The Future of Universities – The Digital Degree

This recent article in The Economist explains the status of an industry which has failed to evolve for too long. It is really quite mind boggling that today, education is largely delivered in the same way as it was in the industrial revolution. In fact the article says that is has barely changed for centuries.

open online course

It is hence not surprising that even in the most developed economies, there is a funding crisis, particularly in higher education. According to Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School, “Fifteen years from now, more than half of the universities in America will be in bankruptcy”.

Online education is only just starting to explode. Apart from taking a lot of cost out of an archaic system of learning, it will level the playing field for a game, which was been designed for the rich, powerful and famous. With technology and the internet, the best content can be delivered by the best educators to most remote and marginalized communities. This, to me, is the most significant aspect of this evolution and revolution. I will write more about this later.

The article also examines some of the issues with online education. I will also write later about how I see some of these issues could evolve. I can imagine wonderful and exciting prospects when we embrace and leverage technology and social media in the field of education. Not least of which would be the impact on global warming.

The third point that this article made is about continuing education and adult learning. In the past, a college education can pretty much see us through our working life. Today, we have many first year students in a 4 year education program who will graduate into jobs that have not been invented yet. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of Oxford University, reckon that perhaps 47% of occupations could be automated in the next few decades. The article suggests that traditional education models will not be able to compete with digital/online delivery in cost, speed, scale, accessibility and relevance.


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3 thoughts on “The Future of Universities – The Digital Degree”

  1. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is an extremely well written article.
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  2. Interesting post and article link! I’ve finished reading the article in the Economist because I can relate. I myself is a product of online education, not because of personal choice but it’s the most practical option for me as a orthopedically/mobility-impaired person. Even if my online degree comes from a prestigious university, there is this stigma today that labels online education is in a lower stature, quality and competency wise, against a degree obtained within the traditional setting. Our government seems to attest to this fact when they made a rule that students graduated with latin honors in an Open University cannot receive the exemption in the Civil Service Exams, while the honor students in a traditional college can otherwise receive the privilege. I cannot blame them. I myself is torn between defending my online education and rooting for the benefits of traditional classroom-based education.

    Both modes of education settings have its own advantages and disadvantages and I cannot see one winning entirely over the other. The traditional mode of higher education will remain as it is but the online education provides a new, revolutionary way in delivering education to the masses and the marginalized which makes it all the more promising.

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