College Scene, 2020
By Linda HenryHigh-school seniors graduating in 2002 were exposed to more new data during their senior year than their grandparents knew in a lifetime. In this Information Age, the pool of knowledge doubles in depth every seven years. It stands to reason that your baby will explore a world of knowledge that we can't even imagine.
Today it's estimated that a technology degree becomes outdated in less than five years. Advances in technology and ever-increasing knowledge require the current workforce to become lifelong learners. In response to this new brand of students, one-third of colleges in the United States currently offer "cyber degrees," according to a recent article in the Washington Post. On-line education allows students to attend lectures and take exams without ever setting foot on campus. Many parents, however, have fond (and not so distant) memories of a wide range of on-campus experiences, from political rallies to frat parties. Four years at a keyboard simply can't match the college experience we dream of for our Y2K babies. Is the traditional campus soon to become an obsolete institution?
Several years ago, academic forecasters met in Washington, D.C., for a round-table discussion of what the future holds for college campuses, whether ivy-covered brick-and-mortar institutions or the virtual variety. In the 21st century, these forecasters predict, colleges and universities will offer access to a global information network as well as one-on-one access to faculty. The universities of the future will synthesize on-campus experiences with those that occur on-line. Students will be able to identify and communicate with experts in their chosen field and personalized contact between faculty and student will be increased and enhanced.
In the round-table's published report, "The Virtual University," authors Carol A. Twigg and Diana G. Oblinger note that technology-based learning will not replace face-to-face pedagogy entirely. "Computer-assisted, self-directed, electronically mediated learning will work for some institutions but not for others, and for some students in many fields, but not for all students in all fields."
For the foreseeable future, we want our children to have real-time, real-life training on their paths to becoming brain surgeons, attorneys, and school teachers. But in 2020 your freshman may be taught by the best-known practitioner in her chosen field, who may be -- literally -- lecturing from a place that's a world away.