By Akiba Covitz
As I and others have written in this blog recently, we can learn many things about learning from MOOCs. We can also learn many things about management in higher education from the people who have made possible the massively scaled aspects of learning in MOOCs.
About three years ago, I was driving home from Cambridge, Massachusetts to my home outside of Boston. Just a few months earlier I was commuting from my position at Harvard Law School, but now I was commuting from edX, an online learning company (founded by Harvard and MIT) headquartered just down Massachusetts Avenue at MIT. The traditional, portrait-lined halls of Harvard Law School are only about a mile and a half from the futuristically infinite corridors of MIT, but the two have usually been worlds apart. The car ride I was about to take was an object lesson in how our initial reactions to the insights from industry need to be tempered, and how we can learn from our colleagues in the more practical worlds of software and computer science.
My passenger was Rob Rubin. He is someone I had met years before on the commuter train. Rob was founding VP of Engineering at edX. He came to edX after a successful career as the engineer who guided the creation of actual products that people actually use.
In spending time with Rob, he constantly used terms in day-to-day conversations like “lean” and “agile,” which I had only vaguely heard about earlier from tech-minded friends. “Agile” in particular was a term that stuck with me. An agile project is one in which a complex development process is broken down into pieces and groups. The entire lifecycle of creating something new as seen through an agile lens is described as “iterative” and “incremental.”
Ideas such as “inspect and adapt” are used when individual groups working on elements of a project report to the full working group on their progress. This allows for multiple recalibrations as the project moves forward. An agile project is collaborative, transparent, and, simply, more productive. In contrast, in academia, even faculty members involved in large administrative processes often find themselves alone in their offices doing their work, or playing the role of the lone “sage on the stage.” From the business world, and in particular from the software world, I have to come to see that we can be more agile.
[ Full article available at Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-beta/moocs-and-metrics ]