David Ward: Why should universities innovate?
Speaker Series – The Future of the University and the Future of Learning
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Feedback to David Ward's presentation
Dr. Ward's presentation was very interesting and for me the biggest take-away was the following: we need to take a long hard look at what the "product" is that we're trying to sell and why would people be interested in buying it.
In other words, what is it that we are offering that is better and more appealing than what is offered elsewhere, be it at another institution or online. In a general sense, the challenge that universities are facing now is the fact that the dissemination of knowledge is no longer exclusively the purview of brick and mortar institutions of higher learning. You can pretty much teach yourself anything by accessing a variety of online resources - and you can do it for much less money. And watching well-produced videos online is much more appealing than listening to someone drone on about a given topic in a classroom. Of course, there are other difference as well, most of which work against us (e.g., self-paced learning) if all we are selling is knowledge. As Dr. Ward pointed out, knowledge for the sake of knowledge (the existential ideal) is not going to cut it anymore. This is why we need to "re-brand" our "product". We need to be clear about what we're offering and how that can help someone get ahead in life. If we're just trying to keep up with what is available on the internet by producing sexy video lectures, for example, I fear we are going to lose.
David Ward did not address this, but I another factor that I believe contributes to the "devaluing" of an undergraduate university degree is the fact that the market is becoming saturated with people holding bachelor's degrees. It's pretty hard to sell someone on the notion of pursuing an undergraduate degree if all that's out there for them is to become an overqualified Starbucks barista with a huge student loan to repay. This is a very real problem in this country. Having a bachelor's degree is no longer something special - it is today's equivalent of a high school degree from a previous generation. The good paying jobs no longer go to those with bachelor's degrees but rather those with advanced degrees. As a result, there are a lot of people out there who feel that going to university was a waste of time. And others look at their experiences as a cautionary tale and a very good reason to not go to university. We need to find a way to challenge that perception - to convince people that it is indeed a good investment. Universities as a whole need a new marketing strategy.
Finally, I think we need to look at the graduate school model as a whole. Right now, it is too exclusive. And one of the reasons it is exclusive is because it is costly to run. It is costly to run because of the antiquated model it is based upon. A serious overhaul is needed. There has been such a tremendous effort aimed at increasing the numbers at the bachelor's level but less so at the graduate level. This ends up creating a serious bottleneck when it comes to getting into grad school. The ratio of applicants to those who get accepted is getting larger and larger. That means that the pool of disgruntled BA or BSc holders is getting bigger and bigger. If we want people to feel good about having pursued a bachelor's degree, we had better create more opportunities for them to get into grad school. And creating those opportunities requires designing a more cost-effective graduate program. And by this, I don't mean slashing budgets or doing away with essential resources but rather a remodeling of what the graduate experience ought to be.
Anyhow, lots of food for thought. Thank you once again for the invitation.
More about David Ward
David Ward comes to Concordia on January 28 to kick-start our speakers' series as we explore the future of education and the future of learning.
As the former president (chancellor in the U.S.) of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Ward provided strong leadership in the effort to balance the university`s research mission with its commitment to providing an outstanding undergraduate education.
Changes inspired by Ward include enhanced student advising, particularly for new students; expanded course access; a core curriculum; and increased opportunities for undergraduates to conduct research.
More recently, Ward launched a broad effort at UW-Madison around educational innovation, focused on three main goals: pivoting the student experience to pervasive active learning, creating innovative master’s degree programs and certificates, and using partnerships and technology to extend educational opportunities.
In Ward’s view, the existing higher education model has reached its limits, and it will only continue to work if we create a nuanced selection of different types of institutions to meet different student needs. One size will no longer fit all and it is incumbent on universities, irrespective of what niche they are in, to understand the complete picture.
Sustaining Strategic Transitions in Higher Education
In this article, Ward provides an insider's view of the process used to lead and sustain innovation while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as interim chancellor in 2011 (a post he held until 2013).
While the university had earned a reputation as a long-established, comprehensive research university that would continue to be responsive to the needs of its students, there were new challenges and priorities (funding, shifting student interests, changes in technology, and a focus on research). However, when Ward returned to the university in 2011, he found that the landscape has changed considerably compared to 1993 when he was chancellor the first time.
He writes: "I believe our ability to be responsive to changes in the creation, discovery, and organization of knowledge itself will require us to make significant curricular and programmatic shifts that will be facilitated by multiple learning practices."
David Ward was the 11th president of the American Council on Education from 2001 to 2008 and served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1993 to 2000 and again from 2011 to 2013. Prior to becoming chancellor at UW-Madison, he also served as associate dean of the Graduate School from 1980 to 1987 and as vice chancellor for Academic Affairs and provost from 1989 to 1993.
Born in Manchester, England, Ward received his BA and MA at the University of Leeds before coming to the United States in 1960 as a Fulbright scholar and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1963.
He held the Andrew Hill Clark Professorship of Geography at the university, served as chair of the geography department from 1974 to 1977, and was president of the Association of American Geographers in 1989. As an urban geographer, he pioneered research on English and American cities during their rapid industrialization. He has also taught at Carleton University, University of British Columbia, Australian National University, University College London and Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
During his four years as provost of UW-Madison, Ward led the development of a strategic plan that improved the quality of undergraduate education there; added to campus research facilities; enhanced the connections among the university, the city, the business community, and the state; and creatively combined public and private support for the institution. These changes gave new expression to the Wisconsin Idea, the venerable philosophical framework for the university's role in public service and knowledge transfer.
Ward's service to higher education includes the chairmanship of the Board of Trustees of the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, a nonprofit group that spearheaded the development of Internet 2. He also has chaired the Government Relations Council of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and served on the Committee on Undergraduate Education of the Association of American Universities, the Science Coalition, and the Kellogg Commission on the Future of State and Land-Grant Universities.
Under Ward's leadership, ACE developed a strategic plan that has strengthened the Council's role as the major coordinating agent for higher education. Implementation of the plan sharpened the association’s programmatic focus on equity and diversity, internationalization, lifelong learning, and institutional effectiveness. While president of ACE, he was appointed to the Council of the United Nations University and was the sole dissenting member of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education, convened by Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings.