Colleges and universities as we know them will cease to exist in a generation.
American higher education is being radically transformed by technology and 24/7 continuous education online. Should a university not be on board with this change, they will not survive the competition. The accelerating transformation of higher education is but a decade old and the change has been remarkable to date, increasing exponentially year by year.
Online higher education still is vigorously opposed by traditional college administrators and faculty worldwide. It is considered by many of today’s educators as the absolute worst application for college bound students. Up until the last half-dozen years, it has been shunned in one way or another by the majority of the top 50 universities. Since 2007, this hands-off tune has changed.
Colleges have morphed rapidly over the ongoing years to keep up with student demand for online education and survive the upstart competition brought down upon them in waves from a bevy of well entrenched and successful privately held online colleges. These so-called online upstarts pose a serious threat to many liberal arts schools. Traditional colleges can no longer compete on a local, regional or international scale without adding online degree programs.
As a result, universities who formally fought against adopting any online protocols except from textbook providers at the turn of the 21st century are now adopting hybrid programs (online and class based) at a staggering conversion rate. Schools offering online degree programs increased 700 per-cent in the past ten years alone and there is no slowing down thousands from among the 17,000 accredited universities worldwide who are now anxious to get onboard and grab their piece of the global education market.
The biggest problem facing universities opting to add online programs is the wide gap in teaching competency that exists when the classroom lecturer attempts to convert to become an online instructor. There is, unfortunately, a grave shortage of adequately qualified and competent online instructors. This is the result of universities pressed to develop online programs quickly to keep up. Rapid expansion and the inability to fill online teaching positions with well qualified and experienced online professors have proved to be a giant obstacle to quality pedagogy.
Converting their own professors to online experts, university administrators have found that it is painfully harder than it looks. The “teach online” skillset requires the addition of a modicum of technical expertise that the bulk of traditional educators do not possess. They are reluctant to either learn or adapt. When pressed, they gravitate to the least effective means of delivering an online course. This does not impress technically savvy online students coming up today, those born in the technology age.
Thus, the gap in teaching quality between the classroom and online class has given a number of traditionalist detractors the continuing ammunition they need to chip away at the progress of online acceptance even when the survival of their own institution is at stake. The old adage that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ certainly is played out in this ongoing battle between progressive administrators and entrenched and in-denial faculty.
Polling by the Pew Foundation and the super cyber Center for Entrepreneurship, Ethics and Free Enterprise bear out the fact students prefer online course work over sitting in a classroom. When compared to on-ground, students who have experienced both actually find online classes preferable by a measure of three to one over sit-down traditional classes.
It is hard to argue with success. Regardless, the traditionalist-minded continue to be blinded by their academic prejudice and history’s signposts. One of those classic signposts was the view of Middle Age professors and administrators who were convinced that the adoption of the new radical innovation – the blackboard, would ruin higher education forever.
Most of the top-tier non-profit traditional schools today do not measure up to the top for-profit online universities either in the quality of teaching or advancing innovative delivery systems and methodology. Recent new online class adoption by traditional schools find them shamelessly promoting to the public that they are better at teaching online programs. They base this observation on their long-standing reputation as traditional schools. This perception is a myth and does not jive with reality. Neither does their argument that for-profit schools are only doing it for the profit motive while their own non-profit is only in it to expand their educational opportunities online. This too is also a myth.
The reality is an institutional perception from those who have not previously adopted online courses is that this is easy money. Non-profit universities generally perceive online education programs as potential cash cows to support faculty research and the expansion of residential facilities such as labs and school expansion. Advancing innovative education and superior methods for acquiring knowledge are not high on the list of reasons for adopting online education protocols by most.
Today a student attending a university that offers online courses is able to take their professor and classes anywhere they desire. In the next six months, 3D and holographic capabilities for classrooms online are just a short hop, skip and a jump from being introduced through online education protocols. Initially this advance will come strictly through cutting edge online universities. Within two years, we can expect an even more advanced new breed of college educator invading cyber classrooms. This is the Universal Professor Avatar; a character morphed from several online experts filled with interdisciplinary knowledge capable of teaching a complete online degree program of the student’s choice.