The Family University Network: Unplugging Institutional Higher Education

Why not build a Christian family enterprise with the energy, funding, and infrastructure that would otherwise build the state or private educational institutions?

It is common knowledge today that serious moral problems exist in families, churches, schools, colleges, corporations, and political arena. These problems have academic, moral, and philosophical roots reaching back centuries, and have been promoted by the systematic separation of knowledge from faith in God. The significant amount of teaching required to equip people with the ability to discern the times and apply Scripture by faith to all areas of life, requires diligence in all areas of learning, and at all levels of education.

Secular universities are openly hostile to the Christian worldview, and the best of the Christian colleges cannot replicate the family away from home. Nehemiah Institute worldview assessment of 1177 students in 18 Christian colleges over 7 years demonstrated that Christian students are graduating from Christian institutions with a secular humanism worldview, even where their professors have a Biblical Theist worldview. Even the above average Christian colleges are little better than their secular counterpart because the curricula are developed under the same institutional accreditation guidelines, the same text books are used, many of the faculty were trained at secular institutions, and the family learning context is ignored.

Even the best of Christian distance education does not purposefully involve the family in the learning process, nor couple with individual family convictions, nor uses the family knowledge base, nor earns family income. It is time to unplug institutional higher education and bring higher education home.

The establishment of family universities and networks based on the fellowship of the church is one solution. This can help individuals and families implement the Christian philosophy of education through developing their own family university and complementary business as a part of the dominion mandate (Psalm 8).

University education needs to be reinvented with a Biblical understanding to strengthen the family and church. Christian people can easily learn how a family university can uniquely provide the humble, relational, and Spirit led ideal Biblical higher education for their young adults to participate in building a strong Christian family, church and culture.

The benefit of a network for learning was forseen by Ivan Illich, philosopher of the 1970s who spoke in favor of home education. He stated that “If the networks I have described could emerge, the educational path of each student would be his own to follow, and only in retrospect would it take on the features of a recognizable program. The wise student would periodically seek professional advice: assistance to set a new goal, insight into difficulties encountered choice between possible methods. Even now, most persons would admit that the important services their teachers have rendered them are such advice or counsel, given at a chance meeting or in a tutorial. Pedagogues, in an unschooled world, would also come into their own, and be able to do what frustrated teachers pretend to pursue today.” Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society, 1970.

There is only one such family university network in operation at this time, but the time has come for this concept and therefore this is likely just the beginning of home schooling expanding into home college.

Why Use Podcasting in Higher Education and Training?

Podcasting is only one technology within a whole array of web-based technologies that are used in distance education. In addition, podcasting can be used in many different instructional ways. Therefore, there are many combinations of what is possible with podcasting in education.

For example, consider combining a teacher podcasting with student and teacher discussion groups, and vlogging of student presentations. Or perhaps a face-to-face class in which students create a podcast project that extends in rotation across several class sessions. In this way students can participate in sharing research and perspectives on course material.

The important point is that we do not have to be confined to one model of instruction. This premise is especially true when we have the opportunity to work with digital natives who may very well catalyze new perspectives of the content during the creative process.

Podcasting has been a movement by which more of the general public could be part of the media. It is called the “democratization of the media”.

In a similar way, couldn’t podcasting be a push in the direction of co-learning in colleges and universities? Perhaps, we could begin to see teachers and students share, dialogue and engage more through this media. The professors are content experts, the students may provide expertise in the digital culture. This provides a place where we might have a creative nexus.

In addition, large questions lie right in front of us that I believe students of all ages in higher education can explore, such as:

  • Political issues that collide in the close spaces of our classrooms
  • Cultural understandings that need to be understood within our local and global communities
  • Economic issues that impact worldwide audiences rather than solely local or regional spaces

Such questions pose fertile opportunities for 20, 30, or 50 year old learners as podcasters. Or similarly any aged podcast listener?

From creating podcasts, to critiquing their meaning and constructing new understandings, digital media is a nexus of innovation, technology and empowerment and these are generative elements. Let’s unleash some new possibilities of deeper learning coupled with creativity and expressing understanding. Effective communicators of the 21st century will need these same skills for their professional success. Why not take advantage of the need, the resources and the opportunity to develop engaging critical audio projects in higher education classrooms and training settings?

In a future article, we will discuss how podcasts provide other benefits for these constituencies also.