This blog post has been a loooooong time coming. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost two years since I’ve written here.
It’s not for lack of prompting. Friends like @amichaelberman have prodded me, repeatedly (thank you!). And it’s not for lack of reflecting. I’m always in my head, thinking about something. I can’t even blame it on writer’s block. For the last couple of years I’ve written and/or edited Tech EDge, a monthly news blog for my division, and last year (2014), I wrote a monthly column for the Green Bay Press Gazette on topics like technology as a connector, online security, and MOOCs.
I’d like to blame it on lack of content to respond to, but who am I kidding? Lots has happened in the last couple of years. But today I read about the Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success and their new project to improve college admissions, and….with a few free minutes on my hands, I thought I might respond.
So let me first say….I applaud the idea. Roughly 80 colleges have gotten together to build a free platform for high school students — starting in their freshman year — to compile and create electronic portfolios to demonstrate their work. The thinking is that colleges can interact with them throughout their high school career and help guide them, and that work can later be used as part of the admission process.
It caught my attention because it’s similar to an idea I pitched many years ago when I was at Cal State East Bay. We served an area that had large under-represented populations. In some school districts in our area, only 10-15% of students graduated with the minimum requirements to attend a California State University — and by minimum requirements I mean they *took* the right classes, not even that they *passed* them. The ratio of guidance counselors to students was abysmal; students and their families simply had no access to the information they needed to make informed choices that put them on the path to college.
Coming from an e-marketing background, I wondered it we couldn’t provide students with a “virtual” counselor — timed electronic messages throughout their high school career (this was before text and social media were significant) to ensure students had “just in time” information to inform their class choices, college prep activities (SATs, financial aid), and more. This could be coupled with a couple of “on-site” activities throughout the year with college financial aid, admission, and academic counselors to guide the students, as well as (possibly) some tutoring services provided by current college students. Sadly, the idea didn’t go anywhere.
While not the same, this Coalition project aims to do some of the same things — guide students who may not have the resources to help with their college preparedness. That, I like.
But, as one whose job it is to consider technology and where it’s headed, well…I guess I’ll need to wait and see.
Right now, it feels like we’re in the middle of a technology storm, where every problem gets solved with a point solution. Or two. Or thirty-three. This one is designed to address admissions, and the application process. But it (appears to be) creating a portfolio solution that’s tied to one application process, and targeted only at high school students. Presumably, once they’re no longer high school students and have gone through the application process, they get passed onto the next solution, designed for students of that institution. How would this connect with a college-level e-portfolio? Or other application systems? Or…
I’m wondering when we can turn this model on its head. Take principles of user-centered design to build something around the student, first and foremost, instead of the institution(s) or the process. What would happen if we could give students a “digital passport” that they carry with them throughout their lives, collecting examples, credentials and more to use in applying to colleges or for jobs? Could we build something that is student-specific but system agnostic, so students could collect from and share with a variety of other systems, like each college’s preferred application system, registration system, or LMS (but wouldn’t it be nice if a personalized learning network could be incorporated in here somewhere, too)?
When I worked in high-tech start-ups, we quite literally invented e-marketing. We changed not only the delivery of marketing messages — moving them from mail/paper-based to email and online — but more importantly, the paradigm for marketing — moving it from a mass marketing approach to data-driven, personalized, one-to-one messaging. We talk a lot about technology disruption in higher education, but primarily, the conversation seems to be centered on delivery of education — online, MOOCs, competency-based learning, etc. Perhaps an even greater opportunity lies in the disruption of our organizational and service paradigms….