June 30, 2011
By issuing this report, NITLE seeks to build on work begun at the 2011 Summit and to engage many more people in dialogue about strategic issues facing liberal arts colleges. The report—along with the discussions it represents and helps generate—will serve as a major input shaping NITLE’s work for the year to come. We encourage you to share this report widely with colleagues at your campus or organization and to participate in discussion of the report via NITLE’s LinkedIn group.
The environment in which liberal education is delivered is fundamentally different from that in which liberal arts colleges emerged. Traditional models and practices associated with delivering liberal education are under stress. Over and above recent recessionary pressures, the sustainability of the core business model for liberal arts education may be at risk. Traditional practices need to be rethought.
Digital technologies and the Internet have changed the context for inquiry and pedagogy, forcing the production and exchange of knowledge into an increasingly public, global, collaborative, and networked space, and increasing capacity to tackle complex questions across disciplines. Educational resources are being delivered in a number of formats (text, video, animation, audio) to many types of devices (desktop/laptop, mobile phone, tablet computer, e-book reader). As the modes for sharing knowledge multiply, so does the need to ensure accessibility—on both the usability and cost fronts—in procuring and creating educational materials. This proliferation of resources, media, and platforms has implications for libraries in particular, which must manage collection development strategically and provide access to resources in support of academic initiatives and learning outcomes.
Developing new models, practices, and policies requires innovation. Adaptation of existing practices also plays a role. Collaborative efforts pursued outside the walls of the institution proper provide institutions with the leverage to strategically rethink their relationship to the twin practices of scholarship and pedagogy, including how to support a changed engagement with both. NITLE’s role is multi-faceted. It includes supporting needed research and helping colleges experiment with new models as well as develop policies appropriate to them. It also includes facilitating the development of strategic partnerships and encouraging the development of shared discourse between liberal arts colleges and others invested in liberal education.