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This is a first draft of the storyboard outline for The History and Future of Higher Education, my six-week Coursera course that will begin in Spring 2014, and that is open to all, for free, without prerequisites of any kind. It is the heterogeneity of the students and the engaged, lively Forums we will conduct online that make this course, but, to find out the sequence of the six video lectures (to me, the least interesting component) please look below this blog and you will find them presented in “PowerPoint” form with a breakdown of the content of each week of the course and some segments within each week’s lesson plan.   I welcome comments that will prompt revision before I begin filming these videos in June.

In addition to this Coursera course,  I will also be teaching a face-to-face Duke student-led course on the topic and the Duke PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge will be contributing ideas throughout the course to destabilize, complicate, agitate, and in otherwise shake up the centralized, “Sage on the Stage” video model.

NOTE: This is an ACTIVIST course, with MOOCs not just the platform but also the subject matter for our online conversations. For example, I am very excited about what we will all learn from a global forum directed at the question:  “What is the history of defunding public education in YOUR country in YOUR lifetime?”   

My intention is to take advantage of the stable Coursera platform to de-stabilize some assumptions about both online and face-to-face learning, and to use the Forums to energize a significant conversation about what it means to create a public educational system (the history) and what it means to defund one (the future–unless we work together to alter a thirty-year international trend).

I personally do not believe MOOCs that are simply top down and offer one centralized  point of view are the future of higher education.  They do not begin to take full advantage of the community aspects of peer-to-peer learning.   I hope we can use this course to, together, explore the possibilities of both online learning and formal and traditional modes of education.   I hope this course is the platform for a global conversation with engaged  interactive participants thinking together about better forms of education for the world we live in now.

One focus of the conversation will be about the role of MOOCs in higher education today.  I hope that a sustained, serious conversation on MOOCs, using the platform offered by this MOOC, will in fact help move us past “MOOC Mania” to a more enlightened discussion of what works, what doesn’t work, what can be improved, what offers a true and viable alternative form of learning, and what is simply a commercialized and centralized form of “content delivery” that offers very little real learning potential. I hope it will allow us to talk about the business model of MOOCs and the business model of the contemporary university (different in different countries, in different regions, in different states in the U.S., and different in private, public, community college, and for-profit venues.)  The Forums and peer-to-peer discussion sessions incorporated into each week’s lessons will be an ideal way for a Massive Online Open Conversation about MOOCs.

We’ll be organizing local peer-to-peer discussion groups, and coordinated teaching in lots of other classes that will contribute other perspectives and other content (especially international). Each week, we will use the Forums to generate lots of interesting questions, answers, ethnographies, surveys, studies, ideas, workarounds and other ways of making this a lively, interactive peer-to-peer experience built upon the platform of a standard Coursera course.   I consider the six-hours of video to be almost like a “textbook” with the real action happening online, interactively, and with the different face-to-face classes and peer groups contributing a range of ideas, counter interpretations, exceptions, and insights in all directions.  There will be quizzes, for example, that are also opportunities to provide examples of workarounds to standardized testing, to provide hints and suggestions for creative formative feedback even in situations where schools require end-of-grade summative testing.  In other words, we’ll be using every imaginable online learning affordance to make this an interactive, engaged six week global conversation that far exceeds the usual video “Talking Head” format.

Since none of my classroom teaching follows a standard “Sage on the Stage” model,and Doc on the Laptop is an even worse model of pedagogy.  I have no intention of having my Coursera course revert to that.   The videos, as outlined and storyboarded here, are simply a resource, just as a text book or online videos might be a resource.   It’s the interactive, massive, online discussion that will rock the course and, I truly hope, supply some great new ideas that we can all share as we shape the future of higher education together.

Also, as you will see from the storyboard outline below, I’m using the global forum of Coursera to also address the “robbing our future” aspect of the global so-called “neoLiberal” defunding and underfunding of public higher education that is documentable (and deplorable) over the last three decades.   MOOCs are being touted as a “solution” to the “problem” of costly education that is not available to all.   There is a larger social problem to consider:  what it does to a society, to any society, to reduce access to higher education for all, especially in a time of rapid technological change.   MOOCs are one response to a problem that is a huge cultural, social, economic, and philosophical problem that every citizen of the digital age should find alarming.

But is it the right response?   Or does it simply contribute to the problem of rising costs, underfunded schooling, undermining of the professorate, massive student debt, and increasing commodification and commercialization of what should be a public good?   What is the relationship between innovation which is truly necessary to expand access to education and offer new methods (and I am a strong advocate for educatioal innovation) and innovation which is simply about someone’s profit margin but not really about learning and making the best forms of learning to a larger population? I hope this course will also be a rallying cry on behalf of a reinvestment in the future of learning.

At the same time, this course admonishes those in higher education–especially those who have achieved the status of tenured professor–to rethink their own theories and principles to ensure the most relevant, urgent forms of learning for students coming of age in this interactive age.   I am a strong advocate of peer learning.   Therefore, one “textbook” for the course will be the multimedia websites  made in project teams entirely by  undergraduates in Surprise Endings:  Social Science and Literature (cotaught with behavioral economist Dan Ariely):    Students in the PhD Lab will remix that content for open, public access in the Fall.

The other textbook will be “Field Notes to 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to Open Learning and Peer Teaching,” a book written by the graduate students in my 21st Century Literacies class and that will be available later this summer for free download online:

Those are just some ideas.  I hope others will contribute more.   What would you like to see for the History and Future of Higher Education?     This course is scheduled to be offered online for six weeks, beginning in January of 2014.   I will be blogging about all aspects of planning, filming, editing, and otherwise creating this course, partly to demystify the process of making a MOOC.   Feel free to use the Comments section to ask questions, offer ideas, and make suggestions that I can incorporate into the course or into the future Forums.

In other words, this is an activist course in many, many directions.  I hope you will add your voice to the global voices.



Title Slide Week 1: Overview



A. Overview B. April 22, 1993 C. 4.1 D. Future of Learning



Week 2: Education vs. Learning



A. Education vs. Learning B. History of Disciplines C. History of Compulsory Education and Private Schooling D. US vs. English or European Education


Week 3: How We Measure A. The Science of Measurement B. Educational Credentialing: What is a diploma, 1925-1955 C. Educational Credentialing: What is a diploma? 1955-1980 D. Educational Credentialing: What is a diploma, 1980-2002, No Child Left Behind, and 2002-Present


Week 4: Teaching Like It's 1992 A. Teaching Like It's 1992 B. Defunding/Underfunding Public Education: Robbing our Future C. Cutbacks D. Politics, Expediency & Commercialization


Weeks 5 & 6: Ten New Paradigms for the Future of Higher Education 1. Rethink Liberal Arts as a Start-up Curriculum for Resilient Global Citizens 2. Move from Critical Thinking to Creative Contribution 3. Make! 4. Encourage Students to Lead the Way (Peer Learning) 5. Find Creative Ways to Model Un-Learning 6. Make Sure What We Value is What We Count 7. Take Institutional Change Personally 8. Make Alliances with Other Paradigm-Changers 9. Reinvest in Public Education as a Public Good (1862-2014) 10. Just Do It





Thank You

COURSERA start date:  January 2014.   It will run for six weeks.

The Coursera course on “The History and Future of Higher Education” includes six hour-long weekly video lectures by Duke Professor Cathy Davidson (divided into 10-15 minute segments), quizzes, and then ethnographic, interview, research, reading, and writing assignments, with weekly and biweekly Forums (open to anyone who registered) that will invite connectivist, peer-to-peer participation and contribution, and opportunity for parallel face-to-face courses to participate and connect with one another online (undergraduate classes, graduate classes, high school classes, one middle school class, plus teacher development, informal learning centers, and more).

Before we do content-based assignments, we’ll online create “community rules” for interactions in the course.   Anyone not observing the rules of respect will be asked to leave the Forums.   Trolls are not welcome.  This is an opportunity for a global exchange on the future of education.  Experimentation requires generosity, creativity, tolerance, and mutual respect and respectful disagreement with a goal of better exchange of ideas. 

Sample assignment Week 1:   Interview a parent or grandparent about their own education.   If you’re a grandparent or parent, interview your child.  We’ll end up with international, regional, and generational ethnographies and oral histories of education.

Sample assignment Week 2:    Organize a peer-learning group in your area and set yourself a syllabus. And an action plan.  See what happens.  Report back!

Sample assignment Week 3:    Why do we need diplomas?   Why do youneed a diploma?  If you didn’t, would you still want to go to college?  Why?   What can you learn in college that you cannot learn from DIY (do it yourself) peer-learning online networks?  What can you learn from DIY networks online that you cannot learn in a formal degree program?   What other alternative ways of learning are there?  What other alternative forms of credentialing are there?

Sample assignment Week 4:    See one. Do one. Teach one:  What did you learn and what did you teach this week? Post a video of the result.

Sample assignment Week 5:   Storyboard your own class in the history and future of higher education.  Or K-12.  Etc.

Sample assignment Week 6:   Why are you taking this Coursera MOOC?  What “problem” does this online course solve that is not being addressed for you in other ways?  e.g. cost? admissions requirements?  location?  timeframe/asynchronous opportunity?  topic?   What other ways can you think of to address this problem?

Sample assignment every week:  Write your own question.  Suggest it to the community.   We’ll use the leaderboards to vote on which questions we all want to answer for next week’s Forum.

You are invited.  Join us!

To see the images for the storyboard, click here.

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Cathy N. Davidson

Cathy N. Davidson

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