Future of Higher Education: A New Era of Online Education

Inside Higher Ed’s 2014 article, “The Future of Higher Education” (see reference) highlights many current and newly developing trends in higher education. I believe the trends that the article discussed which have the greatest chance for growth are those that involve the use of the internet in higher education. The expansion of the internet as a tool for teaching and providing course content will likely be the main driver of change in higher education both in the U.S. and internationally.

One of the main reasons I believe the use of the internet will continue to expand in higher education is the desire to cut costs. Across the U.S. there has been a steady trend of states cutting funding to public universities year after year. As a result, many universities have increased tuition at rates that are not sustainable. Therefore, pressures to reduce costs will help drive the use of the internet to deliver courses at a lower cost through online classes.

The Inside Higher Ed article also mentions the growing use of “open educational resources.” In class we have discussed the related concept of open access journals as well. As a result of both universities and students wanting to reduce costs and share resources, I expect that the internet will continue to drive these open access trends. Besides reducing costs, the use of open educational resources will have the additional benefit of increasing the speed and depth of knowledge transfer between academics. This may result in academics and students conducting higher quality research.

Providing courses through the internet can allow one faculty to reach a very large number of students at once. This has led to the use of massive open online courses (MOOCs). These types of courses are still few in number, but I expect the use of MOOCs to grow. In the future, MOOCs can integrate students and universities from across the world, allowing a wide range of academics and students to interact and learn from each other. This integration through the use of MOOCs could be done in part through inter-university agreements that allow faculty and content sharing through MOOCs. In this way universities could reduce costs by sharing resources, but also increase cultural exchanges.

The internet will also be used with the expansion of competency-based education. Within higher education competency-based education will most likely be used in disciplines that require a professional certification or that have narrow focus such as disciplines in the medical, engineering, or scientific fields. Online competency-based education can be used to serve non-traditional students who have full-time jobs and/or families, and who also have skills that would make taking traditional course credits repetitive and unnecessary.

These are some of the ways that I believe the future of higher education will be changed because of the internet. I am excited to see how different universities will use the internet to solve their problems and share information. In time, I believe the discussed trends will allow higher education to become more global and accessible to all.

Reference:

Mintz, S. (2014, September 30). The Future of Higher Education. Retrieved April 16, 2015, from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/higher-ed-beta/future-higher-education

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