0. What are your thoughts? Please share below.

bball2 data

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a common theme emerged from all the keynotes, exhibitions, and entertainment: data.  Throughout five days of walking miles through a labyrinth of exhibit halls, I observed hundreds of vendors from all over the world trying to communicate how their product gathers, processes and manipulates data.

Everything we do generates data that can be collected, analyzed and manipulated.  Working out generates data.  While some of the personal fitness items I observed simply gather and display data like heart rate, calories burned and blood pressure, more complex products process the data and make recommendations to the user. Mundane tasks, like driving, provided enough data for engineers to create a driverless car.  Using a football-sized outdoor display, participants at CES were given the opportunity to strap themselves into a driverless car, take a ride through an obstacle course and finally park, all without the need of human assistance. While it is scary to think about thousands of driverless cars going down the road, it is a fabulous display of how the car’s computer gathers, processes, and manipulates data in real time.


Now, even playing basketball creates data. One of the most innovative products at CES is a regulation-size basketball with a built-in processing unit that will analyze thousands of data points to help the basketball player perfect their shooting skills. Coaches and players can review the data and make corrections to improve performance through individualized training.  Coaches no longer need to sit through hours of bad game tapes.

So why are we afraid of data in higher education? We are good at gathering the data.  Student information systems collect and house a plethora of data. Oh, we have data.  What we don’t have, however, is access to that data.  Far too often, the data is difficult to extract from the database, or the data is presented in a format that is unintelligible to the average user.  Worse yet, some IT departments restrict access the data, making it off limits to many of the departments that could benefit from it most. And while those are real concerns, they can be resolved. The biggest challenge, once the data is in the hands administrators and faculty, is to use that data to drive change – the kind of change that impacts teaching and learning.

Data is everywhere. CES showed me how easy it is to get and some really cool things people can do with it.  If we can get it in the hands of our administrators, faculty and staff, and challenge them to use it in new and innovative ways, I think we will see some amazing results.

The Jetsons - Robot
The Jetsons

The Jetsons

Remember The Jetsons? George Jetson had the coolest gadgets – a flying car that folded up into a brief case and a robot named Rosie that cooked, cleaned, organized and ran the house. At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a huge section of the exhibit space was dedicated to robots.

Hundreds of people crowded down several aisles to watch vendors demonstrate their robotic products. There are some amazing uses for robots; police departments use them to perform tasks that are too dangerous for human officers, like disarming bombs. Manufacturers use robots to perform repetitive tasks with consistent precision. There are even robots for everyday use, like the Roomba vacuum that allows you to come home from work to a clean house, well… at least a clean floor.

But even with all of the hype, the robots have not, for all practical purposes, evolved to the point where they can function independently without human intervention. The technology is close, but somewhere in all the lines of code and circuitry is the work of a human hand.  So you can rest assured, at least for another year, that we humans will not be replaced by robots.  PHEW!

MOOCs are education’s robots. They are kind of cool. Everybody wants one. But the reality is that MOOCs, like robots, have not lived up to the hype. Although some people placed the burden of driving change in higher ed squarely on the virtual shoulders of the MOOC, like robots, MOOCs can’t do it alone.

I would be willing to bet Rosie the Robot would not have to use a broom to dislodge the Roomba from my curtains.

Happy 2014.  Did you make a New Year’s Resolution?

new year resolutionsI did, and unlike the resolutions I have made in the past, I was determined to make mine realistic, measurable and attainable, otherwise this year’s batch of promises would end up like many that have come before – totally abandoned by February 28.  My first resolution is to improve my health; one quantifiable way I can do that is to go to the gym. I am happy to report that by the end of the first week in January, I had been to the gym six times. As we approach the end of the second week, I have been able to stick to my new workout schedule, in spite of traveling across the country to attend a conference.

My second resolution is to finish my book. I really should have spent more time working on the book and less time making turkey sandwiches during the recent break, but since I didn’t, I have resolved to seek a quiet place to write at least once a week, no matter where my travels take me.

After I made my resolutions, however, I started to wonder why we wait for January 1 to resolve to change and how many people actually stick it out for the remaining 364 days? After all, change is hard, right?

According to Statistic Brain, only 8% of people who make New Year’s Resolutions stick to them. That means that 92% of all people fail at achieving their goal. That is a lot of quitters! Actually, 36% of people will give up by February 1, while a frightening 25% never make it past the first week in January.

Whether you are setting personal goals or goals for your department and institution, I wish you luck and perseverance. Yes, change is hard – even a change for the better.  I will let you all know how I am doing with my resolutions in a few weeks. I am optimistic that I will adhere to my resolutions; after all, I avoided becoming one of the 25% who fail in the first week.  Let me know how you do with yours.

Fear to Change

We talk about change in higher education. That is mostly all we do is talk. Sure we use cool words like disruption and collaboration but we mostly just talk. Why is anyone really surprised, isn’t that what is happening in the classroom…lots of talk and almost no practical application?

I read an article by John R. Childress entitled Culture Change and Leadership. John makes some great points, particularly relating to getting the undecided or caution to change. I have witnessed first hand innovative programs, processes and policies at a multitude of educational institutions come to a standstill because of fear. That is really what keeps the undecided and cautions from substantial change.

People talk about “fear of change” but it is really not a fear of change, it is a fear of their ability to adapt and overcome. What happens if the change is not the right choice? How will I handle criticism? What will people think; my staff, my board, my boss? And maybe the greatest fear of all, what happens if I lose my job.

I find it interesting in my years as a pain in the butt, now affectionately called a change agent, you can spot the truly innovative leaders. They are often perceived as cocky by the undecided and cautions because their confidence is in sharp contrast to the confidence of the fearful. Find the person in your organization that says, “Hey, I was looking for a job when I came here.” Most often, that is the person who is not fear struck and given the opportunity to truly facilitate change. The attitude is powered by their self-confidence and an ongoing battle with the fearful.

Fear to ChangeEveryday I see academic leaders, faculty and staff controlled by their fear. If you want some truly good entertainment, put a couple of leaders who are fearful in the room with a couple of cocky S.O.B.’s and ask them to make some tough decisions. The cocky use phrases like: what’s the worst that can happen? let’s try this and see how it goes; seriously, how long are we going to talk about this before we actually do something. And the fearful responses…well, we need to make sure this is the right move; can you get me some more information; why do we need to move so fast; I think I need to check with my people.

Let me know your thoughts, examples you have witnessed….unless you are too fearful…what’s the worst that can happen?

As we have been discussing the commoditization of higher education, the topic of how inter-institutional collaborations can help institutions compete in this ever-changing marketplace must be addressed. The two key areas of collaboration that help institutions boil down to increased opportunity and reduced costs.

Read the rest of this article by Dr. Mark Sarver for evoLLLution by clicking here.