LIDA101 Future of higher education in a digital age

The purpose of this activity is to have an open discussion on the future of higher education in a digital age taking into account the rising costs of education and lack of access in many parts of the world.
Issues to consider and share on the forum include:

  • What are your thoughts on Anya Kamenetz’s TEDxAtlanta talk on the DIY U? Published in 2010, what is the probability of these predictions becoming reality taking the advantage of hindsight into account? Do you disagree with any of Anya’s assertions?
    *Will the phenomenon of “free learning” succeed in addressing the challenges of rising costs and lack of access to higher education? Think about advantages and disadvantages.
  • Will alternate credentialing increase your prospects for future employment?
  • What are the implications of this changing landscape in higher education for your own academic skills and those of future learners?
  • Other?

You are encouraged to “like” compelling posts and to reply to contributions from your peers. Remember to add the “lida101” tag.


The cost of higher education is becoming unaffordable for many learners. (See for example the #textbookbroke hashtag.)

Governments are beginning to recognize the challenges of affordability of higher education. For example, in New Zealand, the new Labour Government has announced free tertiary fees and the South African President has also announced fee-free higher education for the poor.

The long term challenge is one of sustainability. Will these governments be able to continue funding fee free education without substantive changes to the higher education system? What can be done to ensure long term sustainability?


Lisa Petrides, Douglas Levin, and C. Edward Watson recently posted an article: Toward a Sustainable OER Ecosystem: The Case for OER Stewardship which highlights a framework of values that will contribute to long term sustainability.

I think this will become an important component when building sustainable solutions for fee-free education. I don’t see how fee-free education can be sustained without OER.

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There are interesting tensions emerging regarding the norms and values underpinning #OER and the engagement of the commercial sector.

See David Wiley’s response to the CARE framework post.

Of interest - the free culture in general and the Free and Open Source Software movement have not objected to value added services for commercial gain. But software is different from content. Would be interesting to hear your thoughts as they pertain to the future of higher education in a digital age.

I really enjoyed watching Anya’s talk. I could not agree more that a teacher’s true role is helping students discover what their questions are and to learn how to find the answers to them. I also very much enjoyed hearing her sum up the old “master plan” for education/society and how it is melting down. Thinking about content, socialisation, and accreditation, which Anya’s note as the core parts of tertiary education, I am finding this course social and I am enjoying starting to grow my PLN. When I did my undergraduate degree 10 years ago, I remember feeling a loneliness with the way we were expected to study and do assignments. I like that with the open model, should I find something interesting I can comment and share the information and then have someone, somewhere in the world, respond because of a genuine shared interest.


Hi @CitizenModerna

For me, one of the most powerful features of the open education model is that learners can find open resources in pursuit of their own interests rather than being constrained by content centric outcomes. I appreciate that this pedagogy of discovery would not suit all disciplines, but its well worth using when we can.

I also like the notion of more sustainable learning. For example, if you find a valuable resource on defining digital literacies, you can share it and save other learners valuable time in finding the same resource. Its more efficient to collaborate than keeping everything to yourself.

I wonder what this means for the future of higher education. Will traditional degrees still command market value in the future? What do new modes of learning mean for those who don’t have degrees? mmm lots to ponder.

As a learner and a facilitator, I enjoy these collaborative research challenges. Others find wonderful resources that one person couldn’t possibly discover in the time available.

As for the future of higher education, we shall see. If project based learning and some of the other “new” K-12 pedagogy take hold, they may generate a demand for more open, inquiry-based, learner-directed, distributed, affordable and authenticated higher education opportunities.

Degrees have been “short-hand” for "has general knowledge, ability to learn, follow rules,…’ which saves employers and others the bother of having to find this out through other means. If these aren’t valued, what else can be used to judge the required base level of competence for employment or admission to grad school?

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@vtaylor I think you’re right. A degree still has token value. Both society and the economy are conservative when it comes to higher education, and I don’t think the value of a degree will be discounted any time soon for the reasons you state.

However, I do think that open will have a significant impact in diversifying the “market”. For example, OERu provides free learning opportunities because all resources are open source. Through a global network of partner institutions, the network is able to offer micro-credentials that map to formal academic credit for a fraction of the cost of tuition. A more sustainable model?


I agree - it is going to be interesting with new generations of primary & secondary learners who are familiar with, and have the “ordinary” experience of open, collaborative, inquiry-based learning, and to see what will they be seeking in higher education learning. They may expect more open-ness, and may also rally against closed learning systems that are in place in some higher education institutions.


2010 and we are still trying to solve the issue of OER implementation within our colleges. From what I have heard, reported back from the conferences my colleagues have attended, no one has a fully working model yet. It is all still very DIY and Beta, with everyone keeping an eye out for who is going to come up with the best idea first. I do appreciate that she speaks of the population I work with - the community college. They do have the highest need and more folks are returning to these “trade school” areas seeking better, yet more affordable means of attaining, jobs. I don’t disagree with her assertions, but would like to see an update to this video *note, now I have more personalized work to do.
Free learning or lowered cost to student? The issue with free learning is that in order to earn the needed credit for taking part in it, there is still the idea of paying for the accredited version of the class. Now the college, such as ours, can lessen that burden in ways such as purchasing the online version of a book (that everyone can have unlimited access to) instead of making the physical book a required purchase - which still can backfire if a student wants a physical copy. Likewise, we can pay for learning platforms, such as but when the Higher Learning Commission refuses to acknowledge the platform - what do you do? I do see a continued issue with HLC providing accreditation to OER/ Mooc/ collective purchase platforms without professional/career field associations getting involved at state and federal levels. I am excited to see the shift push through - for the collaboration alone. I just hope that we can keep up with the literacy needs of our students as well. #lida101

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Thanks @nashman - An important reality check. We are still a long way from mainstreaming OER in higher education based on my experiences working in the open trenches for a long time.

The OERu model will be able to provide pathways to formal qualifications, at this stage for typically 20% of the cost of tuition around the world without government subsidy support (or additional costs of travel, accommodation, proprietary textbooks etc for learners.) We have not found a sustainable way of reducing costs of assessment for credit without third party funding support, but I do believe our approach model is more efficient than the traditional delivery model.

We’ve done a little work thinking about open business models - that is how can public funded higher education institutions engage in OER - yet sustain operations.

Lots to think about.

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Good question! One approach is for higher education institutions to collaborate on assembling open source alternatives to - it will take time, but this approach is definitely more sustainable in the long run.

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In my view the future of higher education will be online. I think most households will not afford the cost of education. Over and above the online learning will be most affordable for the poor household.

It’s always been stated by every government that its main priority is accessible and quality education. But this contradicts to the current cost of studying most specially in tertiary level.
What will happen to under priviledged individuals who have potentials but financially unstable? What kind of long term assistance does the government providing them?

Our department has been working toward a zero textbook cost program:


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Thanks for sharing this article on OER Stewardship.

Nearly a decade after Kamentetz’s talk I think there are still many misconceptions around open education and the concept of free learning. lida101

The biggest hurdle I have in creating open material is working within a financially driven framework. For example many artists make a living by selling their art works and licensing their work. Many are hesitant to contribute to openly licensed publications because they will not be compensated for their work. Additionally many of them want to retain control of the images they produce and do not want have their work remixed.

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Indeed, open in the art world has a double challenge. It’s not only about compensation but also protecting the integrity of the artist’s expression.

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On my opinion about Anya Kamenetz’s TEDx Atlanta talk on DIY U is that she stated that tuition fees for higher education is increasing every year. Parents cannot be able to afford this kind of amount and that is a nightmare to the parents.