A massive, open conversation about the future of higher education

Whatever your interest or experience, you are invited to join me and 50,000+ other students in a massive, open, online course (MOOC) on the future of higher education led by Cathy Davidson, Professor of English at Duke University.  Professor Davidson has designed an intriguing course on “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education: Or, How We Can Unlearn Our Old Patterns and Relearn for a Happier, More Productive, Ethical, and Socially-Engaged Future.”  Cathy Davidson is co-founder of the Humanities, Arts, Sciences and Technology Alliance and Collaboratory (HASTAC), “a network of innovators dedicated to new forms of learning for the digital age.”

The six-week long course, which begins on January 27, 2014, will use a variety of methods (lecture, discussion and interview) to deliver the course digitally to participants all over the world.  The learning objectives are stated clearly and reflect the passion that Professor Davidson has for the subject:

  • Understand how and why we inherited the Industrial Age educational systems.
  • Think deeply about the requirements of the world we live in now.
  • Discover new ideas, methods, competencies, and subject matter.
  • Share our pathways to successful innovation with others around the world. Together, we can change schools, classrooms, institutions, learning–and maybe ourselves!

The recommended readings for the course are Professor Davidson’s book Now You See It: How Technology and the Brain Science of Attention Will Change the Way We Live, Work and Learn (Viking2011), which will be made available free online for the first 50,000 students registered for this course, and two readings available as free downloads,  Field Notes for 21st Century Literacies: A Guide to New Theories, Methods, and Practices for Open Peer Teaching and Learning, and the Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age.

Participants who successfully complete weekly quizzes will receive a Statement of Accomplishment, which is not the same as college credit from Duke University (or any other university).  We are in the midst of a great shift in paradigms from credentials (e.g., college degrees) granted on the basis of how many credits a student amasses to credentials granted on the basis of what a student learns.  I assume this paradigm shift will be one of the topics that the course explores.

I will be leading a local “discussion section” of the course on the SUNY Fredonia campus on Friday mornings over coffee.  (The exact place and time will be determined once I know how many will be joining me.)  Contact me if you have questions about our local discussion section.

If you are reading this post, then you have the basic computer skills necessary to participate in the course.  You can learn more about the course and sign up for free at Coursera.



  1. Cathy Davidson (@CathyNDavidson)

    Dear Provost Brown, I’m truly honored to learn about this. My HASTAC colleagues and I have been working about 40 hours a week combined since May to make this into a provocative experience. We made the videos ourselves–they are totally DIY (and DIY learning is one method of Dewey-ite learning we advocate). The materials, the Forums, the international collaborative research projects that go along with the videos promise to be far more intriguing and thought-provoking than the lectures. And I wish I could be a fly on the wall for your conversations which I am positive will be inspiring. Incidentally, with so many courses available now, we’re only expecting a measly 10,000 not 50,000 students worldwide, but, even downsized, every day come a few hundred more enrollments from dozens of countries. It’s absolutely fascinating and I think projects such as the crowdsourced timeline of worldwide educational innovation (a resource that currently does not exist) will be just astonishing.

    Thanks so much for your interest in higher education. I hope my humble MOOC video course doesn’t disappoint. I am positive your conversations will be fascinating. All best wishes to you, Cathy Davidson

  2. Terry Brown

    Dear Professor Davidson,
    Thank you for posting this comment. During your course, I will be posting blogs in response to the week’s topic, reflecting my own thoughts and capturing the essence of our local discussion section. (Watch this space!) Local interest in your course grows every day. I am looking forward to a great discussion, both online and face-to-face, about the future of higher education!
    Terry Brown

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