The incipient University Learning Store is a demonstration of why unbundling is unlikely to be the future of higher education. If I understand the linked InsideHigherEd article correctly, this is an attempt by seven universities to create an ecosystem of non-credit microcredentials (or badges) that takes advantage of the broader capacity of the collaboration. There are substantial barriers to creating such an ecosystem, including the types of bureaucratic problems that Amy Laitinen and Matt Reed have discussed recently around the delay of competency-based education guidance from the feds: how do you construct financial aid systems around something that looks very different from a credit-hour system that is the basis for the current federal financial-aid system?
But despite those barriers, the construction of an ecosystem is how innovative higher education has to proceed — while many Americans have been and remain autodidacts, our history is of educational institutions and educational ecosystems.1 Even when we have independent systems of learning, they often develop ecosystems, what my colleagues James and Elisabeth Gee call nurturing affinity spaces. No matter how many times pundits gabble on about unbundling, in reality people want to be supported in learning, expect to be supported in learning.
- For a history of autodidacticism, see Joseph Kett’s The Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties. I wonder if any of the authors promoting unbundling have read Kett’s history. [↩]