‘The College of 2020: Students’ – A Chronicle Report

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro

In the the first of a three-part series in the Chronicle of Higher Education (6.19.09), Chronicle Research Services reports on what higher education will look like in the year 2020. Click here to view a copy of the free executive summary. The first report focuses on students. Here are some quotes from the summary:

  • More students will attend classes online, study part time, take courses from multiple universities, and jump in and out of colleges.
  • By 2020, almost a third of respondents [121 institutions that responded to a survey] said, students will be taking up to 60 percent of their courses entirely online. Now almost no students at those colleges take courses only online.
  • Colleges that have resisted putting some of their courses online will almost certainly have to expand their online programs quickly.
  • Many colleges are learning from the for-profit college industry that they must start courses and certificate programs at multiple times throughout the year.
  • Students will increasingly expect access to classes from cellular phones and other portable computing devices.
  • Classroom discussions, office hours with a professor, lectures, study groups, and papers will all be online.
  • The faculty member . . . may become less an oracle and more an organizer and guide, someone who adds perspective and context, finds the best articles and research, and sweeps away misconceptions and bad information.
  • The average age of students will keep trending higher as expectations shift in favor of people going back to college again and again to get additional credentials to advance their careers or change to new ones. The colleges that are doing the best right now at capturing that demographic are community colleges and for-profit institutions.
  • At some point, probably just after 2020, minority students will outnumber whites on college campuses for the first time.

3 Responses

  1. Jim, thanks for posting the summary. From my own experiences teaching online classes at UH-Manoa in Educational Technology and also having tried such classes with Japanese students, the items summarized certainly make a lot of sense.

    There are three items that I believe will become important by then, if not, perhaps passé by then:

    1. The 2020 students may not have had any familiarity at all with desktop computers and traditional operating systems. Instead, all of the communications, creation, and retrieval of info will be done with mobile devices. I also believe that, as may of us have two or mobile notebook computers today, 2020 students will have multiple devices to accomplish their online tasks. The proverbial “toaster” could still be one of them. :-)

    2. Texting such as this comment will be replaced by or at least, on par with verbal, visual or multimedia communication modes. Consequently, faculty need to be able to reach visual learners in an effective pedagogical manner as well.

    3. Internationalization will enable many more distance learners to participate in online courses and thus the online student community will be more multicultural than the current group. I believe that this will result in a much richer student experience.

  2. Interesting thoughts for both of you.

    One of the things I think will happen is the breaking down of the perception of education and learning as taking place exclusively within the sphere of a school/college. Informal learning through social networking tools and OER give people opportunities to learn in their own time and on their own terms. The tension here is the perceived value of this. At the moment, value is only given to the completion of courses. This needs to change if we are to realise the potential of informal/social learning and change the way learning is perceived.

  3. Tom, your comment re education as no longer being an exclusively school-oriented activity rings a bell that seems to resonate louder as the future unfolds at our feet.

    The cell phone frees us from the constraints of landlines, which limited where, how, and when we could communicate. With cells, anywhere, anytime communication is a given. Web 2.0 does the same for internet communications, making it possible for us to interact from anywhere at anytime.

    If we think of education as a form of communication between teacher and student and among students, then we can begin to see how we might use Web 2.0 and cellular tech as a medium for teaching and learning — as an alternative technology to schools and classrooms.

    As human beings, our natural instinct is to gravitate toward empowerment, or means to expand our control over the limits imposed by nature. Thus, we develop, refine, and covet the tools that empower us. In our early history, the tools were rudimentary, fire, flint, animal hides. Today, the tools are automobiles, electronics, etc.

    Based on the traditional model of schools, the major limitation to learning is space and time. If we’re able to be in the space and time that schools represent, then we’re able to access learning. If we’re not, then learning is out of the question.

    Web 2.0 changes the learning equation. Space and time are no longer key factors. With a computer and broadband access, learning is open to everyone, regardless of location, regardless of space and time.

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