Linda Taylor


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What will university education look like in 20 years?

What will higher education look like in 20 years?

As I walk around with all the books to my curriculum on my iPad, it occurs to me that higher education now looks very different than it did 10 years ago. I remember making ALL my powerpoint slides and now many come along with text books. All my reference books are on my phone. I can access my calendar anywhere and there is not a single eraser mark on it.

Some subtle movements in society are changing the outcomes of higher education and how we teach. Some potential changes I see are:

1. The movement of didactic classes to online with campus learning based on highly psychomotor learning (labs, studios, physical education etc).

2. A federal government that is focusing on transferable skills as opposed to classical education.

4. Mandates that students move through the curriculum instead of a focus on retention. Recent decreases in hours funded.

5. The increased cost of higher education far outpacing workforce pay.

What will higher education look like? What role will technology play in the next couple of decades? Will we skype class? Can I really take a course in Norway and apply it to my transcript?

As we move global, how are your counties dealing with the changes?

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    Jun 16 2012: I think one reason that schools like Harvard, MIT, and Stanford are increasingly putting course materials, video-lecture and course notes, out into the public space for free is that they recognize that they can make a big contribution to education in the large by modeling what kind of content, questions, and thinking aloud foster critical thinking at the highest level. As you are a teacher, you know the term "cognitive apprenticeship." An excellent way of learning the critical thinking methodologies used in a field is to witness an excellent thinker in the field in action.
    In a classroom setting, cognitive apprenticeship is followed by scaffolding students in their trying their hands at similar kinds of questions or exercises in inquiry that represent the field authentically.
    In short, we can begin with some examples of critical thinking, or instruction in critical thinking, at the highest levels. If we gather these examples by use of internet, we have leveraged technology.
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    Jun 21 2012: Absolutely! University teachers are content experts, not experts at creating a learning environment (other than those who base it on what we learned through--which was usually lecture). But that has been a consistent problem with education: institutions neither train nor systematically evaluate faculty on creation of an appropriate learning environment (except in the education schools). There's been 30-50 years of research on how people learn (see all the advances in learning about how the brain works and cognitive research), yet as faculty we're not taught how to incorporate that information into our teaching. We're also not rewarded for promoting learning (only for research/publications and "good" student evaluations).

    So, online courses are run the best they can be by people who want to empower learners, or who want to take lectures and put them online without considering the nature of this new learning environment, or by people who are paid little to consider anything other than lecturing or by institutions that want to make money without considering how to promote learning Educators must be at the forefront of promoting the idea that online learning can work if done properly.

    Thanks for this conversation!
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      Jun 21 2012: Rock on Ida! You just summarized the issue nicely!
  • Jun 17 2012: Just imagine that the main thing about education was the interaction with others and that some of these
    others were in fields outside one's own chosen field. Of course I am not talking just about my experiences
    which were US state schools. If you are with other graduate students after hours the contacts can be really
    interesting. I understand in the older universities here and the really old schools elsewhere this is done
    through student organizations. How do you do that on line?
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      Jun 19 2012: Good point. I was thinking that this would also contribute to the move to specialization. Unfortunately it will also contribute to isolation within the discipline. It will be a challenge
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    Aja B.

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    Jun 16 2012: It's interesting to think about how the movement to online learning will change the university setting, especially if tuition continues to skyrocket past expected future salaries. Acquiring academic knowledge is only part of the college experience... if we separate that part out and deliver it to students sitting alone in their rooms at home, will we find replacements for the other benefits young people get from attending a college? Will universities (d)evolve into gigantic coffee shops where students, educated almost entirely online, can mingle and network in-person when they're not attending class alone at home? I'm picturing a future something like what the NY public libraries are facing, where there just isn't enough value in housing books as there is in housing attractive places to have a coffee and hang out.
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      Jun 16 2012: Online education can easily have an interactive component via the discussion boards that are part of many courses and even some interactivity between a classroom streaming video live and staff in place in the classroom to receive real time questions and feedback. Still, as you say, a learning community has more effect if students also have the chance to engage casually and frequently in an off-topic sort of way and in particular to help each other form a vision of ways to go and further questions to ask. Online education provides access to extremely high quality instruction but comes up short in terms of the community that can provide a vigorous and intense think tank atmosphere at a residential university.
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        Aja B.

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        Jun 17 2012: Fritzie, I absolutely agree... and, in fact, I enrolled in an online school after college where I helped manage a very active and vibrant discussion forum. :) Many of my classmates from that online school went on to be my friends and coworkers, and I still keep in touch with many of them both on- and off-line. But while I'm (obviously) a big believer in the power of online communities, I see them as an addition to, not a replacement for, face-to-face interactions. Thinking back to my own college experience, I'd guess that a very large part of what makes the university setting so valuable is the presence of so many bright, motivated peers with whom to build solid, lasting relationships. It's possible to have that kind of experience entirely online, yes, but it's so much harder without the physical closeness.

        If someone were to, say, come up with a way for online students to fight over who didn't move their laundry out of the dryer fast enough, that could change. ;)
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          Jun 17 2012: I do the same. I agree that online cannot compete with the regular offerings and environment of a great research university, but it may compete well with the education to which most people have access and certainly would compete well with many higher education offerings given enhancements that provide offline experiences connected to the curriculum.
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          Jun 19 2012: I agree. I think we need to actively move to keep the learning community intact. There may be social and economic pressures that will be working against this so we nee to be vigilant.
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          Jun 20 2012: The distinction between online and face to face communities has shrunk. Look at the use of facebook to connect or reconnect. Look at the advent of technologies that permit video conferencing (e.g. iphone's facetime & Google Talk).

          We're operating on the assumption that the "real" interactions are only face to face and that other methods of connecting are lesser methods. Although I don't want to lose ace to face contact with others, I've found rich connections with people through the use of technology.

          Technology use also permits me to carefully craft responses, control when interactions might occur, and learn more from others who are more forthcoming through technology-based communications than they are in face to face communications.

          It seems to me, the goal for communication, in addition to the important physical contact (hugging, shaking hands, kissing) is to make connections in direct and indirect ways. Technology can help accomplish that.
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      Jun 17 2012: I think that on-line is not the way to go. Not that it cannot be done, I just feel the presence is necessary. The future of education is dependent upon educations willingness to change the way it does business and politics. First education: Basically the Bismark system of the 1700's driven by industrial and military needs. It continues to allow the fox to guard the hen house and they have made a comfortable nest. Saddly education is driven by the textbook industry. They determine what the teachers will teach and the test developers devise test on what the textbooks dictate. At some point schools will have to determine how to enter the 21st century educational needs and the use of existing technology. POLITICS: Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, has stated that he wants education socialized with the government writing all texts, curriculum, outlines, develop and grade tests. Currently he favors brick and mortor facilities but that can change. This has started with the mandatory introduction of Common Core Standards from the Feds. It is not mandatory that schools implement these standards ... they just lose federal funding if they do not. No pressure. Most policies come from the state legislature that also funds, got a option here.

      I think it is funny that the only people NOT in the decision making loop for academia is educators. School boards have been reduced to toothless tigers. All funding and curriculum is developed either at state or federal levels. The No Child Left Behind law made it manditory that states develop and administer a test to evaluate both the school and the students. As of this year 50% the teachers evaluation will be based on the students grades. Administrators protecting their nests and unions have allowed schools to remain dormant. PISA tests have brought our failure in education to light.

      Out of space. I was just warming up. All the best. Bob.
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        Jun 19 2012: Arne scares the beegeebers out of me. It is disconcerting someone that naive is in that position. (My opinion folks. Don't take to heart.)

        I agree higher education needs to be driven by higher educators. There are factors preventing this. I would love to see this change driven by tenured seasoned faculty but there are real problems inherent in tenure. Also, it has always confused me that we train people to be scientists and confer a PhD and then expect them to be able to understand curriculum, course work, and academia. If we want scientists to teach, we should give them the tools.
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          Jun 19 2012: Linda, I agree about Arne. I will however somewhat defend him in this manner. He is a puppet. Follow the money to find the source of the problem. The Obama largest funder and most frequent visitor to the White House is George Serios. He wants one world government with himself as the world leader and is pushing the White house to go in that direction (socialism). Please read up on him as he has broken up many countries and is well on path to undermind the USA. (As you say, My Opinion)

          We need to return to a Constitutional government and many of these problems can be resolved at the state level where they belong.

          Scientists are installed to do research for the universities. If they make a discovery then the schools is in the money. By placing them, corporations offer grants for research into XYZ. Because of the expertise available the government funds many research projects. As I stated above follow the money. It is not about education.

          Thanks for the response. All the best. Bob.
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    Jun 29 2012: Here is a quick summary of my notes. Thank you all for your wonderful contributions.


    Art and literature will become luxury. Grooming the next workforce by subsidizing degrees that fulfill future workforce demands.

    Federally driven curricula. Common Core Standards. Politically driven because schools will lose funding if they do not comply. Increased risk of the vanilla curriculum.


    Average people will be unable to afford higher education.

    Cost may come down as delivery changes to fewer educators because of online delivery.

    The increased cost of higher education far outpacing workforce pay.

    Free online courses including exams and assignments. Most notably Harvard. Realization that knowledge withheld is counterproductive.

    Increased lawsuits of students unable to find a job after completing college. Mostly driven by inability to pay student loans.


    Increased need for students to have the skills of self-learning.

    Mostly women will attend college.


    Campus will be one giant coffee shop where students mingle when not attending class at home.

    Balance online with “community of learners.” College is more than just coursework. Socialization.

    Focus on consumer demand with curriculum structured based on what the student wants instead of broad based liberal arts. Driven by evidence that subject immersion increases accomplishment. Curriculum will become more practical.

    Interactive education between colleges/universities. National experts available for instruction. Possibly decrease the number of faculty needed for course delivery.

    Movement in innovation in education. Semester system will be scrutinized.

    Diploma mills and rigorous education. There will be a split.

    University app for smartphones
  • Jun 29 2012: Theoretical concepts with a more practical usage and hands on/technological learning.
  • Jun 29 2012: Our world is changing so quickly, it's hard to imagine what anything will look like 5 years from now. I was in Graduate school in the mid 90's when the internet was just starting to take hold in people's lives. I'm now 40 and my young kids can pretty much find the answer to any question they have on the computer. They find and explore most of their school and recreational interests right at home.
    Maybe Apple will come out with a University app. and people will be able to get a degree while staring into their phone. It seems it's the only way people learn anything these days.
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    Jun 24 2012: Social and accessible to all providing actual knowledge of thoughts and thinking.
  • Jun 22 2012: It seems important to be sure we remember that education isn't about just passing on content -- Paulo Friere and John Dewey argued against content-centered education. So, in 20 years, maybe we'll have found a way k-12 and post secondary to keep content up to date ( it's changed, after all, even as I've typed this!) and teachers will generate and offer ( via many means) content creatively and/or facilitate the development of critical and moral capacity. But both have to happen, yes? It means the teacher's role changes. It means we change the way we offer credentials and the way we assure content is alright. In fact -- we'll have to shore up critical and moral capacity significantly to be able to respond to the amount of content that will be available. But I'm thinking while I write -- will keep thinking: What do you all think?
  • Jun 22 2012: Self-learning is different than formal education. Maybe we should facilitate this as an
    adjunct to the university. There are many examples of this - Steven Speilberg,
    Feldencross, Count Korzibisky's wodk late in lifew, Gandhi's Woek, etc. Even C.S. Lewis
    wasn"t the normal Oxford/Cambridge Don, George Dodgson, Alice, etc. Could life and
    education ber too rigid?
  • Jun 22 2012: In a world where virtually all information is available what exactly is the role of education?
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      Jun 22 2012: Well, for me education is more than the memorization of information. If you are not guided by someone who knows what to do with that information it is useless. That is kinda the foundation of the disciplines. There are typically core courses that are integrated into a discipline but each requires that students use the same learning but in slightly different ways. So an intro math course is used differently in the engineering discipline than the health sciences. The problem is that students don't understand how we need to integrate all courses to produce the ultimate outcome of each discipline. Sometimes the educators don't get it either.
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      Jun 24 2012: Higher education is primarily about learning how to discover and deduce what is not yet known or what is subject to interpretation. The ability to reason, to interpret, and to judge, to build from what is known, to understand how to try things systematically... these will always go beyond the information that may be available at any time. Broad availability of information increases the value of such skills rather than substituting for them..
  • Jun 21 2012: Our education system will implement a system that allows students to focus purely on those subjects that the student wants to pursue instead of a broad based educational exposure. This change will be driven by the finding that a pure subject matter emersion can yield genius level accomplishment in a great many people.
  • Jun 21 2012: Art, literature, etc--are not outdated like Latin.
    Who speaks pure Latin anymore--though it is the root of the romantic languages.

    Art and literature are still with us---it's just a shame that they may not be offered as degrees because art curators, museum keepers---Literature critics and teachers may become a very small niche of jobs for the future.
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    Jun 21 2012: Dear beloved Linda.
    It seems to me that the trend is to open and free access to higher learning for everyone via the internet. Just look at Michael Sandel's lecture series (I think it is Harvard's site). Some fundamental truth seems to have broken through that demonstrates that knowledge withheld is counterproductive. I fear though, that a profit motive for the few may steal away this understanding.
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      Jun 21 2012: I hope we can maintain this. I understand that we have to pay for credit but I hope it remains open access.
  • Jun 21 2012: Because of the rising cost of a higher education---the burden to learn independently will be on the student. No classroom----just assignments, online tests, computerized test results. You get the material or you don't.

    The "classical"--literature, the arts--etc will be elective classes--not degrees.
    I do not see a problem with the federal government grooming the next generation workforce by only subsidizing degrees that will fulllfil future employment demands. A viable workforce is the key to economic success. We must keep up with the global market.

    It's a shame that learning the arts,classes in diversity, literature, history will become a luxury.
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      Jun 21 2012: I kinda agree with you that maybe classical education will become a luxury. Perhaps it is outdated, I do not know. I mean how many places require Latin anymore?
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    Jun 20 2012: Your comment highlights one of the key issues with teaching in general: that of creating a learning environment where learners get the support they need. That's the issue and the issue still isn't adequately resolved in face to face classes.

    The issues you raise are similar ones in a face to face class. There are students who attend face to face classes and who can ask questions, get answers to their questions and learn from that interaction. It sounds like you were a student who was able to do that. There are other students who need to meet with the instructor one on one to get answers. If the instructor is available (and not all face to face instructors are), then some students learned that way and received help. There are students who need to hire tutors to help them-they need more intense, one on one time to complete the work.

    Math is one of those topics where many of us need additional assistance, beyond listening to instructors explain. We learn at different paces and face to face classes are often inadequate because some may get answers to their questions, but others still flounder because they're at a different stage in the learning process. Online courses that mirror that format are similarly likely to be inadequate for many.

    That returns me to my original point: excellent teaching is more than being able to lecture and present information well. Excellent teaching means designing a learning environment that creates the most learning opportunities for the most students. Your example sounds like the example of an excellent presenter, but not an excellent teacher. There is difference.
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      Jun 21 2012: I have to agree, but I also understand that the presenter was trained as a statistician and not as a teacher. So is it fair to ask her to be so good at teaching as she was at statistics? It is really hard to take people trained and leaders in the disciplines and just ask them to teach. I mean, I was happy she had the presentation part down:)
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    Jun 20 2012: Thanks for replying so quickly, Linda.

    I want to clarify the assumption that I read in your comment and which you explained in your reply. You said you've taken online math classes and your teacher was excellent. The assumptions I read from your comments was that a well designed online math class exists if the teacher is excellent but the online format was wrong for math.

    First, I'd have to know what you defined as an excellent teacher. It seems to me if you have a teacher who can explain the concept well, that that's only PART of defining someone as an excellent teacher. Someone can be an excellent lecturer/presenter of material, but that's only part of the design of the course & teaching. Other parts of good course design include (1) identifying areas where learners need more than lectures (2) providing alternative ways of presenting the material for those who learn differently or who need to see things differently (e.g. lecture + physical demonstration + word problems + watching someone solve a problem) and (3) providing options for individual tutoring and other learner support for the learning process. That all goes back to someone being an "excellent teacher" and what that means. Teaching is more than lecturing (as I'm sure you know).

    Second, you've assumed that your experience represents the best or worst of online teaching. At the beginning of the journey to online teaching, online courses were more like the correspondence courses of old. You watched a lecture, sent in homework, the teacher graded and returned it. That may work well for some students, but not all. Good online courses do more.

    Face to face teaching has its pitfalls as well. One of the biggest had been failure to elicit participation by all students. The extroverts would speak consistently, but the introverts would not. Online education, when structured properly, permits participation by all, even those who want to reflect before participating. It can work, if done right.
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      Jun 20 2012: In my experience the reason the online did not work, was the inability to question the instructor real time. That was really it. So the delivery of content just marched on. If you did not get something early on, you were in trouble later because of the constructivist paradigm. So I could not question the teacher for clarification during the presentation. Apparently I was not the only one because everyone in the class got tutors. To sit next to them and practice. So most of us paid for private teaching as well as paying for the course. I mean if we are going to leverage that type of teaching, why not just hire a bunch of tutors and proficiency out of the course? This was true distance ed and we were also all over the country. Oh yeah, the course was an upper level graduate statistics course. Trust me, I am an assertive learner and I will aggressively learn what I do not know. But I need to have the right type of instruction for me to be successful. I am sure most of the population is like that.

      I also know there are a lot of ways to instruct math and have even gotten online tutoring for my kids. It helped immensely but again, it was because of the one on one they were successful.
  • Jun 20 2012: Witte Hall was an interesting place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in "72
    I don't know how student costs are in Wisconsin now but in Texas they
    apparently have really gone up. Thus, it is really easy to be a specialized fool
    now. It probably makes economic sense. Do read Keirsey's You don't Understand me
    I or III. To go Meta and to be a rational is really an odd thing. Isn"t that what education
    should empower. Think of Myers- Briggs and Strengt5h Finder. Maybe conventional
    education is not for everyone.
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      Jun 21 2012: I agree conventional education is not for everyone. I think we need new ideas in education like get rid of the semester/quarter system. Summers?? Nobody has summers off in the work world outside of teachers and retirees. Let's start talking unconventional education.
  • Jun 19 2012: In the next twenty years more colleges will close as the ever increasing cost of attending puts it out of reach most people. Lawsuits, many lawsuits both class action and misrepresentation are coming as college graduates fail to secure employment. A student debt crisis similar to the housing crisis will be the next body blow to the economy. Publishers of textbooks and school administrators will be subject to DOJ kickback and payola investigations. The good news is that as the old paradigm of education fails a new one will rise to take its place. Online open source low cost colleges will appear similar to what we are seeing with TedEd and /or an education directly driven by the industry that needs the talent. In China Intel awards Phds. Intel provides fellowships. The Chinese model will be adopted by the US.
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      Jun 21 2012: I am not sure how the lawsuits will play out. The courts have typically sided with the educational institutions but that could change. I also agree the debt crisis is starting to creepily look like the housing crisis. I wonder if it will hit critical mass too. Very interesting comments and I wonder how the new paradigm will look.
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    Jun 19 2012: I think our education will be completely reliant on technology at least by the time I go to college. Just think on how 30 tears ago, technology only played a minimal role in schooling, but now, every school has a computer lab. I think another step of that magnitude will be made.
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      Jun 20 2012: There is this great scene in the movie 'Blues Brothers' where the technology of the time was supposed to change how students learn. There is this big real-to-real magnetic tape recorder in the front of the class with the professors lecture playing, and in the room are all these cassette tape recorders recording the lecture.

      I agree the technology will increase, but I doubt it will be completely reliant quite yet. I do think it might eventually.
  • Jun 18 2012: Maybe this is overly simplistic, but I think over the next 20 years, we will see divergence. That is, experimentation in the way education is designed, delivered, and facilitated will be more mainstream. Conversation will be about the "type" or "style" of school moreso than it is now.

    All the variables: lab vs. field, grades vs. passion, interaction vs. solitude, interactive vs. passive, dynamic vs. static etc., etc., will be explored and blended as the objectives range: more creativity, more innovation, more compassion, etc., etc.

    There will be many challenges, but for me, the one that comes to mind most clearly will the the transition from "high variance" education systems to "low variance" education systems, and how "legacy" systems interact with "radical" ones.

    In general though, I think it will lead to net-positive reform.
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      Jun 19 2012: Boy I hope so. Sounds like it will be an exciting and innovative 20 years. I hope we are smart enough to develop evidence for the best way to help students learn.
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    Jun 18 2012: Coursera, MITX, and Udacity ( could be the start of an educational renaissance. Right now the free online courses aren't likely going to get someone a job, but it is a great way of education a massive amount of people very cheaply. You can take them to brush up on things or learn a new skill. I also see free online courses as a gateway back into the educational system. For people who have never been to college or are on the fence of going back to graduate school, these online courses could be the spark they needed.
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      Jun 19 2012: This is really great. I think it might also help ESL students. If they can hear it once and then take a class for credit it might help them out. I also really like iTunes University
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    Jun 17 2012: Some of you are touching around the edges of this. What will happen to university education is a fragmenting between lower-division and upper-division courses. We can use Bloomberg's model for as good a starting place as any. In lower-division courses, we are looking at the lower stages of the model, where the student needs to gain a certain facility with the brute facts of the discipline—historical timelines, biological taxonomies, the set of common formulas and equations, whatever. These can be done rather well through distance learning and online models.

    However, as we move to the upper-division courses, we are also moving upward through Bloomberg's taxonomy, and there students need to be able to engage in complex, interactive discussions, hypothetical modeling, and analysis/synthesis of the ideas, agenda, and methodological assumptions of the discipline. This kind of learning will always be better achieved by bringing bodies together in a conventional campus setting. The amount of time and difficulty of having a meaningful political or philosophical debate via an online chat - even with video - can never provide the efficiency, non-replication, and multi-dimensionality that prepare students to engage in the professional practice of their majors that a good class can.

    This is not unlike what happens in some disciplines now when students begin at a community college level for the first two years and then transfer into a 4-year program. Cutting across this two-part division, however, is the physical versus theoretical division touched on below.
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      Jun 19 2012: Interesting. I was thinking it would be easier the other way around. With lower division being face to face and upper division moving online. Simply because the content needs some intense faculty direction. I would really really hate to see a student take online College Algebra or Technical Writing online.

      You can have debates and discussions online like we do here. But I do understand that it takes longer. And as a faculty in discussion, there is a certain amount of saturation you would want your students to achieve.
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        Jun 20 2012: I tend to agree with Erik's assessment, although I'd add the caveat that upper division courses can be taught well online also.

        First, fundamental skills can be taught online, whether those skills are math, algebra or the basics of writing (e.g. grammar, basic organization, spelling, etc.) Taking a course online is not synonymous with no teacher interaction, though. Your comment, Linda, is based on the assumption that an online course means no guidance from teachers. That is not true-it depends on the course and how it's built. If the course is built in accordance with the needs of the learners, it can include intense direction. Even in a face to face course, faculty may not give intense direction to students.

        The fun of teaching is to take the basics, help students develop a core understanding of concepts, then applying them. That can be done online; it can also be done face to face. However, sometimes, some of my deepest conversations with students have been online. So, Erik, although I agree with you about the lower division courses, I disagree about the upper division courses. You can get a depth of conversation, with more participation with a properly designed online course.
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          Jun 20 2012: I think we will have to wait and see then. My comment was not based on an assumption. It was based on the fact that I have taken online math courses and will not make the same mistake twice. The teacher was excellent. The issue was how I learn.
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          Jun 23 2012: I agree, Ida, that online courses have evolved now so that some are strictly recorded/presented and played back (the traditional model) some are traditional but with tutors available to communicate by phone or online as part of the course,, some are live streaming with the possibility of live interaction, some involve skillfully moderated discussion boards for hashing out key ideas and questions, and some use technology for an effective interactive component.
          I strongly prefer in-person forms of education, but online versions certainly have evolved over the last decade.
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        Jun 25 2012: Linda, I think this is the first time I've honestly heard someone say they didn't like online math. Like so many others, I thought math online was a terrible idea when we first began these programs in earnest 10 years ago. Just a few years back, I saw the stats from a state's online math end of course tests compared to the general population. The success rate for traditional was 56% and online was 92%. Now, there could be lots of reasons for the discrepancy, but none of them were accounting for a nearly 40% difference. What they found was the ability to continuously repeat videos and practice problems until mastery was achieved was the key to success. If the courses are structured that way, it can really be helpful for students struggling in math. I don't doubt your teacher was good as you discuss here. I just wonder what other factors make it tough for students to learn math online. As we're constantly trying to improve this, I hope to hear others weigh in if they found themselves in the same situation.
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      Jun 25 2012: Very interesting ideas, Erik. There is much discussion on the very model you propose. Some are wondering if gen ed is just better handled in a format where few of the principles are in dispute. As you move upward, it gets more difficult. I wouldn't necessarily say that depth in learning cannot happen outside a face to face classroom (as many of the most brilliant minds in our history were relatively isolated and self-taught) but I do agree that the live exchange of ideas is important. Because I work in technology, though, I wonder what developments are coming our way that try to replicate such an exchange.
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    Jun 17 2012: It'll probably be about 3/4 women, and mostly available to the wealthy because everyday people will no longer be able to afford it, if recent progression is any indication.
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      Jun 19 2012: Good point. I wonder what that will mean to the delivery of content?
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    Jun 16 2012: Those who develop deep understanding through an interactive rather than passive education and those who engage with institutions that resist the trend to move people through without retention or mastery will become more rare and more valued. Those with educated parents and mentors who advise them to cling to rigor over superficial coverage will be increasingly distinct from what mass education looks like, and the increased supply of people with less rigor in their educations will depress the economic value of such education.
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      Jun 16 2012: I agree with you and have a question. It seems you see 2 major types of secondary education, what we here in the states call 'diploma mills' and truly rigorous educational institutions. My question is, how can an institution resist the monetary lure of the diploma mill? With economic pressures as well as societal pressures what can we do? Is there a happy medium where we can marry rigor and moving people through?

      OK that was more than one question - sorry.
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        Jun 16 2012: I thought we were talking about university. But if you are asking about secondary education, I think the most efficient strategy for offering a rigorous education rather than a "mill" type education, as you have called it would cost no more than providing a mill type education. Uber-talented people are drawn to teaching as a profession precisely because they want to challenge kids and make a difference. Less talented people are still drawn to teaching because they want to reach students and change their lives. No one expects a lot of pay, but doing this sort of socially significant work provides non-monetary compensation. The best strategy for keeping the highly talented in teaching is to treat them like professionals once they are in the classroom, not-to-micromanage them to deliver a standardized plain vanilla curriculum but rather to allow them deliver the rigor with ingenuity and energy. It does not cost more! What I think happens instead is that teachers are often treated as if they are lazy, backward in skills, and unwilling to do what it takes because they don't really believe in their students. It is an insulting way to treat people who typically have to work extremely hard to meet students" needs. The best will exit the classroom to try to find a place where they are allowed to make the difference they can make.
        Your original question was about universities. My teaching and education have not been at the diploma mill sort of schools, so I don't have insight into the problem at the university level. I am used to universities that seek to engage and challenge students to solve problems and think critically. I have never been asked to memorize much and have never asked for much memorization. I am used to students' being exposed to authentic problems and to experience the flavor of authentic work in the disciplines they are studying.
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          Jun 16 2012: I'm sorry I misspoke. I did mean university or higher education - not secondary - thank you for pointing that out.

          Kudos to succinctly outlining the challenges of teaching at the university. There are other factors that come into play including the requirements to meet tenure and what happens after and am interested in those insights also.

          I also wanted to ask for some more insight into the 'vanilla curriculum.' How can we better articulate the minimum educational requirements and the need for students to critically think? Can we leverage developing technologies to do help?
  • Jun 16 2012: Future Classes will be like TED talks, participants come with a singular purpose of exposing themselves to new ideas new thoughts, the High School will equip "Under Grad" students with necessary general skills to understand the broad concepts, forums like TED talks will push the boundaries of thinking, the participants of such talks will be the teachers and professors who will critically evaluate the thoughts being presented, "Students" will learn by the mistakes they make, a student who achieves success early in life will find his grades struck between medium to high, because his "failure" marks will be very low. The cost of higher education will actually come down, as the value for a paper based degree will come down. It is the idea and its implementation and its contribution to future knowledge which will earn the academic recognition.
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      Jun 16 2012: That's an outstanding idea. Imagine leaders in the field sharing their knowledge for present and future learners. Educators could access and link to coursework and start discussions as we do here, including the ability to document and measure outcomes.
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      Aja B.

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      Jun 16 2012: Failure-based education... I love it.
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        Jun 16 2012: I do not understand failure based education. Could you please clarify?
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          Aja B.

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          Jun 17 2012: Linda, maybe that isn't the right way for me to describe it, but I liked Ravi's idea about measuring and rewarding students for trying and failing, and then trying again, rather than only rewarding success.
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        Jun 17 2012: Please help me out here because I thought that''s what we've been doing and coming under criticism for. For instance, students take a class, fail, retake the class and pass. One of the biggest parts of my job is to help students frame failure outside the context of their 'self' and empower them to try again. So how is your description different? I really am interested.
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          Aja B.

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          Jun 17 2012: Linda, my only experience here is that of my own formal education, and that ended almost 10 years ago, so I'm hardly an expert on (or even familiar with) the modern education system... but the thought of actually including failure and recovery from failure on the grading rubric is new to me. I was never taught to embrace failure as part of the learning process when I was in school, but as an adult I've found it's so crucial to being able to make real progress in anything. Are schools teaching this now?
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        Jun 18 2012: Thank you so much for contributing to this thread! Sometimes the best ideas come from those who are not familiar with the subject and I really appreciate it.

        I am not sure if schools are helping students but I know I am. I agree with you it is important for people at the beginning of their careers to be able to understand failure and how to leverage it. So I work with students to objectify a failure and come up with a plan to move past it. Luckily it is not a major part of my job. But it is an important skill and I take it seriously.
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          Jun 18 2012: At this point the value of failure and the necessity of being able to overcome obstacles is well understood among educators, as it is in the general population. How many times a week do we hear the advice to fail fast or hear that if we never fail, we are not taking on the right level of challenge? Still, it takes courage in a teacher to place challenging work in front of kids so that there is some struggle in it. There will always be teachers who take the easy road of pitching a class so that students can easily accomplish everything set before them, which then can make it harder for teachers down the line to present challenging work and to offer feedback that isn't all accolades. Another school phenomenon is valuing self-esteem above all else and to this end, applauding any level of work or contribution to work. There is a downside to applauding instances in which students do much less than they are capable of doing. One effect is that those who get real feedback are scaffolded toward mastery and those who are applauded too much for too little do not grow as successfully. Applauding people for trying something hard at which they then don't succeed makes great sense but applauding everything ultimately does not serve the student well.
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        Jun 19 2012: Well said, Fritzie! I love the term 'pitch a class.'