I heard the term “self-authoring” yesterday in the context of adult education. I think this is really beautiful. It’s used in developmental psychology to denote an advanced stage of social and emotional development, when individuals are able to stop identifying completely with their own needs, emotions, or interests, or with the prevailing culture, emotional demands or assumptions made by the people around us, and able instead to take a step back and make judgements from a systemic perspective.

Lesley Scanlon, at the University of Sydney, writes about “self-authoring” as something that adults are seeking when they return to courses of study. Not just to qualify for a new job but to get perspective on their lives and tell a better story about their own identities. This satisfies a higher-order need. It makes me think of Emerson’s writing about the ship tacking back and forth : you may set your course steadily but the wind and waves force you to diverge and the overall pattern and path may not be clear to anyone else.

I think there are a lot of innovative enterprises that are doing a great job educating adults efficiently and affordably and effectively connecting them to the world of work in all kinds of ways: the DevBootCamps and the SNHUs and the WGUs and the Straighterlines. and the  But what about connecting adults to each other, themselves and the universe?

Some of this work goes on under the radar. I think transformative moments are happening in all kinds of settings but the trick is to honor them, surface them, make time for them. In part by asking participants to take on more responsibility to each other. How else could this be done?

I’ve found some great collaborators. Amazing, actually.

What I need now is a research intern or two! If you have some time to research the landscape of educational innovation and make this graphic as up-to-date and comprehensive as possible, please holler at me. I promise useful and interesting work.
The Edupunks’ Atlas. This is an extension of the Edupunks’ Guide, supported by the Gates Foundation.

Higher education is a vast and complex enterprise comprising varying missions, models and types of participants. Time and again, discussions over the future of the enterprise between, say, Ivy League classics professors and for-profit purveyors of online community college courses get bogged down in mutual incomprehension. In numerous presentations over the past two years, I have presented as a framework, adapted from my book DIY U,  three major buckets of benefits that higher education provides to students: Content, Socialization, and Accreditation; and three major challenges to traditional models: Cost, Access, and Quality/Relevance.
The Edupunks’ Atlas of Lifelong Learning will use this framework as a starting point to create a beautiful full-color graphic map of the current landscape of higher education innovations, and variations on the theme. The Atlas will be made public at edupunksguide.org and as a free shareable graphic. The field is moving fast so I hope to create a framework that can be updated.
This is a speculative description of how I’d like it to work:

Each spot on the map will have a name and link to an organization and thick or thin lines will connect
related organizations. The overall effect will be a graphic way to understand where a given
innovation falls within the universe of options in further education. Over 200 organizations will
be represented on the atlas.
Dimensions shown on the map could include any or all of the following:



Size/share of market

Benefit Mix e.g.; Content-Socialization-Accreditation (ASU Online); Content (Open Courseware);
Content-Socialization (MOOC, P2PU); Socialization (OpenStudy, CityYear); Socialization-Accreditation
(Github); Accreditation (LearningCounts.org)

Within Accreditation:

Unit of Study e.g.; (Lesson–>Course–>Certification–>Degree)

Traditional, Nontraditional (Badge, Portfolio), Informal

Funding model e.g.; Nonprofit-within existing university, Nonprofit-state-funded, nonprofit-
mixed, For-profit-publicly traded, For-profit-venture, Nonprofit-venture

Audience e.g.; High-Schoolers Transitioning; Elite-Grad; Elite-Undergrad; Mass-Traditional Age; Mass-Adult Learner; Mass-
Returning; Mass-Educated Adult

Business model e.g.; Tuition&Philanthropic; Tuition-only; Free-philanthropic; Freemium;
Platform (data-advertising); Vendor

Content policy e.g.; (CC-BY, CC-BY-NC, Traditional copyright)

Pedagogical model e.g.; (One to many; many to many; Independent learning; Experiential;project based)
And maybe a few more I’m not thinking of.

I need to find an awesome designer with interest in this field to help me think through and realize this graphic. You will be paid of course and get exposure as well. If interested please contact me at diyubook@gmail.com with samples of your work.


My to-do list now extends through the end of the year. Isn’t that a weird feeling? I haven’t been updating this blog as regularly because I’ve been covering educational innovation at Fast Company, along with other topics, about once a week. A link to all my pieces is found here.

While writing for the magazine, I have contributed chapters to two 2013 upcoming books on the future of higher ed, one to be published by Harvard Education Press and the other by Stanford. Both have been wonderful collaborative processes.

I’m also slowly collecting research for a new book, which will extend some of what I’ve learned from DIY U into the K-12 space. More on that as it develops!

I have another small project coming up that I’ll post on shortly.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about the accountability movement in K-12. Results have been mixed, at best, but the impact has been so huge and is still growing.

Well at long last it seems to be coming to higher ed now.

[The GOP Governors of TX, FL and WI are] Mandating low-cost options like the $10,000 degree; holding down tuition prices, particularly at flagship institutions; tying funding to degree completion, particularly in fields deemed to be in “high demand”; paying faculty on the basis of performance, including how they fare on student evaluations; and likely asking the institutions to do it all with less state money.

Read more: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/11/30/texas-florida-and-wisconsin-governors-see-large-overlap-higher-education-platforms#ixzz2Dqjgy0Jv

I can’t see much wrong, no matter how you look at it, with the mandate to offer radically low cost degrees and to hold down tuition even at flagship institutions. Students and families need this; our society desperately needs affordable higher education. I think it is political leaders’ jobs to use the lever they have, which is funding, to push the changes they want; and it is educational leaders’ jobs to push back by defending and articulating what is most important in their institutions and what needs to be preserved at all costs. I believe that real innovation requires cost pressures. Resources are not infinite and choices have to be made.

There are HUGE questions, however, about how to actually measure performance in higher education. Tying funding to degree completion seems straightforward, but in reality it is anything but. Students transfer between institutions. They change their educational plans and goals. They drop out to start billion-dollar companies sometimes.

Measuring the performance of professors by how well-liked they are by students is, frankly, a fool’s game as well. My best professors in college inspired awe and trepidation, not smiley faces.

So how should we judge the value of education provided by institutions?

One model is the federal “gainful employment” rule, which was created to judge for-profit institutions by whether or not their former students are making enough money to pay their loans back. A measurement of income just a year or so after graduation is simple, although it’s also one-dimensional. It discounts the kid who is maxing out his credit cards to start a business, the one who is waiting tables while getting her PhD or MBA, and the brilliant musician sleeping in his grandma’s basement (although that guy may never make that much money.)

But money is not the only good thing in life. There’s a ton of social science research on the non-financial returns to education. People with more years of education have better health. Happier relationships. Longer marriages. They vote more, are more established members of communities, are more engaged in volunteer work. Their kids reap the benefits of more education as well. The effects ripple across a society.

In the age of big data, why not build a multidimensional longitudinal study of all of these returns on education for students at specific universities? Numbers counts. What we measure, we manage.