- Author: Wendy Powers
Before heading into the long weekend, I participated in a national discussion about reimagining higher education. One presenter described our current point in time a period as the convergence of three factors: troubled universities, advancements in digital technology, and recognition of what's possible. He described the third factor (recognition of what's possible) using the example of courses all across the world converting to remote delivery in a period of just 7 days, proving that while not ideal we can actually deliver college curriculum using remote techniques. Participants shared their strategies to move forward with undergraduate education using fully online programs, augmented residential programs that have some students on campus who take some credits in person and some online, or a hybrid model where lectures are online and labs/recitations/studios are in person. Presenters shared predictions that online degrees will expand rapidly, citing the rapid expansion of degree offerings by SNHU and a newly released MBA program by Boston University that is completely online.
The conversation focused on undergraduate education, but the topic applies to Cooperative Extension. Common to both is that factoring long term strategy (how you allocate resources) into solutions for current challenges leads to better short term decisions. One speaker proposed that institutions start small experiments as a marathon race, and be ready to scale quickly those pilots that return a positive result. We have initiated pilot projects in UC ANR, too, hoping to identify strategies that demonstrate promise. Our last meeting with the ANR Governing Council led to discussion about conducting a variety of pilot projects with different UC campuses as a mechanism to identify ways to strengthen partnerships with campuses and improve campus understanding of UC ANR's work.
Today 45 of us participated in a REC planning meeting, focused on developing a strategic framework for the REC system to compliment the individual REC strategic plans. Over 40% of the participants were external to UC ANR, sharing their thoughts about topics including ways to expand the virtual presence of the REC system. Time passed quickly and before we knew it, our brainstorming time was over. I will be interested to see how the insights from our UC campus, CSU, ARS, and other partners contribute to the final product.
As we work through our current budget reality, we are preparing for the future and not simply responding to the present. We don't have it figured out yet, but are taking the long view. Be sure to tune into Thursday's Town Hall webinar to hear more about our budget situation.