Efficient college systems

An efficient college education system is like a forest on the brink of collapse. The internal dynamics are very similar.
  • An efficient college can deliver course schedules, required content, handouts, tests and grades. It cannot cope with the students who do not learn from getting told what to think, getting deprived of self-expression and getting treated like passive consumers.
  • An efficient college can make classes more efficient by providing seven Teaching Assistants to deal directly with students assembled into 4-500 seat lecture hall. It cannot accommodate students who thrive on dialogue, coaching or thinking for themselves.
  • An efficient college can require reading comprehension as well as accurate spelling, grammar and punctuation in writing assignments. It cannot incorporate the shift away from printed text to oral and visual communication serving the increasingly multilingual culture of shoppers, viewers, gamers and cultural creatives.
  • An efficient college can prepare students for working inside efficient corporations, factories and bureaucratic agencies. It cannot prepare graduates for P2P production, crowd sourcing, and social networking.
  • An efficient college can update transcripts, identify degree requirements not yet completed and advise each student of changes in policies that affect them. It cannot respond to a 50% dropout rate, problems at home, and wait listed courses.
  • An efficient college can deliver college knowledge consistent with instructional methods used a century ago. It cannot embrace PLE, non-linear or life-long learning models.
  • An efficient college can, in a crisis, inform all of it's constituencies of what has happened and how it's blameless. It cannot reform the institution or realize how deeply the changes will affect everything.
Like a forest, colleges are driven to become more efficient. It appears they cannot afford to become less efficient. They move themselves to the brink of collapse by what they cannot respond to, learn from or cope with among their enrollment. They become rigid rather than resilient. They over-commit to confining reciprocities that exclude variety, experiments and creative destruction. Their ecological niches are already filled and tightly coupled into a cohesive institution.


  1. Tēnā koe Tom.

    What a hoot this post is! It would be funnier if it weren't so true!

    I like the way you define the boundary in terms of what's outside rather than what's within - the universal set by what is unknown rather than by what is known - the scenery by what cannot be observed rather than what is obvious.

    It's like one of these functions in a digital paint application that inverts all the colours and shades but keeps the detail intact. It's often useful to turn the coat inside out and inspect the lining.

    Ka kite

  2. Greetings Ken
    Thanks for framing what I wrote this way. What we know so often blinds us to what is hidden from our view, unknown to us and deserving of our curiosity. Rigid systems don't know what they're missing and are in no position to discover what would give them more resilience, longevity and perceived value in the changing world.

    There's a flip side of what I wrote is also hidden from view. Within each resilient student, instructor and college administrator is a dynamic of life long learning, creative explorations, openness to unforeseen possibilities and questions that defy easy answers. The rigid system does not shut down these exceptional individuals.