Education predictions

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With the developments in the education and the increasing number of online possibilities to gain knowledge many of us are asking the question, what will be education of future look like?

According to a recent cover story in The American Interest, it will not look like the current one, because the colleges will cease to exist !! Author Nathan Harden estimates that in 50 years, half of the approximately 4,500 colleges and universities in the U.S. will cease to exist.

This will happen through technology development, virtual classrooms, lectures through streaming videos, online exams and all that we have already seen being developed.  These innovations will crop up at major academic institutions, but they will only proliferate on a much larger scale and disrupt the higher education system as we know it.

Harvard and MIT have the online education venture edX, Stanford has Coursera and has formed agreements with Penn, Princeton, UC Berkeley, and the University of Michigan to manage their online education programs. As online education becomes more widespread, a college-level education will soon be free (or cost just a minimal amount) for everyone in the world, the bachelor’s degree will become irrelevant.

“If a faster, cheaper way of sharing information emerges, history shows us that it will quickly supplant what came before,” Nathan Harden explains. “We may lose the gothic arches, the bespectacled lecturers, dusty books lining the walls of labyrinthine libraries, but nostalgia won’t stop the unsentimental beast of progress from wreaking havoc on old ways of doing things.”

Prestigious institutions, will be in the best position to adapt, while for-profit colleges and low-level public and non-profits will be the first to disappear.

“Universities of all ranks below the very top will engage each other in an all-out war of survival. In this war, big-budget universities carrying large transactional costs stand to lose the most. Smaller, more nimble institutions with sound leadership will do best,” he says.

Harden takes the extreme outlook, signs of the traditional university’s stumbling future as already apparent.

On this same topic, Moody’s Investors Service recently gave a negative outlook to all U.S. universities, citing “mounting fiscal pressure on all key university revenue sources.” A number of states continue to cut higher education budgets, endowments fall, and enrollment numbers and tuition dollars dwindle.

Long-term debt at not-for-profit universities is growing at 12 percent a year, according to consulting firm Bain & Company and private-equity firm Sterling Partners. For-profit colleges, that were a booming businesses only a few years ago, have seen their enrollments fall 7 percent from 2011 to 2012 (compared to a 1.8 percent decline for all higher education institutions), despite efforts to offer generous tuition discounts.

Other colleges have gone into “survival mode” – some are deferring billions of dollars of maintenance needs, cutting staff, and combining resources with other nearby schools. For example, Minnesota’s St. Olaf College and Carleton College, have begun discussing combining libraries, technology infrastructure, human resources and payroll – and possibly even their academic programs.

Many students and parents worry that an online education will not offer the same quality or formative experience as a brick-and-mortar school. However Harden cites research at Carnegie Mellon’s Open Learning Initiative and Ithaka S+R, an academic research and consulting service, which looked at machine-guided learning combined with traditional classroom instruction.

The results were on the side of e-learning: students who receive computer instruction, do equally well on tests as traditional students, but can learn material much faster.

Recently, other experts have come out on the traditional university’s doom: Billionaire investor Mark Cuban compared the current higher education system in the U.S. to the newspaper industry.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen predicts “wholesale bankruptcies” among standard universities over the next decade due to online technologies.

As Harden puts it, “Why would someone pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend Nowhere State University when he or she can attend an online version of MIT or Harvard practically for free?”

Exactly, it makes all the sense in the world and in addition to this all courses are accredited and accommodated to your needs.

To support this trend, five courses were approved today at four undergraduate credit courses:

  • Pre-calculus from the University of California, Irvine.
  • Introduction to Genetics and Evolution from Duke University.
  • Bioelectricity: A Quantitative Approach from Duke University.
  • Calculus: Single Variable from the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Algebra from the University of California, Irvine (but only as a vocational credit).

Students that complete one of these classes can request a transcript with credit recommendations, and the credit is granted at the discretion of the institution.

“We are excited by this opportunity to experiment with new ways of using our MOOC [massive open online] courses to extend our educational reach and provide credit for students who would not otherwise have access to our faculty,” explained Duke Provost Peter Lange. The company revealed that it will continue to promote more of its courses to be transferrable as college credit.

Daphne Koller, Coursera’s co-founder, said that by adding these credential options, they hope to “increase the rate of degree completion and reduce the burden of college debt.” Coursera’s founders, former Stanford professors, expect to experience their fair share of turbulence as the technology evolves. In a recent interview with VentureBeat, Andrew Ng, Coursera’s founder, said it has been a “slow road”, but the company’s success proves online education is “no passing fad.” Universities Brown and Duke currently offer free courses on Coursera platform. Up to now Coursera has raised over $22 million in funding to date from Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and New Enterprise Associates.

Educators knew that the online revolution would eventually envelop the physical classroom. A torrent of near-revolutionary developments in the past month are proving that change is coming quicker than anyone imagined.

In just 30 days, the largest school system in the U.S. began offering credit for online courses, a major university began awarding degrees without any class time required. Scores of public universities are moving their courses online, enriching the variety of choices by every single day.

The point at which online higher education becomes mainstream is no longer in some fuzzy hypothetical future. To support this it is worth mentioning that for over a decade, admissions-selective universities (e.g. not the University of Phoenix) resisted giving credit for their overwhelmingly popular online courses. Established with just 50 free online courses as a proof-of-concept, MIT’s ground-breaking Open Course Ware project expanded to 1,700 courses through a worldwide consortium of universities in just three years. To date, MIT’s Open Courseware has 125 million lifetime visitors.

Online education startup Coursera, added interactive video, homework, and peer learning communities to courses from top-tier universities, has more than 2.5 million users in only nine months, since April 2012.

The California State University System, the financially broken largest education system in world, swung open the gates, piloting a few online courses for credit, at the super-low cost of $150 per course.

The scientifically prudent community of higher education did not wait to see if the pilot was successful. Just three weeks after California’s announcement, The American Council on Education, a consortium of about 1,800 accredited universities, announced it was also piloting cheap online science courses at three more universities, including Duke and the University of Pennsylvania.

Perhaps most intriguing of all is the fact that the University of Wisconsin is offering a fully legitimate college degree without any class time required. So as long as students can pass some tests (and pay the associated costs), they can learn from anywhere in the world!

The semi-sad influence is that we are acting quicker than we are thinking. It can take years to assess a single course, let alone an entire restructuring of the education system. A review of research by the Department of Education shows pretty definitively that “students who took all or part of their class online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through traditional face-to-face instruction.”

Massively Open Online Community courses (MOOCs) are being piloted in higher education, where for example, a team of researchers replaced a physics teacher with lectures from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and the students’ test scores were nearly doubled. It is the quality of lectures, obtained for free or low rate that gets better learning results among the students.

With the increasing interest in e-learning and online education resources, the future of the traditional universities will most probably not look that bright. This will not be that scary, as the history has proven that evolution processes have brought development and progress, which is what is expected from this aspect of our societies rising.

You might want to check the following infographs on e-learning
e-learning inphographs



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