Higher ed web professional and UBTech 2012 speaker Mark Greenfield discusses the flattening of higher ed, the design of a perfect classroom building, and the missing element on your .edu site.
Q: You’ve talked in several places about higher-ed facing a “flattening” rather than a “bubble.” What makes you think that?
A: What I’m talking about is not a bubble — that implies an eventual return to the status quo. What I’m talking about is the need for systemic change. We currently have an education system that was built for a world that no longer exists, and this system will be flattened. My reference to the word “flattened” comes from Tom Friedman’s book The World is Flat and is defined as “When the impact of the Internet and globalization render and industry unrecognizable, and in many cases, obsolete.” This has happened to the music industry, the newspaper industry, and yes, I think it is happening to higher education. Examples include IT staff being laid off by the hundreds on a single campus, language programs being eliminated (including tenured faculty) and, the one that hits closest to home, web positions being eliminated.
Q. What steps should colleges and universities be taking to position themselves to benefit from this flattening?
Two things. First, become ruthlessly efficient. There is growing pressure to make colleges more affordable and we must do everything we can to control costs. Secondly, colleges must focus on who they are and what they do well. A book making the rounds among campus administrators is Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance. The quote from this book I frequently use in my presentations is “Most institutions can no longer afford to be what they’ve become.” It’s time to focus on strengths and not try to be all things to everyone