History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education

This course is designed for anyone concerned with the best ways of learning and thriving in the world we live in now. It’s for students, teachers, professors, researchers, administrators, policy makers, business leaders, job counselors and recruiters, parents, and lifelong learners around the globe. The full, whimsical name of the class is: “The History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education: Or, How We Can Unlearn Our Old Patterns and Relearn for a Happier, More Productive, Ethical, and Socially-Engaged Future.” That subtitle is inspired by Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen who has said that “all education is vocational” in the sense that it is our job, as educators, to help train people for the vocation of leading better lives.

Are we fulfilling that educational objective, from kindergarten to professional school? Or are we training students with the methods, philosophy, and metrics designed for the Fordist era of the Model T? Since 1993, when scientists made the Internet widely available, our lives, our work, our occupations, our culture, and our entertainments have changed tremendously. Far too little has changed inside our educational institutions, in the US and internationally, to prepare us for the demands, problems, restrictions, obstacles, responsibilities, and possibilities of living in the world we inhabit outside of school. This course addresses one key question: How can we all, together, work to redesign higher education for our future… not for someone else’s past?


  • Partnered with 30+ universities and institutions around the world offering parallel courses, webinars, group video discussions, and conferences on the MOOC’s topic.
  • Taught synchronously with on-campus courses at Duke, UC Santa Barbara, and Stanford, with on-campus and online students interacting through discussion forums, Google+ Hangouts, collaborative research projects, and in-person meetings.
  • Experimented with a tool for online, collective annotation of writing.

Media & Publications:



  • Franklin Humanities Institute

Project Uses:


Launch Date:

  • January 2014