"It's time to use technology to rewrite the rules of education." The first time I saw this commercial, that line practically caused me to cheer: was some institution really, finally willing to acknowledge that decentering its authority via the distributed knowledge practices promoted by the web might help produce more and better learning? Individual faculty and folks like librarians and instructional technologists have been pressing this point for several years, but the notion that an entire university might be willing to get behind this point -- well, it was a bit breathtaking.
Until the punchline, which left me more than a little horrified, and not just about the co-opting of the rhetoric of student-centered pedagogy by the kind of corporate entity that has exemplified the transformation of so much of higher education into a consumer-oriented enterprise. Just as the commercial scholarly publishers have long since taken the lead in experimenting with new modes of digital scholarly publishing, with the result that they're able, through their near-monopoly on journal publishing, able to extort increasingly obscene subscription costs from libraries, and just as the commercial course management software companies have been able to make migration out of their platforms sufficiently painful that institutions will continue paying for clunky, inadequate services, will the for-profit universities wind up driving the direction in which instructional technologies develop into the future? What is the relationship between technologies, pedagogies, and corporations -- and what must our not-for-profit institutions do to stay central in these developments?