Friday, March 8, 2013

So what role will IT play in teaching and learning in 5 years?

So what role will IT play in teaching and learning in 5 years? Now that's an interesting question. I guess to even start address this question you have to take a big step back and look at who will higher education be serving in 5 years and in what will delivery systems be like.

Who will we be serving? Look at who we are serving now. At community colleges we serve working adults and younger students with specific career goals or a desire to transfer to four year schools. This number has always been large, but will get larger with a continued need to train and retrain for careers. The more traditonal 18-22 year old student bachelor's degree seeking is not going away. At many public colleges the applicant numbers are generally strong, although some surveys show declines particularly at four year private colleges. Students and parents feel that a bachelors degree is a necessity. At private four years colleges the applicant numbers are mixed with smaller less famous schools struggling a bit to fill their classes and more elite colleges doing well in this area. Graduate school enrollments are declining according to the New York Times . It probably safe to say that this will not improve a great deal in the next five years. What we will see is probably an environment where people want to go back to sschool, but they have more critical issues to address. Layoffs of part-time students, parents or spouses has something to do with the decline, but so does the general uncertainy about investing in anything. Even if you have a job, will you have one next week? Will this still be the case in five years? Maybe.

So what role will technology play down the road a bit? I think for the 18-22 year residential student, things will not change dramatically. This faculty in this space has totally embraced in-class technology, but sadly many just use PowerPoint. There are a few innovators, but these are the few exceptions. We will see more blended courses (mix of traditonal lecture and web content including audio/video) and some additonal flipped courses (pre-recorded lectures presented online before face to face classes). The college faculty of today, in this environment still seem resistent to new modes of teaching. Blended learning and flipped courses will do very well at community colleges where the students are often older and have jobs or family responsibilities. Tech assisted courses will be a major attrraction for these students who value flexibility. I am curious to see how MOOCs (massive open online courses) will do. I am expectng that these will not offer a challenge to more traditonal programs, but they will provide access to under served groups and will be profitable. I cannot imagine someone doing an entire degree using the MOOC option. I am VERY curious to see how companies like StraighterLine will do. Straighter line offers general education courses for a monthly membership fee of $99. They have a number of accredited colleges that will take their courses in transfer. This will have great appeeal to the adult learner who needs flexibility or wants to "catch up" enroute to a degree. When you start looking broadly at the global community of learners, you have to wonder how programs like the University Of The People will do. Free college degrees for the financially challenged? Wow.

Graduate education will change quite a bit. The costs have risen and most employers are not willing to subsidize it. Going full-time is hard because of the costs and graduate assistantships will be hard to get. If the country needs for advanced degrees in the science or technology ares, there will have to be more financial aid. The return on investment for a graduate degree is just not there. For those who do go to graduate school part-time online, there will be many options. There are many online degree programs and these are not nearly as unacceptable as they once were. Colleges that are not developing online graduate programs may find themselves with few or no students in the next few years.I think this will be particularly true of the non-research colleges that offer masters in education, the liberal arts, or business. Many of these programs will dissappear.

So as we look down the road a few years I think we will see few changes on the four year undergraduate college/university, although there may be a few less of them. Graduate education will move online for all but heavily research based degrees. Enrollments will generally continue to fall. The most interesting area will be the options open to part-time learners in the North America and the online options for potential learners in the third world. Degrees and advanced education for this group will soar, thanks to the internet and growing connectivity. The landscape will change pretty quickly as more education is needed in order to find the few "good jobs" out there, but cost and the lack of flexibility of traditonal models are major obstacles.

(Special thanks to Educause Live for some of the info about alternative higher education providers.)