Friday, June 15, 2012

The Future of Undergraduate Education

Nigel Thrift / May 29, 2012, 1:44 pm

Many a university president has felt a frisson on reading the news that various consortia are intent on forging an online teaching presence that will reach out in what might seem to some like a quasi-imperial way (not just MIT and Stanford but also Embanet/Compass, 2tor, Coursera and the Minerva Project). No one I know thinks that these online consortia will have immediate effects in the manner of the raft of books that are direct descendants from the days, with all their corporate techno-hype ... .

So what might happen?

Here is one possible scenario. First, most teaching in the early years of an undergraduate degree will gradually cease to be via lectures and will instead take the form of online presentations produced by professionally trained presenters backed up by teams of academics. This online content will be paralleled by peer tuition (or teaching by questioning) which, when done well, is clearly effective  ... , and the associated growth of so-called learning analytics. [snip].In other words, a new hybrid will take the place of the old, one in which I suspect that face-to-face experience and other forms of direct experience ...  will actually become more valued.

Second, both learning and assessment will increasingly be peer to peer via social networks with academics acting as moderators and sources of advice. [snip].

[Personal Note: I noted this in a chat comment as a possibility during a EDUCAUSE Webinar and was scoffed at by one of the presenters and/or one of the other attendees > IMHO: Too many academics lack vision [:-(]]

Third, the spaces of teaching will multiply. Of course, there will still be lecture rooms and tutorial spaces. But more spaces will become adaptable and more spaces will become possible points of learning. [snip].

Such a scenario might well unbalance the higher-education system. Most older academics, at least, will be more than a little concerned by them. But there is no reason to think that they will become the equivalent of the 19th century hand loom weavers. Certainly they will need to acquire a battery of skills that they may not yet have. [snip].

These events disturb one other delicate balance, too. In the past, there was a very definite compact in U.S. higher education so far as teaching was concerned. The elite ‘one percenter’ universities were well off and populated by staff who lived comfortably.[snip]. The state universities and community colleges taught the bulk of students, often very well indeed but obviously in larger classes on the whole. Now that balance is being disturbed and the elite universities can seem like they want it all. This is going to be a real tension in U.S. higher education ... [snip].

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