Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

The End of Universities?

The Conversation, a website(funded by University of Melbourne) providing independent analysis and commentary from academics and researchers, raised a conversation about the future of universities last week. Read the following posts to  see which side you agree more.

Universities must adapt or perish: report

The Ernst & Young report, titled University of the future: A thousand year old industry on the cusp of profound change,called on universities to specialise by targeting certain student groups, use their assets more efficiently and partner more closely with industry or be left behind.

The six month study, based on interviews with more than 40 leaders from universities, private providers and policy makers, predicted fierce competition for students and staff in future. The Internet will transform universities in the same way it has the media, entertainment and retail markets, the study found.

The end of universities? Don’t count on it

We’ve been researching, writing and reading and their effects on the university business model about them for at least a decade. They are the “global warming” phenomena of higher education – we may not necessarily like them, but we can’t avoid them.

But does that mean that collectively universities are about to go belly up? I don’t think so.

The report is quite shocking in its lack of depth. Talking to a couple of Vice-Chancellors or “institutional leaders” in my books does not equate to serious research. Having selective quotes in tabloid style throughout the report at a minimum is misleading. And I assume everyone sees through the simplistic marketing ploy of Ernst & Young’s own “university model for the future”.

The report also lacks references to similar work undertaken on the topic. Earlier this year Tom Kennie from the British Leadership Foundation, together with his colleague Ilfryn Price, wrote a paper on a new ecology for British higher education, exploring possible types of institutions in a future characterised by competition, disruptive change and market dynamics. Mike Gallagher recently undertook a similar exercise for Australia. And Harvard’s Clayton Christensen did the same for the US system last year.

One thing that won’t change is “everything is changing”, no matter it’s for a person or a university. It’s not that hard to understand this constant truth when you look back to human’s history although the future is difficult to predict. A US survey published by Pew Internet last month asked the question: what will higher education look like in 2020? Shared and interactive learning made possible by the Internet is not new or revolutionary but is now the norm for today’s graduating high school and college classes. We should examine potential new models of digital learning and learning institutions, but evidence of learning effectiveness from any new model should be built. Read “The Future of Education and Evidence-Based Perspective” if you care about the evidence of how well the new digital model for learning works.

The Guardian (at UK) also took on that very question last November in one of the live chats, and shared the main points made in this August. The ‘best bits’ are grouped around the five key themes covered, with a sixth section on trends added to highlight some of the main ideas that came out of the discussion. Read the full summary here: The university of 2020: predicting the future of higher education.


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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