20 years higher education

13 experts discuss higher ed’s next 20 years

Here's what the technology-enhanced future will bring to higher ed.

The nation’s current higher education system is unsustainable, and many experts believe it is ill-suited for today’s globally-connected and ever-changing world, according to a new whitepaper from Blackboard.

Increases in mobile technologies and data access have greatly influenced higher education and access to it, but institutions cannot simply expand access to education without working to ensure students’ success. But as experts reveal, the U.S. higher education system is on the cusp of great changes.

Thirteen higher-ed experts interviewed for the whitepaper said colleges and universities will have to change their business models to thrive and drive enrollment, and new technologies will help faculty focus on the application of learning instead of knowledge acquisition.

Two major technical advances–an increase in processor speed and a decrease in the cost of memory and storage–have really made a difference in education, said Mike Abbiatti, executive director of the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies.

Automation, technology-mediated teaching and learning, and access to curated digital content and credentials are three distinct phases that have moved U.S. higher education to its current place.

Institutions should pay attention to the challenge presented by managing technology and data, Abbiatti said.

“We’ve now entered an era where technology is now a very long term, iterative process that’s going to require changes in policy. It’s going to
require tremendous funding and tremendous amounts of thought on exactly why and how we want to deploy these technologies,” he said. “The real landmine here is the mound of data that we collect every day, all day long, and we don’t have the technology nor do we have the intellectual capital on our campuses to actually turn that data into knowledge and that knowledge into decisions.”

Technologically-enhanced environments have bestowed “enormous opportunities for global access as well as enhancing the entire teaching and learning process,” said Susan Aldridge, president of Drexel University Online. “The technological advancements have revolutionized the way in which we think
about how we teach, how our students learn, and the transformation of the learning process through experiential learning in a digitized environment.”

Aldridge said she is most excited about next-generation digital learning environments in higher ed, because those environments “will be contextual,
adaptive, role-based, and self-organizing virtual ecosystems that foster learning and engagement, collaboration and community in a way that is both scalable and sustainable.”

Because those new ecosystems will help universities evolve into “virtual gateways to continuous education and collaboration,” higher ed will be viewed as a lifelong pursuit and not a degree-driven activity, she added.

“What’s more, next-generation digital learning environments must bridge the divide between the faculty-directed instructivist model our colleges and
universities have always favored and the learner-centric constructivist paradigm their students have come to expect and the economy now demands,” Aldridge said.

To read insights from all 13 higher-ed experts, view the full report.

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Laura Ascione
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