University 2033

I have been musing online for a few years about what will become of schools - both colleges and K12 - in the next decade. It's a question that people both inside and outside of my educational world ask me sometimes.

Dave Cormier
was recently asked "Where do you see online education in 20 years? and he says he felt "sideswiped" by this question. Everyone in education thinks about the future of education. What made Cormier hesitate is that he's work on a book about MOOCs and adding them to the mix changes his thoughts on the future of online education.

His post gives some answers, but here is a short look at four answers he is considering.

In one case, he considers the possibility that the "MOOC kills higher education."  It won't allay the fears of some in academia that he believes MOOCs (and he is one of the earliest proponents of them) as "most potentially damaging to higher education." He wonders what it will mean when 1 or 100 million students are taking first year physics online with a provider like MIT, especially if that course is connected to an affiliated testing center and has some credit associated with it.

I don't think educators will find much solace in his ideas about an "analytics university" either.  That's a school (and I don't think I would limit it to higher education) where we have essays being graded by computers and analytics that predict whether students are likely to pass a course and notifications to the student, teachers, administrators and maybe even parents. Of course, versions of those analytics are already here and being used, so the future is really that this trend increases and becomes the norm.

Some for-profits will probably like his thoughts about the "corporate takeover" of education. My first thought is towards the entrance of for-profit organizations and publishers INTO traditional educational institutions. That is happening now. But Cormier is thinking about large, global corporations offering their own credentialing. He imagines a company like IBM recruiting students (high school aged or even younger) and starting their training before college is even considered.

I think about both of my sons, now only a few years from their college graduations, who were both told by their employers that they shouldn't forget what they learned in college, but that they should focus on their new corporate training. Cormier asks, "Why have them learn to do things an entirely ‘wrong’ way just to have to retrain them again when they start at your company?"

His fourth scenario is the most optimistic. It's the potential we have been talking about since the dawn of the Internet about a "community university"  and how an Internet generation with this incredible access to information and the world community might be educated. I'd like to see that one be the education of 2023 or 2033 - but I think the first three scenarios are more likely.


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