Why Continuing Education is Leading Academic Innovation
Why Continuing Education is Leading Academic Innovation -Recently, a proud mother showed me her daughter’s work on the school’s teaching platform. The fourth-grader created a PowerPoint on whether the chicken or the egg came first, based on her assessment of the arguments and facts. I was impressed with the little one’s capacity to reason and weigh opposing arguments. In a nerdy kind of way, I was equally impressed by the digital platform on which this and other learning material were organized, and the fact that learning was organically and seemingly effortlessly happening online.
My next thought was: “How will these kids react to university teaching once they get there? Will it seem archaic to them?”
Now, university teaching hasn’t stood still— far from it— in the previous few decades, but it’s secure to say it’s not a unified front of cutting-edge methods. There are pockets of innovation here and there, but it cannot be regarded as a systematic or even usually leading-edge in any manner.
Why is it? The reason is not individual but structural, pointing to one of the University’s basic pillars (i.e. academic freedom). Don’t mistake me: academic liberty is an academic lynchpin. It protects scholars from undue political pressure in the pursuit of understanding and likely explains why a strong nation like Russia never developed a good university, whereas Switzerland has at least five schools (based on the ranking) in the top 100 universities in the world.
I don’t suggest that we’re supposed to end academic freedom; not at all. What I am saying is that what makes universities great in terms of creating and disseminating information also hinders their capacity to lead the way in the growth of teaching and curriculum.
Why Continuing Education is Leading Academic Innovation- Based on academic freedom, the professors in their schools and laboratories are (using a naval metaphor) the captains and “sole masters after God.” This also implies that no administrator has a say in what or how they teach (with significant exceptions in professional fields), whether from a government body or the university. The academy’s only other executive power is the collective college organization embodied in a high-level committee generally called the Senate. Collegial governance can dictate what material a research program will teach and can even offer the overall overview of a course. The particular content, however, and the manner this content is transmitted is completely at the enjoyment of the faculty. Academic freedom is individual freedom that cannot be usurped even by college governance’s collective liberty.
The result of this can be seen clearly. Academic innovation can only occur as an individual effort. And the faculty has many reasons to think that pedagogical innovation and curriculum is not worth pursuing. For some, learning has been about placing your nose on the grindstone from time immemorial, not about contemporary pedagogy’s faddish trappings. The college is primarily about studies for others, with teaching taking the back seat— a conviction confirmed in the criteria of tenure and promotion. Courses often belong to them personally, not to the establishment, in the event of contract professors. If they leave college, the course leaves with them in the specific form it was taught. It becomes apparent why in a university setting teaching innovation becomes spotty at best and stays limited to the real believers.
Academic freedom does not hinder educational organizations that succeed in pedagogical innovation. schools and most Canadian schools are excellent examples of such organizations that can coordinate teaching and curriculum centrally. University Continuing Education (CE) is another bright instance where it is possible to take a cohesive and thorough approach to learn and curriculum in a flexible and often creative manner. This agility enables CE to be better adapted to the requirements and desires of the market. And that is why CE colleges are leaders in the growth of pedagogy
The issue in this context is not how central institutional administration can help promote this evolving position for CE — it should merely avoid standing in the way — but how CE can promote innovation in the remainder of the college.
The nature of the university — this time in its extremely decentralized structure — is once again rooted in one of the primary barriers to having a higher effect on the college.
Universities have been defined as “a diverse set of departments and faculty united by a central heating plant,” or alternatively “a prevalent grievance over parking.” Departments and faculties are siloed by governance and culture, among other significant variables. CE colleges are even further away in this secluded island archipelago. The cultural difference between engineering and arts, business and environmental studies or any unit compared to another, is clear enough to see.
But in addition to this cultural diversity within the university, CE colleges bring to educational fundamentals such as academic freedom and collegial governance another layer of profound diversity connected with its indifference. CE is the odd one in a lot of motley. As such, it often disappears from the academy’s field of view. It obviously has its work cut out for it.
In this sense, CE must gain a new-found trust in the institution’s value and present itself as an educational innovator unabashedly. It has to carve its own place in the public domain of the university. In many academic life occurrences, it must showcase its know-how. As to the art of teaching and curriculum creation, it must encourage the university.
In a manner, it must reflect what it aspires to become to the institution.
That said, even if CE were to enhance its presence in academic imagination, for the reasons outlined above, we cannot expect mainstream programs to become nimbler and begin to skirt the leading edge. One can imagine, however, that programs can be inspired here and there on campus to push the envelope and reach local consensus for collective initiatives. It could push innovation ad hoc pockets into bigger innovation clusters and it might be a model that some people would like to emulate. It might demonstrate to us how nice it can be to teach.