Knocking Down SIlos

From: Rich Oliver, Enrichly Director of Academic Affairs

“The word “silo” does not just refer to a physical structure or organization (such as a department). It can also be a state of mind. Silos exist in structures. But they exist in our minds and social groups too. Silos breed tribalism. But they can also go hand in hand with tunnel vision.”
― Gillian Tett, The Silo Effect: The Peril of Expertise and the Promise of Breaking Down Barriers

Higher education in the United States is represented by over 5,000 two-year and four-year colleges and universities. Each one contains multiple subdivisions referred to as departments, centers, disciplines and programs. You can visualize this as a very complex higher education matrix of silos and within each silo a number of smaller silos and perhaps even additional silos within those silos.

While some institutions have attempted to knock down these silos in order to stimulate more collaborative thinking, these efforts are usually met with resistance as those in the institutional structures and academic disciplines are unable to see beyond the status quo. However it is these institutional silos that prevent faculty, students and other practitioners from sharing highly valuable resources, highlighting creative learning strategies and simply communicating across institutions and academic disciplines.

The internet has created an impressive network that connects people and institutions. The internet is the ideal networking infrastructure to circumvent the silo mentality and provide a platform that allows faculty, students, practitioners and industry leaders to share their best ideas and creative resources without regard to traditional academic boundaries and historical disciplinary approaches to learning. Yet the silos remain.

Those of us working in higher education believe that the silos do not need to be a barrier to those faculty members, students, practitioners and thought leaders who desire to create an on-line learning community. We visualize a platform that transcends traditional higher education structures, one that works across academic and discipline lines and where resources are freely shared. Consider the wealth of lectures, papers and videos that have been created by faculty members, practitioners and students, but that are used only within that discipline, even when the information could greatly enhance the educational experience of those in other programs at other institutions. What if we used this network to make learning entertaining and exciting in ways that cannot be realized via textbooks and PowerPoints?

This is a call to action to go beyond the academic silos so we can truly create dynamic online learning communities that allows users to come together to share their stories, their media rich content and their approaches to learning. What silos have you knocked down lately? Please share how this was accomplished and if you are interested in joining our interdisciplinary learning community. Together we can unite the tribes!

Shane Brethowr