Learning about learning
A syllabus for understanding the past, present and future of higher ed
Eighteen months ago I quit a dream job at Google to join Minerva, an ambitious organization rethinking higher education from scratch (learn more). Leaving a large technology company with education elements to join a small education company with technology elements I needed to deepen my understanding of trends in higher education to make up for any experience or formal education gaps.
Over the past year+, I’ve closely followed industry research and experts to both inspire new ideas and motivate me towards our vision. Two great people joined my team a couple months ago and they both asked which sources/articles were the most influential in developing my viewpoints on the future of higher ed. I created a list for them, which I have shared below. In short, if I were asked to teach a class on the past, present and future of higher education, this would be the syllabus of assigned reading.
I’m always looking for more great reads, so let me know what you think should be added / deleted / replaced, and hope you enjoy!
The college experience
- Elite colleges don’t buy happiness (WSJ) Gallup Survey of 30k college grads
- What makes college students happy? (NYT) Longitudinal study of Hamilton grads
- The benefits of active learning (PNAS.org) — admittedly dry, but important to understand pedagogy and failures of lecture-based courses (Science Mag summary of research)
Rising cost of college
- The tuition is too damn high (WaPo) — 10-part in-depth series on why college is becoming more expensive and what we can do about it
- The supersizing of American colleges (Priceonomics blog) — shorter piece on rising cost of college
- Here’s why the college loan market is entirely insane (BusinessWeek) — to understand the rising cost of college, you need to understand student loans
- The myth of American meritocracy (The American Conservative) — an in-depth evaluation of admissions at Ivy league schools, pointing to the argument that Asians are discriminated against
- Lifting the veil on the holistic process at UC admissions (NYT) — another look at the impact of race on admissions
- Year of the MOOC (NYT) — this piece kicked off a wave of glowing press about Coursera, Udacity and EdX and is an effective primer for those new to the space
- Is college moving online? (New Yorker) — This is another well-written summary from one of the country’s top outlets, a cousin to the above NYT piece
- Napster, Udacity and the Academy — Shirky is among the earliest and sharpest pundits on changes in higher ed. This was his first missive in the field in 2012 but is as relevant today as it was when he first posted.
- Your massively open offline college is broken — another great Shirky piece updating his 2012 writings.
- VCs awful idea about the future of higher ed — as the title suggests, an anti-MOOC article anchoring the anti-MOOC backlash
- Udacity Pilot Learnings and Nanodegrees (EdSurge & NYT) — the development of a MOOC provider, from replacing college to reimagining vocational training
General interest (including many of the canonical books)
- One World Schoolhouse — Sal Khan (note: I’m a big fan of Sal Khan and Khan Academy, and his original TED Talk inspired half of the current wave of edtech entrepreneurs. This book is an effective if not exceptional review of his compelling story, the history of education and suggestions for new approaches).
- Business School, Disrupted (NYT) — evaluating HBS’s move to online education through the lens of their two most famous strategic thinkers
- The Innovator’s Dilemma (Christensen) & The Disruption Machine (New Yorker) — the book that launched the modern-gospel of disruption and the recent, and controversial, New Yorker takedown
- More Clicks, Fewer Bricks — Intelligence Squared debate on the future of the classroom, including Minerva’s founder Ben Nelson
- College Unbound — Jeff Selingo
- Democracy and Education — John Dewey
- The Uses of the University — Clark Kerr
- Disrupting Ourselves — Vice Provost Randy Bass at Georgetown