Caught in the Middle of a Paradigm Shift


Funny, the first time I recall giving the word paradigm any serious thought was in graduate school.  This was during the Total Quality Management (TQM) revolution.  Practical application of TQM was to be the salvation for the American corporation.  At the time, Toyota, Honda, et. al. were all the rage with their use of the Deming model for Statistical Process Control and TQM philosophy (14 points).  But did it really make a difference in the overall American business model?  I’m not an MBA type nor do I currently work in private corporate America.  However, my brief experience in that sector suggest that IF the revolution occurred, it was not widespread and it certainly did not gain any entrenchment.  I say that because both of the companies I worked for did not have any values that came close to the 14 points.  In fact, chasing targets and analysts forecasts were the only values, everything else seemed to be secondary.

So, now there is another revolution supposedly occurring, a paradigm shift, this time in the field of education.  Yes, online learning and Massive Open Online Courses are now the rage. I subscribe to a google alert on online learning – not a day goes by when I don’t get two or three new articles vis a vis online learning.  The buzz words in this shifting landscape (at least on the surface) are:  Open, accessible, community, collaboration, MOOC, online, e-learning (eLearning,elearning,E-Learning), formative assessment, and technology. This list isn’t inclusive, but these are the words that come immediately to mind.  Like TQM, these are just buzz words.  What evidence is there that real change is occurring? Some anecdotes:

Online completion – 32% of Higher Ed students are taking at least one online course.

Online presence – 89% of all public institutions offer online courses (60%) for private non-profits.

Quality perception – 77% of academic leaders rate online courses as equal or better than face-to-face courses.

Strategic – 69% of institutions stated that online education is critical to their long term strategy.

Sources:  Changing Course: 10 Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States. (Allen & Seaman) 

The Digital Revolution in Higher Education – College Presidents, Public Differ on Value of Online Learning. (Parker, Lenhart, and Moore).

Obviously, the delivery landscape is indeed changing.  However, the essence of education is the teaching and learning.  To what degree that will change is the real question.  The data focuses on the delivery model as the so-called revolution for education and perhaps the world wide accessibility.  Perhaps, because the medium of delivery demands different approaches to teacher to learner and learner to learner interaction, by default we will undergo a revolution in how we actually engage our students with the content.  I’m certain we are not there yet, but just maybe we are somewhere close to the middle.