Higher education is as susceptible to technology disruption as any other information-centric business. Communications technologies mean that knowledge transfer need no longer be tethered to a physical university campus. Simultaneously steadily increasing fees mean that customers are questioning the value for money and quality of higher education while the current economic climate means that a college degree is no longer a guarantee of future employability. New competitors are entering the market – and not just in the US.
The Pew Research Center has released a report on technology disruption and higher education. The research presented two future (2020) scenarios to which selected invited experts and members of their trusted networks responded.
Scenario one presented a future in which higher education was not significantly different to today, although some new technologies such as teleconferencing, personal wireless smart devices were more widely adopted (39% broadly agreed with this scenario).
Scenario two presented a future in which higher education was transformed. This transformed landscape includes a significant move to individualised learning activities; hybrid classes; mass adoption of teleconferencing to leverage expert resources (60% of respondents broadly agreed with this scenario).
Several key themes are discussed in the report including the need for universities to be highly adaptive and innovative if they are to thrive. Several respondents referred to the slow rate of change in the current system.
- less demand for traditional lecture based courses
- increased demand for individualised learning
- increasingly connected student body
- more hybrid education – a blending of online and offline
- improved virtual environments
- face to face for ‘the privileged few’
- increased focus on employability
- a move to competency based education
- web based delivery to meet growing global demands and provide value for money
- more ‘tele-education’
- distance learning integrated with social networking
New business models
- structural changes to coincide with retirement of baby boomers
- increasing corporate involvement
- open research
- push for value for money by consumers
- collaborative education and peer to peer learning
- a focus on how to learn and lifelong learning and self education
- and, of particular interest to information professionals, an examination of how tools can enhance students critical thinking and information skills acquisition skills
The report is available, free of charge, from the Pew website.