The Future of For Profit Higher Education: Scrutiny

For-ProfitThe for profit sector of higher education is experiencing significant increases in scrutiny. Given the current debt crisis facing U.S. students and the significant attention profits from the For-Profit-Sector gain in the press it is unlikely to subside soon. Below are a rash of current actions.

Education Department Names Seasoned Team to Monitor Corinthian Colleges

Former Federal Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald Will Lead Oversight of Company’s Sale and Wind-Down

The press release stated

…the U.S. Department of Education took additional steps to ensure Corinthian Colleges’ students and the American taxpayer are protected by announcing that Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates, under the leadership of former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, has been selected to take on the role of monitoring various aspects of the career college company. As part of an operating agreement reached earlier this month with Corinthian, the Department required that an independent monitor oversee Corinthian’s actions moving forward as the company begins to sell and wind down its campuses over the coming months.

DeVry under investigation by New York State

DeVry Education Group Inc. said in a corporate filing on Friday that it was under investigation by New York’s attorney general for possible “false advertising and deceptive practices” in its television ads and website marketing. A letter from the state office requested “relevant information from January 1, 2011, to the present,” the company said.

University of Phoenix under review by the U.S. Department of Education

The Apollo Education Group, parent company of the University of Phoenix, disclosed in a corporate filing on Monday that the U.S. Education Department would conduct an “ordinary course program review” of the university’s financial-aid administration and other areas. From the filing, with the Securities and Exchange Commission:

The review, which is scheduled to commence August 4, 2014, initially will cover federal financial aid years 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, as well as compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act and related regulations.

National College, Kentucky fined for refusal to comply

A Kentucky judge this week affirmed a $147,000 fine against National College, a for-profit institution, over its refusal to comply with a subpoena from the state’s attorney general, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.

ITT May Face Financial Restrictions

ITT Educational Services Inc. said in a corporate filing on Wednesday that it may face financial restrictions over its failure to file a set of documents with the U.S. Department of Education. A set of financial statements was due to the department by June 30 but was not sent, according to the filing.


Change the Paradigm: Part 1


The concept of Paradigm Shift emerged in 1962, from the work of Thomas Kuhn, who wrote The Structure of Scientific Revolution. The concept of “paradigm shift” argues that scientific advancement is not evolutionary, but rather a “series of peaceful interludes punctuated by intellectually violent revolutions”, and in those revolutions “one conceptual world view is replaced by another.” The current paradigm shift can be said to have very humble beginnings at the same time 1962. It is documented in the Brief History of the Internet.

The first recorded description of the social interactions that could be enabled through networking was written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT in August 1962 discussing his “Galactic Network” concept. He envisioned a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site.

The Digital Revolution


What followed has been called the Digital Revolution, the Third Industrial Revolution, the Information Age and the Learning Age. Its beginning is usually pinned as the 1980’s. The Internet was not officially named however until October 24, 1995. This corresponded to the Eastman Kodak Company beginning a decline in profitability resulting in declaring bankruptcy in January 2012 despite significant leadership in digital photography. The print industry in general began to slide quickly with the U.S. print industry declining 1% per month during 2009. Newspaper, periodical, book, and directory publishers have experienced significant decline and are expected to fall another 25% in the next ten years. Record store, media rental, and wired telecommunications carriers are all suffering from rapid decline. The point here is that the evolution of the Digital Revolution has had a huge impact upon a wide variety of business and social sectors globally. It has had a huge impact upon the global learning environment as well.

A confluence of innovation around the digitization of books began a full rethinking of knowledge transfer and learning infrastructure design as it relates to the written word. Project Gutenberg begun by Michael Hart in 1971 with the digitization of The U.S. Declaration of Independence and can be called the birth of the eBook. The Library of Congress announced Oct. 13, 1994 that it had received $13 million in private sector donations to establish the National Digital Library Program.

We turn next to pages from the brief history of Google:

In 1996, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page were graduate computer science students working on a research project supported by the Stanford Digital Library Technologies Project. Their goal was to make digital libraries work, and their big idea was as follows: in a future world in which vast collections of books are digitized, people would use a “web crawler” to index the books’ content and analyze the connections between them, determining any given book’s relevance and usefulness by tracking the number and quality of citations from other books. The crawler they wound up building was called BackRub, and it was this modern twist on traditional citation analysis that inspired Google’s PageRank algorithms – the core search technology that makes Google, well, Google.

As of April 2013 a Wikipedia page reported Google had scanned 30 million of the 130 million unique books that exists from around the world. It expects to complete the task by 2020.


The World Digital Library was launched on April 21, 2009 at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. The WDL has stated that its mission is to promote international and intercultural understanding, expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet, provide resources for educators, scholars, and general audiences, and to build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and among countries. It aims to expand non-English and non-western content on the Internet, and contribute to scholarly research. The library intends to make available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from cultures around the world, including manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs, architectural drawings, and other significant cultural materials.

Open Curricula

In parallel to the digitization of books, open curricula began to appear. Consider the MIT’s Open Courseware initiative.

In 1999, MIT Faculty considered how to use the Internet in pursuit of MIT’s mission—to advance knowledge and educate students—and in 2000 proposed OCW. MIT published the first proof-of-concept site in 2002, containing 50 courses. By November 2007, MIT completed the initial publication of virtually the entire curriculum, over 1,800 courses in 33 academic disciplines.

In 2006 Salman Khan created the Kahn Academy. To date, they have delivered over 458 million lessons and learners have completed over 2 billion exercise problems (which is around 4 million per day!). In addition, they have 350,000 registered teachers around the world who use Khan Academy in their classrooms to help to inspire, motivate and guide students through their learning paths.

In 2008, the first massive, open, online course (MOOC) was offered by Stephen Downes and George Siemens building off a for-credit course at the University of Manitoba, Canada. The title was ‘Connectivism and Connective Knowledge/2008’ (CCK8). Around 2,200 people signed up for CCK08, and 170 of them created blogs. The course was free and open, which meant that anyone could join, modify or remix the content without paying (although a paid, certified option was offered). The primary contribution MOOCs make to the future is one of testing scalability to large numbers of networked learners.

In 2012, two Stanford Professors, Sebastian Thrun and Peter Norvig offered “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence” for free online. Designed to resemble real classroom experiences and offer high-quality classes for everyone, the idea had the advantage of carrying the prestigious Stanford name. More than 160,000 students in 190 countries signed up. They went on to start Udacity. In May 2012 MIT and Harvard University founded EdX as a massive open online course (MOOC) provider and online learning platform with pedigree partners from around the world. Coursera also launched in 2012. As of April 2014, Coursera reported 7.1 million users in 641 courses from 108 institutions and raised $85 million in capital by December. In 2013, the Open University began building its own MOOC platform, Futurelearn, which will feature universities from the United Kingdom.

In 2008, Jose Ferreira (formerly from Kaplan) launched Knewton to provide an infrastructure platform that allows others to build powerful proficiency-based adaptive learning applications.

It’s easy to get lost in the technology of it all and forget all of this is really about open access to the curriculum and an effort to improve learning experiences and optimize learner performance. I summarize this paradigm shift as the emergence of the Digital Learning Environment (DLE). The emerging proliferation and increasing positive performance of Digital Learning Environments is a revolution, a transformation, a sort of metamorphosis. The early stages of the digital revolution disintermediated film, paper and a host of other players. What is the potential for DLE’s to disintermediate colleges and universities?

January 15, 2014 Georgia Tech in partnership with AT&T and Udacity launched the first massive online degree program (MODP).The first cohort of 375 students enrolled in the Master of Science in Computer Science program will pay less than $7,000 for a graduate degree, compared to $45,000 for on-campus students.

It is important at the outset of planning to recognize these and other profound changes occurring in the global learning ecosystem. The shift from print-based to digital information, ubiquitous networking, social interaction systems, cloud-based learning management systems, massive digitization of the world’s knowledge resources and the emergence of new business models (i.e. Western Governors University and Georgia Techs Masters degree). These fundamental shifts require an organizational learning initiative to bring into focus the full impact of them on the higher education enterprise of the future. This post is by no means an exhaustive review of the evidence of a paradigm shift that has already occurred. It is planning reference point to signal significant environmental events that change the evolutionary course of education.

Strategy One: Change the Paradigm

The first strategy in our prototype strategic plan is, therefore, Change the Paradigm. To survive and flourish an institution must recognize the paradigm shift and adjust to meet the new demands required by the emerging global digital learning environment. This strategy requires that an institution reconcile its mission and vision with the emerging new context. This does not mean abandoning the strengths of the current model but instead contextualizing and connecting to a digital future. Much must be considered in the process of adapting to the new paradigm. Below is an outline of the beginning of the path forward and few goals one might consider in the process of planning.

Path Forward

  • Understand the emerging dynamics of the Learning Age
  • Understand the magnitude of change that is occurring with the transition from a physical learning ecosystem to a digital learning ecosystem
  • Understand the fiscal challenges facing global societies and the challenge of developing sustainable systems
  • Understand the emerging body of knowledge about learning and incorporate that knowledge into future design
  • Build a deeply informed academic and administrative leadership team
  • Build an academic and administrative culture that aligns with the dynamics of the Learning Age
  • Assess your current strategic position compared to the emerging future dynamics of the global learning sphere
  • Map the gaps between your current strategies and the emerging realities of the Learning Age


Build an academic culture and enterprise that is aligned with and is of high value to learning age societies.

  • Recognizes that curriculum is more than an internet of things and conceptualizes an architecture that conveys curriculums true value designed to meet the needs of 21st century learners.
  • Reorient the academic enterprise to the challenges and opportunities presented by the lifelong learning needs of a diverse global population.
  • Create a more manageable, more granular curriculum to enable closer alignment with the emerging form and function of the emerging global digital learning environment.

Focus on Value

Prototype Series Overview

Prototype Series Overview


Current estimates are that there are roughly 20,000 colleges and universities worldwide. Each renews or refreshes its strategic plan every 3 to five years. That means on average every year there are between 5,000 and 6,667 institutions worldwide that are in the process of reviewing their mission statements and developing a strategic plan. Each faces a daunting task. Each must plan the process of planning (called the plan to plan). Each must inventory, invite, and convene their constituents and engage them in the process. Each must labor over process design; methods used, committee structures, wordsmithing, concept development, and visions. In the end, it will engage thousands of person hours and provoke virtually everyone. In each case just getting the planning work done and fitting it into the everyday routine work plan is a major challenge.

In the meantime, the world continues to evolve rapidly. For example, MOOCs came on the higher education scene achieving levels of scalability never before imagined. Online learning continues to grow, national and state investment in higher education have become strained to the limit, (in the U.S. federal student loans have accumulated to a trillion dollars in debt). As a result the public is demanding more flexible options, higher levels of accountability, greater efficiencies, proof of value of the higher education experience and evidence that outcomes are achieved by learners.

Trying to understand the dynamics of the changing environment while constructing a flawless blueprint for the future (not what the plan is, but we hear planning team participants echo this sentiment frequently) is a daunting mission impossible. One method is to slow down in order to speed up. That means let the leadership team practice. In order for the planning team to more fully understand the fundamental changes and the impacts emanating from the paradigm shift currently underway we recommend the development of a rapid prototype strategic plan. Such a plan is done in preparation for the development of the plan to be enacted.

Prototype Strategic Plan

Prototype a Learning Age Strategic Plan Series Overview

The Four Strategies and Eight enabling Tactical Plans that make up a Prototype Learning Age Strategic Plan

A rapid prototype helps frames issues, draws contrasts, proposes emerging solutions and recognizes new realities surrounding the emerging global digital learning environment. The approach permits the development of a comprehensive picture that looks and can reach farther into the future. A rapid prototype is developed in a minimum amount of time, with limited resources and provides the maximum in cost to transformational benefit.

This post begins a series that focuses upon the design and development of a Prototype Strategic Plan for an Institution of Higher Education. We recommend developing a forward-looking prototype strategic plan as a means to introduce constituents to the profound changes occurring as a result of a paradigm shift currently underway. Developing a prototype plan, allows planners to frame the future and its implications to the institution in a structured way. The prototype plan then serves as a possible view of the future as a reflective tool prompting deeper dialog.

A planning process is complex, highly political and can be fraught with pitfalls, missteps, and misperceptions. The literature is replete with examples of failure. Leaders recognize that the true value of the planning process is not a plan (sure it is important and must be produced), but in how the process engages the organization and prepares it to address critical challenges and improve performance.


Our prototype sets forth four basic strategies: Change the Paradigm, Focus on Value, Develop Capacity, and Make Everything Count. The series will then take these four strategies and explore how they shape eight tactical plans beginning with the Academic Master Plan.

Prototype Framework

Over the next few weeks of this Series, we will post more detail on each of the twelve basic elements of a Prototype Strategic Plan. We invite you to engage with us, make suggestions, observations, and add to the concept.

Change the Paradigm

eLearning Fact vs Fiction

The following resources are great places to begin sorting out the facts about Digital Learning Environments and the development, evolution and effectiveness of eLearning. Understanding the effectiveness, design, efficiencies, and operation of digital learning environments is a process that takes longer than a five minute web flyby. But these flybys should get a first round of questions raised and framed.

The first, a quick read, is a post titled 30 Criticisms Of eLearning That Just Might Be Myths.  It appeared in the blog on January 13 2013.

The second is an excellent read (a bit older but very timely) posted by Marc Rosenberg October 11, 2011 in a two part article in Learning Solutions Magazine titled eLearning Myths Part1 and Part 2. Marc outlines and frames 11 items as candidates for eLearning myth.

While we are at it why don’t we begin to explore other education myths. As a jumping off point the 18 Myths of Education Infographic posted November 22, 2013 on  should serve to queue up some questions.


25% of China’s population with the highest IQ’s…


That 25% of China’s population with the highest IQ’s … is greater than the total population of the United States.

Startling? Not really. It has certainly made the rounds on the internet and been posted, shared and featured in numerous YouTube videos. This seemingly profound revelation is no more than a sensational view of basic demographics. The population of China is over 1.3 billion. The population of the United States is 330 million. Since the population of the U.S. is less than 1/4 the population of China the statement can be technically true for any comparison of this nature.

What the statement does not do is compare the IQ’s or the distribution of IQ’s between China and the U.S. In fact it makes no qualitative statement concerning the brain power of the respective countries at all.

So now you know a really great trick of sensationalizing basic information.


Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Michael G. Dolence and Associates teamed with the architectural firm of Perkins+Will as academic planning and prototyping consultant for the design of the 3.2 million-square-foot, 2,000 acre campus. The prototype drew upon a comprehensive course and program repository assembled within the MGD+A proprietary academic planning system. Over 800 curricula informed the development of 1,476 courses to support 52 programs of study to guide the University’s language institute, eight colleges, and six schools within the College of Health. The prototype identified specific design criteria for the physical facilities required to teach each program of study. The prototyping process resulted in a design that accommodates 42,000 students in minimum curriculum architecture format and over 70,000 using an optimized curriculum architecture. The University currently enrolls more than 60,000 students.

View the Perkins+Will Image Gallery for this project.
View project photographer Bill Lyons Photo Gallery.
View the full article in Contract Magazine – March 2014, page 42.

King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University (KSAU) For Health Sciences

King Saud Bin Abdulaziz University (KSAU) For Health Sciences Michael G. Dolence and Associates collaborated with the architectural firm of Perkins+Will as academic planning and prototyping consultant for the design of three health sciences campuses of KSAU (Riyadh 8,000 FTE, Jeddah 4,000 FTE  and Al Hasa 3,000 FTE). MGD+A drew upon a comprehensive course and program repository assembled within their proprietary academic planning system to provide the design curriculum and specifications for  the three campus University of Health Sciences.  The academic structure comprised seven Colleges including Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Applied Medical Sciences, Nursing, Basic Sciences, and Public Health & Informatics, as-well-as, a continuing education division.  The prototype identified specific design criteria for the physical facilities required to teach each program of study and projected required facilities for 30 years in the future.

University of Salahaddin – Erbil Iraq (in Design 2013-2014)

Michael G. Dolence and Associates partnered with the global construction management firm Dar Al-Handasah and  the architectural firm Perkins and Will as academic planning and prototyping consultant for the design and phased construction of the new campus. A comprehensive curriculum was constructed and a  50 year prototype developed permitting the exploration of multiple scenarios  to inform project design and implementation.  Highlights of the project include a 135 laboratory science complex, an applied engineering complex, a performing and visual arts complex, a campus school, and an English language institute.

University of Salahaddin – Erbil Iraq (in Design 2013-2014)

University of Salahaddin – Erbil Iraq (in Design 2013-2014)

Strategic Enrollment Management

SEM Primer 300ppiStrategic Enrollment Management (SEM) is an important part of Michael G. Dolence and Associates strategic capability. Emerging 21st Century best practices integrate the curriculum into the SEM process. Our unique seven component learner-centered curriculum model provides a new strategic foundation for developing enrollment. The model provides a framework for optimizing enrollment quality and quantity. It also integrates seamlessly into accreditation self-study, and strategic planning. We provide a comprehensive range of services including conducting enrollment management audits, developing recruitment and retention campaigns and programs, developing integrated Internet/Print/Action campaigns for recruitment, conducting marketing research, developing enrollment management strategic plans, developing advertising campaigns and a wide range of other enrollment management related functions. We have associates with a wide variety of expertise and specific functional experience at every level and for every type of institution.