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STEM Higher Educational System Transformation
Guest Author: Theodore “Ted” C. Kraver Ph.D.
Every once in while entities from individuals to nations have to take a step back and reposition themselves. For the most successful the challenge is the toughest. There are few reasons to challenge past decisions and current pathway. Sports teams work this problem in the off season. Students face this challenge during high school graduation. In my rural town in the 1950s both genders were very engaged in high school which had defined their life. At that time, most girls did not go to college or into the military both many boys did. During my HS reunion was talking with a group of lady classmates. They related their day-after-graduation stores of an overnight loss of purpose and fading self-image.
STEM institutions also have this problem but in a much different way. Usually they are hugely successful as they survive the startup phase, experience rapid growth and then coast into successful maturity. They may be ranked number one in the world. But long range studies have shown that many of the top ten corporations 20 years ago are no longer on the list. What about STEM colleges?
MIT, Cal Tech, Harvey Mud, and many other STEM colleges have been in the top ten ratings for decades. Recently Georgia Tech has claimed that MIT is the Georgia Tech of the north. Because of rapid population growth of a factor of 7 (seven) over the past 50 years, Arizona’s two largest public STEM colleges have had the leadership[, resources and growth spurt over the last 60 years to move into the top 50 rank. The question for Arizona STEM advocates is how to make the next giant step in quality into the top 20 STEM Colleges. One of the means touted by the AZ Capital Times higher education panel was to use exemplar schools as models.
MIT’s planning and design has been based on pedagogical innovations starting with hands on problem-solving in 1861. The Institute then evolved with learning communities using theories of Piaget and Papert. After WWII the 1949 Institute plan was built on lessons from the rapidly shifting global, technological, economic and political landscape. The planning frequency has increased along with rapidly increasing changes in civilization. The 1998 plan addressed the information revolution. The 2006 plan focused on undergraduate institute requirements. Their current July 28, 2014 task force report in the Future of MIT Education includes a comprehensive situation assessment of higher education and MIT’s emerging challenges for the next couple of decades. The result was 18 critical issues that started with: Extending learning to the global community with its growing demand at all socio-economic levels while addressing escalating cost.
The strategic pathway includes flexible degrees with a mix of school, research, service and professional work. A driver is would be an initiative for bold experimentation to transform pedagogy of undergraduate education including online and blended learning, learning communities, service opportunities, maker faculties everywhere and access to graduate curriculum. Then extend these residential innovations to the world based on MITx and edX experience by using OpenCourseWare Educator. Class modularity, game-based learning, open ended problem discussion, and partnering with other colleges are the means to this end. Challenges that must be undertaken are 22%/78% female/male MITx participant, a knowledge base for the 1000 edX communities, and in integrated strategy for the MIT’s 80 K-12 programs To support both current and new MIT, plus the world engagement require creating certificates, pricing of services , improving access and affordability, and expanded fundraising activities.
Talk to any successful entrepreneur and he will tell you of the ideas of others that he has used. Arizona higher education must put on the boots of and entrepreneur to repositions itself for Arizona’s Great Second Double Decade of the 21st Century.