I wanted to draw a parallel from my earlier post about the future of education to an item I wrote last year referencing the future of online education. Interesting to make this comparison, to observe the larger trends facing higher education.
Let's start with the "future" timeline mentioned earlier this week:
The student loan industry collapses. Across the country, students revolt against the high cost of education, looking for online education for free, paying only for the assessment. (We are seeing this today.)
Apple buys Amazon, merging Kindle ebooks and iTunesU that becomes a new online education platform. In response, Google buys Khan Academy and Udacity to become a huge presence in international online training and education.
Badges replace degrees as the preferred method to represent skill and mastery of concepts.
Residential colleges and universities become a destination only for the super-rich.
People have access to a huge breadth and depth of education, available online.
The trends here suggest a larger emphasis on online education (ebooks & iTunesU, and Khan & Udacity) and a shift in focus towards demonstration of mastery in specific subject areas (badges) vs the traditional degree.
Compare that to the predictions suggested in the "future" view that I shared a year ago. The general trends from that article:
- Online education becomes more prevalent.
- Economies of scale compress the number of schools to a few within each specialty. Higher education will be dominated by a few huge incumbents.
- Professors become course developers, selected for teaching instead of research. The decline of tenure.
- The end of universities as research centers. The economics of graduate school change substantially.
- Shift to a "credential" system. As credentials become valuable, cheating will be a problem. Test-taking may shift to proctored test centers.
By looking at the trends predicted in both sources, you can see where they overlap: as online education becomes the new norm, the higher ed model changes. The traditional institutional model shifts, but remains. Students demonstrate mastery in specific subject areas, rather than completing a degree.
Maybe we won't see this by 2020 … but possibly 2030, when today's university students become hiring managers. Today's generation may not place the same value on degrees if they expect to find classes online, either through straight-up "distance education" or via MOOCs. By 2030, future hiring managers may accept "badges" and certificates in place of traditional degrees. In a way, industry already looks for demonstrated mastery in specific subject areas—for example, when hiring consultants. How long until this is extended to new staff? And that's when the "badge" system might become a viable new reality.