Opinion: Technology is a means, not an end

Last month President Obama laid out an ambitious plan to transform the federal government’s relationship with higher education. The president proposes to change how federal student aid is allocated in order to encourage colleges and universities to innovate in reducing student costs while improving quality. One method the White House proposes is increased investment in learning technologies, with online learning and blended learning specifically mentioned as techniques that can “help students master the same material in less time and often at lower cost.”

A White House fact sheet on the president’s plan goes even further in offering specific ideas for how technology can support this higher ed productivity agenda. It suggests that “redesigned courses that integrate online platforms (like MOOCs, massive open online courses) or blend in-person and online experiences can accelerate the pace of student learning.” And, it argues, “Online learning communities and e-advising tools encourage persistence and alert instructors when additional help is needed. Technology is enabling students from across campuses and across the world to collaborate through online study groups and in-person meet-ups.”

My work over the past decade and a half in educational technology makes me both enthusiastic about the president’s higher education initiatives and wary of some of the paths where these initiatives could lead.

Here’s my advice to leaders who will need to respond to and help shape federal polices around higher education and innovation and technology:

  1. Technology is a means, not an end.
  2. Authentic learning does not scale.
  3. Educational technology initiatives must address both quality and cost challenges.

Read the entire article by Joshua Kim in the Concord Monitor at http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/8222471-95/my-turn-technology-is-a-means-not-an-end
Note: Joshua Kim is director of learning and technology for Dartmouth College’s Masters in Health Care Delivery Science program.

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