- For the time being the traditional lecture format still works for higher education, but as "other organizations can create credentials of equal or greater value, universities, as they are currently structured, are in trouble," wrote Steven Murphy, the president of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, in a guest post for The Globe and Mail.
- The reason for that, he wrote, is that the ways of delivering education are changing drastically, with opportunities like free-machine learning courses from Google. Murphy contends that while most institutions are trying to experiment, the industry as a whole is lagging behind with innovation, especially as pressure mounts to improve efficiency and reduce operational costs.
- To confront this challenge, Murphy offered three pieces of advice. First, institutions should partner with the private sector "to enhance experiential learning." Second, they should turn risk management into an opportunity for embracing change, where disruptive technological advances can be beneficially leveraged; and, finally, institutions ought to educate administrators and boards of governors on how to prepare for disruption, setting "benchmarks to measure innovation outcomes."
Murphy is not the first higher education leader to proclaim that universities and colleges must innovate in order to survive. Gordon Gee, a longtime educator and president of West Virginia University, has said leaders need to "blow up the box" by introducing creative products like stackable degrees or embracing disruptive technologies, such as blockchain to enhance the business model.
Though industry experts also contend there's an important caveat when it comes to embracing change — and that's to do it strategically. The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America considered this topic extensively in a report titled “Innovation, Transformation, and Change Leadership" released earlier this year. The author, Maureen Devlin, a TIAA fellow and senior advisor to the Forum for the Future of Higher Education, looked into best practices across the industry and concludes that innovating while deviating away from the institutional mission could lead to more consequences than benefits.
The proper balance, she wrote, is to "cut through the noise" of all the rhetoric within the industry about innovating and focus in on the changes that make the most sense to the institution, its customers and its mission. In the report, Edward Leonard, former president of Bethany College, a small institution in Kansas, sums this idea up:
“If you don’t align the culture to where you want to be, the culture’s going to be a firewall and it’s going to block you,” he wrote. “We knew we had to begin to move the culture to being more entrepreneurial, being more innovative. It’s okay to experiment and fail. We’ll celebrate that failure, because now we know what not to do.”