Next Generation Changes the Face of Education

Change is inevitable.  Think of what you are wearing at this moment.  Did you wear that to work 10 years ago or even 5 years ago?  Many of my friends and neighbors now work online from home offices.  Not only has our attire changed, but the way we do business has changed…healthcare is undergoing reform…higher education’s future is being transformed.  In all this change, how do we hang on to what is most valuable and let go of the parts that are no longer working?


On a recent CBS segment of 60 Minutes called “March of the Machines”, the emphasis on machine interaction in comparison to human interaction reminds us that technical advances, especially robotics, are revolutionizing the workplace, but not necessarily creating jobs.  In fact, jobs that involve routine and structured tasks can be done more efficiently with automated machines.  Robots can be mobile or stationary, hardware or software, and do not experience mistakes from fatigue, nor do they need to stop to eat.  Like it or not, we see evidence of artificial intelligence replacing human interaction by kiosks to check in at airports, ATMs, e-commerce, voice recognition technology, manufacturing assembly lines, and heavily automated warehouses to aid ordering, inventory & shipping.  In the medical field, automated technological advancements are even more astounding.  Robots assist with delicate surgeries making them less evasive, fill prescriptions, carry meals to patients, deliver medicines to doctors and nurses, transport blood samples to labs, and dirty linens to the laundry.


Technology is accelerating faster than ever before in history.  Consequently, entrepreneurs are not able to create jobs at the same pace as computer learning or artificial intelligence that enables massive amounts of data to be fed through computers to teach themselves to improve performance, such as Apple’s “Siri” and Google’s self-driving cars.  Due to robotics, small manufacturing companies in the U.S. can now compete with companies who employ low-paid workers in foreign countries as the robot costs merely $3.40 per hour to operate.


Can machines do everything?   No.  Are they self-aware?  Not likely.   In what aspects of life, is human interaction still vital?   What do all these technological changes mean for education?


Higher Education has long been debating issues, philosophies, strategies for success, facilities and funding.  However, successful colleges and universities are incorporating technology to change how they educate, not just to better compete or be fashionable, but to meet students’ needs and grow despite less funding.

University on Building

With the recent college graduate unemployment rate at 13.9%, students are under increased pressure to choose majors wisely.  But more than that, employers are expecting college applicants to have  outside the classroom, on-the-job work and internship experiences, studies abroad to expand their world views, and active engagement in their professional community upon graduation.   Is this different than when I went to college?  No, not really, except for the increase in studying abroad.   What is different is how this generation has responded to these pressures and expectations.  This generation turns to technology for help because it is mobile, flexible and easily accessible.


Therefore, online education is booming.  In “The Future of Higher Education Infographic” by College of 2020, seventy-seven percent of surveyed college presidents say their school offers online courses.  Recent developments that are changing education include:  cloud-based computing, digital textbooks, mobile connectivity, for-profit universities, online services like iTunes U, high-quality streaming video, non-profit learning organizations, and specialized training centers that provide credentials.


Predictions for the future of higher education include:

  • Mass adoption of teleconferencing and distance learning
  • Flexibility in combining online learning with on-campus, in-person class interactions
  • Assessment of learning to incorporate more individually-oriented outcomes
  • Graduation requirements will significantly change with more customized degrees.
  • Economic realities will drive technological innovation forward.
  • Teaching students to learn how to learn and improve critical thinking skills within interactive groups will increase in importance.
  • Collaborative education will become essential to survival between departments, between staff and administration, between students and staff, and between business and universities.


Should campus bricks be replaced by technological clicks?   Not according to recent university graduates that I interviewed.  Here’s a sample of what today’s university graduates value:


1.  Opportunities to Build Relationships with Professors and Classmates – References from professors who know you personally, means that they see your strengths and can guide you to make better career decisions.  Plus, a good reference from a professor who knows you helps you gain meaningful leadership growth opportunities and makes you more marketable for employment.  In class, professors emphasize certain points from the text so students realize what is most important and have more application to life.  Students value being able to ask questions, gather a variety of perspectives from face to face  interactions with professors and classmates, and learn to see  the world with new eyes.


2.  Accessibility to Resources & High Tech – WiFi and strong internet connections are a must everywhere on campus.  An Academic Office with a Center for Tutors is valuable.  Technology Help Desks within the library can help students learn to create iMovies or use up-to-date software or higher tech programs than what they have on their personal computer or laptop, such as graphic design or marketing students need.  Libraries need to provide rooms for teams to meet and work on projects collaboratively.  Large group spaces with the latest technology means student presentations can become professional learning experiences that increase the student’s employability.


3.  Functional & Flexibility – Students desire the ability to secure tailored support systems that adapt to complex schedules and lives.  They are also seeking ways to accelerate the rate for additional certifications and credentialing.  Adults going back to school have knowledge and skills, but want to advance in their careers or reinvent themselves to increase their value in the workforce.  Today’s students need specialized interactive experiences and labs that prepare them for internships and jobs.


4.  Appealing On-Campus Facilities – Most students want dorms that are appealing and feel like home, a safe space to go back to, a place to retreat, refresh, renew, think and focus.  Student want lounges with mini kitchens and spaces to converse with friends.  Students will eat where it is most desirable as an individual or where social connections can be formed or developed.  Diverse dining options & fitness centers on campus  encourage students to stay on campus rather than spend money elsewhere off campus.


5.  Academic Integrity – Cheating has become rampant in our society and it is diluting academic integrity.  If tests are only taken online, students can be taking an exam on their computer and looking at another computer screen for the answers.  They can be taking the test at someone else’s house and talking about the answers as a group.  Many online courses now have centralized test centers to maintain the academic integrity.


Carpe Diem!  Seize the moment.  Now is the time to collaborate and strike a balance between online opportunities and upgrade on-campus facilities for future generations of students.



“How Artificial Intelligence Can Change Higher Education” by Tom Vanderbilt, Smithsonian magazine, December 2012

“Are robots hurting job growth?” CBS 60 Minutes, January 13, 2013

“The Rise of the Machine – The Future of Higher Ed”,  College of 2020, January 25, 2013

“What Can Higher Education Learn From Healthcare Reform”  College of 2020,  January 8, 2013

“Hard Times: Not all College Degrees Are Created Equal” 2012 report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce

“Next-Gen State U” by Tom Vander Ark,, January 11, 2013


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