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? A great example of self authoring is doing your own live nude cam shows, as you can earn some serious cash doing adult cam shows.

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 to the best tax relief companies 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.

[crossposted from Fast Company's Co.Exist website, where I blog regularly about educational futures]

Three out of four college students officially qualify as “nontraditional” in some way: They have no high school diploma, enrolled more than one year after high school, are independent from parents, work full time, or are parents themselves. These students tend to face a series of personal and financial hurdles that put the odds of graduation against them.

[url=http://portmont.la.edu/]Portmont College at Mount St. Mary’s[/url], a new nonprofit college opening this fall, takes these challenges on, inviting highly motivated students, regardless of their prior academic preparation, to experience a low-cost education combining the latest technology with a holistic personal approach banking on some surprisingly old-fashioned liberal arts values. This is a new level of educational intervention for the Gates Foundation, which is funding Portmont through the MyCollege Foundation with $3 million in partnership with a small private Catholic college (which provided a fast track to accreditation). The model throws several Twitter feed’s worth of this-minute ideas for educational innovation into the blender and presses puree.

[quote=pull]We’re one of the first institutions to target personal characteristics like grit, character, and motivation as primary for admission.[/quote]

Srikant Vasan, the Gates Foundation’s first entrepreneur-in-residence, grew up in India and attended the Indian Institute of Technology. He started and sold two software companies before turning his attention to education. “We’re bringing together what a lot of the research says is correlated with success in college,” he says, referring to findings by people like psychologist [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/18/magazine/what-if-the-secret-to-success-is-failure.html?pagewanted=all]Martin Seligman[/url] and economist [url=http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/040108/heckman.shtml]James Heckman [/url]that “non-cognitive skills” like persistence and optimism are more likely to determine success than straight scores on standardized tests. “I think we’re one of the first institutions to target personal characteristics like grit, character, and motivation as primary for admission.” To find these students, Vasan is reaching out to charter school networks and community programs like City Year, [url=http://www.fastcompany.com/social/2008/profiles/year-up.html]Year Up[/url], and YouthBuild.

What’s different about Portmont starts with the recruitment process. Prospective students will be asked to take a three-week free online course called LaunchPad (the first one starts December 10). The course will include psychological assessments and an introduction to the college’s core ideas, like believing in yourself. Meanwhile, Portmont’s proprietary analytics platform–developed by a CTO with expertise in the financial services industry–will be tracking each keystroke to help determine the student’s motivation and other qualities, data that will be combined with an interview to forecast the student’s chance of success.

[quote=pull]There’s a real disconnect between what higher education offers and what employers are expecting.[/quote]

Once they’re in, Portmont students will meet up for a one-week, one-credit intensive orientation where ideally they’ll bond with their classmates and the personal “success coaches” that are part of Portmont’s faculty, before heading back home to work on a largely online curriculum. They’ll return once every eight weeks to take part in group-project-based learning and presentations. The idea is to combine the best of online learning–self-pacing, convenience, and an analytics-powered dashboard that provides instant feedback to teacher and student–with some of the benefits of face-to-face education, while still keeping total costs low. Portmont will cost $5,240 per student, an amount entirely fundable with need-based Pell Grants, so that students can graduate debt free.

Portmont’s goal is to prepare students to demonstrate mastery in the skills employers want most. “There’s a real disconnect between what higher education offers and what employers are expecting,” Vasan says. “Our way is to offer you not only the degree but credentials in core capabilities like critical thinking, problem solving, communications, quantitative literacy, and teamwork.” The same data tracked on the dashboard that shows your progress while you’re in school can be made visible as a digital portfolio, to show employers why you scored a 4.2 out of 5 on teambuilding, for example.

Vasan is recruiting a few hundred students for the first year, but his goal is to reach 4,000 students nationwide within a few years, a level at which the program will be self-sustaining on tuition with no additional funding. They’ll grow by partnering with on-ground campuses with similar missions. First up: Denver and San Francisco.

One Laptop Per Child?

October 16, 2012

I traveled to Nicaragua this June to report a piece on the One Laptop Per Child project, which is published in the current issue of Fast Company.

I also gave a presentation on what I found at Jon Kolko’s/ Austin Center For Design’s “Design Extravaganza” a really fun little conference a couple of weeks ago.

The case study of OLPC really intrigues me and even after months of research, talking to all the principals in the organization and seeing it in action, I still don’t completely know what to think. ON the one hand, it’s a cautionary tale about overpromising and underdelivering on the role of technology in education. On the other hand, it’s an inspirational achievement. You have to admire Negroponte and his team for sticking to their principles of open source IT tools without fixed curricula which in the best of scenarios, allow for true self-directed learning and exploration. It’s such an intuitively appealing idea, even if it doesn’t always work.

<iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/51355807?title=1&amp;byline=1&amp;portrait=1″ width=”500″ height=”375″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen mozallowfullscreen allowFullScreen></iframe> <p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/51355807″>AC4D – Design Extravaganza – Anya Kamenetz</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/ac4d”>AC4D</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Listen to the 17 minute audio here.

Interesting conversations are one of my favorite pasttimes and one of the best ways I have to formulate new ideas. The quotes are unedited transcriptions but this is a thought I plan to explore more:

“We are seeing all kinds of exciting developments in alternative accreditation. There are two major trends and they sort of work in complimentary directions. The first one is, this more atomized, very specific skills based orientated kind of accreditation which is best encapsulated by the badge. … On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think in a very intriguing way, you have sort of the person, the whole life, life as certification. The idea of a portfolio based assessment, things that allow you to document your learning that has taken place in various stages and aspects of your life, create a narrative around that learning, reflect on that learning, and develop metacognitive skills and document the learning you’ve done as well.”
As is this:

Merely making things available for free doesn’t necessarily lower the barriers to access.  In fact we are actually in danger of recreating many of the same privileges that exist in the Ivory Tower world online, simply because people online tend to work through more informal networks that go back to sort of an idea of an old boys network. It can be more meritocratic in some ways, it can be more open in some ways, but in the bottom line you need to have more onramps, ways to make these structures visible to people who wouldn’t necessarily know how to use them.

Here’s my appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, as part of a really quality conversation last week on the future of higher ed.
This was an authors’ conference for a new book edited by the estimable Kevin Carey, now of New America, and Andrew Kelly of AEI, which will appear from a university press and the conference paper versions of which you can read here:
Mine is called From Baumol’s Cost Disease to Moore’s Law: The Transformation of Higher Education.

I also recommend you check out Panel 3, featuring
Andrew Delbanco, Columbia University
Ann Kirschner, Macaulay Honors College, City University of New York
Paul LeBlanc, University of Southern New Hampshire
Michael Staton, Inigral

Here’s Michael’s supercool infograph on the various jobs done by higher education:

Crossposted from FastCoExist, the “soul” of FastCompany.com…

The results of a two-year Senate investigation into the for-profit college industry describe a system where the interests of shareholders come above the interests of students. That’s especially problematic given that the industry is almost 90% funded by taxpayer dollars, which pour into a system barely filtered by weak regulations.

Publicly traded companies like Apollo Group (U of Phoenix), DeVry, and Corinthian Colleges enroll three-fourths of for-profit college students. These companies average a whopping 19.7% profit margin. They do that by focusing on online marketing and recruiting, using search engine optimization and high-pressure direct sales tactics familiar from the pre-crash mortgage industry.

In a way, these colleges work like your less-friendly local gym. They sign up lots and lots of students. But once they collect your first semester’s tuition, capturing an increasing slice of total federal student aid funds (including one in four of all Pell Grant dollars issued), they don’t really care if you come back. Actually, it’s cheaper for them if you don’t. So they plow the money back into marketing and recruiting rather than student support and career services. Most students who sign up leave within a median of four months–with debt and without a degree. This goes a long way toward explaining how for-profits, which enroll only one college student in 10, account for half of all federal student loan defaults.

A particularly upsetting part of the report focuses on these schools’ marketing to enlisted military and veterans. Their GI Bill benefits are subject to a loophole that allows these colleges to get even more than 90 percent of their revenue from the federal government.

For-profit colleges, as the Senate report argues, have the potential to be an important part of the higher education system, expanding access to working adults with online programs. Some smaller, local, specialized trade schools offer associates’, bachelor’s and even graduate degrees with great connections to jobs. But these colleges cost far more than the community colleges they compete with. Better regulations could rein in the industry, but that might be difficult. These companies gave almost $700,000 to political campaigns in the first half of the year, including to several Republicans in tough races, but nothing at all to President Obama.

Really great audience, great questions! I also had a meeting to talk about H20, the open law casebook worked on by Jonathan Zittrain that is coming out of beta very soon.