I have in the back of my mind a global education activity based on some of the values and structure of the Land Grant University. For me the notion took root while serving in Central Asia, when I repeatedly heard faculty and project leaders in rural locations throughout the region talk about the potential of agricultural and cooperative extension services. I have done just a touch of writing  on the topic and have been posing the following questions:
- What would a global Land Grant University look like?
- What would the role of online education be at a global Land Grant University?
Founded in the late 1800’s, U.S. land-grant universities have played a profound role in the economic and social development of urban and rural America. Although the impetus behind the Morrill, Hatch, and Smith-Lever Acts that shaped the land-grant system were to address the needs of a growing nation settling large expanses of land, the land-grant mission has well served continued development. The effect of the land-grant acts was to establish a system of universities that would meet current workforce and social needs through educational activities, practical research, and extension. The actual granting of land served as both a way for the federal government to fund the new universities and as a laboratory for experiential education and applied research.
There are many parallels between the environment in which the U.S. land grants were established in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the current environment in much of the modern developing and developed world. When the land grants were established in the U.S. there was social unrest, post-war reconstruction, profound economic and social stratification, expansionism paved by the systemic genocide of native populations, epidemics, economic migration, the need for developing civil infrastructure, agricultural capacity, education, health, and human service systems to support economic and social capacity to scaffold the civil society. Although the U.S. is still plagued with social inequity and challenges around education, health, and human services, the land-grant universities have played a significant role in fueling development through outreach into communities.
Building the Vision (Tectonic Shift)
- I believe that the commitment that Wayne has made for a open curriculum by 2015 is a critical part of the online global land grant notion.
- I believe that an open and flexible content authoring and learning environment is critical to the Vision.
- I believe that this could be the foundation for a radically different approach to tertiary education that connects online learning with applied research, and cooperative extension with a blend of global and local resources.
- I hope that this community focuses on developing technologies that reduce barriers to participation in the creation and use of open and free educational resources, and the greater educational enterprise.