The Chronicle of Higher Ed posted an interview with Christine Ortiz, Dean of Graduate Ed at MIT, where she discusses her perspective on higher education, and how she sees higher ed evolving in the future. Like many of her peers, she believes that concept of tenure is on its way out. What I liked most about her perspective is that she sees education becoming more project-based and on a long-term schedule, with the tools of traditional instruction taking a peripheral seat to be accessed when and where necessary. In this sort of model, the lecture is no longer monolithic, and any "lecture" can be as short as 5 minutes. There are plenty of examples already using the short lecture format (Udemy being one).
I like where she's going with this, and I'm already envious of future generations that will have the opportunity to learn in this way. But I see this format changing not only traditional higher education, but other formats like vo-tech, which itself is already changing with a proliferation of job prep and technical electives at the high school level. And where do the essentials of education, the 3 Rs, factor in? What would a holistic higher education program look like, that combines long-term, multi-year projects centered around education, with real-world experience as the central modality? The ideal end result of such a system would seem to be a market-ready individual who, using traditional time metrics, has a portfolio of projects and a wealth of experience gained in parallel.
There will certainly still be challenges, though. Project selection and a life cycle view would become paramount concerns early on. It would not be beneficial for the individual for projects to become obsolete a year or two in, or lose value by the end of the education process. The speed at which markets and industry move, and their rate of acceleration, will make this aspect of future higher education very challenging.
Another challenge will be keeping learners (née students) afloat of those technological developments well enough that they don't fall behind.
A third is likely to be a "client-side" feature that higher ed may have to adopt for many fields, which is the ability to participate in a virtual in-person fashion. This is technology that is still coming about, but could prove to be a boon for Ortiz's vision.
Will this model shift higher ed to a year-long format?
Will FYE (first year experience) courses become fundamental inclusions? Will these become part of the late high school experience?
Where will the lines between education and work be drawn?
The future of higher education is daunting but holds increasingly limitless possibilities. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how this particular future plays out.