Future of Learning Top Reads for week of Mar 25 2019

K12 leaders who take seriously the “Future of Learning” need to see the entire system within which education operates. The three reads below focus on the opportunities and threats within higher ed, which may be the most immediate influence on K12…


“UMass plans national online college aimed at adult learners,” by Deirdre Fernandes, in The Boston Globe

“Faced with a narrowing pipeline of potential in-state students and limited sources of new funding, the University of Massachusetts plans to launch a national online college, the system’s president Martin T. Meehan announced on Monday.

”Suggesting that it may be the University of Massachusetts system’s best hope of long-term financial stability, Meehan outlined an ambitious plan to build an online college focused on educating adult learners.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

This news story highlights two converging trendlines: the increasing importance of online learning and the ongoing threats to the higher education business model (in certain geographic regions, that threat is first and foremost demographic, as is the case for UMass).

These same two trends are already affecting K12 schools. Do you have a strategy for them?

In that vein…


“How colleges can use innovation labs to drive change,” by Allison Dulin Salisbury and Terah Crews, in Inside Higher Ed

“As with any new initiative, it’s important to understand how it fits within your existing mission and operations. Institutions should consider whether they want to start a new initiative that is a vast departure from its current mission (transformational), one that pushes in a new direction but is closely related to current operations (adjacent), or one that would iterate on the existing institutional foundation (core).

”Even if institutions choose to focus on a combination of all three horizons, they need to be clear about how. Much as they would manage an investment portfolio, institutions should create an innovation portfolio to guide resource allocation in accordance to risk tolerance, available resources, adaptability, capabilities and objectives. Colleges and universities also need to be clear about the scope of the portfolio. Institutions too often see every problem as one to be solved by ‘innovation.’ In reality, an innovation office needs a defined role and scope. There are four models—each with different structures and staffing—that institutions should consider.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

Does your school have an “innovation portfolio” to help you place small bets to address emerging threats and opportunities?

If so, do you have a system in place to kill off the bets that don’t work and to scale up the bets that do work?

Most important of all, do you have a culture that fosters innovation?


“Report: More College Closures Ahead,” by Ben Unglesee, in EducationDive

“Deep financial challenges have followed enrollment drop-offs, with 11% of private colleges experiencing net tuition revenue declines during the 2015-17 period, S&P analysts found. […]

“With declines in the rate of high school graduation in some states, the analysts said they ‘expect demand pressure to continue in the near term,’ with ‘significant declines’ in enrollment already seen in the Northeast and Midwest.”

Why does this matter to the future of learning?

We track higher ed closures and mergers carefully because these small, liberal arts schools operate with the same financial, brand, and organizational design assumptions as K12 independent schools.

Recent closure / contraction news:

  • Southern Vermont and the College of St. Joseph (also VT) are going to close because they are no longer financially viable.

  • U. Akron is offering buyouts to 47% of their faculty because many of their programs are also no longer financially viable. (Notably, they are not offering the buyout to faculty in departments considered “Strategic Investment” areas, such as several hard sciences, computer science, and law, among others).


Question of the week:



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Christian Talbot