Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Is the Institution Irrelevant?

Karl Kapp left an interesting comment on my post "If You Don't Want Our Department, ...":

This is very interesting, as technology increases an individual's ability to reach more and more people at a cost effective level, the influence and power of education is moving away from institutions and toward this case an individual department. I see this trend increasing.

If institutions don't start to value their faculty...faculty will begin teaching independently.

I agree with Karl, this does demonstrate that education is shifting away from the institution to the individual - in this case the faculty. I would go further and say that trends such as MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative portend a future where the institution is even less relevant and even disintermediated, resulting in a direct link between faculty and students.

The situation in Florida probably happened because the circumstances where perfect - while one school was shutting down their program, a nearby school was starting a new program with a new building and the resources to bring faculty in support of the program. The proximity of the schools contributed as well, the faculty did not have to relocate, the faculty and their reputations were probably known to the new institution. I'm sure this is just the beginning of this trend, but I think there's real potential for online institutions (U of Phoenix, Capella U, etc) to cherry-pick individual faculty and even gobble up entire departments. Even bricks-and-mortar institutions with growing online programs could get into the act.

Thanks Karl!

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