"Learning productivity" is a phrase chosen to discourage any dismissive thought that, because "productivity" is a business word, productivity in education is solely about "business" or administrative productivity. Following the money in education, after all, reveals the dominant role (among total expense outlays) of the expense of supporting teaching and learning and, thus, raises questions about today's financial models for core teaching and learning activities. Education's "business models" have for years relied on student headcounts, student FTEs, credit hours, and other "unit" inputs to generate the revenues that pay for outflowing outcome expenses. That's why "learning productivity" is an undeniably apt phrase for considering outcomes versus costs in education – the effectiveness and the efficiency resulting from the private and public investments that pay for education's outcomes, which should be measured with quantitative evidence for credentials granted and learning (competencies) achieved. The "learning productivity crisis" is the pressing need to change the financial or business model for education to focus, not on input revenues in support of educational opportunity, but on incenting the assured educational outcomes that are needed at global scale for civic and economic security.
I’ve been working since early 2009 on a monograph on the learning productivity crisis. Yes, I said monograph – weighing in now at around 60 pages. I apologize for suggesting such a lengthy read, but the learning productivity crisis is a complex, multi-dimensional, challenge to the education enterprise and its role in sustaining a prosperous and peaceful world. First posted to this blog in June, the monograph will be available in its at-that-moment form through a left-column link on my About page labeled Waste Not the Learning Productivity Crisis. That link, in URL terms, will continue to be http://institutionalperformance.typepad.com/WHG/Waste_Not_the_Learning_Productivity_Crisis.pdf, even as the PDF file is periodically edited and saved under the same file name.
According to EDUCAUSE, we need “uncommon thinking for the common good." We therefore should understand the future education common good before trying to think uncommonly about education. That's why I conceived the monograph from an evidence-driven, tough-love, policy perspective that may provoke uncommon thanking and change-leadership from education leaders of all stripes from all nations. The monograph pulls together and documents the major pressures facing education around the world. It goes on to recommend how to think about those pressures in terms of globalization and how to relieve them by using technology strategically. Among its many claims, it purports to:
- Define a “learning productivity agenda” – in Section II.D.
- Connect the learning productivity agenda to ongoing pressures that are often described in terms of accountability, accessibility, and affordability – in Section II.E.
- Make the case that learning productivity is at a crisis stage – starting via the metaphor of a global brains race in Section II.F and continuing in Sections VII – IX via the metaphors of assessment, pipeline, and economic icebergs.
- Explain why and how the strategic application of technology and “learning-cloud" strategies are necessary to any resolution of the crisis at scale – starting in Section II.F.6 and continuing in depth in Sections V and VI.
- Offer case-study examples to ground the monograph's grand themes – see the “profiles in productivity" in Section III.
- Propose a “Education Assurance Consortium” (EAC) in Section X to make education entitlements available to learners who earn them, while also equalizing the current education-provider centric education universe to focus more on learning outcomes and to give more control to learners and the civic and economic needs of the world. The EAC may be blue-sky in its reach, but its agenda can be realistically engaged in the U.S., for example, at the level of education systems and state governments.
With or without an Education Assurance Consortium, there are directional recommendations throughout the monograph that need to prevail for the common good. Some of these recommendations will be viewed as unrealistic or simplistic, such as the idea of earning an entitlement by submitting periodically to common, normative assessments of basic fluencies and critical thinking skills. Such provocations to the education enterprise, however, merit serious discussion along the way to equalizing or better balancing rights and attendant responsibilities among education providers and education investors (students, parents, governments, employers, philanthropists) – the basic idea behind an EAC-like construct.