Saturday, February 6, 2010

Global, Mobile, Virtual, and Social: The College Campus of Tomorrow

John Dew / The Futurist / Washington / Mar/Apr 2010 / Vol. 44 /  Iss. 2 /  pg. 46 / 5 pgs [snip]

An educator and strategic planner outlines the trends leading to a long-forecast future for colleges and universities: Global standardization of education content and accreditation, greater diversity in the student body, and more options for where, when, and how learning takes place.

In 1972, visionary futurists Robert Theobald and J. M. Scott wrote one of the most interesting works related to education in the field of future studies, Teg's 1994: An Anticipation of the Near Future. Like many significant studies of the future, Teg's 1994 was written as a work of fiction, in this case about a college student named Teg and her experiences as an "Orwell Scholar" in the year 1994.

What makes Teg's 1994 significant is the nature of the future of higher education that Theobald and Scott envisioned and how much of it has come to pass. In many ways, Teg's 1994 can also provide valuable insights into the future of higher education that this fictional student's own children and grandchildren might encounter over the next 25 years.

Theobald and Scott were able to fairly accurately describe many of the trends in higher education that have actually occurred over the intervening 37 years. This includes a description of a worldwide computer system that provides Teg with opportunities to conduct her own research, as well as communicate with her peers; campus locations around the world that enable her to conduct her studies in different geographical settings; a faculty member who serves as a mentor, with whom she corresponds by e-mail; and ... .

If Theobald and Scott were writing today, they might craft a sequel to Teg's 1994 around the following trends that are shaping the future of higher education, also commonly referred to as tertiary education in other countries.

1. Globalization of education that leads students to study outside their home country and to respect various cultural settings. This globalized education embraces English as the world language of convenience, while still supporting and honoring other languages and cultures.

2. A growing, but frustrated, need to harmonize the framework, definitions, and subject matter content of higher education programs around the world.

3. Continuous changes in technology that impact learning, including the use of the Internet, the digitizing of all the world's books, the complete transition of all technical journals to electronic format, the ascendency of online teaching and instructional designers over classroom teaching, and the use of ever changing technology, such as iPods and iPhones to deliver educational content.

4. The changing role of faculty that diminishes their engagement in classroom teaching.

5. The changing nature of students, most of whom are already working adults who want to further enhance their knowledge and skills.

6. A continued need but a changing role for residential campuses, as they become the headquarters for global educational enterprises and the gathering places for academic rituals and tribal events.

Globalized Learning

Education is shrinking the world, and the world is shrinking the educational enterprise. [snip]

Harmonizing International Educational Standards

In the increasingly global economy, multinational entities such as corporations and nongovernmental organizations demand more standardization in higher education's structure and content. [snip]


Technology's Impacts on Teaching and Learning

Technology that supports higher education continues to evolve at a rapid rate. The once-valued library stacks and reading rooms full of printed periodicals are being replaced by semantic search engines, online book collections, and electronic journals.

Technology will continue to transform teaching. Freshman math classes are already being replaced by computer-based math teaching labs on many campuses. Large lecture courses are being replaced by courses taught online. Small discussion-oriented courses are being replaced by online courses with live chat rooms or asynchronous discussion boards, taking advantage of social networking to turn learning into a cooperative activity.

All of these changes support the ability of students to pursue their higher education from anywhere and at any time. [snip]


"Going to college" no longer means going to a particular place for a particular number of years. It increasingly means engaging in a structured approach to higher education in whatever physical environment is most suitable for the learner.

The Changing Demography Of College Populations

While most people envision the traditional 18- to 22-year-old when they hear the term "college student," that image no longer reflects the actual demographics of college students. In the United States, the college student body increasingly comprises working adults.


New Roles for Educators

The faculty have always been the core of the college or university, but their role is rapidly changing. The full-time faculty of the future will reflect current trends in three ways.

First, full-time faculty will increasingly serve as the guardians of a body of knowledge in their discipline. They will engage in the international discussion about the content and equivalence of academic courses and programs, working with other practitioners in their field through the auspices of specialized accrediting bodies.

Second, full-time faculty will continue to devote more of their time to conducting research and publishing or performing in their field. They will thus contribute to the body of knowledge in their field and reinforce their role as the critical evaluators of what constitutes that body of knowledge.

Third, full-time faculty will spend more time as mentors, either in the face-to-face setting or online, as envisioned by Theobald and Scott. [snip]


College Campuses and "Homecoming"

Despite these trends, the residential college or university will continue to exist, even though the enrollment on campus may become a shrinking percentage of an institution's total enrolled population. [snip]


Teg's Children

By now, Theobald and Scott's character Teg would have had children of her own, and those children would most likely be headed for college by 2020. Unlike their fictional mother, this next generation of college students really will be living wherever they want and taking many (if not all) of their courses online. They will interact with other students from all around the planet and may even complete degrees that are accredited by international accrediting agencies, giving them even more maneuverability in the global workplace.

Teg's children-and their twentyfirst- century peers-truly will be the global, mobile learners that education futurists have envisioned.


About the Author

John Dew is the associate vice chancellor for institutional research, planning, and effectiveness at Troy University. As a strategic planning facilitator, he worked with what eventually became Lockheed Martin Corporation for 23 years. He also facilitated strategic planning at the University of Alabama, Louisiana State University Law School, the University of California-Bakersfield, and other highereducation institutions.

His address is 231 Adams Administration Building, Troy University, Troy, Alabama 36082. E-mail .



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  1. John Dew's observations are spot on..there is a new future in higher education and I believe he has defined those trends. It is a rough and rocky road being in higher education right now as we see a long history of traditions erode. Cathy L. Anderson

  2. This article proved invaluable regarding futuristics education... Thank you


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