In this new century, three forces – declining funding, rising expectations and rapidly developing technology – will profoundly challenge public higher education.  Are we in higher education ready?

Technology – the Internet, search capacities like Google, and our ability to find, aggregate, and use information in new, networked, more powerful ways – represents a profound challenge to the university as we know it.

We are now moving towards an age where information is created, aggregated and disseminated in powerfully different ways.  The model of the university as a collection of experts, the model of teaching that requires expert knowledge, the model of an institution that requires the physical presence of human beings…all of these are being called into question in the Information Age.

We currently lose a substantial number of students who enroll in our four-year institutions.  Many academics would simply suggest that students who drop out are unprepared for the academic demands of college.  That kind of thinking pervades the academy, found equally in classrooms as well as the institution as a whole.  Students who fail, in the view of too many, are simply not prepared, not qualified and subtly, not worthy.  It is the old idea of college as a sorting machine.  Yet I believe that far too often, it is the institution, not the student, who is failing.  As long as our institutions are structured the way they are, we will likely continue to lose large numbers of students.

In their much–quoted article “From Teaching to Learning: A New Paradigm for Undergraduate Education” in Change Magazine, Robert Barr and John Tagg seemed hopeful about the changes they saw higher education making in 1995:

“A paradigm shift is taking hold in American higher education.  In its briefest form, the paradigm that has governed our colleges is this: A college is an institution that exists to provide instruction.  Subtly but profoundly we are shifting to a new paradigm: A college is an institution that exists to produce learning.  This shift changes everything.  It is both needed and wanted.”

The Red Balloon Project has three main goals:

1.  Lower Costs

  • Maximize cost-effectiveness (either hold costs constant while increasing the number of students involved, or reduce costs)
  • Make programs scalable (increase the number of students served while reducing per-student costs)

2.  Increase Participation

  • Create more effective student engagement.  Engagement is the key to greater learning outcomes
  • Produce greater learning outcomes documented by a rich array of instruments and assessment strategies

3.  Respond to the Challenge of Technology

  • Focus on the development of 21st century skills to create 21st century learning and leadership outcomes
  • Rethink teaching, learning, and faculty roles

Click below to see a video of AASCU’s Vice President of Academic Leadership and Change, George L. Mehaffy, describing the Red Balloon Project.


Introduction to the Red Balloon Project from John Hammang on Vimeo.


One Response to About

  1. John A. Sandel says:

    Hi Mr. Mehaffy,
    Just was surfing the web and found your name, looked some more and has led me here. I went to Summer camp down in Barksdale, TX, a long time ago, 1974/1975. I totally agree with the concept of RBP, with the way technology is today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to draw the attention of students away the constant onslaught of mass media. We need new and fresh techniques in the classrooms now. Maybe you have seen this site.
    http://www.thersa.org/ I find it thought provoking.
    Particularly this video in respect to RBP:

    Anyway, Just thought I’d say hi. It admirable how far you have gotten in the world.
    Best wishes, John “Beau” Sandel.

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