THE FUTURE OF HIGHER
(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)
(Last revised April 1, 2008) In Chinese following the bibliography
Chapter Six: FACE-TO-FACE LEARNING COMMUNITIES
At each stage of life, an individual's planned learning should be tailored to her or his unique talents, needs, opportunities and take account of handicaps to be overcome, but also beginning at a young age an area should be found, wherever possible, where an individuals greatest interests lie. It is easy to see how this is true for a youngster who has fantastic talent as a musician, but by early adolescence serious help should be given to finding--not only the talent that every person has--but also what youngsters find so fascinating that they love to study more about it. Where such a compelling interest is found--at any age--each person should be helped to take a degree on such a campus, attend short courses there or keep connect online to resources there.
This could become the role of many a small liberal arts college, for it can have the capacity not only to create a tailored program for each learner, but also can help design the multi-disciplinary program that will be essential in the coming age of creativity.
THESIS: Pink (2005) proposed that the logical and precise `left brain' information age will be followed by a `right brain' age "ruled by artistry, empathy and emotion;" a quality of life age. Instead of worrying about knowledge age jobs going to other countries, educators should see that shifting of computer jobs to poor countries, for example, can help raise the economies of those countries, bring prices down, and thus increase the quality life and the prosperity of the whole world. Meanwhile USA educators should re-tool for the creative, personalized jobs that will flower in the coming age that focuses on quality of life; for example jobs. in the arts, films, crafts, electronic gaming, personalized services and new kinds of job that will emerge in the `right brain emotion and empathy age.
This suggest some very interesting things to discuss about how to use forthcoming technology to do far more than just provide education for everyone in the world. In a system that builds from the bottom-up rather than from the top-down. Education planners, however, will need to focus on active participation in music, art, dance, film-making, theater and other ways to stimulate imagination and creativity in the early primary years as well as in higher education where research and planning is likely to take place. The 2005 UNESCO `virtual university' conference on OER (open content for higher education)--such as the whole curriculum of MIT being put on line--identified the need for coordination and cooperation among institutions offering courses as a crucial issue...along with quality control and faculty training. <http://www.unesco.org/iiep/virtualuniversity/forums.php>.
So in this and the next four chapters adaptations of five lifelong and higher education models are discussed ,in the hope that thinking about these models might produce better ideas for their transformation. and potential roles in a global education system. . All five build upon and expand existing types of higher education institutions that need a lifelong learning perspective. All five, and others also, might all become part of some future global lifelong learning system and strategy. A comprehensive global strategy and system (see below) would want to provide face-to-face personalized. participatory experiences for as many lifelong learners as possible, not forgetting the following basic long-range goals:
five models here should not be seen as serious proposals but as a form of
brainstorming to stimulate the imagination and raise
questions for discussion about better ways—with information age
technology and opportunities—to create and improve the planning and
administration of global virtual learning institutions: One way or another such a system should provide for
five characteristics described by Peter Senge (1994):
We might call this new age in learning the `age of empowered humanities,' as left brain, right brain and all the Liberal Arts come together, suggesting the role of liberal arts college in a global learning system.
Now in this chapter--as something that might be considered by a global learning system planning group-- we introduce a model that would bring together a consortium of small face-to-face residential college communities that would focus on `personal touch’ emotion, the spirit, and all arts in virtual subject-area lifelong `learning communities.’ Not only, for example is music a subject, it may be found to have a role in the leaning of all `subjects.' Also see: <http://www.educause.edu/vcop/>. We use the word `touch' with the new meaning proposed in Pink (2005). He says that the left-brain logical analysis `knowledge age' jobs are going to continue to get automated or go to poor countries. So future jobs in highly developed countries will be right brain jobs in creative arts, liberal arts that search for meaning in life, enrich the quality of life, and that express emotion.
The left brain, and the forthcoming technologies that will continue to empower it, are important also so bringing the two brains together should create a great forward step for global lifelong education that is a partnership among learners and teachers. The word pupil can be changed to learner and the word undergraduate might be changed to collegian.
A right brain step might begin with efforts to design and model a global virtual lifelong learning system that would be individualized and with `personal `touch' by encouraging and enlarging the links among--and seek to empower globally the quality of-- `learning communities’ provided by disciplines, fields of study and specialized international programs. However, this first model’s variation could create a consortium of `residential learning communities,’ each of which would focus on quality in one specialty or niche; for example through a consortium (or perhaps several kinds of consortia) among small liberal arts colleges. This may in time be essential for many such small colleges to survive with excellence. On some experimentation see: <http://www.educause.edu/internetforum/2000/5.PDF> In the ideal world perhaps every neighborhood would be a `learning community.'
In all possible models the phrase ` higher education’ may become obsolete, replaced by some `lifelong learning' term that has a number of stages: (1) infant, (2) pre-school, (4) primary school, (5) secondary school, (6) advance degrees and certification, (7) career continuing education and re-training, (8) hobby and retirement instruction. Will colleges and universities be limited to number six? Or perhaps, will what we now call universities be the research, training and planning centers for a global seamless cradle-to-grave educational system? This chapter asks what might be the role for small liberal arts colleges in providing right brain-type education for the whole world.
This chapter suggests that a consortium of small residential colleges--even in many different countries-- together might--by sharing resources--make available to learners at each of them a curriculum equal to the best offered at any of the largest elite universities. At the same time each liberal arts college, each unique campus would in this model develop excellence in a specialization to be shared with all. And all of that large curriculum online could be offered to the world, possible with existing technology. (Technology Review, Sept-Oct. 2000) The personal touch and other values of a small college could at the same time be preserved for learners on campus.
Personal touch? For example in this model, a college specializing in dance, could preserve an essentially human and higher quality personal dimension--to global distance, distributed and electronic learning--through online film and live performances on streaming video. Experts on the campus that specialize in dance, for example, could meet and dance together via future telecommunications of such high quality that it will seem as if they are in the same room. But dancers need to touch, so do sculptors, and adolescents who meet their life partners at a resident campus. So do athletes, scientists, humanists and in one way or another so does everyone else. So a virtual global lifelong learning strategy should find a place for small, residential colleges, perhaps many more of them rather than less as at present. `Personal touch’ also means reaching the hearts, the emotions of learners, with inspiration and motivation, touching learners at the core of their deepest concerns, their emotions, passions and hobbies, their talents and personal ambitions.
For an increasing number of learners there need be no choice between small campus-centered face-to-face learning, and all that is online. A learner may spend the traditional college years—or other times of life—in residence and there have access via the Internet and telecommunications to almost anything taught anywhere in the world. Many distance-learning projects now try hard to get learners onto a campus for at least a few days and that can be essential for `personal touch' dealing with emotions, creativity and compassion.
1.6.0 NOTES ON CONTEXT FOR PLANNING AND ADMINISTRATION
Specialization. Prensky (in Forman, Educause, Sept. 2004) proposed that every school might pick one subject area like photosynthesis and would b e responsible for "putting on line everything related to that subject," open source so others could participate. A school could thus "build a reputation, recruit experts and other people who who are interested in this particular area and try to create the best products there are in the world." Experts and interested persons would then come to that campus to add what they have and share in more learning..
People who love cowboy films—such as those with pioneers and Indians--may now possibly be helped to enjoy this era when learning is moving into a wild and very adventurous global frontier. So as we look at some new models, no doubt these preliminary thoughts are totally inadequate except to initiate discussion. But let’s see the realm of emerging lifelong learning “as a community of pilgrims, not an academy of refugees.” The refugee, Fehl (1962) reminded us, mourns the security of the past where the pilgrim is venturing forth to explore an exciting new frontier.
In online/virtual global learning—that is more adequate for a pluralistic world society—each segment, such as the isolated small college, should come alive to a new vision of mission in the context of the needs of all learners, teachers and researchers. How can a small college help learners in some far corner of the planet? A small, isolated college can see that it is an inheritor of a great academic tradition, a tremendous past so that, once a student decides to matriculate, to make a conscious decision to enter on a purposeful and structured program of learning, he or she can finds a new mother, an alma mater that is now part of a global consortium?
In Europe and America that `mother’ has a family tree whose roots draw nourishment from the soil of ancient Greece, intellectual traditions of the enlightenment, modern science and much more. Fehl pointed out that a university’s family tree has many other roots; for example the emperor of China’s call in 124. B.C. for the establishment of a state university with the most illustrious scholars as its faculty. Global higher education is the inheritor of wisdom from many cultures; for example Islamic higher education at Cairo and Cordova. Too often now the college is but an extension of the secondary school, focusing on classroom teaching of language, math, and basic skills and trying to fill the head with facts. Even in graduate schools the focus increasingly is only on preparation for a future job. Higher education, by contrast, should focus on theories of things, basic principles, the making of a mind. An increasingly large numbers of students come to a graduate school program without ever having thought through anything critically, nor have they ever written a term paper that seeks to do so. So many students resent the professor requiring them to do anything that is not important to memorize for the final examination. And `orientation’ for the university freshman today--more likely to discuss parking and facilities—rarely takes the student on a tour of intellectual history. One now could be a multi-media presentation that raises great human problems and ideas.
Newman wanted the first year college student—or the new learner at later points in life also—to see herself or himself as an apprentice who is aware of the richness of learning opportunity to be welcomed as joy, not a series of chores, a grinding away at boring assignments. That requires a high quality faculty-student relationship. Fehl, contemplating higher education in a Chinese context, proposed that if science is a venture of free minds, then philosophy, poetry and history should be in dialog with science, rather than just being some optional electives in the background. And it is sad when the student wants the teacher to package learning in some morsels to be swallowed without chewing.
Indeed, Fehl said, the university that considers teaching to be its only proper function is likely to be a place where there will be little true learning. It seems especially true for a global virtual learning system, that a most essential beginning point for advanced learning education must be with helping each learner—on campus or isolated on a distant ranch—to get the skills essential for independent study. This is essential if there are to be online and virtual `communities of learning’ instead of cafeterias of learning or `department store campuses’ where learners become bargain-hunters and teachers become just packagers. William Temple once argued that many of the problems of human society--such as juvenile delinquency and other resurgences of barbarism--are the result of the disintegration of cultures—that is, among other things, the loss of history, a waste of experience and the rise of attitudes that see life’s purpose as entertainment. Where but in communities of learning can cultures—especially `culture’—be renewed since it must include an initiation into an exciting worldwide tradition. A global academic culture may soon be possible as traditions of east and west, north and south, confront each other in a global virtual community of learning that is shaken up by the confrontation. Hopefully liberal arts institutions can pave the way to dialog and sharing within a global virtual learning system.
Humanity must not lose the values of tradition in education and the rich experience of existing universities and other institutions. A new global system is needed, yet planners must be cautious about systems. Tony Judge of Union of International Associations (UIA no date) has explained the need for caution in a review of John Gall’s classic book, Systematics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail. Gall examined international systems and their subsystems that were set up to solve humanity’s key problems. He concluded “that nothing complicated works and for many complicated reasons.” For example, systems tend to be run by bureaucracies that, generally without intending it, give priority to maintaining the system—and their jobs—rather than doing the job they were hired to do. Since they need to appear to be successful they tend to deal with symptoms rather than the more difficult basic problems. Gall found that some complex systems do work and generally have evolved from a simple system that worked. And “a complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work.” Since complex systems are difficult to understand—an executive of the California higher education system once remarked that it was almost impossible for anyone to understand—“and even total malfunction may not be detectable for long periods, if ever” and “great advances are not produced by systems designed to produce great advances.
Those few summary statements do not do justice to Gall’s analysis, but we can take some hope from his conclusions even though they predate the Internet. Loose systems, for example networks, “last longer and work better.” They can be more flexible, open to change, less defensive and open to cooperation and collaboration. So we here proceed to explore the possibility that computer networking and forthcoming more powerful technologies can make possible a workable global learning system that can preserve many of the values of the small campus, including `personal touch' while at the same time undertaking its share of providing learning opportunities for everyone in the world. With the counsel of Judge and Gall each of the models discussed here build upon tradition and existing systems.
1.6.1 FIRST MODEL: A CONSORTIUM OF SMALL RESIDENTIAL COLLEGES
Green (2002) has suggested `consortium arrangements' in which each cooperating campus could could select one unique niche .For example, a consortium of small liberal arts residential colleges (SLARCS)—for global virtual learning--might make it possible for them, together, coordinating their efforts, to equal or even excel the greatest existing university. Long (2002) thinks that "small colleges...risk being marginalized or becoming economic backwaters." Eskow (2001) proposed that perhaps together they might become “a kind of ‘Global Oxford.’ Perhaps some such consortium, based on a new model, may be the only possible future for many small, private colleges in a time of declining enrolments, financial crises and agonizing about the future. The association of governing boards “predicts that one third of independent colleges in the USA will close in the next ten years.” Another report predicts that fifty percent of small liberal arts colleges will close in the next twenty-five years. (Also see Brenneman 2002 for the difficult fund-praising situation higher education is going to face. At the same time, two thousand new kinds of education institutions will come into existence. The new ones presumably will include those of publishing houses, business corporations for their own employees, etc.
What might small residential colleges become if many joined together to transform themselves into something global while at the same time preserving their value as providing a more personalized face-to-face residential campus experience? Could existing small colleges survive by becoming new kinds of supportive `learning communities in a niche,’ and thus continue to be highly desirable places of residence? No one yet knows how a global lifelong learning system will emerge or be invented, and how in that context many existing institutions will be restructured as the 21st century rolls on. A global planning conference might foresee some new possibilities for a global consortium of SLARCs: Small Liberal Arts Residential Colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 2, 2002, reported that some colleges were finding a unique niche. Carnevale (2006) tells how some colleges are joining together to share courses and offer couses they could not otherwise have.u
Chapter 1.3 discussed some of the technology—as yet only a primitive Model-T Ford car compared with space ship era technology to come—that could turn mobilize and empower small residential face-to-face learning communities where, as at present, students can be close to counselors and faculty, with kinds of personal attention and opportunities that are difficult for large residential universities to accomplish.
Could a more focused small campus--half virtual--become even more personal? Could a `niche' college overcome some of the limitations of education that are seen in what some call “the tremendous ignorance of many people who actually have had more `education’ than was available at any previous time in history…and yet feel (and are) ignorant in face of the tremendous explosion of knowledge? That might happen if instructors lectured less--with that information online--and gave more personal attention to individual learners.
Soon there will be simulation and modeling technology to use in designing new models of small residential learning communities--not the buildings although there are promising new possibilities there also--but; for example, the structure for learning (discussed more in chapter 1.9 and in Volume III). Using the powerful Internet-Grid (in 2001it was being developed by the USA National Science Foundation in cooperation with IBM and other computer companies) it will be possible to use compute simulations and models to examine various alternatives and new ideas. For example:
1.6.2 A `BRAND NAME’ GLOBAL VIRTUAL UNIVERSITY CONSISTING OF RESIDENTIAL FACE-TO-FACE COLLEGE LEARNING COMMUNITIES
Many other models of face-to-face learning communities, for example within huge residential universities, are worth modeling. First, however, we here consider building up an information-age consortium that brings into collaboration many kinds of small residential campuses. Might they come together to empower themselves and education for a new global generation by reconstituting themselves, together, as a major global virtual lifelong learning system?
`SLARCs'—united together--could offer more prestigious degrees or certification. At present, why should students go to Podunk College when a degree from a state university would be much more prestigious? So the SLARCs might join together under a brand came can be even more prestigious. A brand name makes it possible for many small rural auto dealers to offer the same quality (and prestige) as the big auto dealer in the city. Experiments at brand names in higher education are already underway as noted by Levine (2000). Some for-profit distance education services now contract to offer business courses from `brand names’ like Wharton and technology courses from M.I.T, etc. As the smaller campus of the University of Missouri at Rolla can offer the prestigious `University of Missouri’ brand name on its diploma. When Podunk College joins the SLARC consortium, it could emphasize, for example, one niche focus as it announces:
A brand name could achieve international prestige—based on a new quality of community and offering excellent course from other campuses--without an existing college losing its own name, character, uniqueness and traditions. The president of West Virginia Wesleyan College (Haden 2001) reported that that “Our campus may be located in rural West Virginia but our students can reach out to the world, (enjoying) the benefits of both local touch and global reach.” (And global mission?) The college’s commitment to remain a strong liberal arts institution, he said, “can serve as a model for similar institutions nationwide” (why not worldwide?) as we capture the power of emerging technologies top enhance the liberal college environment.
What other weaknesses of small colleges might a virtual consortium overcome? To survive, many of them have become area colleges, serving commuting students much as Community Colleges do. This has meant that some of them, such as religious colleges, have had to minimize and neglect the values and traditions that were one of their major assets and contributions to higher education. As a result they lose even more money and students from their denominations. As part of a consortium each could build upon the value of being a unique residential learning community; for example, a college for feminists, a Roman Catholic college, an African-American college, tribal college for Indians, and a thousand other types. Thus a global consortium and system is developed from the bottom-up.
A major current problem of many SLARCs is financial. They need
Haden (2001) of West Virginia Wesleyan reported joining with five similar colleges in The Independent College Enterprise “to streamline administrative and data processing procedures and that they “hope “to increase our collaboration with other colleges and companies in the coming years.”
1.6.3 ACHIEVING EXCELLENCE TOGETHER
In a SLARC consortium each college might preserve and expand a unique cultural or traditional identity. One might be a math-oriented community, an Islamic community or both. This is something that other kinds of higher education institutions would find difficult to do. A Protestant residential college, however, that is part of a university such as the University of Toronto, might be included in the consortium if it developed a unique specialty to contribute to all the others. . As part of a SLARC consortium some of them again make a highly significant contribution to their denominations and to the entire Church. They could share courses in religion, each campus preparing to share one that is excellent. They could join in much larger scale and more significant research projects in religion. (See 2.16) Each religious college could become a center for retreats, conferences, research and continuing education in relation to one area of religious studies; and could--like the Evangelical Academies in Germany, or the Ecumenical Institute in Switzerland--become gathering places for research or dialog conferences of theologians and scientists. <http://www.metanexus.net/metanexus_online/index.asp>..
For excellence, each campus in the consortium would need to offer more than face-to-face community and personal attention. In this model each could create a residential learning sub-community in one unique area—that together could add up to a curriculum better that any large virtual university might offer. A thousand such face-to-face learning communities, scattered across the planet, could offer a thousand unique specialties and together thus constitute an impressive global learning system, --a system defined as many units working together. As a part of its research for instruction it could include `a game design program and other advanced technologies to share with a global learning system'
To illustrate, one SLARC might specialize in global nutrition problems, working closely with and helping nutrition specialists in many cultures and neighborhoods and at the same time offering specialized courses on nutrition for all SLARCs. That campus could be developed as a logical place for nutritionists to gather for conferences, professional meetings, marketing, periods of residence for solitary or collaborative work, etc., across a lifetime. Often these visiting experts could help create, evaluate and help update the online courses offered to the world, and the campus would attract the learners who want to work on problems in the field. Librarians on that campus might be the curators of nutrition manuscripts from many countries as well as link to information existing in libraries everywhere, collecting and preserving videos of village and urban nutrition programs and problems..
The many SLARC campuses could thus each become a center for lifelong learning, specialized research, and residential short courses for one of perhaps thousands of professional specializations. Podunk College could, for example, became a gathering place for those seeking to develop new kinds of music. It might encourage sub-communities for research or artistic creation that would bring together partnership teams of experts, teachers and students.
Each SLARC might specialize on research and action planning on its choice of one among a thousand basic human problems. The Center for Dispute Resolution that may get lost and ignored at a large university could be empowered to improve politics in a face-to-face community that specialized only in that, with faculty, visiting experts and students who are there to specialize in that unique area. That SLARC could become a center for and establish network connection with researchers, organizations, journals and activists all over the world in its area of specialization without in any way minimizing the opportunity for any student there to major in any other subject or take any other kind of course from vast choice of courses—not only from other SLARCs--but also from a wide range of electronic courses available on line from all kinds of institutions. The online catalog of a SLARC would offer World Wide Web connections to recommended courses for a major in any subject or transdisciplinary program.
Students who choose a campus because of its specialty could there be helped to design an individual learning program. Their term papers in that specialty could each year be passed on to the next generation for further research and improvement as at Dalton School. Many interests might better come into focus for an individual learner when, for example, a journalism major discovered an interest in dispute resolution in central Africa which would then open exciting new career opportunities and a need for online courses from other SLARCs. This could help develop a writing career that could begin while he is still a student; and which could across a lifetime be enriched through his continuing relationships with his SLARC as in his professional field. Small colleges have often developed such a specialty, but without the fund-raising possibilities and supportive international publicity and connections that a global consortium could provide. Successful economizing through joint purchasing was discussed in the Chronicle of HIgher Education, July 26, 2002.
This model is one which some learners and faculty in small liberal arts colleges could begin to dream about, much like the faculty-student collaboration to design a new ecology course and a campus (where the grounds demonstrate ecology practice) at Rice University. Some ideas for such discussion are:
As we examine the possibility that many small face-to-face colleges might focus on one specialization to share with all—often a specialization in a discipline where the campus already has expertise—then how would its research there in its specialty become part of and related to the coordinated efforts of major research universities? Together, SLARCs could each and all together be linked to major research universities. SLARC faculty and students could then participate in large research projects that can improve not only quality of courses and the prestige of campuses, but also can make a major contribution to solving global problems. For courses now available to colleges via PBS see: <http://www.pbs.org/campus/>.
The fact that each SLARC would focus on and specialize in one `content area’ could be an antidote to the current emphasis on technology for global lifelong learning. This SLARC consortium model might be seen as more than a way for smaller residential colleges to survive and cope with overwhelmingly powerful competition from the (Internet and telecommunications) mass-production courses offered by the world’s major universities and business corporations and taught by `professor stars. Why take a technology course from Podunk College when one can take the course online from M.I.T? Why take a writing course at Podunk when Harvard offers one on the Internet that offers lectures by leading authors?
SLARCs, we suggest, could offer short term resident continuing education to people of any age who are interested in their specialty. A SLARC could provide a place where an older learner could spend time in a rich and intimate residential environment, an intellectual community with personal acquaintance with resident novelists, for example, if that is what a learner is seeking. At the same time, the student who wanted the community that a SLARC offered but did not go there because that campus could not offer the journalism major she also wanted, could easily transfer to another campus for a year – since they are all part of the same virtual university. Or at her own SLARC she could take any course –Robotics or Chinese-- from the university that offers the best ones in the world. At the same time, as a partner in the residential community, she could join others in providing feedback as an aid in improving courses and modules for the whole consortium, and one free online course for impoverished areas of the world.
Kirp (2003) had described Dickenson as a college that has found its `niche.'
1.6.4 A CONSORTIUM CAN WHOLESALE COURSE MODULES
When an instructor uses an electronic course module or package (see 3.7 here) prepared by a specialized team on another campus-- which like an electronic text book (3.7 here) can be updated each year to include new research and to take account of feedback from users—they can share feedback and can
Many small colleges are in danger of closing because they cannot afford expensive technologies that are essential for meeting the competition. Collaborating in the purchase of technology could often greatly reduce the cost from what it would cost if each negotiated with the vender alone. Also when a large number of colleges collaborate, they together can take advantage of technology that may be too expensive for each of them alone. For example, the New York Times on 9 Nov. 2000 reported on `VLearn 3-D' (and there is something new and better every day) that can make possible classrooms which model famous places, events, or objects such as the inside of a microcomputer which increases the personal element in online education. The incorporation of virtual reality and other powerful technologies will at first be very expensive. However, , the collaboration of a large number of educational institutions can put pressure on the creators of such technologies to develop what higher education most needs. The vice-president for Computing Services at Carnegie-Mellon, for example, (Furthey 2001) has lamented the slow pace in development of large-scale, distributed computer environments that are adequate to “meet the distinctive requirements of higher education.” However, higher education institutions can be “living laboratories for systems in ways that vendors cannot hope to replicate in their labs or across an entire corporation.” If higher education institutions are “to stop throwing resources into a black hole, she says, they need to solve the problem in ways “that let student spend more time in learning, the faculty more time in teaching and research…Clearly, the magnitude of the task will be large…but,” she says, “Anything seems possible.”
One criticism of a SLARC consortium idea is that residential campuses, being more expensive, perpetuate an elite, separating SLARC students from those who can only afford to commute. However, a SLARC may--in addition to its niche-- also continue to serve its local area by offering any online course to commuting students, many of whom attend college part time because they also have full time jobs. However, a teenager whose family can afford can have the opportunity for the SLARC residential experience even while taking a vocational skills course online. Also a consortium of SLARCs can set up a larger-scale alternative funding and scholarship possibilities for students who will do better on a small, more personal residential campus. (Also see 1.3, 2.3 and 3.2). Also, until there is experimentation no one is yet sure what the effects will be when all students on a small campus have the `swarming' technology the Rheingold (2003) describes in Smart Mobs, which he sees as probably creating significant new learning communities.
In this model, all SLARCs, and not just the religious colleges, should enlarge their vision to include the entire world, and not only through exchanging students in residence. Nor would any one college necessarily have a monopoly on a specialty, as can be seen in several more illustrations.
The UN University of Peace in Costa Rica might be included in a sub-consortium of Peace Institutes and colleges in many countries that engaged in research and teaching of peace studies. Also peace studies departments of large university could also be linked and related.
SLARCs that feature one kind of music or another could all be linked in a global consortium of all kinds of music schools; some focusing on composing, some on production of musical events, some on religious music or Middle Eastern or South Asian music with close links to residential colleges in those countries. The first opera designed for presentation on the Internet <http://www.blackart/sour/htm> suggests many such innovative projects that a specialized SLARC might create, much as a small regional theatre creates and tries out dramas in the home that they will go to Broadway. <http://www.apple.com/education/profiles/sacramento/>
A cluster of residential colleges in many countries might work together on history and archeology, often in close relation to archeologists on the field. They would then logically be related also to a college like Macalester which “combines courses in traditional classical subjects”--Latin, Greek, history, ancient texts—with “interdisciplinary courses that reflect students’ interests in issues of ethnicity, gender and class.” (Monaghan 2000)
A residential liberal arts college near a correctional institution might use it as a laboratory in a specialty program on crime and delinquency. How would a course, say, in criminology for example, be different if on a medical model it treated each inmate individually with unique problems and possibilities? And if it had a global perspective, bringing into focus all the points of view of all countries and cultures on punishment, rehabilitation and crime prevention’ and if research made it possible, on a medical model, to treat each case individually? See "Prisoners in a Virtual Classroom," Chronicle of Higher Education, Aril 2, 2004 and 2.13 here.
A cluster of SLARCs that specialize in the history, culture, anthology and archeology of a locality and then be linked to research universities that link disciplines in a regional and global pattern of such research.
In each case, a residential community could provide a unique dimension of personal discussion and collaboration among learners and faculty who are working together online and across international boundaries. Many such telecommunication classes would be small seminars. Some SLARCS might be a part of a larger university and would focus on one area of global need, such as water shortages, ending global poverty etc..
Each college--with its unique specialty--would need its own vision for the future. But where can we look for a global vision to facilitate choice among many possible specialties, models and scenarios that are closely connected to the needs of the larger society and the local community? In any case, building from the bottom-up.
The UNESCO conference on Higher Education and Foresight, journal of strategic planning and policy, February 1999) have suggested questions that challenge any discussion of a SLARC consortium, especially in the context of providing adequate education for everyone in the world. What can be expected from harried college presidents and trustees?
If the SLARC consortium idea does not appeal to you or apply to you, the next four chapters will explore other models for virtual lifelong learning where many of the same questions should be asked, especially how can this model facilitate the use of the Internet and other technologies to provide basic education for everyone in the world.
The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View