Future of the University

Last week I was having a conversation with my younger brother who is an aspiring engineer. He is preparing for graduation from community college, where he studied electrical engineering, which for his aspirations was the only offering that fit. As we discussed possibilities for his future, the reality of the difficulty in planning and preparing for the future he wants began to set in.

No, the issue was not about Covid, it was, however, a matter of affordability. The truth is higher education in most instances is a privilege that not many able to attain, especially those of us from smaller countries. While larger countries have the economic capacity to create avenues for students to peruse tertiary education at low or no cost, smaller countries are less capable of providing such opportunities. And I should point out that even in countries like the United States with student aid programs, there are still many who are unable to afford tertiary education for various factors which include an inability to qualify for financial aid.

With this said, I believe that one thing that should change in higher education is the cost of pursuing a degree. Education is a universal connecter and an essential tool for personal and professional development. I believe it to be quite unfair to restrict access to education by the barriers of finance.

The question then becomes how global universal education can be administered in a world where capitalism is spreading like a virus. Is it even possible to create such a system?

David Thomas, president of Morehouse College believes that institutional partnerships may be integral in addressing the need to make education more affordable. “We have to address the issues of affordability and accessibility to higher education. For small liberal arts colleges like mine, we will have reckoning that we cannot do everything that our students need and therefore begin to develop partnerships with other institutions, rather than seeing them simply as the competition. Figuring out how to leverage our various distinctive competencies.”

I reflect on his statement and wonder if this can be implemented on a global scale. Can institutions and educators across borders connect and create opportunities for educational development? With today’s heavy reliance on remote learning, my hope is that it opens a door for universities to create innovative ways for students to access education at an affordable rate. My hope is that there is an understanding that affordability itself is diverse and the current barriers to education and be removed.

Education should be a right, not a privilege.

Social Media and MOOCs in 2020!

Gaining an updated infographic to use for this week’s blog was a  bit difficult, however, it was rather interesting to view older infographics on the use of MOOCs and other “disruptive technologies” considering our current state of affairs.


in 2016, when this infographic was published, it was projected that the market for MOOCs would grow generously by 2020 thereby increasing its market value. the prediction also indicated an increase in MOOC students, a large portion of them being international students. And then there was 2020! Our current reality has dictated that we are all now digital learners, far removed from the brick and mortar system of higher education. Yet it does not seem to rip the same benefits (lower cost education) that initially made MOOCs appealing.

The infographic states that:

“As of 2016, Markets and Markets have evaluated the market of services surrounding MOOC at nearly $2B. Apparently, free online education can constitute a decent business segment! Experts maintain MOOC is poised for further confident growth at 36% CAGR at the very least. This brings us to a market share of over $8.5 billion by 2020.”

I am curious to know how this number has shifted from the original prediction. it also states that:

“A MOOC can’t emulate the emotional bonds and vibe of face-to-face learning, yet the instructor role will have to evolve and embrace modern requirements. Technology will facilitate routine tasks like grading and assessment, giving priority to creativity and engaging content. Either way, it’s a win-win-win.”

If anyone in 2016 doubted that the future of education would be digital, the 2020 predication has surpassed expectations. With the current heavy reliance on digital learning that utilizes both online classroom technologies and social media engagement, what will the future of higher education?

Will we continue with this model of learning? Or will the future be hybrid?


Ethics in Research

In my second semester of grad school, I walked into an elevator in McBryde and saw a young woman hurriedly exiting the elevator with tears violently running down her face.  a week later I saw the same young woman in the hallway, red-faced and noticeably distressed. I later had a conversation about it with my office mate who was also a graduate student in her final year. She laughed a little and said, “girl, it’s grad school, you have at least five mental breakdowns a semester just to get through.” That would become a running joke, every grad student I knew, made that mental breakdown comment as if to say it is to be expected.

for this blog post, I read a case where the “guilty party” was found to have manipulated their research and presented false data and falsified the results of (what I assume were) experiments. This individual was a graduate research assistant conducting medical research. One would assume that someone who is conducting such research would be of the highest ethical pedigree, considering the possible implications (if not caught) of presenting false data.

It goes without saying that professional ethics and integrity are key components of any type of research, as the researcher is not only responsible for the work their present, they are also responsible for the communities their work represents, the institution and the knowledge they will be creating with their data. However, as I read through this case I couldn’t help but think about that young woman in the elevator and the expectation of mental and emotional toil many graduate students face in their daily efforts to meet the high hanging fruit of an advanced degree. I thought of the many students struggle with meeting the expectations of advisors and committees and the expectations of society. I also wondered if this particular research assistant was responding to pressure to achieve the desired result and made the poor decision to falsify information to alleviate such pressure.

some time ago I had a conversation with a Ph.D. student, who was slowly breaking down and was in a program they disliked and working with very little support. I asked this student “why are you still doing this if it makes you so unhappy?” I also asked, “why not take some time to consider what it is you really want, and what you need to do to achieve it?” The response I received was simple, “I need to have a Ph.D.” …………But why?

For many having an advanced degree is simply an accolade. If the goal is to simply have the suffix attached to one’s name as a status symbol and not for the advancement of the field you are in or the contributions to can make to society through your work then where does ethical practice fit in?

I say all this to say that the pressures of higher education can sometimes be crippling and can push someone to make poor decisions and compromise professionalism.


Mission Statement Review

A mission statement should be the guiding principle(s) of an organization, in the not for profit sector many organizations review and assess their performance based on their success in achieving their mission. In higher education sometimes mission can seem very blurry even when it’s written out. It is often difficult to tell if the institution is achieving its mission and how. For this post, I reviewed the mission statements of two very different institutions: Grambling State University and Virginia Tech. This choice was deliberate because these are two institutions I am very familiar with and mission assessment should require some familiarity with the subject. In reviewing these statements, I wanted to gain the answer the question “who are we”

Both institutions are U.S based, Grambling State is located in Louisiana and is a historically Black institution (HBCU). Virginia  Tech (as we all know) is located in southwest Virginia and is a predominantly white institution (PWI). Two very contrasting institutions, not only by label but also by practice. By simply analyzing the mission statements it is clear which institution truly aims to practice “pedagogy of care” which is defined as “. Method and practice of teaching where the instructor takes the role of caregiver and the student takes the role of care-receiver. Caring is relational and includes concern for person and performance.” The pedagogy of care concept is something I genuinely believe in: we all want to belong to something and we all want to know that who we are matters. We want the validation that our work and abilities are valued and that the institution we work for believes in us.

So how can I measure the institution’s commitment to pedagogical care work by assessing the mission statement? The answer is simply in the language used.

Grambling’s slightly too long mission statement there many strong statements that reflect the institution’s pedagogical practices and commitment to care and community: “commitment to the education”, “the University seeks to reflect in all of its programs the diversity in the world”, “a community of learners who strive for excellence in their pursuit of knowledge”, which nurtures their development for leadership in academics”. Grambling is clearly a university that cares about student success and also fostering an environment where community values are strong.

Virginia Tech’s statement is very concise (as a mission statement should be), however, it is a general overarching statement and really does not answer the question; “who are we?” What kind of institution is Virginia Tech? Yes as stated it is a  land-grant institution, but what does that mean as a guiding principle? Ut Prosim is also stated in the mission statement but what does it mean as a function.

How many of us have heard “UT Prosim” continuously quoted and still cannot definitively say we know what it means to us and the institution. How does Virginia Tech serve and how are we, as part of the Tech community expected or prepared to serve? This directly contrasts Grambling’s many statements of service.

I  believe Grambling clearly answered the “who are we” question and though Virginia Tech state this, there is so much that is lost in translation. If the institution cannot clearly express the “who” and the “why” of what they do, or should I say their identity, how can those who are part of the institution truly connect to its identity and gain a sense of belonging?


Grambling State University Mission

Grambling State University is a comprehensive, historically black, public institution that offers a broad spectrum of undergraduate and graduate programs of study. Through its undergraduate major courses of study, which are undergirded by a traditional liberal arts program, and through its graduate school, which has a professional focus, the University embraces its founding principle of educational opportunity. With a commitment to the education of minorities in American society, the University seeks to reflect in all of its programs the diversity in the world. The University advances the study and preservation of African American history, art, and culture.

Grambling State University is a community of learners who strive for excellence in their pursuit of knowledge and who seek to contribute to their respective major academic disciplines. The University prepares its graduates to compete and succeed in careers related to its programs of study, to contribute to the advancement of knowledge, and to lead productive lives as informed citizens in a democratic society. The University provides its students a living and learning environment which nurtures their development for leadership in academics, athletics, campus governance, and in their future pursuits. The University affords each student the opportunity to pursue any program of study provided that the student makes reasonable progress. Grambling fosters in its students a commitment to service and to the improvement in the quality of life for all persons.

The University expects that all persons who matriculate and who are employed at Grambling will reflect through their study and work that the University is indeed a place where all persons are valued, “where everybody is somebody.”


Virginia Tech Mission Statement

Inspired by our land-grant identity and guided by our motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech is an inclusive community of knowledge, discovery, and creativity dedicated to improving the quality of life and the human condition within the Commonwealth of Virginia and throughout the world.