Monday, July 01, 2013

Trends In Higher Learning

As someone who plans to stay in academia for the rest of my career, I am interested in how education and the method of obtaining knowledge is changing. While my history of education is lacking, I do see some macro trends that may change things in education going forward. The predictions below are not too far-fetched, since I have read of cases of each of them already occurring. It is just a matter of which ones will catch on.

My predictions:

1. Online education is going to continue to become more integrated into traditional university education. Students will take a mixture of online classes and more traditional classroom classes. These online classes may not be offered by the university they are currently attending, but the credits will transfer.

2. Community colleges that mostly offer two-year degrees will partner with major universities to help cut the cost of education. Already, this is happening. Students may take classes at a community college for 2-3 years and transfer in to the four-year institution for the last 1-2 years of their degree. This is a win-win, since students get a degree for less money and universities typically receive the most committed students.

3. Apprenticeships will come back in fashion. These may be integrated into a degree, but I think that businesses will higher people with all levels of education and train them specifically for a career. This will curb some of the frustration of businesses that have difficulty finding the right kind of talent they want.

4. The average age of students will trend upward. This is partially due to the longer life-span and social acceptance of starting school later in life. As is already done in other countries, young adults in the US will choose to skip going straight to college. Instead, they will travel, work, volunteer or start their own companies before heading to get their education. This might be 1-2 years or longer. The life skills, experience and wisdom picked up along the way will become invaluable to them and their future employers. Lastly, this trend may lead to students being more engaged, because they know what they want and universities will not have as many dropouts and people switching majors.

5. Self-education will become more common. Anyone with an internet connection can take free classes from top schools, such as MIT or UCLA. Entrepreneurs can pick up a skill they are lacking on. Students can enhance the learning of a course they are struggling with or really enjoying. Also, businesses can use them to train their employees.

6. Most of these trends don't apply to the top rated schools, at least for now. If a school is ranked in the top 10-20 best universities (maybe top 50), they will still command a premium price and will have a long waiting list for people who would like to attend. However, as the trends above take hold, this may be difficult to hold onto.

 I believe that most of these trends will start at the universities and trickle down into primary education (K-12) later on.