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Higher Education's Road to Relevance: Navigating Complexity





Higher Education's Road to Relevance: Navigating Complexity

Susan A. Ambrose, Laura Wankel

ISBN: 978-1-119-56838-4 February 2020 Jossey-Bass 240 Pages

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Explores the current context, role, and challenges of post-secondary education and presents options for promising pathways forward.  


The post-secondary educational system has undergone dramatic changes and experienced immense stress in the past two decades. Once regarded as the logical next step toward career opportunities and financial security, higher education is a subject of growing uncertainty for millions of people across the United States. It is more common than ever to question the return on investment, skyrocketing cost, and student debt burden of going to college. Prospective students, and many employers, increasingly view attending institutions of higher learning as inadequate preparation for entering the 21st century workforce. High-profile scandals—financial impropriety, sexual abuse, restrictions of free speech, among others—have further eroded public trust. In response to these and other challenges, leading voices are demanding strengthened accountability and measurable change.


Higher Education's Road to Relevance illustrates why change is needed in post-secondary education and offers practical solutions to pressing concerns. The authors, internationally recognized experts in college-level teaching and learning innovation, draw heavily from contemporary research to provide an integrative approach for post-secondary faculty, staff, and administrators of all levels. This timely book helps readers identify the need for leadership in developing new networks and ecosystems of learning and workforce development. This valuable book will help readers:

  • Understand the forces driving change in higher education
  • Develop multiple pathways to create and credential self-directed learners
  • Promote access to flexible, cost-effective, and relevant learning
  • Adapt structures and pedagogies to address issues and overcome challenges
  • Use an inclusive approach that extends to employers, K-12 educators, post-secondary educators, and policy-makers, among others

Higher Education's Road to Relevance is a much-needed resource for college and university administrators, academic researchers, instructors and other faculty, and staff who support and interact with students.


About the Authors


Chapter 1: Exploring Challenges and Opportunities: Setting the Context for Change

Growing Public Concern

Radically Changing Employment Landscape

Expanding Learner Base and Changing Learner Needs

Chapter 2: Leveraging Complexity: Illuminating Compelling Outcomes

Address the world’s political, economic and social challenges

Reflect the human experience and imagine the future

Respond to volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity (VUCA)

Engage a multigenerational and multicultural workforce

Continue to learn in a workplace environment

Take control of their own career development

Learn to work in human-robot partnerships

Navigate access to expanding information

Become responsible citizens of their country and the world

Design lives that achieve balance, fulfillment, and well-being

Chapter 3: Discovering Possibilities: Designing for the Future

Broaden Perspective

Leverage What We Know about How People Learn

Change Strategies and Seize Opportunities

Align and Support People, Processes, Structures and Technology

Chapter 4: Charting a Path Forward: Getting Us from Here to There

Embrace Disruption with an Innovative Mindset

Employ Systems Thinking

Engage Design Thinking

Create Skunk Works: An Organizational Approach to Innovation

Break the Cycle that Perpetuates Socio-Economic Gaps of Access and Success

Reduce Administrative Redundancies

Lessen Noise to Enhance Mobility across Institutions

Nurture Transformational Leadership