Learning Express

Top Changes We’ll See in Higher Education During the Next Five Years

Education delivery will continue to be defined on students’ terms

By Brjden Crewe, Contributing Writer

Education in a bathrobe. Not quite what the ancient Romans had in mind when they created the concept of college and the grouping of individuals who desired to master and cultivate their learning of a particular skill or subject. But today, college students can further their learning and receive quality teaching from the comfort of their own living privacy, regardless of their wardrobe … or lack thereof.

This is just one of many examples of how technology has changed the way higher education can be achieved. The availability of a virtual presence changed the college game. Many functions and products such as e-books replacing textbooks, computer tutoring programs and convenient communication techniques by way of classroom message boards and social networking groups between students and teachers have become standard in education systems over the past decade.

With so many innovative and technologically advanced tools to help make receiving a degree so much easier and convenient, I’m going to try to get ahead of the curve and make some predictions as to what’s next for higher education byways of forward thinking and technology over the next five years. Get ready; you may be seeing many of these changes soon.

Students helping students learn the lingo
If there is one thing a young student in Omaha can relate to a young student in Okinawa, its personal gadget technology. And because of that technology, people on two different sides of the planet can communicate via Facebook, Skype or a number of Internet platforms that allow students to talk about everything from Miley Cyrus’ new album to how to say “I like Miley Cyrus’ new album" in Japanese. So picture this: a learning program where students are monitored, mediated and allowed to communicate with other students from other parts of the world in order to learn how to speak in each other’s mother tongues.

Many students from around the world learn English from a very early age, so the initial language barrier would be minimal, considering the sophistication of the program and the participants. This would also give students from around the world the opportunity to understand and conjugate English words and phrases correctly from American students. Much of the fundamental learning of foreign languages can be done in the classroom, but the understanding and usage can be taught with and from one another, given the accessibility of talking to anyone from anywhere no matter where they’re located on the planet, in a fun and relatable way. If a young student in Omaha is learning to speak Japanese, who better than a young student in Okinawa to help him understand exactly how to use different words and phrases and vice versa? And again, Miley Cyrus, like many American pop stars, is huge in Japan, so there would be no limit to the conversations (and learning) had from one another.

The death of the campus classroom
I hated going to class when I was in college. Not because of the education I received, but because of having to get up, shower, iron, get dressed and haul myself into a monstrous-sized classroom where, because of the number of students, the professor didn’t know if I was there or not. My term papers and tests and projects were what mattered, so why did it matter if I was sitting inside the classroom? That’s a rhetorical statement (not a question) because understanding the information and teachings from my professor was essential to learning, preparing my homework and projects and receiving high test scores. But as I said earlier, why not be able to attend these learning sessions from the comfort of my dorm room? Online classes have taken off tremendously over the past five years, and many students have opted to receive their education online instead of through the high-priced university education that’s seeing the cost of tuition rise and the number of enrolled students fall. Maybe virtual classrooms are the wave of the future—slice of cold pizza, no showering or ironing and the sound of my professor’s voice over the speakers of my trusty computer tablet as I lay in bed taking notes. Does it sound too good to be true? It may be truer and sooner to reality than you think.

No child left behind (in robot voice)
I’ll make this one short and sweet. The emergence of e-books and learning programs gives educators the ability to quickly and more efficiently pinpoint learning problems and disabilities in students, thus eliminating the need for traditional tutors. Many new learning programs are created to quiz and access their learning capabilities and get a better understanding of the needs of students who may have difficulty with traditional course workloads. With these virtual assessments available to accurately formulate programs custom-made for individual students, educators will have a better idea of how to approach the problems of students who have a hard time learning, which will erase much of the digging and exploring that tutors are known to provide before the education even begins.

More courses, less college
Harvard, Stanford, Brown, Berkeley – all great educational institutes, without question. And I’m sure they have great educators who inhabit the halls of those colleges. But what if a college student were able to pick and choose the courses she’d like to take from educators located in different parts of the world, thus creating her own custom-made education? Think about this: A young student wants to learn and understand Spanish from a professor in Barcelona, so she attends an online course given by this professor. Then she attends the class course of an archeologist in Egypt who holds weekly virtual classes available online for students interested in material culture and geology. Then she tunes in to a biology course where her professor is in Antarctica searching for a rare squid and holds a weekly class for students all around the world interested in his work. Each educator is accredited and able to sign off on the proper education given to each student through online tests and assessments, thus validating the student’s education. And the student does this all from her laptop while curled up with a blanket on the couch. Custom-made courses could do away with standard colleges and allow students to get a more versatile, well-rounded education from educators around the world. Mark it down: Custom-made courses are the future!

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