College has been largely the same the last 100 years or so. Perhaps that’s why kids and parents often grow closer during these crucial years. Some say that the respect comes because students finally realize who’s been doing their laundry and washing their dishes all these years, but maybe it’s that kids and parents finally have something to relate to: the college experience.
But, is it possible that parents soon won’t share the same experiences with their young students? Is college about to undergo major changes that will modify the higher educational process as we know it?
On the Cusp of Transformation
For as long as we can remember, college has followed this model: choose a major, find a school, buy the books, attend the classes, write the papers, take the tests, get good grades, graduate and find a job. Oh, and don’t forget the endless years of paying back the debt.
Although college is a huge investment, it’s been the single best pathway to getting a good job. But as the cost of a quality education continues to rise, and the percentage of graduates finding work falls, young students are beginning to wonder what the true value of a college education is. As a result, some experts predict that in the next 10-15 years, we are going to see a major transformation that will change the higher education experience as we know it.
What will these changes be? Fewer lecture halls, varying roles of professors and cutting-edge technology that make a higher education more attainable and valuable. Through this transformation, some institutions will shut down. But those that survive will become better in terms of efficiency and innovation.
Let’s take a closer look at what college may look like in 100 years.
Skills Over Semesters
Here in the states, we measure college success in credit hours. As students accumulate credit hours, they get closer to completing their degree. Even occupations that require their employees to further their education (i.e., teachers) provide compensation once a certain number of credit hours are completed.
It’s understandable why credit hours have been a traditional sign of success. Credit hours essentially mean that a student has spent time in class, attended lectures, written papers, taken tests and more. But just because a student has shown up and participated doesn’t mean that they learned anything.
As employers struggle to find candidates that possess the right skills, it’s becoming more evident that students are attending their courses simply to get the credit hours. In the future, we can expect college students to learn more “soft skills” that will provide value in the workplace. These skills include practical, hands-on learning experiences such as understanding how to use charts, convey information and negotiate with others.
With the boom in online education, some believe that this style of teaching and learning will completely replace the traditional brick-and-mortar institution. This is unlikely to happen in the short term because there are many students that want the traditional college experience, which can only be possible by attending a physical campus, going to lectures and living in the dorms.
That said, online education is replacing traditional classrooms. What we can expect to see happen is a hybrid learning environment, where students will have a balance of hands-on learning and online learning. This is already possible to some degree, but it’s going to be more full-fleshed in the coming years.
Hybrid degrees will solve a few problems that we’re seeing with higher education. First, it’s cheaper to attend an online university because boarding costs can be erased. This means that students can cut the overall cost of tuition and make their education more affordable.
Second, students will learn to value their time at college. They will use their time on campus to network with others, build connections and engage in hands-on learning, all things that can’t be achieved online. The basic intro 101 classes, on the other hand, will be finished quickly and efficiently online.
No More Lectures
Sadly, college professors are usually most interesting to themselves. While students are certainly open to learning from their more seasoned educators, the learning environment has been mostly unbalanced. The typical college classroom – or any classroom for that matter – has the teacher talking and the students listening.
As the time spent on campus will become more valuable thanks to hybrid learning, we can expect to see the classroom dynamic change. Special learning experiences will be created in college classrooms, and that includes more discussion, an exchange of ideas and a more shared environment. Professors will act as a mentor or guide, while students will participate in small groups.
Remember, information is everywhere, so it doesn’t make sense for students to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hear a professor repeat it. Colleges that refuse to adjust may have no choice but to merge or disappear.
Personally, I believe these changes are positive and completely reasonable. We’re already beginning to see the first stages of these advancements being made, so they are probably not far-fetched from what the reality is.
And while people are often not open to change, this is a change that needs to be made. Too many millennials have found themselves with a degree and a pile of debt. If we continue moving in this direction, the value of a college education will be lost. Why go to school and get a degree if it’s only going to end up costing money?
While colleges have been working hard to show their worth, this is not a long-term solution. Colleges and universities are going to have to find ways to put value back into their higher education programs and give students real-world skills that make them worthy candidates for the jobs they pursue.
What do you think of these changes? Would your college or university be prepared for them?
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