Knowledge decay: The half-life of your education

Remember the concept of "half-life" from Anthropology 101? It's the amount of time it takes for something to be reduced to only half of its value--such as carbon-14 in a fossil or a medicine in the blood stream. 

Have you ever thought about the half-life of your professional knowledge? How long will the accuracy and relevance of your education and professional training last?

What you used to believe

According to Samuel Arbesman's essay “Be Forewarned: Your Knowledge is Decaying” (recently published in the Harvard Business Review), like a radioactive element, knowledge decays over time. Within centuries--or sometimes just decades--human research and experience reveal that certain once-sacred "facts" are no more than culturally-constructed myths--such as the idea that Pluto is a planet or that leeches make good medicine. 

Though science provides the obvious examples, the half-life of knowledge is also evident in higher education administration. For example, the proliferation of MOOCs is challenging long-held assumptions, entrenched infrastructures and redoubtable policies--not to mention challenging the human beings behind them, educators and administrators alike, to adapt. Another example: as David H. Kalsbeek and Don Hossler argue in an update to an essay on enrollment management, enrollment management has become more challenging and more important in the wake of the recession and with sweeping demographic change on the horizon.  


What will you believe in 10 years?

Because knowledge is always partial and provisional, it's important to maintain an open and curious mind and be willing to adapt to change. Professionally, that means keeping pace with important trends and practices in higher education. That responsibility comes at an exciting and uncertain time: information and technology are evolving more rapidly than ever before and it takes time and resources to stay abreast of these developments. Fortunately, AACRAO's Strategic Enrollment Management Endorsement Program (SEM-EP) can help.

SEM-EP participants engage in a thoroughly vetted curriculum offered and taught by expert faculty. It includes online courses, webinars and field visits to approved institutions, and individuals who successfully complete SEM-EP will receive formal recognition and endorsement by AACRAO. 

For more information about the course and certification, click here, email Janet Szamosszegi or call

(202) 263-0289.



By: AACRAO Connect