Formidable developments in educational technology are leading us to a very different world in higher education in the not too distant future. Advancing software, growing connectivity and new ways of approaching the learning landscape mean that the traditional lecture hall will no longer be the mainstay of the university experience. Finding the right balance between technology and human contact in the future learning space is important, but while teachers are still critical in guiding students beyond their perceived capabilities and awareness, their future role might be less in front of a classroom, and more in front of a computer screen.
However, while business is embracing the steep educational technology curve with companies focusing on access, enablement and systems, traditional universities are not yet fully on board, nervous of a full move away from personal tuition and fearing general brand dilution. Current perceptions of both sides need to be challenged vigorously: online learning is no longer the sterile and anonymous environment it once was, just as tertiary education is not just about small study groups engaging with tutors on ivy-lined campuses.
While it is thought that up to 75% of UK universities will no longer be in existence with the drive accelerating to move education online, ultimately time and money are two factors that will tip the balance between remote and traditional campus-based courses. The empowerment of learning is becoming more readily available than ever to the third world, growing steadily alongside the expansion of broadband access. Universities need to seize the opportunity to tap into this growing market or risk being left behind – or potentially closing altogether in years to come.
Remote and tech-savvy ways of learning will not only enable far more people to access education without the restrictions of cost or distance, but are also increasingly regarded as an alternative to the more traditional education systems where students are merely passive recipients of knowledge. Remote work by definition also encourages self-starters and independent problem solvers – surely a welcome addition in any workplace.