By Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education
[Note: This article was first posted as a comment to Jim Shimabukuro's "The London Olympics, NBC, and Education" by Harry Keller on 8.9.12. - Editor]
My own experiences with NBC Olympic streaming video ranged widely from fairly good to very poor.
What will tomorrow’s students expect? Do we really know? Online will be a component, certainly. However, what sort of interaction with their instructors will be the norm? Will it synchronous or asynchronous? Probably some of each.
Will textbooks be all online? Or will my vision of the future come true and textbooks in any form will disappear to be replaced by truly interactive online learning software?
Today’s interactive learning software makes a mockery of the word “interactive.” The online game companies know what interactive really means. Must learning software be games? Some think so. I strongly disagree. We can learn from them but don’t have to mimic them.
Regarding the physical plant part of educational institutions, I think that future will depend on the specific institution. K-5 will remain firmly physical. The top colleges, e.g., Ivy schools, MIT and Caltech, Stanford and Duke, et al., will be able to retain their hallowed campuses because their students gain so much for their futures from hanging out together physically. These institutions will also be reaching out to the world with online courses from the best instructors in the world.
What will happen to community colleges? If you can replace a CC campus with an Internet server farm, will it happen?
What about the “Big Ten”? Will football and basketball support the old style? You can’t make football games virtual. These teams must actually play. The alumni must be able to freeze in the bleachers in December while watching their fellows on the field and then donate, donate, donate!
And so it goes. It’s not just about the courses.
Make no mistake. Big changes are afoot. Also, do not make the mistake of rash predictions. The potential for game-changing innovation is strong in the current climate. J. P. Morgan, when asked for his prediction about the stock market, famously said, “It will fluctuate.” So, I say to all of you about the future of education, It will be different. The specific differences are not predictable with any certainty, but some overall expectations are:
- Fewer colleges.
- Different modes of instruction — especially extremely interactive online learning.
- Instructors will be critical, not just dull lecturers and graders; they will probably be paid less for their work — at least per student.
- Redefinition of what a degree means.
- Increasing separation of teaching and publication (e.g., research) personnel.
Hopefully, all of these changes will settle down to something really good and worthwhile. More hopefully, the escalating cost of a usable college degree will decline markedly.
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