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Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Vision: The College of 2020

The Chronicle of Higher Education Research Services recently released a report that provides a vision of what colleges will look like in the year 2020.  The report is based upon reviews of research and data on trends in higher education, interviews with experts who are sculpting the future paradigm of colleges, and the results of a panel of college admissions personnel that was selected by the Chronicle Research Services.  The defining questions asked were 1) What is college? and 2) Why should I go? The answers reflect a significant shift in the way students envision higher education and how they will wish to pursue a degree.

The following points appeared in the Executive Summary:
  • The traditional model of college is changing, as demonstrated by the proliferation of colleges (particularly for-profit colleges), hybrid class schedules with night and weekend meetings, and, most significantly, online learning.
  • Students' convenience is the future (more students will attend classes online, study part-time, take courses from multiple universities, seek three-year degree programs, and low-cost options).
  • These changes, and the pressure they will put on colleges to adapt, are coming at a particularly acute time (the hour glass-shaped economy of the future will require a college degree as a means of entry and/or advancement in higher-paying, career-oriented professions).
  • Colleges that have resisted putting some of their courses online will almost certainly have to expand their online programs quickly.
  • The conversion to more convenience for students will multiply over the next decade.
  • Colleges will need to offer these options in addition to the face-to-face instruction.
  • Students now going to elementary school are going to expect more connectivity and creativity from colleges.
  • Today's high school students see their educational futures built almost entirely around technology.
Below are three quotes extracted from the report:

"The students of 2020 will demand an education on their terms and will be seeking a technology-based customized approach.  The bottom line is that they will want it all: a plethora of learning options that they can mix and match to play to their strengths."

"The Internet has made most information available to everyone, and faculty members must take that into consideration when teaching. There is very little that students cannot find on their own if they are inspired to do so. And many of them will be surfing the Net in class. The faculty member, therefore, may become less an oracle and more an organizer and guide, someone who adds perspective and context, finds the best articles and research, and sweeps away misconceptions and bad information."

"Good teaching will always be at the core of a good university, but for most colleges, higher education will become a more retail-based industry than it ever has been.  The students of the future will demand it.  Many colleges have a long way to go before they can fulfill that demand."

This, according to the report, is what the 21st century college will look like.  Students (and their parents) will be seeking more affordable options, recognizing the value of higher education while opting for the best value as a return on their investment.  If this is so, and high schools are charged with preparing students for success in higher education, then will high schools have to change as well in order to adapt to this paradigm shift at the college level?  And is this what it means when reference is made to developing 21st century skills?  Will standards be compromised if they are adapted to meet the needs/demands of students?  Or will any change in standards simply reflect more compatibility with life in the 21st century?  Is there a more cost effective way of conducting the business of education - of providing an enriching learning experience?  And if these changes are made, will they reduce the role that teachers presently play in the process (oracle) or, instead, change the role to fit a new model (guide an organizer)?  What do you think?

An article appearing in the New York Time (11/21/10) entitled "Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distractions" may provide a perspective on the challenges that these new forms of technology pose.  A link to the article is below.

1 comment:

  1. SRe: "Today's high school students see their educational futures built almost entirely around technology."

    So this begs the question as to how E.O.Smith is building its educational future around technology. We definitely need to fund more technology at the school.