Saturday, October 31, 2009

What is an Educated Person?

Yesterday was the third time I've attended the Utah System of Higher Education's annual conference on general education. Last year's conference was pretty interesting, especially the discussion of e-portfolios for students. It sounds like a great idea to provide a system that allows students to upload their work into their e-portfolio and show potential employers or grad schools some of the projects and papers they completed, along with feedback from professors and classmates.

There was a follow-up to e-portfolios this year, but for some reason they scheduled the Computer and Information Literacy breakout session at the same time as the e-portfolio report. While I was sad to have missed it, we did have some interesting discussions in the CIL breakout.

I'm still processing it all, but it is interesting to note that although all the schools in the state have implemented CIL quite differently, the challenges we face at our various institutions are quite similar. Although we don't do much if any coordination, whenever one school has a seemingly innocuous discussion related to the topic, somehow the word gets out and everyone else starts getting fired up that someone may be changing something.

My fear is that one school will do something rash in their budgeting process and that everyone else will follow like lemmings off a cliff.

As the keynote speaker Jamie Merisotis told us, "Quality in higher education should be calculated based on measurable student learning outcomes, not institutional inputs." When he made the point, he was referring to the fact that prestigious schools with billion dollar endowments are considered to be superior because of the large amounts of money they throw around. However, we can flip this around to the poor end of the scale, and the maxim should still apply. The importance of a program or a general education requirement is not diminished just because the institutional inputs are lacking. CIL skills are just as important as they ever have been, if not more so. Everyone's budget is struggling. So let's get together and gather some data, determine the importance of what we're doing independent of the budget issues we face, and then see what economies of scale we can harness to help us run more efficiently.

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