The monograph that I drafted in early 2009 has been published online as part of the special "Future-of-Higher-Education" edition of the EDUCAUSE Review (vol. 45, no. 1, January/February 2010) - see Waste Not the Learning Productivity Crisis. I occasionally update the monograph and maintain the most recently updated version on this blog site. The monograph includes a proposal to create a "commons" governance mechanism as a means to harmonize the rights and responsibilities of education providers and their myriad external investors - students, families, donors, employers, and governments. To further elaborate the concept and its relevance to today's educational attainment challenges, I drafted and posted to this blog site a new draft paper, Affording and Quality-Assuring Educational Attainment.
“Harmonize” admittedly has a blue-sky undertone. However, Kris Kristofferson’s insightful lyric that “freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose” speaks to the perils that arise when rights and responsibilities are not in balance. Try therefore to imagine how existing strategies for managing and improving educational attainment in various gated sectors of the modern educational patchwork might be purloined and stitched together into an integrated quilt of flexible, scalable, affordable tertiary educational experiences bearing the various parties’ unified imprimatur of quality assurance – “learning assurance.” Imagine an “unbundled” education enterprise in which:
- Education providers voluntarily 1) report a few, common institutional accountability indicators of educational attainment within selected peer and geopolitical groupings, and 2) administer independent assessments (through third-party non-governmental assessment providers) of their enrolled students’ core communication and critical thinking skills at fitting levels of learning readiness.
- Students – initially their guardians – earn and renew government-funded “vouchers” on a periodic basis via the above independent learning-readiness assessments administered by the participating education providers where they are currently enrolled or hope soon to enroll.
- Governments allow students to spend their earned vouchers, but only with the education providers that voluntarily comply with the above protocols for 1) reporting educational attainment metrics and 2) administering independent learning-readiness assessments to their students on a periodic basis.
The “hat trick” for such a compact of mutually beneficial interdependencies is governance. Which party should govern such a tri-partite compact? Cited in her 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics, Elinor Ostrom’s “analysis of economic governance, especially the commons,” suggested to this author that his first approach in “Waste Not the Learning Productivity Crisis” to balancing economic governance among all of education’s stakeholders was on target. Like a river flowing through multiple geopolitical jurisdictions and bounded by property owners with competing interests, the path to educational attainment should be governed by no one government or other education-related interest. The “Learning Assurance Commons” (LAC) described here is a governance collaboration for securing the greatest common economic and individual good of all: educating humanity for its own sake and for the sake of the planet.
The LAC would be designed to create enabling leverage for the multi-party compact outlined above. The LAC would collaboratively identify and manage non-technical “interoperability” protocols for tracking progress in educational attainment around the world, while also relying on extant technical interoperability standards for education’s software applications, digital resource sharing, and data exchanges to help improve upon and account for education’s productivity. Technical interoperability enables digital connections within and among disparate learning communities and their apps and data. Non-technical interoperability would encourage education providers and their external investors to embrace and account for the scale, flexibility, pace, and affordable price of educational attainment at a time when, acting alone, no one education provider, government, or other education investor can catalyze and attract participation in such a collective macro feat.
The most powerful leverage for attracting seed participation in the LAC would be government interest in funding students (with earned vouchers). Start-up discussions in any micro or macro context, no doubt, would include such considerations as student financial need, part-voucher/part-loan possibilities, workforce-based loan forgiveness possibilities, regional-versus-national interests, and so on.
In return for the right to earn vouchers, participating students, their parents, and their education providers would commit to flexible protocols for quality-assuring educational attainment and making it affordable as both an individual and common good. Such a compact also could stabilize the government funding available to education providers – to reciprocate for their commitments to minimally invasive accountability protocols. An actionable plan is summarized in the draft paper – based on the “learning productivity agenda” for accounting for educational attainment. The plan and the learning productivity agenda were first described in the monograph cited above.
Comments will be welcomed from those who venture into the draft paper.