ITHAKA hosted our annual Sustainable Scholarship Conference in October, bringing together librarians, publishers, scholarly society leaders, and a variety of others interested in how higher education is changing as a result of new technologies. This year’s theme was “The Question of Quality: New Forms of Grading, Credentialing, and Peer Review in the Digital World.” Videos of the presentations are now available online.  Here are some highlights:
  • Keynote: Kevin Guthrie, president of ITHAKA, focused on some of the key drivers of overall change in the present environment, such as the tendency for anything that can move to the cloud to do so and the implications of the data trails that user activity leave behind for analysis and for service development. While these issues impact many sectors, higher education is by no means an exception.  Kevin offered scenarios of some implications for how university instruction is delivered.
  • Next Gen Peer Review: This panel featured Peter Binfield of PeerJ and Kathleen Fitzpatrick of MLA, each sharing some of the many opportunities to move beyond a traditional peer review system in an online environment.
  • Credentialing: Diploma, Certificate, or Badge?: A panel on credentialing featured Sheryl Grant of HASTAC offering an overview of how badges work and their potential importance, Sandra Cook explaining the ways in which the Kentucky Community and Technical College System provides a parallel system of online education, and Dale Stephens advocating for individuals taking control of their own educations rather than ceding authority to schools and colleges.
  • Online Learning: Daphne Koller discussed the development and progress of Coursera with Douglas Fischer explaining how he had adapted a Coursera course for a computer science course he teaches at Vanderbilt.  A discussion followed between Fischer’s student Kirstin Celeste Early and former Tufts president Larry Bacow about the student perspective on taking such a course.
  • Closing Panel: Reflections and Impact:  It was a busy day on a number of innovative topics, which was brought to a close by a discussion panel moderated by Clifford Lynch of CNI and featuring Linda Downs of CAA, Alison Muddit of UC Press, and Brian Schottlaender of UC San Diego.
The interrelated issues of how to define, ensure, and signal quality in a variety of scholarly and educational contexts presented themselves, as expected, throughout the program. One key theme cutting across this diverse set of presentations was how communities nurture new developments: the intellectual community that scholarly societies have traditionally nurtured for their disciplines or that PeerJ is seeking to build across fields; the learning community that MOOCs can establish in distinction to other open education resources by virtue of having students learning in parallel; and the instructional community for online learning that Professor Fischer felt had allowed him to move beyond the isolation of traditional pedagogies. The tensions between expertise and experience that Dale Stephens helped to draw out and that are at the heart of the transition to an online environment were not resolved during Sustainable Scholarship 2012, but they are ones that the higher education community will surely continue to examine and address.