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Alternative Universities

Speculative Design for Innovation in Higher Education

How can we re-envision the university? Too many examples of what passes for educational innovation today—MOOCs especially—focus on transactions, on questions of delivery. In Alternative Universities, David J. Staley argues that modern universities suffer from a poverty of imagination about how to reinvent themselves. Anyone seeking innovation in higher education today should concentrate instead, he says, on the kind of transformational experience universities enact. In this exercise in speculative design, Staley proposes ten models of innovation in higher education that expand our ideas of the structure and scope of the university, suggesting possibilities for what its future might look like.

What if the university were designed around a curriculum of seven broad cognitive skills or as a series of global gap year experiences? What if, as a condition of matriculation, students had to major in three disparate subjects? What if the university placed the pursuit of play well above the acquisition and production of knowledge? By asking bold "What if?" questions, Staley assumes that the university is always in a state of becoming and that there is not one "idea of the university" to which all institutions must aspire.

This book specifically addresses those engaged in university strategy—university presidents, faculty, policy experts, legislators, foundations, and entrepreneurs—those involved in what Simon Marginson calls "university making." Pairing a critique tempered to our current moment with an explanation of how change and disruption might contribute to a new "golden age" for higher education, Alternative Universities is an audacious and essential read.

About the Author

David J. Staley is the director of the Humanities Institute and an associate professor of history at The Ohio State University, where he also teaches in the Department of Design and the Department of Educational Studies. He is the author of Brain, Mind and Internet: A Deep History and Future and History and Future: Using Historical Thinking to Imagine the Future.

Endorsements

"A groundbreaking and inspiring work, Alternative Universities offers provocative visions of new higher education institutions that are radically different from what we currently have. I admire David Staley's audacity."

- Bryan Alexander, author of Gearing Up for Learning beyond K–12: Preparing Students and Schools for Modern Higher Education

"Too often our debates on the future of higher education either fail to imagine something different from today or conclude with grim prognostications about the imminent demise of the university. In Alternative Universities, Staley gives us another wayactually ten other waysto think more creatively on the subject."

- Joshua Kim, Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning

"Alternative Universities aims to enrich our imagination about what might be possible for higher education—and for the students whom it should aim not just to serve but to transform. The book promises to inspire innovation beyond the bounds of most current efforts, something the field and society desperately need during this time of profound change."

- Katherine Prince, Senior Director of Strategic Foresight, KnowledgeWorks

"This book gives us the fodder we need to open our minds to the possible university: the one that awaits us if we can trust ourselves to move beyond data-driven decision-making and let our imaginations loose in the present."

- Maree Conway, Founder, Thinking Futures

"While a sophisticated futurist who has a keen understanding of the dramatic and multi-layered trends affecting all social institutions, Staley is also a historian and human-centered pattern finder who reminds us that the real value of a university lies in its constant 'state of becoming.'"

- Christian Long, Founder, The WONDER Project

"David Staley's new book is a must-read if one believes that the future of the American university is in jeopardy and that recapturing the intellectually important leadership role of the university in this century will require change. Dr. Staley has outlined ten approaches to configuring a university to compete globally in this century. For anyone who leads universities or is in the university administration business, failure to read this book is at your own peril."

- E. Gordon Gee, President, West Virginia University
Johns Hopkins University Press
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