It is oft-repeated that the issues facing higher education will impact deeply theological schools first. Ironic in that so many theological school leaders lack awareness of the climate, changes, and issues in the broader field of higher education.
It is very likely that VERY soon theological schools will need to face the full force brunt of the issue that it’s knowledge that matters, not a theological degree (or, academic and personal preparation, not “scholarship”). The unsustainable economic disconnect between the cost of a traditional MDiv and its weak or risky return on investment hints that the talk about finding a new economic model for theological education is now job 1 for seminaries, at least, for those that want to continue. The problem currently in a significant number of theological schools (at least one third of them in ATS), is that they are trying to sustain the OLD business model, and sinking their resources and energies in that enterprise that may be at best a lost cause.
Below, from “40 Years Coming, the Revolution is Here,” by Tom Vander Ark:
Dreambox taught 65 million lessons last year;
Edmodo serves 18.7 million users;
2U delivered 1,146 courses every week last year;
Knewton had 5,000 users last year, 5 million this year; and
Kno serves 6,000 universities.
In the old days, edtech vendors sold to districts who provided tools to teachers. Since the introduction of iPads in 2010, 90,000 education apps have been developed. Now, according to Moe, “The market has flipped.” Parents, teachers, and students are finding and adopting learning apps at an astounding rate.
“Today, knowledge is currency,” said Moe. “It’s knowledge not college that matters.” Moe sees learners creating a “personalized knowledge portfolio,” an unbundled sequence of learning experiences from multiple providers.”
Additionally, Shelton said three things need to happen to create a conducive context for innovation and improvement:
Infrastructure: ubiquitous and affordable broadband connections and devices; and widely adopted data and interoperability standards.
Performance-based market: rigorous models of defining and validating competencies; common measures of performance, productivity and return; smart aggregated demand/accessible and markets.
Significant and disciplined R&D: about an order of magnitude increase with much clearer focus on current pain points and future opportunities.
“We need to get the context right so that edtech can flourish like like biotech and health tech,” said Shelton. In that regard he encouraged edtech entrepreneurs to become (and employ) real experts in education and to demand excellence in student outcomes. Shelton said that, in addition to boosting domestic achievement, we should be “building for the global opportunity–some country is going to lead on this and it should be the U.S.” (Education Week, April 17, 2013).
So, what constitutes value for theological school students, and prospective students, within the next five years? For second career students is it another degree that costs $30k to $40k for a 20 to 25 year (or less) second career? For twenty-something college graduates whose center of value has shifted from entering a professional vocational class to “doing ministry” in a myriad of settings, will it be being credentialed by another four year degree that does not provide a return on investment in this particular vocation, or will it be the attainment of ministry and personal skills and aptitudes for an era where entrepreneurial imagination and courage is the greatest need?
Copyright (c) 2013, Israel Galindo