Trends in Higher Education
The Horizon Report: Leveraging Technology to Enhance Student and Institutional Outcomes With an Eye to the Future
We operate in a turbulent higher education marketplace. Many forces are impacting the foundational pillars of higher education, from economic and demographic to social, cultural, and, especially, technological. Knowing how these forces will impact higher education helps leaders adjust, adapt, and plan for the future. This awareness can help an institution to survive or even flourish.
One established source for understanding trends has been the New Media Consortium’s (NMC) annual Horizon Report, which assesses short-, mid-, and long-term trends in the adoption of technology in higher education. The report also looks at the anticipated timeframe for the adoption and the challenges that might impede the adoption of that technology. Over the last 16 years, NMC has used the Delphi Method, engaging industry experts like consultant Bryan Alexander to develop, discuss, and forecast the likelihood and strength of these trends. I have used the report as homework for my academic leaders and it has been suggested reading for all university leadership for many years.
APUS showcased a variety of faculty research and innovation at the Policy Studies Organization’s recent 10th annual Dupont Summit in Washington, D.C. This year’s conference proved to be an excellent event for APUS faculty to showcase the advances in online higher education about which we are most passionate.
More than 40 years ago, my high school chemistry teacher authored high school and college chemistry textbooks. During the school year, he updated our assignments based on the next version thereof. As an undergraduate and master’s student, I had some professors who provided us with pre-publication draft papers to supplement course texts. For most of my classes, however, syllabi changes were infrequent and usually only modified for page or chapter changes in the latest version of the same text utilized for years.
New York isn’t the first state to offer tuition-free college, but it is the first to offer free tuition for a four-year degree. The Excelsior Scholarship program was proposed by Governor Cuomo in January and approved by the legislature last week.
An opinion piece by Jeff Selingo last week in the Washington Post criticized colleges giving preference to alumni children. Let’s start with the irony of that criticism*. If a non-elite, non-selective college gave preferential admission to a child of an alumnus, no one would object. After all, non-selective schools admit nearly everyone. While the Post didn’t reference “elite” in the headline, the colleges cited include UVA, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Princeton, most of which accept 10% or fewer of their applicants.
Last week, serial entrepreneur Mark Cuban created a stir with his statement at the SXSW (South by Southwest) conference that the world’s first trillionaire will be someone who masters artificial intelligence (AI). In the past, Cuban has been an avowed proponent of the value of a liberal arts degree for its ability to teach critical thinking. However, at SXSW, he advocated the study of computer science, stating, “Whatever you are studying right now, if you are not getting up to speed on deep learning, neural networks, etc., you lose."
The January 14-20, 2017 issue of The Economist includes a special report on the topic of lifelong learning. The writers note that lifelong learning today mainly benefits high achievers and likely leads to increased inequality. The classic model of education that provides many years of learning during youth, supplemented by training at work, is breaking down. In fact, on-the-job training in the U.S. is shrinking, and more and more people doubt that a four-year degree is worth the cost. During the 19th and 20th centuries, countries worldwide saw major improvements in education. The Economist argues that we should seek similar breakthroughs today.
It’s common knowledge among those of us researching student retention in online higher education that swirling (attendance by a student at multiple institutions) is much more prevalent with online, than on-ground, programs. Some of the explanations offered include that it’s easier to switch from one online program to another and there’s less social integration among online students so less social stigma in leaving. Others posit that online students are much more savvy about reviewing courses at multiple institutions to enable them to build a richer collection of courses. Lastly, some note that the more frequent semester starts offered by online institutions makes it more conducive for students switching schools to accommodate their personal and work schedules, and to finish their program sooner.
Last week marked the passing of Dr. William G. Bowen, former provost and president at Princeton University, president of the Mellon Foundation, and author of several noteworthy books on higher education. During his tenure at the Mellon Foundation, he created an internal research division, the non-profit reference sources JSTOR and ARTstor, and the iThaka research foundation dedicated to examining the interface between technology and education.