The End of the University as We Know It

The American Interest • January/February 2013

Gloom and doom. Author and editor Nathan Harden predicts that academia's recent surge in physical plant expansion, combined with bloated rosters of non-teaching staff, will spell ruin for roughly half of the 4,500 colleges and universities in existence today. And although MOOCs still face huge credentialing and acceptance hurdles, Harden says they represent the future of higher ed—offering a more targeted, "single download" curriculum in place of the "album" approach typical of many liberal arts programs. Read on for a sobering but not entirely depressing look at where higher education may be headed.

This is a reasonably comprehensive take on the potential for MOOC disruption by Harden who has had the benefit of an elite education (author of SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad) and is emerging as one of the young conservative Turks. And isn't it astonishing the rapidity with which bashing an elite education has become the intellectual sucker punch of the day? Even David Brooks is on to it in this recent column. (Michalko)

The Users of the University

Dissent Magazine • 2 January 2013

Do as I say. Writer Jordan Fraade points out that many of the politicians and pundits advocating more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education programs are themselves liberal arts graduates: " . . . (T)he key to understanding people who talk approvingly about Making Hard Choices is that they will almost never feel the pain those choices will cause."

This is an alternative view not so much about how we will educate but what will be taught. There is certainly a cost disease in higher education (see Baumol and then these nicely tempered lectures by co-author Bill Bowen) but it is also the case that the massive defunding of higher ed (see Schement's ppt at the ARL fall forum) and the shift of costs to parents and students is a big enabler of the elite education bashing noted above. (Michalko)

Disruptive Trends to Watch in 2013

HBR Blog Network • 10 January 2013

More on MOOCs. Innovation expert Scott Anthony's warnings on disruptive trends include optimistic predictions for "low-cost, online, competency-based learning universities." Anthony suggests that the university system will not collapse, but wither on the vine as alternative credentialing institutions gain respect. A viable alternative to traditional degrees will spell big change for academic libraries. The trick will be turning that disruption into opportunity.

There's more trends called out here than the MOOC phenomenon. I'm partial to the disruptive power of 3D printing. It's starting to show up all over. In library "MAKER"-spaces, specialized manufacturing and even craft. Check out this 40 under 40 anniversary exhibit at the Renwick Gallery, the craft museum of the Smithsonian where the craft looks traditional but the computer and the 3D printer feature prominently. (Michalko)

The Power of Positive Publishing

New York Magazine • 6 January 2013

Help yourself. Contributing editor Boris Kachka observes that "self help" advice permeates bookshelves ostensibly devoted to history, philosophy and religion: "Today, every section of the store (or web page) overflows with instructions, anecdotes, and homilies. History books teach us how to lead, neuroscience how to use our amygdalas, and memoirs how to eat, pray, and love." Read on for Kachka's take on how the '60s, New-Ageism and the cult of Oprah have turned us into a bunch of wishful thinkers.

Agreed. This is certainly about publishing but it's much more about how our cultural lens got refocused and pointed in a different direction. I confess there are a lot of books mentioned here that I have begun and never finished (including the Malcolm Gladwell titles). I'd get going and think this should have been a long Sunday magazine article not a book. (Michalko)

Should Museum Exhibitions Be More Linear? Exploring the Power of the Forced March in Digital and Physical Environments

Museum 2.0 • 9 January 2013

Crowd control. While some eclectic displays lend themselves to meandering, most museum storytelling—especially those involving timelines—falls naturally into a "forced march" navigation. Check out museum director Nina Simon musings on the pros and cons of linear vs. nonlinear museum exhibition design.

I'm happy to be force marched or left to wander. Regardless you should do yourself a favor and explore the story called out in this essay—"Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek"—remarkable reporting, riveting narrative, and a mixed media presentation that seems natural and necessary. (Michalko)

The Brilliant Idea that Could Make Polaroid Relevant Again

Slate • 6 January 2013

Tangible results. Polaroid is partnering with startup Fotobar to launch a chain of retail stores where customers can print photos from their phones onto a variety of surfaces, ranging from paperstock to metal and bamboo. The concept capitalizes on the awkward transition from smartphone photography to displayable art.

Not exactly going to resurrect the brand but it's a direction consistent with the Makerspace movement that emphasizes creation over consumption. (Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are some of the opportunities emerging at the connection between MOOCs and libraries?

Get the answer.