Traditional universities to MOOC out?

Traditional universities to MOOC out?

The pressure on traditional universities is building up as online education
is fast gaining momentum.

The higher education landscape around the world has undergone a paradigm shift. Just as the forces of technology and globalization transformed sectors such as media and communications or banking and finance over the last two decades, these forces are now bound to transform higher education as well. This means that the solid classical university setup that looks permanent now will feel the change.

A new phase of competitive intensity is expected to emerge as the concept of the traditional university comes under pressure.

While Thinktanks conduct research and private providers offer degrees, Thiel Fellowships have become more prestigious than top university qualifications, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which aim at taking the best instructors global. By choosing from these resources and combining them as appropriate, many people who are currently served by traditional universities may be better equipped to aid their objectives.These facilities, along with Affordable learning initiatives-which aim to extend educational opportunity for the children of low-income families in the developing world, together support governments and development agencies on education strategy, effective governance and delivery.

A recent report on higher education titled ‘An avalanche is coming: Higher education and the revolution ahead’ has made an overall point stating that the traditional 20th century model of higher education is going to radically change over the next decade. Achieving a degree, measured in lifetime earnings will have significantly more value than completing high school, but it is not clear that this will continue, for all time and all degrees.
Universities are going to need to adapt their models in order to survive.

The challenges and opportunities that the sector will face as a result of MOOCs, are of changing cost pressures and changing demands from employers. According to the co-authors of the report, Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi, the experience of a university education can increasingly also be provided elsewhere as meet-ups, youth clubs, and learning communities develop. We have seen from apprenticeships mentioned earlier that there can be alternative and sometimes more valuable places to build a network than a university campus.

Gone are the days when it was enough for a student to specialize in one subject. A student now needs substantial global exposure. While governments must relook at ways to measure and regulate universities (in an age when higher education is global), it is also important to look at ways to support and fund students who might get a "pick and mix" university experience from a range of institutions, providers, businesses. With new technology such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that are free of charge, the individual can pick and choose the kind of course they want to pursue.

By mid-century, there will be 9 billion people on the planet. As an ever-larger proportion of the global population becomes healthier and the global economy continues its transformation, the demand for higher education will also continue to rise.

The next 50 years could see a golden age of higher education, with more people learning a greater variety of subjects and developing the highly complex social skills required to lead and to empathize with diversity.

The argument is that this potential cannot be fulfilled if we collectively depend on the classic 20th century university. On the contrary, the country and the global university sector as a whole needs radical rethinking as the avalanche comes.

Globalization will lead to universities being less contained within national systems. They will be leading a large part of the growth of knowledge economics – collaborating and competing with global universities.

In the new world, the learner will be in the driver’s seat, with a keen eye trained on value. For institutions, deciding to embrace this new world may turn out to be the only way to avoid the avalanche that is coming.

(The writer is the Senior Vice-President of Higher Education Pearson)

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