020501_1477_0060_osls_op_640x691Today, the rains of change erode the pillars of our universities as they always did. Except now it’s more like internet zombie acid rain. Change happens faster these days. So what does this mean for you and your education?

Diversification of Higher Education Providers

Two words: “online learning”. Current institutions will face competition from  for-profit education companies as well as not-for-profit providers like libraries and museums. These new providers will have tiny overheads compared to their traditional rivals. They will be able to afford to headhunt the best professors and teachers to run their courses which will be made available to a global market. Traditional universities will have to change to survive.

New Teaching Methods

Learning Management System Software – it’s one of those digital newspeak terms that make an exciting reality seem completely mundane. Soon, instead of listening to a professor talk, doing your coursework and writing a final exam; you will take an exam on their first day of class. Computer programs will then analyze your result and craft an individual learning plan for the rest of your term. Lecturers will be replaced by mentors to help students navigate their own unique curriculum.

Loss of Research

Universities don’t just teach. They do research and service work too. Out of the three, teaching is the most profitable. The new online education providers can focus just on teaching and become far more efficient. And, as traditional universities start to loose talent, to these providers, research programs could end up increasingly in the hands of corporations who can afford their costs but may be motivated more my profit then the common good. 

Qualifications will Change

Traditional degrees will be superseded by a more skills-based method of assessment. Interdisciplinary courses are already on the increase as the economy starts to demand a wider range of competencies. There may even be a centralization and standardization of educational qualifications as more and more competing types arise. In a David Icke-style dystopia, we could even see degrees replaced with “educational passports”.

It’s Already Happening

The Law Program at New York University (NYU) is one of the first courses to use the “brick and click” model. Learning happens in the lecture-hall and online. “Law school students enrolled in hybrid programs that integrate distance and in-class education outperform those who study exclusively in one environment,” says Tom Delaney, associate dean and CIO of the New York University (NYU) School of Law. In further comments about his program Mr. Delaney said, “the course goes online within 30 minutes. Within 24 hours, students interested in reviewing a certain case or topic can click an online index that charts the content of the entire class and [can] view the portion that interests them.”(source: The Economist Report, The Future of Higher Education (http://www.nmc.org/pdf/Future-of-Higher-Ed-%28NMC%29.pdf)

Back in 1828, Yale University in the US issued a famous report setting out a head-in-the-sand response to those who pointed out that the modern world demanded an overhaul in the educational system. They were proved wrong. Are our universities making the same mistake?