Thursday, September 27, 2012

HBCUs and Disruptive Technologies

The White House Initiative on HBCUs (WHI-HBCUs) hosted the "HBCU Week Conference 2012" that began on Tuesday morning, September 25, 2012, and ended at midday on Wednesday, September 26, 2012. During the Tuesday evening dinner, the WHI-HBCUs posed the following question to attendees:
"What innovation (action or solution) on your HBCU campus will make the biggest difference in stronger advancement or fundraising results"
The best responses would be shared with all attendees during the "town meeting" that was held on Wednesday morning.

The attendees seated at my table came up with some very plausible suggestions, but I was uncomfortable with the question as it was phrased because it encouraged respondents to think of ways to obtain additional funds first, then produce results with the funds later.

By contrast, entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley in California to Silicon Alley in the Big Apple work long hours to produce results using the resources they already have, results which they present to potential investors in order to persuade them to give the entrepreneurs more money to produce more impressive results that will attract even more money from more investors, etc., etc., etc. My own experience in obtaining large R&D contracts from government agencies confirmed the advantages of taking a good idea as far as one could with one's own resources, then getting officials at government agencies to share in the excitement of one's current achievements and the potential for even greater achievements with help from the funds their agencies might contribute.

The Great Recession and the sudden emergence of the first round of eLearning technologies that are powerful enough to disrupt our entire system of higher education have transformed the post Civil Rights existential mantra "Why are HBCUs still needed?" into a universal challenge to the continuing existence of all but the wealthiest and most elite colleges and universities, including those in the for-profit sector. Therefore I would rephrase the question posed by the WHI-HBCUs so as to encourage the development of proposals that will excite the most interest from funding sources in the new context of this universal challenge:
  • What is your HBCU  doing with resources that have been greatly diminished by the Great Recession to cope with the disruptive technologies that are now sweeping across the landscape of higher education? ... and ...
     
  • How can our additional resources help your HBCU to achieve more impressive results?
As per my previous blog, Notes on the HBCU Week Conference 2012, I would liken the potential disruptions of MOOCs and related innovations -- competency-based learning and flipped classes -- to  bonfires; but the next generation of disruptive technologies, "eLearning 2.0" if you will, will bring forth the firestorms.

In a first effort to identify which HBCUs are taking the lead in addressing the challenges posed by current eLearning technologies, yesterday morning (Wednesday) I posted the five tweets displayed at the bottom of this note. As of this morning (Thursday), I have received no responses ... so perhaps I need to revise my tweets and try again. Past experience assures me that whenever a significnt challenge to HBCUs is identified, someone at some HBCU will figure out how to cope with it effectively ... :-)

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