As a Gen Xer, the higher education I experienced is fading like a sign post in a rear view mirror. If not a professor for the past nearly 12 years, I doubt I would think little more of the issue. However, I'm caught up in the thick of it. For students and professors alike, the changes are disorienting.
For my students today, confusion abounds over how, or whether, degrees translate into this increasingly "do-it-yourself" world, depicted by Anya Kamenetz in her book, DIY University. Blogs, YouTube, TED, Facebook, iTunes, Open Source, MOOCS and the like have become vehicles for information, communication, collaboration and innovation at work, at home and in communities. Units to a degree likely seem meaningless to gaining expertise and competency in these new currencies.
What students often do not understand is that these competencies are only part of the picture. The inquiry, research, critical thinking and evaluation skills at the core of the university are hugely valuable to the acquisition and application of 21st know-how. Further, since 21st century work and communities still center on the needs and interests of human beings (and organizations and institutions they create and sustain), the humanities and social sciences (and their applications to everyday life) are crucial for a college-educated person today.
For my colleagues and me, the scope of teaching and learning has shifted. Trained primarily as scholars, we have relied heavily on our transmission of content as a delivery and outcome of teaching and learning. The disruption of technology has changed the game, and professors are struggling to adapt.
Many feel that the use of technology will taint the meaning of the university and the value of college learning as a liberal intellectual endeavor. While resistance continues, tech-savvy students and individuals will scrutinize (virially, if need be) higher education to voice their disgruntlement and disagreement.
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In 2013, the NMC Horizon Report presented trends to "understand the impact of key emerging technologies on education, and when they are likely to enter mainstream use." Here are a few relevant ones to this discussion:
- The workforce demands skills from college graduates that are more often acquired from informal learning experiences than in universities.
- The role of educators continues to change due to the vast resources that are accessible to students via the Internet.
- Education paradigms are shifting to include online learning, hybrid learning, and collaborative models.