What awaits higher education?
This is a question annually posed to faculty, staff, administrators and college researchers by the noncause non-profit association from around the world.
This year 57 such experts have been identified social, technological, economic, environmental and political trends affect the upper sector. And not surprisingly, their reflections highlight the dramatic shifts in teaching and learning caused or accelerated by the pandemic.
“Higher education is likely to never be the same again,” the report said.
Trends, technical means and methods of teaching
One of the major technological trends for colleges is the collection of student data, according to the report, although it notes that only a few institutions use this information to bring about significant change. Artificial intelligence tools can help process large data sets, however privacy, ethics and fairness of data use concerns remain unresolved.
The economic trend that the study identifies as significant is the growth of the digital economy. More specifically, he predicts that colleges will need to respond to increased interest in cryptocurrencies among consumers. The report also suggests that institutions may face challenges related to maintaining their “digital identity” and that each student and staff is increasingly their personal digital identities.
The spread of hybrid and online learning has been called one of the major social trends. The report says institutions will need to focus on developing strong teaching practices for these teaching methods and do more to support students studying online or on hybrid courses. One of the possible difficulties identified by the study is the involvement of teachers – not to mention adequate training – to change their teaching practices to accommodate hybrid and online learning. And while online education makes higher education more accessible to some students, it creates barriers for other students, including those with limited Internet access or appropriate devices.
The pandemic has changed the way students, faculty and staff use campus facilities, according to a study that calls rethinking the physical environment a major environmental trend. This includes human health priorities (think social distancing) as well as the placement of people who study and work remotely. The report notes that obtaining, installing and using the audio and video equipment needed for effective teaching and learning, with some students in the classroom and others online, is a major challenge.
In the area of political trends, the report notes that the increasing polarization of American society is rapidly encroaching on higher education. It predicts that “in those institutions with a declared political commitment, the idyllic vision of the university audience, lively free thought and open debate, will give way to classrooms with limited discussions and narrow definitions of what is considered legitimate knowledge and truth.” He also predicts that the teaching staff will be “aligned” with the institution’s values and standards.
In general, the forces described in the report are likely to affect both public colleges and research institutions, although not necessarily in the same way. An essay in a report by Carlos Guevara from the Hostos Community College Center for Teaching and Learning notes that students of institutions of his type do not all have access to adequate technical tools for learning, and that declining enrollment may limit college resources. invest in the tools and support needed to teach faculty and students the use of technology.
Meanwhile, universities will need to put in the time, money and effort to integrate their physical and digital learning offerings, says Lee Scallerup Bessett, assistant director of digital learning at Georgetown University, in an essay in the report. And to continue to raise dollars for tuition and public spending on education, Bassett writes, universities will need to better explain why the education they offer is worth it.