The following assessment is based on the Red Balloon Project launch at CSU Fresno.
CFA Head of Task Force on Restructuring/Privatization of the CSU
Nov. 1, 2010
Red Balloon Project
Background: launched in 2007 by George Mehaffy, Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, to create radical organizational change in public higher education through the introduction of ‘disruptive technology.’ Ideologically he is aligned with the New Public Management movement of Michael Barber; Zemsky and Finney; Carol Twigg. The Red Balloon Project appears not to have gained much of a following until the 2009 NASH graduation initiative began to actively promote it through its alliance with AASCU. Currently over 100 colleges/universities associated with AASCU have been volunteered by their system head/president for the Red Balloon Project, an experiment in transforming undergraduate education by focusing on undefined 21st century competences and online delivery. It is apocalyptic: ‘change or die.’ We must compete with the online for-profits; “it is our ethical duty.” We must transform our organizational structure to be competitive with Kaplan and Phoenix. The Red Balloon Project kickoff for Fresno State was Friday, Oct. 29. Six other CSUs have been ‘volunteered’ for this experiment. This project is also associated with Educause and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Next Generation: Transforming Education through Technology).
- Faculty governance obstructs change; faculty are resistant to change.
- Faculty need to be free from committee obligations to do more productive work, such as creating blended/hybrid models of instruction.
- College and departmental structures need to be radically transformed to promote 21st Century skills: net-worked knowledge, interdisciplinary, technology based. All the content anyone needs to know is found online in Wikipedia.
- Courses need to be redesigned for online modules; they need to be open source so that adjuncts can teach them from any campus. New courses need to foster student-centered, project-based learning.
- We need to maximize cost effectiveness since adequate levels of public funding will never return and we need to graduate more students to be competitive in the new knowledge economy. This means moving to adjuncts and online courses.
To date, I have not been able to find one example of an assessment of the Program’s outcomes at a Red Balloon Project college. There are some merits to the importance of the so-called 21st Century Skills. “Wired” magazine has a great course that teaches their idea of those skills: “7 Essential Skills You Didn’t Learn in College” http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/09/ff_wiredu/. So this argument is not without some merit. Once again, it is framed in ‘student success.’ This could be done in a senior capstone course. In contrast Mike Rose has penned a cautionary essay “21st Century Skills: Education’s New Cliche” on Truthdig.com
See also Kerri Ullucci’s “The Myths that Blind: The Role of Beliefs in School Change” (http://www.wce.wwu.edu/Resources/CEP/eJournal/v002n001/a006.shtml). The blog “Living and Learning in Poverty” is a good source of critical information: http://livinglearninginpoverty.blogspot.com/2010/10/truthout-piece-on-wealth-in-us.html
Mehaffy’s powerpoint presentation for the Fresno State kickoff is now posted on their Red Balloon page: http://www.csufresno.edu/academics/redballoon/readings.shtml
CSU RED BALLOON PROJECT CAMPUSES
CSU Channel Islands, Marie Francois (Associate Prof of HIstory)
CSU Chico, Sandra Flake (Provost and VP Academic Affairs)
CSu Dominguez Hills, Mitchell Maki (Dean, College of Professional Studies)
CSU Fresno (Ellen Junn, Associate Provost)
CSU Monterey Bay, Kathryn Cruz-Uribe (Provost and VP Academic Affairs)
CSU San Marcos (Emily Cutrer, Provost and VP Academic Affairs)
CSU Northridge (Harold Hellenbrand, Provost and VP Academic Affairs)