The university is supposed to be this transformative space that prepares students to change the world. Research on the state of higher education, however, suggests that we are increasingly failing students in that mission…

HIGH COST burdens students with restrictive debt and excludes those who could most benefit from a college education and bring transformation to their communities.

LACK OF LEARNING and LACK OF RELEVANCE to the 21st century workplace are the end product of a passive, campus-centric education model, further limiting graduates’ opportunities for job placement and impact on society.*

* 45% of students do not demonstrate any significant learning improvement in their first two years (Academically Adrift, 2011). 40% of employers struggle to find college graduates with the right skills for entry level positions (McKinsey Report, 2013).

LACK OF ATTENTION TO HUMAN TRANSFORMATION means that, even when students gain the technical skills needed for the workplace, they may not have not been given the whole-person development needed to lead, to create, and to change their worlds.

While many are predicting coming doom and the end of the university as we know it, I believe this is just the beginning! I am convinced that the time has come for a reformation in higher ed, or dare I say – a REVOLUTION. And I know we can dream bigger than mere online education or competency-based credentialing…

The reality is that there is some amazing innovation happening right now in the  landscape of higher learning that goes beyond the tech-centric "disruptive" innovations you'll find in the media.  I by no means want to discount the importance of technological innovations, but rather I want to highlight thought-leaders (who may embrace that technology) who are innovating in way that show promise in shaping more transformative models of higher ed.  I should note that a majority of those I plan to highlight operate either on the margins of the university, or outside of the academy entirely.  

FIVE GOALS: What might these new, more transformative models look like?  I am particularly interested in models that would meet the following five criteria:  [thanks to co-conspirators Rich Slimbach and Frances Wu Barone at Azusa Pacific for their work on articulating these goals].

1.      Reduce the overall cost (more resource lean)

2.      Produce powerful interdisciplinary learning outcomes (more educative)

3.      Infuse workplace relevance (more market-relevant)

4.      Form intelligent responses to the world’s toughest problems (more socially responsible)

5.      Foster lives of meaning and consequence (more spiritually formative).

On reading these goals you may write me off as a head-in-the-clouds idealist or an academic engaged in “creative mischief” (as my former professor Derek Bok termed this project), but I would rather think of this blog as a serious project imagining a preferred future (credit to Ruth Hayhoe for her encouragement), as a forum for discussing emerging innovations, and as a sandbox for dreaming up new models that would meet these criteria.

There are some amazing educators and entrepreneurs out there on the margins of higher education experimenting with new approaches to human transformation...and at times attacking one another. One of my goals in this space to foster a conversation between the edupreneurs, the technologists, and the academics - especially those liberal arts traditionalists passionately committed to transformative learning - to see if we can together envision something better.

One final note, you'll see me use the terms "engaged learning" or "transformative engaged learning" as a way to capture what I see as an emerging pedagogical model  or paradigm of learning.  I welcome ideas for alternative terminology, as well as help in  identifying shared vocabulary and defining what it is we see emerging!