Thursday, November 8, 2012

Leadership isn't about "me too"s

Yesterday, while commuting, I had written a longer post about my MOOC-coverage fatigue.  It seems as though MOOC coverage has gotten out of proportion and it's spilled over to other non educational news outlets that I frequent, where I go for non-educational news. In any case, it seems as though the Google Blogger client of my iPhone ate my post.  Maybe for the best, because I feel like I was getting to have a cranky "get off my lawn" slant to it ;-)†

In any case, in thinking about re-writing that post, I was skimming some recent MOOC related news on Inside Higher Education, the Chronicle and the non academia blogs that suddenly have picked up and started reporting on MOOCs since they are the subject of venture capital news. Despite being an MBA, I don't get all excited about VC news, I am more interested about the product than figuring out right away how to make money with it. While going through a day's worth of RSS feeds, I just had this crystallize: Many "leaders" in Higher Education (at least with regard to MOOCs) seem to be taking a "me too!" approach to MOOCs.

Now, I don't think that MOOCs are some sort of "cool kids" club where only a certain group can initiate, attend and /or participate. Anything but this, actually, since the Open "O" in MOOC is, I would say, about the democratization of education.  What strikes me the wrong way is when there is an unthoughtful joining into MOOCs, a "me too!" as opposed to an "intersting, how can I innovate in this sector and feed forward?"

It seems that  these "me too leaders" are not interested in educational innovation first, but rather the notoriety that it will get them and potentially their institutions. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing about fame and notoriety that's bad. I think Sebastian Thrun did us all a favor by bringing this topic to the limelight, but he certainly was no "the" person whose course started it all and the pedagogy behind one course means neither that (1) it was effective on the first go around nor that (2) it is equally applicable to other courses and topics. To be fair, Sebastian probably doesn't think this, but the "me too leaders" in institutions of higher education are adopting this model in some mistaken notion that this is the cool place to be.

When it comes down to it, "me too" leaders, in my opinion, are no leaders at all.  So, who do we have at the helms of our institutions? Are they "me too leaders," and if they are, how do we get them to be innovative and education (not notoriety) focused first? How do we get them to do stuff because it's worth doing stuff, not because Stanford/MIT/Harvard is doing similar stuff? Now answers in this post, just questions. Your thoughts?


† I have since deleted the Blogger app from my iPhone and all of my iOS devices, considering this is not the first or second time this has happened. If anyone knows of a good Blogger client for the iPhone please let me know!
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