Thursday, April 30, 2009

Will universities become irrelevant?

Will universities become irrelevant? It's already happened to a lot of other 'knowledge producing' industries – the death of newspapers, the continuing irrelevance of the physical book, the CD etc etc. So is it time for Universities to rethink their business models? What, who and how they teach? David Wiley, professor of psychology and instructional technology at Brigham Young University seems to think so. Last fall, he stood in front of a room full of professors and university administrators and delivered a prediction that made them squirm: "Your institutions will be irrelevant by 2020."

Elaine Jarvik over at Salt Lake City's Desert News has an insightful article that states succinctly Wiley's take on the future of education. Here is an excerpt
America's colleges and universities, says Wiley, have been acting as if what they offer — access to educational materials, a venue for socializing, the awarding of a credential — can't be obtained anywhere else. By and large, campus-based universities haven't been innovative, he says, because they've been a monopoly.

But Google, Facebook, free online access to university lectures, after-hours institutions such as the University of Phoenix, and virtual institutions such as Western Governors University have changed that. Many of today's students, he says, aren't satisfied with the old model that expects them to go to a lecture hall at a prescribed time and sit still while a professor talks for an hour.

Higher education doesn't reflect the life that students are living, he says. In that life, information is available on demand, files are shared, and the world is mobile and connected. Today's colleges, on the other hand, are typically "tethered, isolated, generic, and closed," he says.

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