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Interview Video and Transcript from Discussion with Bryan Alexander for Georgetown’s Big Rethink Series

Some light viewing to give your mouse or trackpad a rest.

Early in August Bryan Alexander announced a new program he was working on at Georgetown University.

Higher Education’s Big Rethink is a Georgetown University graduate class about how academia is experiencing two huge 2020 developments: the COVID-19 pandemic and the national mobilization against racism.  The class is happening right now – actually, the first class is ongoing.  We’re holding another during the fall. [snip]

Another part of the Big Rethink that I’ve been working hard on is a set of interviews with brilliant people on this academic transformation.  Scholars, activists, professors, presidents, entrepreneurs, each with a distinct approach to the topic: I and graduate students talked with each for an hour or more.

I had the opportunity to have a discussion with Bryan and Amelia Auchstetter, a student in the Learning Design and Technology Program. Below is a list of the topics we explored.

  • Introduction; Impact of pandemic and BLM protests on Higher Ed

  • Trends and metrics that I track

  • Long-term changes to Higher Ed beyond 2021

  • How might hybridization of Higher Ed lower costs?

  • Emerging K-12 trends that impact Higher Ed

  • What about impact of other megatrends on Higher Ed?

  • Strengths or weaknesses of Higher Ed revealed in 2020

  • Role of instructional designers

  • Advice to institutions on EdTech infrastructure

  • Research and polarization

  • Impact of the digital divide and how to think of it

The video can be found at the Big Rethink site or on YouTube. I have also embedded the video below. There are three tabs that are worth understanding: the transcript tab will show the rolling transcript, the notes tab will show a clickable table of contents, and the share tab is self-explanatory.

I hope you enjoy. I know that I did (and make sure to head over to the Big Rethink site to other interviews).

Transcript (lightly edited for clarity):

Bryan: Welcome, everybody, to the Big Rethink interviews, I'm Bryan Alexander, faculty at LDT and Futurist. And with me is our interview subject and one of the oldest students, Phil. Why don't you introduce yourself?

Phil: Oh, it's great to be here. My name is Phil Hill. I'm a partner of MindWires Consulting and also a blogger on Phil on EdTech, where most people know me from, and coming to you from the coast of California. But it's great to be here and looking forward to the discussion and nice welcome.

Bryan: And Amelia.

Amelia: Hi, my name is Amelia Auchstetter, and I'm a student in the Learning Design and Technology Program at Georgetown University, and I'm coming to you from Chicago, Illinois.

Bryan: Very good. We [00:01:00] have a continental conversation for the next hour. Yes, very, very good. Well, we have a whole series of questions and we'll start with one. And again, almost all of these are focused on how higher education is responding to the double developments of 2020. On the one hand, the Covid-19 pandemic and the other hand, the anti-racist mobilization under the banner of Black Lives Matter. So our first question is, what do you seeing in the landscape of higher education as colleges and universities try to respond to both of these challenges?

Phil: I'm glad you guys start out with the easy questions. I'd say just to put it in context, I mean, on one hand we're in uncharted territory. We're dealing with the nature of situations we haven't directly seen before. So there's a lot that's speculative in the answers we're going through. But at the same time, there are a lot of trends that inform what might happen [00:02:00] in the future. And one thing I've observed is, for the most part, Covid in particular has served to accelerate or intensify past trends as opposed to create new trends out of whole cloth. For the move to online education, there's a lot of the tension about the value of education. There's a whole series of it. But so I guess to start out, pre June 1st, my answer would have been primarily with the pandemic, that it's going to be a fiscal shock to the system and it's going to intensify trends around hybridization of education, not just online, but hybrid education, using online tools as well as face to face modalities.

When you mix that in with the social unrest, I wouldn't say that's unprecedented, [00:03:00] but it really intensifies it and creates its own set of dynamics.

But let's get to the subject at hand. What's my general impression? I think it depends on what your goal is, how to view the current situation. And Josh Kim just put out a post, I think this week or late last week, about four ideologies and where are you with digital learning. I see a lot of flaws in there, and he acknowledges it's something new, but he brought up something that I think helps explain what I mean by this. He talks about digital learning moderates compared to progressives. And he said digital learning moderates share many of the same critiques of post-secondary for as the progressives, differing mostly in their preferred methods to ameliorate inequalities. Instead of seeing higher education as a mechanism to entrench class, race, [00:04:00] gender privilege, digital learning moderates hold to the belief that colleges and universities can serve as engines of social mobility and opportunity. So that gets to my key point.

If your goal is more of what Josh describes as a moderate, which is how you see colleges and universities as a method to address inequalities and increase social mobility, then what we're in right now, particularly since June, is actually very harmful. I'm seeing a lot of areas where a lot of long term and careful work on improving equity in the classroom and outcomes for students and opportunities for disadvantaged students - I think that's going to suffer disproportionately. I think it's suffering in terms of the funding. The funding is suffering in [00:05:00] terms of who gets impacted because of a lot of the pushback that's happening. Whoever's fault it is, the polarization that we're in right now due to both of these subjects is going to create a great harm to colleges' and universities' ability to deal with these subjects. So if you're a moderate, I think that it's going to set us back 5 - 10 years, and hopefully we'll reset and [resume] improving.

If, however, you fall in line with what Josh describes as a progressive, which is much more of a view ... Let me see, to be fair to him, how he described it. He's basically saying that it  is critical of EdTech in general. They tend to look at colleges and universities as tools of inequality [00:06:00] as opposed to opportunities for social change. If you fall more in line with that and want to see the system get torn apart and create something new - so much more of a revolutionary view - then I would say that I see the impact as clearly increasing the likelihood that that's going to happen. It's exposing rifts and tearing things down. And if your view is revolutionary, it's creating this great opportunity for a significant change over the next year or so.

So much of the outlook depends on how you view it. We're talking about sharing biases. I'm definitely more of the former camp. And part of that's because I do consulting with colleges and universities on how to improve the way they deliver education and how to ensure that you're dealing with accessibility, with equity and outcomes. I have a bias that I'm much more of a moderate in this regard. But [00:07:00] the question is, what do I see is happening, I think we're heading towards a highly-polarized, unseen landscape that could tear apart a lot of the work that's been going on. And you can view that as good or bad. So I can get more specific, but that's sort of the broad context of how I view the pandemic and the social unrest actually affecting where higher education is going.

Bryan: Thank you very much. I shared Josh's column with Amelia, and I've also added to my notes, that's a very good call. Thank you. And I appreciate as well your reflecting back on your own experience, both your role as a consultant, which leads you to one of these positions, but also the changing dynamics over time. You mentioned that Covid intensifies past trends and accelerates. And [00:08:00] I'm curious at a more quantitative question, I suppose, which trends or which metrics do you think do you follow and that you think we should pay special attention to?

Phil: And this gets to another pragmatic versus idealistic point of view. Well, I tend to focus on what metrics are actually available and believable, and they're not ideal metrics. And what I mean by that - in the US, the adoption of online learning, it's imperfect. I've even written a guest post in The Washington Post criticizing the College Scorecard and the IPEDS data. However, it is the best data we have to track student demand and adoption of online education either as an online program or as mixed Face-To-Face.

I [00:09:00] definitely track enrollment trends because it gives you a good historical basis of the change. And you can look at, you can make some extrapolations about what's going to happen. I definitely am looking at student outcomes as a key metric for schools and systems. Unfortunately, that's primarily based on grades and the percentage of students dropping DFW type of rates. I regret that that's the best metric out there for strategic views of success, but that's definitely a key metric. I live in California, the community college system, which - another disclosure, I've consulted with them for years - but they do a good job of tracking, for example, student outcomes, success rates. And then you can break that down by ethnicity, you can break it down by college. And so you can actually [00:10:00] see not just online versus face to face, you can see all of those. Whether online exacerbates outcome gaps or disparities more than face to face. I definitely track those two boring but important metrics as much as I can. And similar to you, Bryan, tracking the existence and the closures of universities and the migration between face to face to online to hybrid, and going back and forth as much as can be done. So from broad metrics of what's happening at large, for better or worse, those are the most important trends and ones that I definitely track when working with individual schools. You can get a lot more fine-grained.

And, you know, once you get beyond the privacy issues, you can much more look at things such as don't just track whether [00:11:00] a student did well on this course, but what was their success and follow on courses, or graduations, because education shouldn't be atomized into individual courses or experiences. That's the whole approach. As you get more specific to a school or a program, you can collect and track a lot broader data.

But at the broad level, since I talk a lot about strategy, you've got to go with the data that's available.

Bryan: So for the big picture data, is IPEDSthe best we've got right now? 

Phil: It's the best starting place in almost all cases, I guess the thing I would add to it is we're doing a lot more looking at surveys. For example, there's a lot of surveys out there on students and their experiences with the transition to remote. We're not creating any more of our own, but we have a Web page [00:12:00] where we're curating these surveys and trying to look across trends and make it easier. If people want to say, show me all the different student surveys, we're trying to provide a place where you can go find them. We also are looking at the same for faculty surveys. So survey data we're increasing, and as a matter of fact, one of the things we're working with is TopHat, and EdTech company. They asked us if we would actually help them with their questions and do an independent analysis of their faculty survey data. And we're in the middle of that. We're not doing the survey, but we're being an independent source of analysis. It's not just them analyzing their own survey data, but that allows you to get a lot more into attitudes. Do faculty feel that they're prepared for teaching in the modality that they're going to teach in and in the fall? [00:13:00]

IPEDS is a great starting place. Surveys are definitely augmenting our understanding, but you have to be very cautious about not over interpreting surveys. We're really adding that to the mix. And then the Davidson College modality tracking. Who's online, who's face to face and what's changing. That's definitely a useful resource that's become public over the past week or two, or at least I became aware of it in the past week or two.

Bryan: Let's see if I can pull that up. You know, they just had a press release, on the one hand, if I think about this.

Phil: But it's that datasource, and I don't have it right in front of me, but it's a joint project, and they actually have a part of it as a [00:14:00] student project, which I really like. But it's got a much better taxonomy on how to classify schools than the Chronicle database does. And it seems to be more up to date. So I forget the exact name. But the one out of Davidson has been a very useful summary of college status this year.

Bryan: Very good. We're going to have to a few thoughts about that. Thank you. Thank you. This is a I really appreciate the detailed and very pragmatic thing about your earlier turn answering this question.

Phil: Actually, let me add the commentary to tie these together and to expose my biases. It's interesting. As I'm listening to myself, the way I look at data is similar to the situation I was describing - more on the moderate in the first question and that I use IPEDS data and College Scorecard data. I'm critical [00:15:00] of it. And I've even written a blog post and Washington Post column about the flaws in it. But it's as a mechanism to improve it, hoping to expose where the improvements are needed, because the better they make that data, the more useful it is for analysts. So just a little commentary.

Bryan: That's pretty consistent. Thank you. Thank you.

You know, you mentioned these are big questions. Well, we're going to make them even bigger right now. We've got three three giant ones beyond the macro level, the mega macro level. One of them is, you're a very, very close observer of how higher education changes. What do you think some of the long term changes are going to be, looking beyond the next academic year?

Phil: What are the long term changes? Well, I think the most obvious one is the fact that the we have intensified [00:16:00] the trend towards digital learning and fully online courses and hybrid.

What's been happening is a multi-decade migration going through the technology adoption curve of innovators, early adopters. Once you get beyond 20 %, you're starting to get into mainstream in terms of, for example, number of courses in the U.S. that are online. And that changes the dynamic. So pre-pandemic, you're tracking this stuff and it's happening over two decades and you can see trends. All of a sudden, within a month's time, we've now gone to virtually every faculty member in the U.S. has online teaching experience. Now we'll call it emergency remote and do the word games, which are useful. But still it is for the experience and the modalities in a way that might have [00:17:00] taken another 5-10 years. It's happening in a matter of weeks. Now you're getting a much greater percentage of faculty, of students, of schools - however you want to break it down - who have opinions in this subject and experience and a demand on what we need to have better for the fall at the very least, if not beyond. So the shock, it's almost like a shock to the system in terms of technology adoption curve. That instead of a smooth multi decade thing, it's like, bam, we're hitting something huge. And that means, for example, I think you're going to see long term hybrid education is now here to stay. In the past, there was a view of face to face versus online. Is this false dilemma one or the other? And then a lot of people [00:18:00] are complaining, saying that's it's a spectrum. It's not online versus face to face, and organized hybrid classes that have specifically designed online components and face to face - using that as a definition of hybrid or of some courses online, some face to face for one program - that's that's just been accelerated and is going to have a huge impact on education moving forward, in my opinion, more than the pure online programs themselves.

In other words, I think that we're going to get a far greater increase in digital learning from a hybrid perspective. Now, that's good and bad. You know, a lot of people have talked about Zoom University, and a lot of people are trying to solve this by simply trying to do everything the same way but through Zoom, and people are frustrated with that. So [00:19:00] there are some downsides to this, but that's part of a social system adapting to the new environment and figuring out what works. It's going to ramp up the importance of intuitive systems that faculty and instructional designers, it's much more important now for them to be able to, 'I get how the system works. I don't need to do extensive technology training. I just need to have it intuitive and use it.' And that's true with students as well, whereas in the end it's deemphasizing the very specific requirements of power users. So you have somebody who's been teaching forever. I want to have this, but not show up until this situation happens, and it needs to be flashing green. And I don't want to have those types of power user requirements, they are getting deemphasize for the sake of intuitive design for the majority of faculty. And that's good [00:20:00] and bad.

But I think that's going to have a long term impact because of the significant number of instructors and students who are now day to day dealing in the digital environment. And so I don't know everything that's going to happen. But this hybridization of higher education and the fact that it's not something swept under the rug, it's going to be a major trend impacting everything that happens after this. Now, when I say everything, I'm not one of the believers of, you know, colleges are going out of business and everything will be online. I see it much more in the sense of the system of higher education now confronting the reality of hybridization and having to make strategic choices about how they support this now. That gets into subjects like student affordability. Some will look at this, I consulted with one school that was looking at hybrid, dealing [00:21:00] with the problem of every student. If they get in, they get access to their courses. While this is a way to say, well, we guarantee that and we're increasing student enrollment without building new buildings or without raising tuition. So I think that there's a connection that if a school uses these digital learning and the hybridization trends as a way to strategically lower the cost of education, there's a huge opportunity there.

I think that the schools that have simply used online learning as a revenue source and as sort of a cash thing, I think they're going to suffer in the long term.

Bryan: This is that the billion billion dollar question, how do you see that kind of hybridization lowering costs?

Phil: Well, I mentioned one. If you really look at and this is difficult with budget lines, the more you use hybrid, the [00:22:00] less demand you have on facilities.

Or you can fit a greater number of courses because some courses are online, some are face to face. So no longer do I have to build a new 35 million dollar building as my quick way [handling that] enrollment has gone up 15 %. Now I can be more strategic around hybrid, increase my enrollment, but not have to spend 35 million dollars on a new building, et cetera. So that's that's one of the ways that they do that. I think the other way to do it is even expanding a definition of who's in the university. It can increase access for people who couldn't get to the campus but still have an opportunity to be in programs. So it's an access and an opportunity to shift where money is spent if done the right way.

Bryan: Thank you. That's those are two two answers that I think a lot of people are going [00:23:00] to run with right now, and I really, really admire your insight about the shift away from power users and towards, as you put it, more intuitive systems. We're going to come back to that. But Amelia had a question about connecting these trends to another set of trends. Amelia, you wanted to ask about the K - 12.

Amelia: Yeah, so as they were just talking about different systems, you know, your work with across these systems, I was interested in how they might connect to higher ed. So specifically, are you seeing any emerging trends in K-12 that higher ed may have to respond to in the future?

Phil: This is sort of a pre-pandemic: One, mastery learning, there has been a greater adoption of mastery learning in the K-12 system that's happening before higher education, and it's increasing the pressure on higher education to to do this and just make [00:24:00] sure we're talking the same thing. So not just taking summative assessments and hearing your grade, but students having the ability to do assessments until they prove they've mastered whatever, and then move on. So more flexibility from that. So that's one that I think has already happened, that from K-12 affecting higher ed.

This might be a boring one, but one that we definitely see in California because community colleges are so tied to K-12 and some people call it really more of a K-14 system, if you think about it that way. The fact that the community colleges in California have all standardized on Canvas as the learning management system, I see that putting a lot of pressure on K-12 LMS the K-12 districts to make a similar decision on what their LMS is, because people are saying, hey, students are going right from here to here and [00:25:00] they don't want to they don't necessarily want to change or you have teachers who are doing both. So so you do see even some demand for common infrastructure between K-12 and higher ed.

So those aren't really 2020 issues. But I'd say mastery learning and learning platforms is one I've already seen the impact on. I think there's also this is more aspirational, like I wish this were more true than it is, but I think it's happening the more you get active learning approaches in K-12. The more demand for students to not just have lectures and to have active learning opportunities in colleges and universities, so I sort of see both sides influencing each other. And I know there are bigger ones, but just there's some quick ones off the top of my head that impact [00:26:00] them.

Amelia: Thank you. It's really interesting to hear. What's happening in those institutions and the changes that higher ed may see or need to respond to going forward?

Phil: Yes, and I'll mention one other. That's much more on the negative side. So many students come out of the K-12 system not truly being prepared for what's traditionally been college and university study. Well, that's ramped up the demand for colleges and universities to provide what used to be called remedial education. Or, you know, to get into that, let's get these students up to basic math levels before they can matriculate or before they take their college level courses. That's been a huge demand. And a lot of people are looking saying that's where we drop out a lot of students in higher ed. So that's where a lot of work is saying, well, instead of doing it as you do this first, [00:27:00] then you go here. There might be a co requisite model, which is essentially start taking your college courses and you're I still use the word remedial. I know it's not ideal, but get the extra help you need because you aren't fully prepared coming out of K-12. But that whole area of academically unprepared students goes across the to higher ed can't solve that by itself because these are problems often created or coming out of K-12. But it's a reality that the two are interconnected. So how much do you try to solve in higher ed versus how much do you try to solve by improving K-12? But that whole academic preparation of students is a huge issue.

It drives cost drives for retention. It drives so much between the two. So I'll throw that one in the mix as well. More in a negative light, unfortunately.

Bryan: I [00:28:00] appreciate your own assessment of your own answers. Amelia, thank you for a really, really good question. That's that can have a huge, huge impact given especially in the community college sector being huge. But in general, the question as well, this is the last huge question to ask you, Phil. How do you see these the trends that you've been talking about so far, intersecting with some of the hugest trends in higher education and the world? I'm thinking of climate change, for example, thinking of income inequality. Some interviewees have said so far they think that there's not much of an intersection because covid and Black Lives Matter have soaked up so much of our attention that we're really those are on the back burner. Others have said that our responses to Covid and Black Lives Matter are kind of a training for [00:29:00] responses to these other trends. I'm just curious what kind of mega connections you can make.

Phil: So we'll go to the nature of God and man as our next question after.

Bryan: It's right there on the Google Doc.

Phil: That's right. A simple answer there. Now, are you mentioned one, the income inequality and social mobility is I think that's the probably the biggest one. And I don't think I can see the argument where somebody might say it's sort of taking over those things. But I think that what's happening is.

The income inequality and the challenges to social mobility are creating a lot of what's happening with the Black Lives Matter, and then the pandemic is making it worse because disproportionately lower income people are suffering the effects of more from the lockdowns and the economic [00:30:00] decisions. They all fit together. So I would say the biggest one overall is income inequality. But I add to that social mobility. It's not just who's got more resources or less, it's part of it, particularly in the U.S. This is part of the core of why we wanted to exist as a country is to not have classes and to have social mobility.

So it's the ability to move and the fact that it's not that recently we've been segmenting into polarized views of what you call income inequality that's tied up into everything. So I think that you cannot separate those three subjects. They all fit together and higher education is in it, even pre 2020. I mean, I'll give an example.

I interviewed people at Northern Arizona University, [00:31:00] R1 institution, but I think somewhere close to 40 % of their incoming class, at least at the time, was first generation students. So they're dealing with students who, however they are economically, they tend to be lower income. You have first generation students and you don't have this cultural history of going to college.

Well, one of the biggest challenges they had to deal with is you might have a student that in their K-12 district, they did well, they were valedictorian, but then they'd get to college. And it's a different set of expectations. And then the first time they get a C, it's like, oh, I'm a failure. I knew that I don't belong here. The ethnic issues start to come to the fore. And there's sort of it's outside of the class. It's a confidence and a do I belong [issue]. And so you had these programs that I love where they were attacking, [00:32:00] that they would get mentor student mentors who were one or two years older. That might come from the same community who were actively coaching them, giving them the advice, saying, hey, don't get down just because you got a C. I went through this myself and here's what I did. And let's get you the help you need. Let's give you the confidence, because you're not getting that at home. And I don't mean to criticize their homes, but if you're first generation, by definition, you don't have parents who can say, oh, when I was in your situation, here's what I did. Right. So the point is, if you look at that case, it's got so many elements in it, they have to deal with it. It's inequality based. They're trying to provide social mobility, but it's expensive to provide these programs so much budget requirements on universities to provide this support. So you've got all of these issues are tied together.

So long winded way to say the biggest [00:33:00] megatrend I think it ties to is in income inequality / social mobility, and think they're all tied together.

Bryan: Thank you. That's a that's a very brave answer. And and I really appreciate your focus on one solution in terms of mentoring. Our next question is. Kind of a revelatory question, and that is in great crises often reveal strengths and weaknesses and to give them body that were unnoticed or under discussed by many beforehand. I'm curious, you're an incredibly close observer of higher education. What are some of those strengths and weaknesses that the pandemic and also the anti-racist mobilization, how is that one of those revealed about higher education that that most people weren't thinking of or was what we're talking about?

Phil: Well, if you hadn't added that last phrase, I mean that I'll [00:34:00] answer it in terms of that it wasn't being discussed enough. I don't want to imply nobody was looking these subjects, but I think it's becoming more to the fore.

One is higher education in the U.S. is remarkably resilient. People try to portray it as hasn't changed in hundreds of years. It's the same model. It's such a it's such a great intro if you're at the ASU GSV conference, and you go on to propose your solution to it. But I don't see it that way. And as a matter of fact, Clay Shirky wrote a guest post on my blog, and I helped him out with it, where he was saying, look at what education has gone through - the GI Bill and the definition of access and who should go to college. That is a remarkable transformation that higher education has mostly adapted to over the past few decades.

And no matter what happens, [00:35:00] higher education is resilient and never completely changes. I think there's a lot more ability to adapt in institutions and in faculty and staff than people give it credit to. And I'll give you one example. The fact that almost all schools went online in a matter of three weeks. And tell me the biggest disaster that happened in US higher education in March and April, disaster like things just fell apart.

Bryan: I can't think of one besides my point, besides the health and safety of people primarily in New York City.

Phil: Ok, that's about it, yeah, that's actually probably the closest one, but my point is it didn't shut down the system. You didn't hear about this entire state couldn't even offer classes to community college students. So I think you have to, [00:36:00] in my opinion, you have to give credit to how resilient and how adaptable higher education proved itself to be this spring. A lot of weaknesses, a lot of things that didn't do well. And fall will be completely different than spring. But I don't think it gets enough credit as a system for how resilient and adaptable as it is.

On the negative side, it's what I would call the loss of principle, or the polarization in dialogue. And I don't mean a soft Rodney King. Why can't we all get along kind of way? I mean, we have become, even within higher education, way too much of a society of I don't want to argue with you around ideas. If I disagree with you, I want to shut you down. That a lot of people call it the cancel culture, but I [00:37:00] know that can be associated one way versus the other. But the polarization of we don't even want to listen to ideas. I agree with this, but I disagree with that point and work together within the area of ideas. And it's become, let's forget history and let's ... the cancel culture, I think within higher education it needs to be discussed more.

And it gets back to that original comment I made about whether that's good or bad. If you're more what Josh described as a digital learning progressive, you can interpret that as a good thing. We're finally getting rid of elements that are have been harmful in the past. If you're more of a digital learning moderate and are trying to improve the colleges and universities that we have right now, it's supposed to replace them or break things down, then it's a negative where higher education is not having healthy dialogue. And  [00:38:00]it's adopted a lot of this polarization. Some would argue it came from higher ed.

I'm not not of that camp, but the polarization of ideas is being revealed in stark terms, and it could be interpreted as good or bad, depending on what you want to happen again.

Bryan: Back to Josh's Taxonomy. Thank you.

Phil: That paragraph, in particular, has differentiation between those two ideologies, I think was a very well stated and captures what I think is a big divide. So, yes, I'm coming back to that one again.

Bryan: No, it's that's good. We have.

Phil: But it also let me be let me riff on this a little bit more. You want to know why I'm using that article?

Because it provides a mechanism to discuss these issues and hopefully get around the polarized debate [00:39:00] that's happening. I'm not trying to shift everything on to Josh, but I'm giving credit for his taxonomy. And it provides a way to hopefully have a healthy conversation in this area that used to be in higher ed, yet have conversations. You don't you take bigger risk and we can't do that as much anymore.

Bryan: So I fear that it would go a bit off topic. But I think there's such a framework - it really, really helps. But I think it ultimately loses people in each of those categories. Yeah, well, I could talk about that, but that's that's not the point of our conversation. Yeah. What we'd like to do is we'd like to slice down our our vision in these next few questions to a more narrow focus. And we have a couple of topics and we want to start off with an instructional designers. And so, I mean, that includes people who call themselves instructional designers. That's their job title, but also some people who do instructional design [00:40:00] and academic computing, educational technology, even the library. And as you've mentioned, and as we both said before, instructional designers did a fantastic job in March and April. I mean, just a heroic, heroic job. Well, I'm wondering, what do you see ahead for instructional designers over the next year or so? What kind of role can they play in addressing these huge, huge crises? And there's a specific interest here, because in the old program, some of the students are instructional designers before they get in, and some of them become instructional designers when they leave. So our students are listening closely to your answer right now.

Phil: Here's your chance to ... You know how Harvard and Yale Law School provide almost all of the Supreme Court justices. And then it has an enormous difference, society wise, in learning and instructional design. This is the moment to go that direction.

It has become [00:41:00] existential to colleges and universities that they have improved instructional design in prior years. Yes, that's sort of true. But it's more about the selectivity of admissions. It's more about college life, football team, all these other things that get mixed down. So much of that is getting stripped away, and the education is still there. And schools are realizing if we provide terrible educational experiences now, that we have to be hybrid or online for most of them. This makes it an existential issue. This could have impact whether we lose so many students, we go out of business and cease to exist as a school. And what's the crux of that? Instructional design. So there's this gap that has just become so important. I don't [00:42:00] know how it's going to be filled, but students and people in the instructional design position clearly have the knowledge, clearly have already helped this remarkable transition in the spring. But the opportunity is to now become much more of a strategic element of how institutions work. So their importance is going way up.

But I mention it as opportunity because your world is shifting. And if you don't recognize that schools will find some other way to fill this gap, whether it be an OPM partner, or and I know they have instructional designers themselves, but particularly where the solution comes from, it's not clear. But it's a gap that has to be filled.

And it's a very strategic. And I give one example is if you have people who have been doing [00:43:00] training on how to teach with technology, how to redesign courses in the digital world, and you don't recognize that you're no longer just teaching, you're no longer just using an audience of 25% of faculty who typically use these resources. Now you have an audience of 80 to 100 % of faculty. They have different expectations and different demands on how easy and how digestible the information is. Some people, some schools, I've seen it where the reaction is, oh, you're pulling us back as an instructional designer. You're making us give up a lot of the things we've advanced as opposed to viewing, no, I have a whole new set of people and I've got to bring up the whole field, at least to a certain common level.

So there's an opportunity, but that comes with a cost. And I have this diagram I've [00:44:00] used several times. It's straddling the chasm. And the idea is that there's a chasm of technology adoption between the innovators and early adopters, and the mainstream and laggards. And in-between is a chasm. And for instructional design, you don't get to choose.

It's on both sides and you better recognize the demands of new faculty. And what I mean by new faculty who are new to digital learning. So you can be incredibly more important, but you better be incredibly adaptable and understand the nature of the change that we're going through.

Bryan: Your numbers struck me very clearly, if you're talking about instructional designers working with, let's just say, 20 % of faculty and now they're working with 80 or 90 % of the faculty, did Covid just cross the chasm for us in Geoffrey Moore's term? [00:45:00]

Phil: In my mind if you look, there are differences in sectors. If you're talking in private 4-year [institutions], there's a lot of variation. There's no one higher education, in my view, as we were gently crossing the chasm already with some pain points. But, you know, it's almost like you had a chasm that had a sloping hill, but you had a chasm, but you had these sloping hills that you could sort of crawl up or down.

It's like Covid. It's made that into vertical walls and forced you to say, no, we're going over. You don't have the toleration for gently going up and down into the chasm.

That's the way I would view it. We already were hitting the chasm. But the chasm now is much more vertical in its approach. And you're having to jump further over, way deeper into the mainstream. You've got to fully commit.

Bryan: This is a huge development. Thank [00:46:00] you. And the circles are I'm reminded of what you said a little earlier when you were describing how there would be more into it, that campuses would see more demand for more intuitive systems and less interest paid to power users. And that's that's a way of thinking about it. Amelia, Amelia had a question that takes another angle to the you know, so not just to the not just the instructional designers, but to the technology side. And Amelia, I wonder if you could if you could put this question to our guest.

Amelia: Yeah, so in our program, we look at technology being incorporated into instructional design and the university, so, you know, spring, there has been so many stories about different uses of technology like Zoom, virtual reality, etc. all those options. What advice would you give to institutions as [00:47:00] they invest in their technology infrastructure, or are there certain priorities or questions they should consider?

Phil: Well, let's start with what's required. And it's independent of what I think should happen. It's happening.

And so you need to accept that the prices of systems are pushing up because the usage is going up. Unfortunately, what this Jeff Bezos is getting richer and richer. AWS: there's so many platforms that are on AWS, their usage is going up. The people thought that their system usage would be like a gym membership. OK, we'll sell fitness to all these people, but only 10 % will show up. And it's like, holy crap, 80 % are showing up and the whole model breaks down. So these vendors are trying to raise their prices. And at the same time, you have the huge budget cuts largely from the state and from enrollment.

And so [00:48:00] what that's created is a situation where schools have to do a forced prioritization. And the first one really comes to down to the LMS. Now, for better or worse, the LMS already was ubiquitous. So people are saying, well, we've got to we already have an LMS, we're paying for it, but we've got to make sure we understand any price increases and any training. The next one that's new is video conferencing, and what I mean by new is not that nobody was doing it before, but I think it was down,  and official campus tools to do live synchronous video, there were solutions, but you have multiple systems.

What schools did in the spring is they just started paying for Zoom in mass, even if they already had Blackboard Collaborate or some other system. So in that second priority, schools are, you could say, are overspending because they're [00:49:00] paying for multiple systems and it's systems that they didn't necessarily pay for before another one.

Proctoring, people are saying we're all for online. We got to solve the problem of who are the students and do we have integrity of checking not just authentication to get in the system, but ensuring we know that it's the right students taking the tests and passing assessments. And that's led to a rapid adoption of proctoring that's increased. Unfortunately, I wish there were more on the accessibility side.

But in any case, you have this forced prioritization that schools go to. So it's not even like they have fungible money to say, well, what would we like to invest? And most schools are simply saying, how do we just cope with reality and make sure we're maintaining all of these key systems? So having said that, what advice would I give them? [00:50:00] Well, I mean, I guess the big advice is recognize these forced priorities and be careful that ... One of the things is a lot of vendors were saying you can use our system for free through the summer or through 2020. Well, that's going to lead to a budget commitment beyond there that could destroy your budget. So be very, very careful about accepting any of these free offers because it could really come back and bite you. It's good that vendors offered it. I think it's generally good intentions, but it could be terrible from a budget standpoint.

The other thing is accessibility and student support. You need to actively increase their priority. I mentioned accessibility for hearing disabled, sight disabled, basically people who have issues, you need full accessibility. The Department [00:51:00] of Justice and the Department of Education, they might be going easy on all of these Zoom University approaches right now. But that's not going to last. You're going to have lawsuits, maybe not in the fall, but by the spring. And if you just keep getting people to adopt technology without dealing with the accessibility concerns, you're setting yourself up for a huge problem.

And it's the right thing to do. You need to help students universal design of learning everything that goes with it on the student support.

This wraps back into the income inequality, like I used the NAU example, it's not necessarily classroom support. You need to have additional support structures to ensure that all student groups, however you break them down, have an opportunity to to succeed. That means your advisors need to have information to know how to help students. [00:52:00] If you have mentoring programs, you need to have support for these training and for for doing this. So basically, student support, particularly with appropriate advising has to be part of your budget priorities. And again, the Department of Education, Department of Justice might be going easy on you now, but if we get into the fall and all of a sudden you see, wow, this ethnic group or this ethnicity just dropped off the map, there's going to be hell to pay. I mean, quite honestly, and both from a reputation, both from what should happen, but also in terms of I think there will be accrediting and sanctioning issues that will harm schools.

So if there's any two areas I would advocate that schools need to actively push up the priority list despite [00:53:00] the emergency, its accessibility and student support / advising.

Phil: I think you're on mute.

Bryan: Yeah, I was wondering if you're going to be advising to that, which is really the key. Yeah, thank you. Thank you.

Phil: And I mentioned that. And I just just want to emphasize enough, it's the right thing to do, but it's also really setting yourself up for some huge, expensive problems. If you don't take care of it and you wait until late fall, and then all of a sudden your retention numbers show a huge disparity between different groups, that's going to be a real problem for a school. So you need to invest and pay attention to it now.

Bryan: Thank you. I really appreciate that. Look ahead, do you find... Well, let's shift ground a bit from the question of teaching and learning to the question of research for one question.

We [00:54:00] talk about polarization before in 2020, the American attitude towards research has become quite polarized, in particular the attitudes towards our public health, science and epidemiology, as well as maybe to a lesser degree, the social science around racism. You know, on the one hand, we have populations that embrace such research and then your populations that are opposed to such research. So my question is, what is this experience in 2020? What has this taught us about how how higher education produces messages of its research and how we and we try to persuade the public that this research really matters?

Phil: I guess I take issue with your characterization, the binary view that some groups care about it or want research and some don't. I mean, yes, in the extremes, that's definitely true. I mean, you will find [00:55:00] people, but I don't think that's the big problem. I think the big problem is in the fuzzy middle and the polarization of our debates.

Legitimate critiques of scientific inquiry and research get handled, as a polarized, almost a religious issue. You know, you must have faith or you must deny; or you must say there's no value in the science or you must say you trust everything and there's no more. And we're losing the nuance of, yes, this is what's weak with our past response and here's what needs to be done better. So, for example, it's not just messaging. If you look at public health, I guess you've got to be careful about research because Covid is so new. But it's not just a matter of messaging. There are legitimate faults [00:56:00] with the science that's being applied. And there's a lot of rapid research being done on potential treatments and trying to figure out what is the nature of the transmission. Why has it gone up so significantly in the summer?

And so let's just take that Covid type of research, even though a lot of it's very recent and rushed research as opposed to taking time to go through the full process. It's getting presented as you're with us or you're against it. Like for example, masks. Masks you believe and or masks you don't. Well, there's nuance there, such as we're learning that the spread of Covid appears to be, from what I've read, primarily airborne and not from surfaces. So early on, there was such an emphasis of let's just use Clorox; Clorox has made out better than [00:57:00] Zoom has. Right. But yet we're finding out that it's much more breath. So either aerosol or droplets, yet it took forever. And they're still trying to get this done for public health agencies to update their recommendations based on what scientists are doing research on. And some of the research is just wrong. I'm not explaining myself well, but my contention is that we're losing the nuance of, hey, this research, it got this right and it got this wrong.

And we need an educated public to know how to interpret the science. And we need the science to get better, the research to get better. Instead, what’s happening? It’s it’s becoming all or nothing simplistic issues such as masks or no masks. So early on, don’t use a mask. [00:58:00] What’s the official guidance of people who, quote unquote, were behind the research while a lot of that was social change? Don’t use the N95 mask because we need it for front line responders. First of all, that was a messaging issue. It wasn't explained. Here's why we're recommending something and here's why we're changing our our recommendation. But then it's allowed a lot of the research to lose just that nuance of here's where it makes sense. Here's where it doesn't. Here's the limitations of this research. And we're going to tell you upfront, don't extrapolate here because the research doesn't support it yet. So a long-winded way to say I disagree that it's primarily an issue of people believing in research or not believing in research.

I think the nuance to allow healthy debate in the middle is where the problem is. I wish I could give you more specifics, [00:59:00] but know the premise.

Bryan: Oh, I appreciate that. That's always a good sign. I mean, I would think, for example, of how ProPublica did a devastating takedown on how New York Governor Cuomo, New York City de Blasio handled the crisis. And as far as I can tell, nobody has managed to take down this critique. That this critique was really solid. I mean, no one's disagreeing with it. But I will find New Yorkers who lost friends to the pandemic say they don't want to hear a word against them because that's their tribe. You know, these are new Democrats. And and de Blasio in particular is more on the progressive side. Instead, for them, it's all Trump. And then the Republicans I talked to will say, well, it's all this stupid Democrats. I said, well, what about Trump? You know, what about the political leadership in Texas or in Florida? And it's all just nonsense. [01:00:00] I mean, to to actually say, well, let's let's look at this carefully and see what kind of ... well, this gets us off the topic. And I'm giving you examples to agree with. But but we are also way over time. We have we have blasted past our hour. And we had one more question left to ask you.

[cross talk]

Phil: I've got time. I was supposed, I think there was an Educause meeting on the Blackbaud, not Blackboard, but Blackbaud privacy data breach. I'm late on that. That's a pretty boring topic. So I prefer this discussion.

Bryan: Well, I'm actually pretty curious about the Blackbaud story myself. But for the the last question we had actually isn't too far off from Educause on Blackbaud, which is one of the developments that's been or one of the facts that's been revealed by the Covid-19 crisis on the Black Lives Matter mobilisations is the role of the digital divide, which has been known to [01:01:00] some of us for 30 years but was largely under the carpet until March and April. We pushed online and lo, we discovered how many people don't have access to the hardware or the training or the infrastructure. I'm wondering if what you think about the role, the digital divide now, is this a deep, intractable problem? Do you think we should push for a kind of utility model? Do you think there's something we're stuck with or are you seeing good approaches that to mitigating it in higher education that we should know about?

Phil: Well, I guess I'll start that with somewhat of a critique, or at least be aware of the assumptions that go into the digital divide by calling it a digital divide. You sort of imply it's the technology where the divide is. Most of the surveys I've seen, for example, which show that, yes, there is a subset that this spring has not had reliable access to Internet [01:02:00] or to computers, and that's something that needs to be dealt with. But even greater numbers have just simply the issue of I've got the equipment, but I don't have a reliable time when I can have quiet to listen in on my class. So maybe I can, yes, I technically have broadband. I technically have a computer, but at 3 p.m. every afternoon, I can't do that because I'm taking care of a sibling, because whatever the case may be.

And then when higher education jumps in and does - I keep using their name - Zoom University and your class is at 3 p.m., you're taking the groups [that are] lower income, predominantly disadvantaged students, and you're increasing their stress and making it more difficult for them to participate. And I think that's greater subject than even the access to broadband or computers. So I think the broadband and computer [01:03:00] access and whether it's laptop or iPad programs, I've seen schools that are handing out devices that help with broadband access. I think those are good and they're important. But I think there's a bigger one that's not technology. It's more pedagogical at giving students understanding their lives. And the implication, for example, if you go on video and if you go all synchronous, you're going to disproportionately affect lower income students who can't guarantee a quiet place to work during that time frame.

I think that social pedagogical issue is bigger than the pure connectivity.

I guess I think the subjects important, I'm just throwing out a caution. I don't think it's a pure technology problem to be solved.

Bryan: It's good. I like the way you break that down as a social problem and a pedagogical one.

Phil: Yeah, and one other, I would add one to it on [01:04:00] the technology. And that's mobile as a key element. Is that a lot of times it's not just, OK, let's come up with a laptop program, part of the way you can make things easier, make things more accessible and workable on mobile devices, because where you have a technology, we have a lot less of a technology divide in terms of smartphones than we do in terms of laptops.

If you create programs that will shift the emphasis to have more reliance on smartphones, you have less of the divide to deal with. So there are technology issues, but I think there's also pedagogical issues that I think are even bigger.

Bryan: You can look at a couple of decades of Pew Internet studies, and when they ask Americans in general about their cell phone smartphone uses over and over again, blacks and the LatinXe population and poor folks [01:05:00] in general tend to use cell phones more often and for more functions than everybody else. I've been telling campuses for years, if you're serious about that, about that kind of equity issue, then, you know, take mobile seriously. Yeah, exactly. I this is the end of our prepared questions on.

I wanted to ask first if if you had anything that we haven't addressed that you'd like us to pay attention to or. 

Phil: I mentioned the one, the nature of God and man. It's been a fascinating conversation and obviously takes us out of our comfort zones, which I really like about what you guys are doing and trying to position things in the broader context. So, no, I don't have anything I would add, although just feedback. I like this discussion and I like the getting out of your comfort zone approach as well.

Bryan: Thank you. Thank you. That's [01:06:00] for Amelia and her colleagues who helped make this happen.

Phil: Well, kudos. Good job.

Bryan: I have one small question and it may be a terminological question, in which case we can we can do it really quickly and then we can stop. You've been talking about hybrid teaching, combining face to face and online. I think hybrid is the term that you've used several times. And I'm curious, I don't think I heard you say HyFlex. Is that a term that you're avoiding or do you see a distinction or what do you think?

Phil: I have a graphic, the Hybridization of Higher Education graphic that I have and I'll send it to you or share a link to it. I consider HyFlex as one.

It's a some type of hybrid. So it's a method that is particularly relevant today. But it's part of hybrid. I'm using the superset term instead of just narrowing down on one category. But [01:07:00] I will say, and Kevin Kelly, who works with me and has written about this a lot, he was at San Francisco State and has talked a lot about HyFlex. I definitely see the importance. I think that it's really important in this day and age, given the flexibility. It does put some design demand for your learning designers and structural designers that you're pre-thinking about how to make sure you can handle online face to face and give students the choice on which modality works in their lives, even day to day or week to week. But coming into this fall where we have so much uncertainty about are we going to be online or are we going to be partially face to face, you know, HyFlex, it's expensive. It's not easy. It's predesigned, it puts resilience into the system as you move forward. So I think that's part of the reason it's become so popular. It's not [01:08:00] a preplanned here's exactly what's online, here's what's face to face. It's saying here's how to design it and students get to choose. I think there's a particular rationale, while it's become so important these days. No, I wasn't excluding it, it's just I consider that one type of hybrid.

Bryan: Understood, understood. And we'll have Brian Beatty as an interview subject pretty soon. Yes. Well, speaking of timing and subjects, you've been a fantastic subject subject till now. Thank you so much for your really, really thoughtful and rich answers. I've been taking notes in a Google Doc, and, you know, I have to mention the Google Docs going to steam from all the input. But, Amelia, thank you. Thank you so much for your terrific questions, which really added so much to our discussion.

Phil: Yeah, well, thanks a lot. And Amelia, it's great to meet you and thanks for not just the questions, but [also] [01:09:00] the design going into this. Like I said, this is an engaging conversation. So it's a very useful.

Bryan: Yeah. And thank you for answering questions and also giving me a lot to think about. I have so many notes of things to consider as I go forward to the program.