Reflecting on the future of higher education (week 14)

Let us reflect on how the experiences, expectations, and needs of the students and faculty may change, and how institutions and programs may evolve in the next three years. What will higher education look like in 2025?

Students: The major change in students will be the expectation that institutions of learning be more flexible. The term “hybrid” was really already obsolete before the pandemic. In reality, an online, technology-driven, media-rich pedagogy was already thriving in the midst of traditional face-to-face learning. The pandemic showed students that flexibility is key. Students will expect all courses to have online components, including access to “lectures” and other content in an asynchronous way.

Faculty: In a lot of ways, faculty will bear the brunt of the change that is already here. Everyone teaching courses will have to learn “new media” techniques. College faculty must learn to embrace the empowering of students’ learning pathways. This means learning to be flexible in how content is delivered but also in how content is assessed. The one thing faculty need to be aware of is to produce professionals that industries actually want. That is going to be a very hard lesson to learn. There will be many missteps and failed experiments. Will “industry” learn to be flexible as well?

Institutions: This is where it is hard to avoid cynicism. Institutions will likely become even more corporate than they are now. Since the money is harder to come by in higher education, what institutions might resist is having private corporations become the “saviors” of colleges. This is a very dangerous time for colleges and universities. If their influence wanes through financial attrition, what about the pipelines to industries that companies have come to depend on? We must through the democratic process ensure that corporate interests do not keep college for the fortunate few. But if we don’t all actively fight for a future where college is meant for everyone, “college” will be only for an ever-shrinking minority.