April 5th, 2010
Those who may have missed Anya Kamanetz’s DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education got several chances of late to get at least a sampling — e.g., her contribution to the “debate” staged by the NY Times under the title “College Degrees Without Going to Class,” the recent interview of her in the Chronicle, and her “Adapt or Decline” piece in Inside Higher Ed. (Arguably the best introduction to her thinking, short of the book, is an extended video of her holding forth for half an hour.)
Inevitably, what she sees as an opportunity — to cut costs and forge new paths given the availability of open educational resources (OER) — seems a danger to others. David Wiley says in a recent blog post that if you turn students “loose with links to some OER and expect good things to happen for more than 5% of them, you’re just off your rocker.” Similarly, Michael Feldstein, in his blog E-literate, holds that most “students are not autodidacts,” and so it is not clear to him that “the blossoming of open education for their more fortunate peers will do anything for them other than suck the much needed funds out of an already badly underfunded education system.” These takes exasperate Stephen Downes who thinks they confuse the baby with the bathwater: “The reason we have so many students who are utterly unable to learn for themselves is precisely *because* of corporations and institutions.”
To circle back to Anya Kamanetz, her “Adapt of Decline” imperative is a slightly more evolutionary version of “Do or Die.” But it’s addressed to institutions. And the people who, well, people those institutions have their own spaces in which to move and their own decisions to make. That would be a good reason to note that Anya Kamanetz’s imperative is, as the Chronicle article notes, a “moral imperative” — to give the full headline “Anya Kamenetz Invokes ‘a Moral Imperative to Cut Costs’ With Technology.”
This might be a call for some personal if not institutional adaption. ‘Tis the season for textbook adoption. It could be interesting to break the mold, go for something new — digital content, open access publications, e-resources from the library, things you can link to rather than have your students buy. It’s not a giant step. But it’s a step. If your CUNY faculty, your university is already taking steps to save your students money on texts. Why not go the institution one better?