The cost of tuition continues to rise, yet many colleges and universities are still struggling financially. Meanwhile, jobs increasingly require a bachelor’s degree at minimum for entry-level jobs. It seems clear that the world of higher education is ripe for a revamp, but what will that look like? Some technological trends in and out of higher education offer some clues.
Subscriptions Instead of Tuition
These days, if you’re student, you might have taken one look at the price of tuition and started contacting private student loan companies. These loans can often be a welcome supplement to federal aid or can replace federal aid if you are not eligible. However, while the need for student loans might not change, how you pay for college and what you pay for could. A few colleges have started to experiment with a subscription model that would allow students to attend virtually. You would pay a monthly fee and select the classes you wanted, but you would also have access to career help, advising and mentors throughout the world. This subscription approach might also allow students to complete a degree more quickly.
Early efforts at online education struggled to replicate a classroom environment, but the future of virtual learning needs to harness what is unique about it and capitalize on its strengths. One possible direction may be giving students the ability to customize their coursework. There would be certain core components of the course they would be required to complete, but from there, they could access videos or other resources in specific areas that interested them as well as further resources beyond that.
From language classes that transport students to a street in the capital city where the language they are studying is spoken to simulations that show students the structure of human organs or cells and more, technology is rapidly developing and already starting to be used in some colleges that provide an immersive learning experience using augmented or virtual reality. Work is also being done on platforms that can deliver stock simulations so that users do not have to rely on the internet and potentially limited bandwidth. This can greatly expand the hands-on learning possibilities for students.
A Real Permanent Record
Many adults have a memory of being told as children in school that something would end up on their permanent record only to eventually learn when they got older that there was no such thing. However, that might all be changing with an electronic record that integrates the learning a person does throughout a lifetime, including internships, part-time jobs and military experience. Instead of just listing the names of courses taken, the record could list the skills acquired in the course itself, providing more robust information for colleges and employers. Students could more easily transfer to other institutions of higher learning with a more explicit record of what they have already mastered, and life experience that might be difficult to quantify in a resume or left off entirely could round out a list of skills.