The New Future Look of Higher Education

Dr. Aeron Zentner, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness: Research, Analytics, Accessibility, Planning, and Grant Development at Coastline College

Dr. Aeron Zentner, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness: Research, Analytics, Accessibility, Planning, and Grant Development at Coastline College

The foundations of the future in higher education are not going to be built on the historical frameworks of past centuries that are housed within the walls of traditional classrooms. It will be reimagined into a realm where teaching, learning, and working will operate into a blended flow. Within in these environments, the role of being a lifelong learner with take on a different meaning by which learning and development will complement occupations,strengthen performance, and prepare individuals for professional advancement. This approach will work asa twofoldeffort, as the advancement of students and employees can expand organizationalcapabilities that can strengthen operations and competitive advantage.

I will share a few ideas, which are not breakthrough innovations and many of these concepts have been piloted. However, to build a sustainable future innovative learning practice and technology will need to be adopted and adapted at scale.

For example, in the future, institutions can provide 24/7 service and support by adopting enhanced the environments through interconnected and secure cloud systems that are facilitated by artificial intelligence. Cognitive computing will also be able to prescribe effective learning environments based on the social, economic, cultural, and learning style of the student. This will be achieved beyond a standard set of characteristics but assessing the entire environment of a student and blending that with life behaviors not self-reported data points. Thus, future technology should focus on crafting a unique way that an individual is engaged with information, learning activities/ assessments, and services.

"I find the future will be a cross pollination of themes (majors) that build student knowledge, skill competencies, and confidence to effectively demonstratethese abilities."

Another opportunity will be the adoption of mixed reality across various environments and platforms to provide alternative ways for learning, practicing,  and gaining experience in various settings and scenarios. The mixed reality that combines peer-to-peer or instructor interaction can add depth to learning experience and shift tide from a simple sequential learning pattern (e.g., step 1, 2, 3, etc.). This collaborative method of learning can also be melded into onboarding, retraining, and upskilling throughout different career paths. While majors and meta-majors are the concept where student select areas to build their academic journey, I find the future will be a cross pollination of themes (majors) that build student knowledge, skill competencies, and confidence to effectively demonstrate these abilities. The curation of these learning strands will follow students throughout their careers to ensure they are continually growing and operating with the relevant times.

The constraint of time will also have to shift with these new models of learning, as information consumption and learning curves occur differently for everyone. The one-size and shape of perceived learning cannot fit everyone, and it is not equitable to force that model. However, defining learning benchmarks will require some structure based on the individual’s expected time to achieve her/his/their goals.

To make a shift to this new reality of learning, working, and advancing, I anticipate the future of higher education with havea cultural shift from the bureaucraticprocesses and operations to seamless and agile continuous improvement. Operationally, this will require institutions to question, refine, and expand their occupational roles anddevelop positions to meet the emerging technological and social demands.

In tandem with the shift in higher education, industry must rethink the workweek and allow a balance to enable students and employees the refine, upskill, and retrain. By allocating resources in this manner, companies can invest into their future by strengthening relevancy, adopting new skillsets, and enabling employee growth leading to satisfaction, retention, and meaningful and engaging careers.

In closing, the future of higher education has an amazing opportunity to re-envision the learning experience to prepare our future citizens and workforce with the opportunities to advance and innovate with excellence.

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