Changing the Landscape of Higher Education

hqdefaultBy David M Kirby for the Huffington Post

Education is ever-changing, especially in a world with rapid technology advancement. As new technologies and methods become available, the way we teach and are taught must by necessity change as well. Core principles and basics of education remains, yet the method by which these are accomplished must by necessity adapt to meet the needs of students and the workforce. There is nothing in the world that has spurred change like the inexorable progress of technology. Who would have thought we’d come full circle and use tablets in higher education again? (Chalkless, of course.)

Three advancements in particular have done much to change the education landscape. These three are adaptive learning software, online education, and massive open online courses. All of these serve a purpose in engaging students and creating a more manageable education system.

Traditional book learning is typically linear with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Students learn according to a rigid curriculum with little accounting made for individual progress or interests. The coursework is the same for everyone. In an adaptive learning system, the content is the same but how it is presented is different for each student. This is most effective in smaller classrooms but still represents an opportunity to deviate from the norm of homogenized learning. Unique learning experiences tailored to each student are difficult to scale but provides unrivaled student engagement. It’s all part of an attempt to improve education systematically starting with students.

 

As far as student independence is concerned, there’s no doubting that online education offers the most freedom of all studying methods. Online education now is nothing like the degree mills of the past. It’s only the delivery of the learning that’s different - in many cases, the curriculum itself mirrors the physical equivalent. The same books, same tests, and same lectures are required. Students do enjoy the freedom to study from wherever they please, and sometimes at discounted rates equivalent to in-state tuition.

The cost of college tuition has skyrocketed in the past 30 years, making physical attendance prohibitively expensive for many would-be students. The average tuition and fees at private National Universities has risen 179% since 1995. Online learning has spiked in popularity in part because it uniquely benefits nontraditional students, like those attending part time with jobs.

Students aren’t let off the hook simply because they’re learning from a distance. That’s exactly how it should be too if educators and students ever want to combat the perception that degrees earned online are less worthwhile. Face-to-face interactions are certainly valuable, but the truth remains that many students prefer online learning. They’re allowed sometimes for the first time to be engaged in class discussions in a way that no single person can dominate the conversation. Everyone is expected to participate but on their own owns.

Generally speaking, you can study from anywhere at any University offering online-based degree programs. This is something that it holds in common with the third and final advancement mentioned: massive open online courses.

Massive online open courses are typically referred to as MOOCs. They’re online courses that anyone can attend for free. They offer no college credit, but does that diminish the value of lessons learned? MOOCs are an example of an experimental shift toward putting education first for the sake of education itself. This is revolutionary for those seeking to better themselves or improve upon their existing educations.

Education continues to evolve at a rapid pace because how we learn has importance. There’s never been only a single way to learn, and the educational system is reflecting that. MOOCs and other online courses are both examples of adapting education to suit the needs of the evolving modern student. Technology plays an important role in this, especially as education becomes more accessible to students regardless of their location or background.

 

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