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Crisis + Wit = Opportunity

January 15th, 2009 jonmott Comments

Earlier this month, BYU’s sponsoring institution implemented a hiring freeze and other cost-saving measures for 2009 (and perhaps beyond). The current economic “downturn” (insert your own euphemisms here) is impacting higher education coming and going. While the struggling economy and tightened job market are driving more people to seek degrees, the institutions offering those degrees find themselves in situations similar to–or worse than–what we’re facing at BYU.

In a meeting with the Deans the other day, my boss observed that “crisis plus wit equals opportunity.” He was essentially inviting the Deans to think about things they might do creatively and innovatively, in the midst of economic crisis, to address long-standing dilemmas and challenges. I’ve thought quite a bit about this in terms of academic technology the past few days. As I’ve visited with colleagues at other institutions over the years, I’ve participated in many a conversation about institutional leaders not quite catching the vision of distance learning, online learning, hybrid learning, and otherwise technology enhanced learning in higher education. Now that we face growing demand for our services (teaching and learning) at the exact moment that we’re facing resource constraints, we have a golden opportunity to demonstrate the value of our craft.

The Sloan-C Five Pillars of Quality research suggests that online learning ought to yield significant improvements in (1) the quality of student learning outcomes, (2) the efficiency of learning, (3) access to learning, and (4 & 5) student  and faculty satisfaction with the learning process. We have the opportunity before us, perhaps like we will never again in our lifetimes, to demonstrate our ability to deliver on these promises–particularly, the 2nd and 3rd–at our institutions.

My guess is that administrators, deans, chairs and faculty members at colleges and universities around the world are anxious for good ideas and sound proposals about how to manage the problems that confront us in higher education. Let’s not miss this opportunity to meet crisis with wit and do something bold and innovative.