I have been talking with people this last week about education and their needs. Specifically, I have been thinking about trends in education. How are our needs changing, and is the education world changing fast enough to meet those needs? Here are some current trends that I think we need to be talking about and that need to be addressed.
Education for Skills
Because of the recent recession, it is even more imperative that students are trained for tangible and applicable skills. Often, college is seen as a time for exploring career options, but that can be a very pricey journey, given the current tuition rates. I would like to suggest a series of low-price courses at the beginning of the academic pursuit that allow students to briefly explore different career options. Such an approach would ensure that the bulk of college experience is applied to preparing for a career of the student’s choice. This is one way to minimize the time spent in college and money spent on the education journey.
Rising tuition over the last several years has brought about two fundamental shifts. First of all, students are borrowing more to complete their education, which means they are saddled with debt. Tuition hikes are also pushing students who are unwilling, or unable to take on that debt, out of the college experience. This makes it even more important that we educate for skills so that the learning is directly applicable to a vocation. In the end, it is employers who will dictate what skills and qualifications they expect to see in a prospective hire, which may include undergraduate, graduate, or even less expensive vocational or certification training. Employers need to be clear about their preferences and expectations so students can make their choices accordingly. This clarity will help students avoid costly mistakes by being overeducated or overqualified.
We are currently going through a generational shift as baby boomers are starting to retire and the next two generations are working their way up or into the workforce. The next generations do not necessarily have the same learning styles or expectations as their parents; they are more computer savvy and more comfortable learning outside of a traditional classroom. Are we changing our delivery methods to accommodate them or are we still clinging to the same educational models used in ancient Greece? I am suggesting that we may have outlived those models and need to be responsive to other methods of learning.
With the advent of pervasive computing, the Internet, and mobile technologies, there are so many more methods available to deliver quality education. I think that employing a combination of these will help drive down the cost of education in the future. It is possible that students can continue to live in their hometown while pursuing an education from a remote college. Will that reduce their academic experience or will it prepare them that much more for an increasingly distributed work environment?
The purpose of this post is to get us thinking about the business of academia and question whether we are doing all that we can to deliver the promise of a first rate education to as many students as possible. Are we being creative enough in developing options or are we clinging to models that are becoming irrelevant and obsolete? Do you feel that you are prepared for our changing professional world? Let me know your thoughts.
Kelly Brown is an IT professional, adjunct faculty for the University of Oregon, and academic director of the UO Applied Information Management Master’s Degree Program. He writes about IT and business topics that keep him up at night.