THE FUTURE OF HIGHER
(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)
Volume I - Chapter Four
(Last updated April 1,, 2008) In Chinese following the bibliography
PLANNING FOR A QUIET REVOLUTION
Neither the entire world nor any one nation can long be healthy and thrive while large percentages of people lack adequate learning for health care, jobs, and survival. What is not yet clear, however, is the extent to which programs of electronic lifelong learning can help bring the necessary opportunities and quality into every community, school, college, university, and research program in the world. Aren’t distance and distributed learning only one aspect of a needed global system? How do we build new structures for technologically-enabled learning that are sociotechnological?
The `quiet revolution' that is essential--and probably inevitable--puts global virtual learning into a much larger context. For purposes of discussion let's be challenged by Peter Drucker--who said that the knowledge revolution is leading the world into an entirely new era--and by Jean-Francois Rischard (2002) who has made comprehensive proposals for how to deal with complexity. His ideas, summarized by Scully (2002) assume that a "crisis of complexity is brewing" as human problems become "more pressing, more global ands more difficult to solve--technically and politically." The structures for human learning -- as all other areas of human society -- "fall short.--the future belongs to flatter, faster, more network-like organizations." They must move beyond traditional hierarchal ways of doing things in order to overcome political and technological hurdles. It will require, Rischard proposes, "a new mentality, "a vision of of the situation 20 years down the line and then work back to the intermediate steps needed to realize that vision, figuring who would have to take these steps." That is especially true in education.
Already, (Norris et al 2003) it is clear that "e-knowledge is not just a digitalized collection of knowledge" but includes "contents, context and insights." It is the act "of achieving understanding by interacting with individuals, communities of practice, and knowledge in an interconnected world," involving knowledge sharing and `a knowledge economy.' Norris et al. have pointed out that many academics are unreflective about the nature of knowledge--generally treating it as a `thing--and "there is little systematic sharing of knowledge, especially across disciplinary boundaries.. Because of powerful new technologies they feel that by 2020 the way we experience knowledge will be greatly enriched. They report examples of developing `ecological knowledge cultures' at universities in several countries. See, for example: <http://www.transformingknowledge.info/>.
A 21st century `democratic university' (Raskin 2004) should focus on human dignity and decency, the `social good' and the human rights of all people; and our thesis here includes all learning. The same must be true of a planning and management system for global education for all ages. Adequate planning is not being undertaken now for the future time when Internet connections can be completed to every school and neighborhood in the developing world. Plans need to be for funding, for the structure of a global education system, for governance and structure for the rural neighborhood, such as an `education consumers cooperative with links to a regional community college that is part of a global education consortium. Planning should begin on how to manage curriculum competition and glut, for globally affordable electronic textbooks and modules; on the role that market forces will play, an for adaptation to all kinds of technology that the global learner may have.
As proposed in the preface, let’s explore the idea of a large international online planning conference on the possibilities of global virtual lifelong learning, and yes, do so in the context of universities and what they need to be in the information age future. UNESCO in 2005 took steps--following up on its excellent Paris conference that is discussed in various sections here--with a series of `virtual university' online seminars, one on open source content that involved over 400 experts in 97 countries, plus many other observers. Next, we suggest, perhaps there could be follow-up conferences that might ultimately involve five to ten thousand `education' planners on line together, as a highly significant experiment in collective intelligence. It would build upon the experience of the Global Knowledge (GK97) Conference in Toronto (2.4.1) and more recent online conferences that involved thousands of participants from over a hundred countries.(3.10). This could make it possible for comprehensive planning groups at every needed category, especially in the developing world, to participate online. Where and how? See, for example: <http://www.tappedin.org>.
However, the larger-scale online conference proposed here would never stop, but would continue until all the major problems are solved. A high percentage of those thousands of participants would be members of local and developing-world planning groups. As a way to deal with some of the dangers and worries, the public sector should be invited to participate actively, also representative people from the World Bank (and other such agencies), from government ministries such as those involved in the Development Gateway Foundation and its critics; <http://www.developmentgateway.org> all would be involved in raising questions and collecting case studies of `best practice.’ Advance papers would be prepared to propose many possible answers to important questions. The papers could all be online months in advance for local group preparation.
President John R. Campbell (Oklahoma State University, retired) has suggested that in this time of rapid change and uncertain futures there ought to be--at the heart of every great university-- a transdisciplinary team that draws upon every discipline in exploring possible new visions and procedures for learning structures as they come into being in and beyond cyberspace. Paul Miller--former president of Rochester Tech and the University of West Virginia—suggested in a brain storming session--that a pilot project to transform one existing major institution into a segment of a truly global lifelong education system--should begin with a three-year study by fifty people, one third from a university; one third from the community, for example to learn what skills future learners will need in the next two decades; and the other third should be outside experts. How else can a process be initiated to intelligently and relevantly “reform our entire educational system?” And such planning groups, including any continuing work could be linked to and enabled by a global online planning conference (See 3.10).
During such a local planning conference little time would be spent on speeches. Most participants would be in small groups. Online meetings might, for example, discuss previously-prepared papers sentence by sentence; then re-drafting them so as to take account of the suggestions and comments of thousands who participate online. Each conference report could be an online book that would make the redrafted documents available to planners and educators anywhere in the world. Many of the conference groups would continue meeting on line to continue discussion and planning. Some of them, often drawing one person from each local planning group, might continue meeting online for years.
The process of the conference, as an exercise in collective intelligence, might be one of the important contributions it would make to all future planning for learning, related to the issue discussed in various current scholarly conferences such as: “The Coming Super-intelligence: Who Will Be In Control?” Pór (2001), exploring the potential of collective intelligence, pointed out that social progress is lagging badly behind technological progress. Now, however, humanity—as never before in history—has the opportunity “to optimize the design of social institutions for closing the gap between the human conditions and human potential.” <http://www.co-intelligence.org/P-dialogue.html> .
It is crucial that the planning agenda focus on vision and on teaching and learning for all in the world, not just on administrative and institutional structures, however important those may be. Parallel faculty sessions might involve the cooperation of many projects like MERLOT, for example. <http://taste.merlot.org/> . It is "an international cooperative for high quality online resources to improve learning and teaching."
What, Pór asked, could “be a scenario which would bind together some of the richest and poorest countries of the world into a higher order learning system?” Imagine, he suggests, if a `learning society’ agenda were to evolve, and part of it was “a global forum on the dangers of digital divides both between and within countries. What if its design was optimized for learning outcomes valuable to all participants and then if the organizers of the next G8 meeting and the accompanying Global Social Forum started collaborating on addressing the toughest issues “with the best possible design for a multi-stakeholder problem-solving conference held online and off-line?” (See 3.10) What could the rich countries get from it? Well, besides their contribution to a better world and life for everyone, wouldn’t the development and testing of an effort to mobilize symbiotic intelligence be highly valuable?
Pór has had other suggestions that can be very helping in thinking about the future of individualized virtual lifelong learning. The Internet and Web are becoming an ‘electrified’ nervous system is the infrastructure needed for the self-organization and self-improvement of a community's collective intelligence.” He foresees a global collective intelligence as most likely coming into being as an ecosystem of globally interconnected intelligent communities growing a knowledge system of insights, information, and inspiration, supported by an ecosystem of technologies. Pór uses the term “design”--an aid to emergence of new social forms--as a “creative, decision-oriented, disciplined inquiry that aims:
Pór helps us with some of the questions that might be discussed in a global virtual online planning conference:
The more complex the problems are, Pór suggested, the more likely it (the process) will be involve learning communities rather than just individuals; requiring inter-organizational webs and alliances. He speaks of the evolutionary fitness of a community <http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/tools/wef.shtml.> He uses a “learning expedition” metaphor for an activity system of collaborative inquiry that includes such subsystems as: seeking shared meaning and purpose; designing and improving the expedition community’s communication and knowledge-creating systems and practices. This metaphor suggests that the online conference proposed here would hope for three types of outcomes: the development of new or enhanced individual and collective competence; research contributions to the evolution of knowledge and better maps of a particular knowledge landscape; and design outcome, in our case new designs for a global lifelong learning system.
As these and other problems and ideas are raised at a planning conference, can we anticipate a new holistic, global design for information-age learning as a serious goal and outcome? We will suggest some possibilities in the next chapters, especially volume 3.. Below here are some other current suggestions.
A planning process—including how to provide online learning for everyone in the world—might profitably begin by considering some models for the future of higher education that have been suggested, none of which address the need to provide lifelong education for all, although (c) below makes a beginning.
(1) The NEA—U.S. National Education Association—wants education that is “not be limited to a particular age or income group. Four possibilities were proposed for discussion, One critic here suggests that these NEA models are intended as satire.) We propose that -- like everything in this online book-- they can stimulate the imagination and raise important questions.
The NEA also (cynical tongue in cheek?) suggested four market-driven possibilities: (a) MacCollege, Inc., “where the student swipes the debit card in the computer and is connected with a program monitored by online faculty” situated in a low-rage Macquilladora area of Mexico; (b) Wired University which prides itself as preserving its high quality by hiring “star performing professors who are managed by Screen-Guilt type agents.” Sports facilities are leased to professional sports franchises. (c ) Outsourced Tech which—in keeping with corporate trends—hired `business visionaries’ to redesign the institution to create the most cost-efficient operation with all employees laid off and rehired as hourly, part-time workers. Work study students replace librarians. Courses are outsourced to business corporations. (d) Warehouse A&M with lectures for 3000 students per class and all personal contact between students and faculty being accidental.
(2) President Duderstadt (2000) has proposed some models for the future that are more suggestive of ideas for global lifelong learning: (a) The Diverse University, with ethnic, racial, cultural and geographical variety; (b) The Creative University that focuses on new knowledge, art and so forth, with students as members of teams including faculty for creation of knowledge; (c ) The Divisionless University that “will be far less specialized and far more integrated. A web of structures some real and some virtual will provide both horizontal and vertical integration among the disciplines and programs for professional preparation; (d) The Cyberspace University that links “a vast information network,” offering what ever is needed to anyone anywhere that wants it, with the “promise of enhancing “the intellectual environment of everyone;” (e) The Adult University which no longer offers undergraduate education, but with world-class professors admits only those advanced learners who are intellectually and emotionally mature; (f) The Lifelong University which contract to provide continuing education for a learner’s entire life. It also designs program to bring together undergraduate and older adults who are in the same career areas; and (g) The Laboratory University which gives priority to research and development of profitable products.
(3) Are computer simulation models of existing or possible future educational institutions needed? Dr. Farhad Saba designed a model that “simulates several key factors in any educational institution.” The robustness of any model, he points out, depends on the selection of its variables and the integrity of the equations defining their relationships. His model, he said, might be expandable to study a university. Jacobson (2000) suggested that “as campus web sites grow and mature, as we continue to add content and process, we are nearing the time when the campus Web will become a software model of the institution.” With a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, William Massey—a higher education researcher at Stanford University—created “a sophisticated financial and managerial model of how a university operates.” The model was based on data from 1,200 institutions. Called `Virtual U,' it provides a way to try out hiring policies, budget problems, etc., "without any serious consequences." (Foreman 2003).
Would it help global education planners see from where they have come if there were simulation models of the four historic types of universities described by Guy Neave (1998) of the International Association of Universities. (a) The Napoleonic model where the state took over the university to foster national aims and goals; (b) the Humboldtian model in Germany which was copied by major research universities; (c ) The Market-Driven University with close ties to industry and the economy; and (d) The British system of academic independence and autonomy. Many efforts are underway to help universities int he developing world, such as the quarterly Journal of Higher Education in Africa--a collaboration between Boston and Dakar--that was in 2003 free to educators and policy makers in Africa.
(4) Nearly all the needed technologies are in place for planning new models to bring greater excellence and professionalism into learning at all levels. Duderstadt’s (2000) suggestions include the long-range goal of a tailored education program for each unique individual. (3.3.1) Individualized self-directed education, he proposes, should be achievable within two generations. However, the individual—also in health care--cannot be separated from the influences of family, neighborhood and community, economic opportunity and from support systems of more adequate support communities.
A preventive health care medical model may be helpful here, for example, to replace the “same course for all” lecture system. It might include:
(a) Personalized Attention to the Individual. (More detail in (3.3) As each person should have a Primary Physician (M.D.) for annual physical examination and regular attention when health problems arise, so also each learner might have an equally qualified Master Teacher (M. T. or perhaps Doctor of Learning) who would regularly examine each person to make to help plan a continuing learning regime. In health care, would we want to replace individualized medical examinations with a mass test applied to everyone so that the same castor oil could be prescribed for all? In time our mass-produced standard subject-matter tests would be replaced with individualized testing that adequately takes account of unique learning style, talents, opportunities, needs, handicaps, limitations diagnosis. At each periodic examination the questions and procedures should take account of the learning history of the individual, should propose programs for deficiencies and more Some effort is made to do so with students who are mentally or, physically handicapped or `challenged.” Shouldn’t every learner have a support team of physical, mental and spiritual specialist/advisors. In the future the lifelong record of every individual should be used in all testing. (See 3.3.1 on such a profile.) Including medical records of each learner, a computerized the educational record should be holistic, including all information about an individual that may affect learning progress. Immediately there are objections, questions of privacy (which can be solved with some difficulty) and of expense. As computerized medical records become more sophisticated it will be easy to add other information as well; and much of the educational and other data will also be is medically relevant, for much physician time is given to stress, accidents, abuse and so forth. Also, learning counselors must give much more attention to a holistic partnership with schools, families and community. (See 3.3 for more.)
Many people do not adequately follow preventive health recommendations—such as diet and exercise—of their physicians, such as many learners do not adequate follow the recommendations of their teachers and education counselors; indeed many college students resent intrusions into their personal behavior and problems as being education-related. Behavior in both cases might be improved with automated daily reminders. Indeed, an adequate `education for all’ program for the entire world will require a great deal of such automation. Certainly the continuing lack of enough trained people for more holistic examination and records will require automated record keeping and cross-indexing of records. Such automation can, for example, be built into electronic textbooks that test each learner during each unit of work. This suggestion looks ahead to a time when much of the world’s routine work in education will be automated, freeing instructors for more time for personal coaching, teaching, tutoring and face-to-face counseling. This can be supported from tradition as a return to `Oxford’ style personal tutoring.
Many learners need a support team of volunteers to help them cope with difficulties. Beyond Big Brothers/Big Sisters and such programs, some need a team approach across many years, even though members of a local support team may change from time to time. Instead of changing teachers each year–or each hour in secondary school–perhaps every learner should have the same teacher--or tutoring/counseling team–across many years for guidance. It is quite possible that juvenile delinquency and adult crime can be greatly reduced in this way. A support team, including Master Teacher and Physician, can help develop a tailored education plan, at all ages, which might include summer camp, art or music lessons, and other kinds of developmental experiences. For certainly not all learning will take place online!
For the individual delinquent, corrective data and models on learning deficiencies at all levels may begin with crises and problems; for example when learners are delinquent, addicted, runaways from inadequate families, and so forth. Structured learning can greatly profit if early warning signs of difficulty result in holistic examinations and a team approach to solutions. Local instructors, as a serious goal and outcome, can have time for personal attention to each individual if we automate many routine chores. (More in volume 3.)
(b) More adequate and comprehensive diagnostic testing will not just be intellectual. At some colleges the entering student has a thorough physical examination and then is required to follow a regime of physical development to overcome or compensate for any weaknesses, and to get instruction in some kind of sport or physical development program that can be continued lifelong. Shouldn’t such a thorough examination and plan be enlarged to discover regularly other weaknesses: mental, skills development, spiritual development? (Spiritual at least as meaning the arts, creativity, imagination.) Supervised experiences in the workplace or at a time of transition, call also help a learner discover a vocation or a passion that can motivate new learning.
(3) However, whether or not such individualized goals are achievable with present or future technology and resources, here in Volume One we are thinking about planning for transformed institutional forms for learning. As there are efforts to create world economic and weather models, so also what about an equally huge lifelong global learning model? It might ultimately include `best practice’ models from all over the world, including profiles of classes, departments, and of entire colleges and universities. Both medicine and education can greatly profit from more holistic research on a planet with so much ignorance and illness. (2.17 ) <http://www.newciv.org/ISSS_Primer/seminar.html>
As satellite photos are increasingly used to provide a holistic picture of each small neighborhood, a global lifelong learning model might include data on the adequacy and needs of every neighborhood `school' in the world. What can we learn from their successes and how can they be helped with their failures? Perhaps we also need a global warning system, an alert to every local school and neighborhood that is failing many of its learners, much as a global medical system needs information on contagious disease from every neighborhood. (2.9.5).
(4). Research on more holistic learning (2.17) should be a high priority at a global planning conference. At one major university it was years ago proposed that the medical school, law school, school of education and theological school should all be moved into joint facilities in a slum, where they would learn teamwork in dealing with human crises. Only the medical school went, and has provided high quality care and case study experience in dealing with the most serious problems. However, in that neighborhood where there are so many tragic human failures there are no specialized teachers; indeed one fifth grade class in that neighborhood had a different substitute teacher every month of the school year. Why does that university—of all institutions—give more attention to the body than to the mind?
This suggests a need for better, continuing research on learning (See 2.17) of a quality comparable to the medical research that has in the last half century transformed diagnostic and surgical practices, if not yet all health care. Would not that neighborhood, full of delinquency, provide case studies and clinical opportunities for teachers in training as well as for physicians in training? In addition to a higher quality of transdisciplinary research, perhaps the most important contribution of the preventive health/medical model of professionalism and clinical training is the essential teamwork and holism that has to come to play as a result of the explosion in the quantity of medical knowledge. It increasingly requires not only specializations, but also multi-professional teamwork to cope with the vast amount of data that will be involved in a global health plan to provide adequate health care, and preventive health education for every person on the planet. Perhaps that dreamt-of collaboration of professional schools can take begin in virtual space sooner than on campus? (1.10)
So also a planning conference will no doubt call for more detailed research on how to provide more adequate learning for everyone on the planet.
(5) Shortages and availability of knowledge and learning, like shortages of food, are often a matter of politics, but there is also the crucial question of what can be afforded. The quality of learning in many developing nations, for example, declined with the deterioration of the economy and the presence of huge foreign debt. How can that process be reversed without significant outside help?
Planners must not expect too much from technology alone, which often creates as many new problems as solutions, yet radio and television have been effectively used in many parts of the world to bring learning to places where it was lacking. In fact, such technologies may be the best and most affordable way to bring lifelong quality learning to many of the world s deprived areas. To improve the quality of existing schools, learning via TV and computer networking and Internet access should not replace local teachers but should help them do a better job by enlarging the resources available to them and by training them to use such resources.
Many of the electronic learning packages now available in Europe and North America would not be acceptable to other cultures or adequate to meet the needs of many other countries. Officials of the British Open University, however, have pointed to a “vast store of educational programming” that educators in other countries could adapt and translate for use. It is very expensive to create a distance learning course, but once it is created, and tested through use, it could be made available to poor areas at modest cost. The quality and adaptability of such materials are greatly enhanced by the Internet that makes possible interactive two-way participation, where TV and radio have largely been one-way communication. New tools also make it possible to aid educators in each country and culture in creating and adapting the types of educational programs that are most needed and that could be most effective there.
Many people, however, especially in developing countries, worry that the best intentioned international electronic education, much like entertainment television and commercial films, may become a new form of cultural and economic colonialism, especially if rich industrialized corporations come to dominate the Internet as they have co-opted global television for entertainment. As Finn (1997) warned, will learning institutions also be dominated by such commercial and `entertainment’ interests? A future solution to this problem may be seen in free online Wiki textbooks, for example.
Television and the Internet--like many Asian universities themselves (Lauby 1987)-- are largely a Western import, founded by people with Western values, worldviews, and the concerns of Western civilization. Often, instead of educating people to meet the real needs of their countries, “exported” universities turn out Western-style lawyers and bureaucrats in a much greater supply than is required. So there is an urgent need in the emerging electronic university to recover indigenous history, value systems, religious insights, art, music, and literature as the foundation for higher education in each culture. For example, Lauby asks, what would Indian higher education be like if it issued from the mainsprings of Indian thought and cultural traditions, and if it were solidly rooted in the soul of India?
This is not, however, an either/or situation. In Asia and elsewhere, learning must also be oriented to international problems and to the emerging global society to prepare a new generation for worldwide citizenship. This will require a “partnership style of education” among the nations and a planning conference must deal with the issue of languages.
(6) Where one-way radio, films, television, and music CDs—often in the English language--have been largely dominated by Europe and America, the new computer-managed interactive and two-way communication technologies can be an antidote to colonialism and authoritarianism everywhere. These two-way communication technologies make possible more of a partnership in which economically underdeveloped countries can trade lectures, courses, and databases on their history and culture for the latest scientific lectures from other countries.
A global planning conference should therefore give more attention to ways to get translation into every culture as well language and dialect, first especially into southern and eastern Asian countries that have half of the world’s population. Even as much of the process becomes automated, it is going to be time-consuming and expensive.
The electronic global learning system need not ask a student in Indonesia or France to choose between a traditional course on campus or an electronic course from overseas. Where it is useful or desired, the traditional course, with lectures and discussion on campus, can be supplemented and enriched by some videotape lectures by a distant specialist, and “electronic classroom discussion” between students in France and a specialist lecturer in Indonesia or vice versa. A videotaped lecture may come by mail or it can be downloaded from a satellite if it is important to have the most up-to-date information immediately. A class or individual learner can view the videotape and discuss it, and each individual learner can review it, over and over if necessary, to cope with linguistic limitations and formulate questions before the class meets electronically with the expert in another country for questions and discussion. The local instructor can counsel and guide members of a class to profit from such electronically provided resources. (3.4 and 3.6) Much of contemporary international education projects are personal exchange, not electronic.
These numbered ideas are just suggestive of some possible agenda items that participants in a global planning conference might consider.
(7) Another point of view for the agenda of a global planning conference? Mayur of India has insisted that electronic opportunities must be provided for “everyone, wherever that person may be” and must include all significant kinds of literacy (cultural, technical, mathematical, scientific). never for a moment neglecting the illiterate villagers of Asia or Africa.
At first it would seem that primary and secondary-level learning would only be provided within the boundaries of a country, and not by “electronic providers” from outside. The goal of heightened quality, however, involves an internationalization of learning resources, especially in science and foreign language. John Southworth at the University of Hawaii, for example, conducted a decade of imaginative experiments and demonstrations, via a computer network, to connect primary and secondary school pupils with similar age group classrooms in other countries. Research and experience show that high quality learning can be provided via new technologies where it cannot otherwise be affordable or available.
(8) An eighth issue for global planning is how best to use not only all languages, but also to help each learner—whether at home or overseas—to have an education within his or her own culture. One place to begin will be to provide institutional forms for virtual learning that will (a) provide global and regional administrators and `boards’ that are broadly representative of developing countries; that will therefore be committed to relevant learning for all, and not just an elite; that will make it possible for local planners and learners to define their own needs and interests; and that will give priority to promoting kinds of learning that people in each neighborhood and culture want and prefer. And (b) that have provisions for obtaining local feedback even from developing country neighborhoods.
Protection against colonialism has been illustrated in the statements of purpose and philosophy of Global Education Associates (GEA), which has operated in seventy-eight countries; and in those of the GLOSAS/Global University projects, as well as other groups seeking to give some leadership to the emerging global lifelong learning. GEA, for example, has sought to define the cultural context, taking account of such factors as regional history giving way to an era of global history; the emergence of an interrelated multifaceted global economy; the coming into existence of a worldwide interstate system that is eroding traditional boundaries between domestic and international politics; a world culture emerging on top of traditional local and regional cultures; human beings everywhere taking new account of the ecological unity of the planet; and international networking in industry, politics, and education and expanding international institutions.
With such factors in mind, GEA proposed that the foundation for global learning rests on new common understandings, such as the realization that respecting others who are different enriches rather than diminishes each of us; that common human needs and dreams underlie cultural differences; and that the globally educated person will be one who acts intelligently to promote a more humane domestic and foreign policy; compassionately to contribute to the solution of humanity s common problems; realistically to seek to eradicate hunger and improve the quality of life for all; vigorously to try to promote justice; conscientiously to aim to become involved in the peaceful resolution of conflict with the goal of outlawing war; and responsibly to curb wasteful consumption of the world’s resources. Obviously a global planning conference will here face difficult decisions and issues.
Those planning the Global University System (GUS) project, in part building upon these GEA values and principles published a booklet in Italy (DeMaio and Utsumi 1991) that proposed guidelines for emerging global lifelong learning. The proposals, summarized below, suggest a philosophy of worldwide electronic learning that gives priority to the needs and concerns of developing countries. This and many other details are elaborated in Varis et. al. (2004). also on line and on CD..
These principles and values have since then be revised and improved at various conferences, such as those proposed at the 1997 Paris UNESCO conference. <http://www.unesco.org>
How can individual learners—and even some whole nations-- afford the emerging global virtual university?
But a global planning conference cannot ignore the digital divide in a world where only a small faction of the population has ever even seen a telephone. Nevertheless, the Internet is increasingly interconnecting all the world’s learning centers, including primary and secondary schools in poverty areas. Some secondary school students are preparing to operate neighborhood tele-centers. (2.18) Already in the 1980's Branscomb (1989) pointed out that as in “research tele-collaboration, distance learning leveraged economies of scale through the sharing of a valuable resource, was increasing productivity [by reducing both travel time and costs] and compensates for isolation.” The poverty of many underdeveloped countries does not result from a lack of resources but from a lack of learning and the ability to use their own resources.
Despite forthcoming successful ways to reduce drastically the costs of exchanging courses and lectures, some countries still cannot afford even the initial demonstrations and experimentation; and evidently many national education officials in developing countries are not yet convinced that distance learning is worth its sacrificial cost. Its first most evident usefulness has been in upgrading the qualifications and skills of teachers and to provide technicians. Even there, however, even when existing distance learning is only internal as when a nation connects to deprived rural areas for its own citizens, existing efforts are rarely yet equal partnerships between those who give and those who receive, or partnerships that share with the poor and illiterate. So even as new and more idealistic long-range goals are provided, only the present limited systems will continue to expand and develop, at least until major governments begin to provide large sums for a truly global system. We will suggest one possibility in the section (1.10) on `global land grant colleges.’.
Some of the best agricultural universities in Asia began as farms where youngsters with only a primary school education were taught better farming methods, so planners of a global learning strategy must not neglect skills or the illiterate. However, planners would need to consider the nature of a global curriculum. Initially, of course, the curriculum may simply include everything offered online, a total curriculum of all courses from all institutions on all subjects. But simply to add together all courses offered in all countries would fall far short of what is needed in the poorest areas of the world, and in minority and aboriginals’ cultures. Their first wishes may also not be what they most need: medicine and health, agriculture, entrepreneurial skills and simple technological guidance. Only an elite minority are ready for engineering, and computer science but that must be available too for those who are ready.
For the developing world elite, such as the employees and potential employees of international companies, there already is a demonstrated need for much more, beginning with information technology and communications services. Initial surveys found distance learning to be a cost-effective method of providing quality training. Distance education has been in many cases and adequate, and often the only way to provide such education that is wanted by employers. Unfortunately many employees fiind that existing online education is not really offering (1) the skills that they want and need or at the desired time and place. However the first possible funding to provide the infrastructure--that later can be used by all--most often will come from business corporations and healthcare, which are going to be major partners in the emerging global learning system.
It can be a great mistake to see that system as send electronically to other countries only courses and programs (and methods) now being offered domestically on campus. There may be value in some teleconferencing to classes or to learners who come together at a remote site. Such groups of individuals, meeting at a nearby primary school to receive a course electronically, can share costs that, even if subsidized by a government, would be difficult or impossible for any one student to afford alone. However, emerging new technologies are going to make possible what no one has anticipated before.
A global conference should of course heed the warnings that much hype is involved in enthusiasm about information age technology. Herring (in Ess 2001) warns that it may “accelerate cultural homogenization,” pointing out the lack of research “on the effects of computer networking on the world’s cultures.” In the past there has been great enthusiasm about education being transformed by other new technologies, such as television. Most Internet and web content, like TV “is permeated by western values of individual freedom, religious agnosticism, open sexuality, and free market capitalism.” So culture that value “group harmony, religious faith, sexual modesty and/or economic restraint” may reject education over the Internet as “a vehicle of foreign ideology.”
Ess himself--and expert on Internet ethics--points to critics who warn against an `electronic utopianism’ that rests upon `questionable myths.’ How, a planning conference must ask, can the commercialization of for-profit education, especially as it migrates to the Internet, avoid “exploitation, alienation and disparities between the haves and the have-nots?” In the Ess book there are suggestions of ways in which local cultures can be preserved and enhanced. His research also reveals cultural prejudices in the very technology, such as the Internet itself.
Now in light of the suggested principles above, chapters 1-6 to 1-10 propose five possible
administrativee systems and models for higher educations--that begin with what exists-- as a basis for discussion and planning on how they
are to be involved in lifelong learning for all. Of course there are others
Meanwhile, since networking is crucial, Watts (2003) has proposed that "the new science of networks must bring together from all the disciplines the relevant ideas and the people who understand them...a network of scientists collectively solving problems that cannot be solved by any single individual alone or even by any single discipline." More on that in volume three.
The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View