Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Failure to Innovate in Higher Education- A Problem of Low Hanging Fruit

Education is a classical American institution that helps develop intellectual capital to encourage successful national growth. Sometimes institutions can work against their core purpose by failing to grow or develop beyond current limitations. Innovation in higher education is an important predictor of the success of both the higher education institution and the preparedness of a nation. Failure to reach beyond low hanging fruit in higher education causes stagnation and decline in the form of cost overruns and poor outcomes. 

Despite having strong support through state spending, family savings, and student loans the system has increasingly become unsustainable and hasn’t kept up with the life-long learning needs of working families. Throwing more resources into a clunky system that hasn’t changed only prolongs the eventual financial and educational reckoning that will occur if costs start to outstrip revenue. 

Online education has disrupted the assumptions of traditional education and provides a credible modality many government and higher education officials scoffed at just a decade ago. We can call this the process of innovation and implementation (Parker, 2012) whereby new technology creates chaos in the system and then becomes part of the mainstream until the next development occurs and the process starts all over. All developing industries rely on this innovation-implementation model for growth. 

Online education is a trend that reaches across for-profit and not-for-profit higher educational institutions. Students demand for flexibility in their studies should not be ignored. In 2010 enrollment in online courses increased 29% with 6.7 million (1/3 of all students) enrolled in online courses (Jaggars, et. al. 2013). A total of 97% of two-year colleges offer online courses while 66% of post-secondary universities also offer online courses. 

The far majority of schools in engage in online education and it is no longer a disruptive technology. It has grown because the market has demanded it grow. Online education may not offer the front page grabbing sports teams or large buildings that dotted the landscape in the 20th Century but does offer solutions for the 21st Century. This assumes that higher education is more about learning than maintaining tradition without consideration of long-term national costs. 

Experimentation in higher education is absolutely necessary to develop the institution to a higher level of existence. The quality of education is in a continuous process of change where new models influence traditional models by making them more efficient. In turn, innovative development is slowed and improved for mainstream consumption by traditional education stakeholders. There should be a balance of innovation and integration to ensure maximum relevancy of higher education institutions. Innovation and change avoids the need to reach for low hanging fruit that raises the cost and burden on society as a result of not considering long-term interests or risks.

Jaggars, S., Edgecombe, N. & Stacy, G. (2013). What we know about online course outcomes. Research Overview. Community College Research Center, Columbia University.  ED542143

Parker, S. (2012). Theories of entrepreneurship, innovation and the business cycle. Journal of Economic Surveys, 26 (3).

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