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Sunday, July 26, 2015


Photo: Bob Roper
Bob Roper, retired bank executive reports, "Ever wonder what keeps those in charge of higher education awake at night?
Demographics, no doubt, are among the challenges on the minds of sleep-deprived administrators. Fewer high school graduates — for a while, at least — mean tough competition to fill the available seats."

The Georgia Institute of Technology College of Computing

Funding is on the decease, including the value of grants by the state and the federal governments, and is likely to further erode in the near future, especially for public institutions. They have lately been losing out to Medicaid and K-12 education in the competition for state resources, and that is likely to get worse.

Declining middle class incomes make higher education more difficult for many to afford, especially as tuition and fees continue to climb — tuition grew 79.5 percent between 2003 and 2013.

A soft job market leaves potential students wondering whether a college education, purchased at an average loan amount of $33,000, is worth the cost. After all, institutions such as State Technical College of Missouri and others compete by nearly guaranteeing their graduates high-paying jobs.

Higher education has a costly delivery system — expensive buildings, considerable administrative bloat, and highly paid, tenured faculty who usually cannot be removed — that by its nature is suffused with stagnant productivity and is resistant to major cost-cutting.

The University of Missouri, Stephens College and Columbia College are not immune to the demographic and funding trends. And they certainly share with other traditional institutions of higher education a growing, overarching concern: the advent of the University of Everywhere. This looming threat to the status quo is named and described in detail in a book titled “The End of College,” written by Kevin Carey and published in 2015 by Riverhead Books.

In the early 20th century, buggy whip manufacturers were largely put out of business by the automobile. Today the Internet is doing the same thing to record labels, travel agencies and other industries. It is capitalism at work, what the brilliant economist Joseph Schumpeter called “creative destruction.” The old order falls victim to new entrants in the market that offer a new or better way of doing business.

Professor Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School calls the process “disruptive innovation,” and it is much the same concept.

Higher education has, unlike other industries, avoided the Internet bullet so far. But that will soon end, Christensen predicts. He believes higher education is in the process of being disciplined by market forces and that a buyer’s market is developing. Unless higher education reinvents itself, he suggests, many such institutions will disappear during the next 15 years.

What is the University of Everywhere, and how does it work? Here are its hallmarks:
  • Online learning will, in the words of Carey, “provide a personalized, individual education to large numbers of people at a reasonable price.” An education can come from a variety of organizations offering separate specialties. Students will unbundle the offerings of current higher education institutions and reassemble them into unique learning plans. The end product will be a better education at a lower price.
  • Anything that can be digitized will be available to anyone in the world who has access to an Internet connection. Lecture videos can be downloaded or streamed. The student can pause and rewind the video to capture exactly what was said. Meanwhile, the text of the lecture will be displayed in real time.
  • The digital learning environment can be customized and personalized for each student, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence. Also, a student’s progress and pace can constantly be assessed.
  • Large numbers of students, both in the United States and around the world are getting their college education through so-called Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs. In May, Georgia Tech University announced it will offer a master’s degree in computer science online for a quarter of the cost of a customary on-campus degree. It will get even cheaper.
  • Thanks to an improved credentialing system, a student can prove to a potential employer what he or she has actually learned and the details of how he or she did it. That information will likely all be linked to a website.
  • All of this is nearly free, and roughly 5,000 quality courses are now or will soon be available online.
What about that valuable college campus experience? Will it be lost? Not necessarily. It is easy to imagine a building — or spaces in a building — devoted to distance learning. There educators could mentor students as needed, and students could work alone or form study groups, which could include students from around the world.
Read more... 

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune