By Brad Haseman, Executive Vice President of Kadenze, Inc. and Amanda Morris, Director, Higher Education Engagement, Kadenze, Inc.

Image by Sebastien Gabriel on Unsplash

Previously, on the blog…

Kadenze, Inc. (“Kadenze”)  had been anticipating disruption to higher education but, like the world, was stunned to find it came as a pandemic. Overnight in March 2020 higher education went online. A violent and ugly disruption, especially for those disciplines Kadenze cares about – the creative arts, design and creative technologies – and their studio pedagogies. 

Since then, arts and design staff have been laid off, furloughed, or contracts not renewed. Arts majors are being cut, degrees discontinued and research centres closed, illustrating how vulnerable the arts are at present and around the globe. Do these cuts allow universities and colleges to hold onto their deep “consensual hallucination” that some stiff belt tightening will see them right? Or will they make the harder systemic and cultural changes needed to deliver greater “cross institutional sharing and collaboration,” as called for by Nancy Uscher, Dean of the College of Fine Arts, University of Nevada, in our last blog post?

At the moment it could go either way.

The first key obstacle to sharing resources and to prioritizing partnerships sits at the heart of the corporate university. Universities and colleges compete with each other for revenue by promoting their exclusivity and elite quality of their teaching and research. As a result, we see the top universities in the world behaving with the exclusivity of “luxury brands” according to marketing professor Scott Galloway. This means that the lesser known ‘brands’ or universities play catch-up, anxious to protect the prestige they have.

The second impediment lies in the expectations of students, now customers.  Education is increasingly transactional, relying on students being prepared (and able) to pay higher and higher fees for their elite education. Students then carry increased debt as they pursue the best staff, best networks, best career prospects, best facilities, best athletics programs and so on.

The third impediment is the sense shared by many academics and artists that online creative education can’t replace the real thing, as articulated in Siham Ali’s article ‘Online art school is not art school.’ Is a virtual arts studio, one with global connectivity that is supported by experts in their field, a sub-standard version of the arts school? Perhaps online and on-campus learning can live alongside each other, each doing the work the other cannot? Yong Zhao, Foundation Distinguished Professor in the School of Education at the University of Kansas, for instance, sees online learning as better able to create “authentic learning experiences through collaborative learning with peer learners around the globe than traditional academic learning.”

For Kadenze, these are not insurmountable impediments. However, some radical re-thinking of many established practices will be required, including opening up the current competitive model to value partnerships which offer mutual benefits. We are currently testing the status quo by setting up four sharing mechanisms for educational partners on 

Firstly, Kadenze partners with institutions to produce online courses to interface with existing programs on campus. The University of Texas at Austin developed the course Gender, Race and Technology, and is currently leveraging this online content to support on-campus delivery. With ‘Black lives Matter’ in the streets, this could hardly be a more potent and timely study. Now teachers can curate a combination of digital delivery (from digital libraries holding materials from international experts) and in-person delivery.  Teachers can save what’s unique to their expertise in the field and requires practical or group interaction, for the in-person delivery time. 

The second sharing mechanism is that Kadenze’s educational partners offer to share their online courses for credit with other universities. This is an opportunity for an institution to take third party content and make it their own, without having to invest resources to develop the content. For instance, California College of the Arts has made Introduction to 3D Modelling and Animation with Maya credit-eligible for students from other institutions for a modest fee. Many academics see sharing credit as an efficient use of resources, an opportunity for student choice and an effective way to connect students to global networks. Professor George Tzanetakis from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, observed from his experience in developing the course on Machine Learning for Music Information Retrieval that “cross-institutional sharing can be useful, especially for specialized courses.” Professor Tzanetakis hopes that with time, “credit transfer becomes more common, as well as student exchanges, as experiencing different academic institutions is a great way to broaden your perspective and education.”

Thirdly, Kadenze’s Open Educational Resources (OER) opens up access to the digital learning resources produced by our consortium of university partners for teachers, students and libraries. These resources are able to be used, shared, combined, adapted and expanded for teaching, learning and research. The content covers a wide variety of educational materials in the creative arts, design and creative technologies and is structured as complete courses ready to use. Kadenze has offered free access to OER content for its educational partners to support their teaching during 2020 due to COVID-19 disruptions.

Finally, Kadenze enables universities and colleges to incorporate catalogue units and courses into their own undergraduate degree program. This, the boldest Kadenze offering, is a direct response to the contractions and cuts which are forcibly removing units from programs. What would it take to replace some of these deleted units with relevant offerings from the catalogue? They clearly pass the quality test, (the quality of the content, teachers and learning design is of world standing) and if the course was complemented with a local teaching assistant to ‘host’ the learning journey, then the best of online and on-campus learning can blend. The teaching assistant will monitor online and on campus engagement, mark assessment, and customize the online pathway for local content and contexts. The Australian Guild of Music Education (AGME), for example, is incorporating the content of six courses into its Bachelor of Music, internationalizing its curriculum (drawing on courses from Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, Berklee College of Music, Columbus College of Art and Design and Princeton University) and addressing the learning needs of its widely dispersed student cohorts.  As well as enriching student learning with these educational assets, AGME is finding the benefits of cost savings and value creation. By accessing a world leading catalogue of creative course content on demand, it is unlocking the advantage of scale; leveraging scalable learning tools to free up time (and budgets) to address completely unforeseen COVID-19-led challenges.  

These four sharing mechanisms developed by Kadenze can have a major impact on the circulation of high-quality content in the arts and design. While much basic core content is accessible for free right now, floating in the ether as fragmented packages of skills and knowledge, the real value for colleges and universities lies in the careful curation of learning pathways. As budgets, staff and subject choices shrink in today’s COVID-19 spin-cycle, the sustainable institutions of the future will have to learn to open up, to embrace Open Educational Resources, to share and transfer credit, and to draw on content from high-quality partners. Sustainable institutions that do this can continue to expand their ability to set themselves apart by bringing their own deep and unique culture as an organisation (brilliant professors, industry connections etc.) for their students’ benefit. 

Enabling this is, an innovation intermediary in the cloud for creative disciplines in higher education. 

About the Authors:
Brad Haseman is Executive Vice President of Kadenze, Inc. overseeing arts-led pedagogies for their global online catalogue in the creative arts, design and creative education. He is Professor Emeritus with the Creative Industries Faculty at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) in Australia. Over his 40-year career as a teacher, speaker, teaching artist and researcher Brad has pursued his fascination with the aesthetics, forms and affordability of arts-based learning.

Amanda Morris is an arts educator, known for innovative programs and creative collaboration. Her career spans leadership roles in higher education, as Executive Director Conservatoire at NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) in Australia, as Dean Performing Arts at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore and as Director, Centre for Fine Arts, Music and Theatre at
the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.
Amanda is Director of Higher Education Engagement of Kadenze, Inc.