But change is coming to higher education.
For-profit universities, which have nothing to lose in the prestige game, are testing powerful new learning technologies and operating models.
They’ve made mistakes, and they’re paying the price in onerous new regulations. But those regulations will make them stronger, more focused on helping students to learn and graduate with valuable capabilities. The for-profits will not only have to deliver these outcomes, as the best traditional institutions do, they’ll have to document them.
Soon the choice facing new students will be between prestigious-but-dated traditions and generic-but-demonstrated results.
That competitively untenable either-or-choice will require even the most elite universities and colleges to innovate.
The most successful innovators will be able to promise prospective students the following:
You can start college in high school. Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses offer good learning experiences, but they don’t allow students to start in on their major field of study, as many are prepared to do in high school.
The most innovative institutions will offer online versions of not only their general education courses but also the introductory courses for majors. Students who choose this route will be able to complete one or more years of college in high school, taking courses designed to produce the same learning outcomes as the on-campus equivalents. These students will save money by living at home, and the excitement of that first year of campus life will be undiminished. They’ll arrive on campus with greater confidence and maturity. But they may or may not be in a hurry to go off to college, because they’ll have discovered that…
Learning happens where and when you want it to. The traditional model of higher education reflects the technological limitations of the Middle Ages.
Until relatively recently, even the computers had to take their assigned seat in class, at a “tech station” controlled by the human instructor. But the ubiquity of high-speed Internet access is changing the learning playing field in a way that the computer alone didn’t. Students can now access sources of information—including one another—in unprecedented ways.
Higher education is facing its first truly disruptive technology. What that means for the traditional university or college is that its brick-and-mortar campus and faculty of scholars are optional learning aids, albeit powerful ones. Young students who can afford the price will be well advised to seek a campus learning experience, at least for part of their time as students; some of the most important learning outcomes will always be realized in a face-to-face community of learners. But even students who chose to pay the costs of coming to campus will be unwilling to submit to the traditional schedule of day-time classes and long nights of hitting the books.
In fact, students of the future will be assured that…