I return to teaching

It might be early July this week, but I’m thinking… back to school!  That’s because this fall I will teach a university class for the first time in a while.

The class concerns the future of higher education.  Its full name is LDES-703-01: Studies in Higher Education, and will take place in Georgetown University’s Master of Arts in Learning and Design.

It will mostly be online, a mix of live, synchronous sessions (delivered across Zoom once per week) and asynchronous work (see below).  Hopefully I will also be able to be on site once or twice, travel logistics depending.

What’s in the class, and how will I do it?  I’ll share my syllabus, along with notes on class exercises, if you’re interested.

For now, here’s the description:

The class will explore the varied and complex forces reshaping higher education. We start with change drivers outside of academia, including demographic, macroeconomic, and policy trends. We then address forces within higher education, such as new credentials, enrollment changes, the role of the library, tuition, and access. Next we dig into digital technologies and their impact on colleges and universities. For final projects students will produce scenarios for possible future campuses.

Readings will also include books by Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz (The Race between Education and Technology), Tressie McMillan Cottom (Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy), and Nathan D. Grawe (Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education).

What kind of work will students do?  Plenty of work, in my constructivist, exploratory way.  Here’s the tentative plan, depending on some local factors:

Throughout the course students will create an online research presence, curating materials through RSS reading, social bookmarking, or blogging. Readings will be drawn from recent scholarship and articles.

Final projects, scenarios for possible future campuses, may take the form of: a simulation game; multiple scenarios for future universities; a sustained video argument; a multimedia digital essay.

I also have wiki writing in mind.  And I will blog about the experience.  More to come.

In the meantime, I’m happy to hear your thoughts and ideas.


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8 Responses to I return to teaching

  1. Consider a step beyond social bookmarking by using https://hypothes.is so that these online resources can be annotated by class members (you can setup a private group) right on the resource itself. This would add interaction within the document with precise connection to the ideas themselves, as opposed to simply warehousing links in bulk.

    Also, in the spirit of Open Education, perhaps a summary of ideas and their supporting principles can be added to Wikipedia so that the student work can be contributed to the open body of knowledge – not just the classroom. I’m not sure what that Wikipedia entry would be called, but that’s not terribly important. Make something up! In subsequent issues of the course, more can be added to the entry.

    In another world where there is unlimited time, space, and resources, it would be great to have student work in this course published similar to DS106: http://ds106.us/history/

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      I’ve been thinking about Hypothesis as a blend of discussion tool and social bookmarking service. Biased, though, since I’m on their board. 🙂

      Love Wikipedia editing exercises.

  2. Scott Robison says:

    Sounds great, Bryan! How “open” with the course be? 🙂

  3. margit watts says:

    First of all, happy anniversary!
    Secondly, just my two cents worth. I teach an asynchronous course about social media. Have had lots of input from my friend Howard Rheingold (who, by the way, says good things about you). I would highly suggest that you do the social bookmarking as well as the wiki. Especially since you have graduate students who are more likely to really benefit from that exercise. Finally, I am a huge supporter of doing something “real” in a course where students can actually participate, change, contribute, create awareness within the community. A bit more than just what is traditionally called ‘service learning. My students collaborate with the United Nations on their sustainable development goals by designing social media sites (any and all platforms) that create awareness of the various goals — poverty, equity, hunger, land, water, climate, and so forth. This is my way of showing them first hand how social media can be used in very positive and helpful ways. For a course on higher education and it’s future, something akin to this, but in the arena of creating new concepts or ideas about higher ed might be useful.
    So…just my (maybe more than) two cents worth!!

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Hello, margit! (And Howard is awesome.)

      Real work is the best. Hm. I need to think about how this could work out. Maybe pitches to state governments?

  4. Leigh Marthe says:


    This looks like it will be a fascinating course with some reading this would likely help me to consider, or reconsider, the future of higher education in Vermont. I took a class as part of my doctoral studies nearly ten years ago that looked at future trends in education. I don’t remember much about that class other than the sense that I felt the stress of not being able to keep up with technology and felt isolated from the diverse thinking that so many others brought to the on-line platform where we were learning. So much has changed in this decade.

    My response to technology and to the fast pace of the world has been to find more ways to bring meditation, mindfulness, and the power of the human spirit to the front of my awareness and practices. Without these “tools” at the ready, I can’t imagine coping very well with all the changes we see in the world.

    Would love to hear more and to bring the dialogue to my colleagues at the Community College of Vermont. It was wonderful to have you address our faculty at the Faculty Institute last month. Looking forward to continuing the conversation.

    Good luck as you prepare

    • Bryan Alexander says:

      Leigh, thank you for these thoughts. And thank you as well for the very kind words.

      The stress of keeping up with tech: I really should carve out some room for that. Maybe Toffler was right after all (Future Shock).

      “meditation, mindfulness, and the power of the human spirit to the front of my awareness and practices” – have you looked into Howard Rheingold’s work along these lines?

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