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The Future of Higher Education: A Gaze Into the Crystal Ball

Concern about the future of higher education is nothing new, and recent discussions emphasize various factors ranging from the impact of information technology to the role of federal policy to the consequences of economic downturn, among numerous other considerations.  Almost all the commentaries agree that higher education is in flux, albeit there is much disparity about the particulars.

Given the plethora of approaches and opinions that exist (just Google “future of higher education”), how does one begin to navigate this very important topic?

One place to start is a recent report published in Planning for Higher Education titled The Future of Learning: 12 Views on Emerging Trends in Higher Education. The report summarizes 12 predictions that emerged from a series of roundtable discussions involving representatives from research universities, state colleges, community colleges, private institutions, and architectural and design firms.

The report’s 12 predictions fall into three broad areas: (1) the influence of globalization and technology on institutional structure and curriculum, (2) the changing nature of student demographics and student learning styles, and (3) the shifting social and economic roles of higher education institutions, with emphasis on their financial accountability. As the report notes,

Faced with diminishing resources, advances in technology, and increasing enrollments, colleges and universities are striving to find a balance between innovation and tradition to remain relevant and current in a rapidly evolving world.

For faculty, the challenge is how to transform our teaching to meet converging demands for more diverse learning opportunities, more socially-relevant curriculum, and greater financial efficiency – without losing sight of our own important teaching objectives and ideals.

The question about the future of higher education is very important, because our vision of the future – and the assumptions that ground it – determines to a large extent the decisions and plans we make in the present, with serious consequences for what passes as effective learning and teaching excellence. We welcome you to write the blog and share your views about the future of higher education and your visions for learning and teaching in a changing world.

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