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

Jim ShimabukuroBy Jim Shimabukuro
Editor

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.

How Is the Recession Affecting Online Higher Education?

John SenerBy John Sener

It’s been a long time since I’ve watched the 11 o’clock news on television. My recollection is that it consists of an endless series of deaths, accidents, and other disasters, relieved only by the commercials and an occasional human interest story. Ray Schroeder’s blog “New Realities in Higher Education” is the 11 o’clock news for higher education — except without the heartwarming human interest stories or commercials. The stories are pretty much one hair-raising signal of impending doom after another — make sure you’re in a reasonably good mood before tackling this one.

Once the train wreck/auto crash voyeuristic feeling wears off, inevitably when reading New Realities I find myself wondering: Is the recession helping speed the adoption of online higher education, or slowing it down, or some of both? On the one hand, many community colleges are reporting the increases in enrollment demand that economic downturns typically bring, North Carolina being one example. On the other hand, many (often the same) community colleges are also reporting budget cuts which force them to cancel classes and otherwise reduce offerings, North Carolina also being one example.

One school of thought is that the recession will drive adoption of online learning as a cost-saving measure or as a way to provide access to education for cost-conscious students. A counter-argument is that initial implementation of online education requires investment in infrastructure, faculty development, culture change, etc. and that such funds are not available, hence online education adoption is being slowed down.

So far, I haven’t been able to find anything other than speculation about this topic. By contrast, one of Ray Schroeder’s previous blog efforts, Fueling Online Learning, showed pretty clearly that last year’s astronomical gasoline prices had a strong correlation with increased enrollments in online higher education. (The causal connection is less clear, but a case can be made that there was one.)

Anyone have any concrete evidence on the recession’s effect on online education?