The future of University – will there be a future?

The basic needs for living are indeed: food, shelter and clothing. But as humans, the most important need for survival is learning. Education has been there centuries ago and has traversed a tremendous journey. From messages being passed down to generations orally, then with the advent of papyrus and scripts, the printing machine and digital media, the teaching-learning activity has experienced a tremendous change undoubtedly. In an industrial conference table, we could put some amazing plots and statistical data on the table and congratulate ourselves on how technology has come along they way in serving education. The fact however that watermarks the colors of “technology in education” is the basic question, “are we empowered?”

I would like to talk about the future of university based on this question, “are we empowered” or “will future generations be empowered?” Close your eyes for a moment and transfer yourself back in time to two hundred years ago. Imagine you father teaching you how you get to home from the field that is several miles away. You have no option but to pay attention, trust your memory and take your step. Now, you move a few decades ahead and you have a pen and paper. So you make notes of what your father teaches you. If you get lost, you need not worry about forgetting the way home, just look at your notes. Now lets go a few more years ahead and say, you buy a map. Now you need not depend on whether your father teaches you or not, for you know everything that your father knows. Now come back to the present. You don’t even have to but a map. Just google it!

I can attest that every grad student’s philosophy in learning has now changed to “Google It!” What I observe is, in the first case, we trusted our memory because we had no choice. Then, we depended on something for the “just in case I forget”. And now we are in a situation where we are like, “We can google it when we need it”. This is the future of education in my perspective. I hear so many peers talking in class when some concepts are described and they say, “Its all available online so what?” I think it is really important to step back and understand what learning is. Today, we have a ton of information out there on the web but there is a huge gap in understanding “Now What?”. So, should I say that learning in today’s world is all about merely applying the facts available to us? Or is it about, just knowing how to use the resources correctly? Well, I know the math, so what should I do? My peer does it using a software without even knowing whats going on! So, is there a difference when I learn the derivations and understand the math whereas another simply uses software and still gets a really high pay job? Where is education going?

I believe, we are in a world where we can decide who we get to be – a privilege of no other generation. We decide how to use the information to become what we want to become. The future of university will depend on the outcome of the policies that will be based on the answer to this contemplation.

Probably, in a few decades, given the rising tuition costs and ease of online education with nano degrees like Udacity, will it be a viable option to spend tens of thousands of dollars in tuition? Probably, the future of universities could just be a phone! Let me know what the future according to you will be like?

Category(s): Grad5104

11 Responses to The future of University – will there be a future?

    Maryam Moarefian says:

    Thank you for questioning “Google it!” Culture. The meaning of education is training people’s mind to think higher and better. If the higher education lose its functionality, it could not be higher education anymore. We are the only generation who experienced both digital and non-digital education. I remember in elementary school we could not use calculators because mathematics is about training students mind to think logically and computationally. I agree that future of higher education is all about how we are going to use technology. Are we going to be a tech user or a tech developer? Are we going to be adopted to technology or changing world by creating new technologies?

    • Thanks for your comment. Using technology in our education is an important part and we use current technology to build newer technology. I feel it is important for our curriculum to teach students how to leverage existing technology to make a significant contribution with our education.

  1. I see some truth in what you are saying. Online education is one way to help us close the gap between many struggling students and higher education. I think its usage would be quite beneficial when technology is also integrated into the course. However, there is a value in face-to-face interactions though especially as a graduate student. It allows us to practice our social skills. When you go to conferences of hundreds and thousands of people, no amount of online education would help you interact with your potential employers or advisors.

    Also, how is your peer interpret anything without knowing what is the software is doing…? That is a bit concerning right there..

    Jaisohn Kim says:

    This is a really fascinating post. I agree that universities may eventually consist of all online classes, but that presents the larger issue of “watching vs. learning.” Current trends indicate that we as a society are opting towards tech that works smarter, not harder. This could be problematic when it comes to education, because smarter and faster may not always be the right mindset when training for a degree. For instance, I’d rather spend more years in school but come out with a thorough understanding of engineering concepts because I could build something that could kill others if improperly designed.

  2. You raise an interesting point with the Google It! phenomenon. I’m unsure it’s really that bad to have a wealth of facts easily accessible, but I agree that it tends to cause people not to dive into a subject in depth. In the ideal world we would use google as a first step to survey the information and then dive deeper into it using more specialized resources. I wonder how that method would apply to the future university.

  3. Thanks for this thought-provoking post! The thought of a Google It! style of learning is somewhat concerning to me, especially in the age of “fake news”. While students can access personalized learning material through platforms like YouTube, who’s to say that what’s on YouTube is accurate? This makes me think that the education system may move from teaching material to teaching how to evaluate material. How do you know something is true? How do you evaluate the source of the material? How do you know you can trust someone on YouTube who claims to know how to explain how to take a derivative or how to calculate resistance across a circuit? Our role as educators is to arm students with the ability to critically evaluate sources and information to distinguish what is truth and what isn’t. This is relevant in every field!

  4. This is a really good point. “Let’s Google it!” is definitely a frequent response to questions in my daily life. In elementary school, before the internet was everywhere, our teachers’ go-to response was “Look it up!”, accompanied by either a dictionary or encyclopedia. Googling is much easier.

    As technology makes it easier for us to find answers, it can allow us to ask more questions and get more answers in less time, but I worry that in some cases the ease of answers might lead to a decrease in question asking overall, as we become content with simply knowing that the answer is somewhere out there, and we could find it quickly if we wanted to, instead of wanting to know what that answer actually is.

    Natali Carolina Huggins de Murzi says:

    Thanks for sharing, I really enjoy reading and thinking about it, specially since I have 2 kids oftentimes I think How higher education will be for them? specially for their generation with technology and google place in their memory. I believe the role of teachers and professor will play a great factor to make them really get interesting in education and to see how rich learning in a classroom setting can be rather than online. I appreciate your views an I do believe there is a tons of work to do in this matter if we want to have a future in higher education

    Renata Carneiro says:

    I really appreciate your post and the comments I read. I agree the future of high education is linked to the use of technology, but face-to-face interactions are still very important, as Khanh To said. I also believe the easy access to technology doesn’t eliminate the need for basic knowledge either. Even though it’s easy to Google whatever we want to know, critical thinking is essential to judge and make a proper use of the information we get.

  5. When I was reading your post, the first thought that came to mind was a quote that is usually attributed to Albert Einstein: “Don’t memorize anything you can look up.” While Albert Einstein (purportedly) having said something doesn’t immediately make it valuable or true, I do think there is some truth here. I will give a personal example, from way back in high school when I took European History. Our teacher made us memorize chronologically all of the kings of France from Hugh Capet through Louis XVI, including their dates of reign and royal house. At the time I thought the task was asinine. However, the constraint of having to memorize names and dates on a sheet of paper necessitated more research on my part to make it stick. I would research many of these kings, learn an anecdote about them, and it would help the memorization process to be meaningful and accessible. The dry task led to much more meaningful learning (I wonder now if this was a pedagogical strategy). So, I think your post is on to something important: expediency is not the first goal of education. To answer your question, I cannot allow myself to believe that the future of the university will be on the iPhone. The university must have a communal and human purpose; nothing will ever really be able to replicate the classroom/lab experience and physical human interaction. We should use all the tools at our disposal (“Google it!”Smilie: ;) but we can never forget that communicating with other human beings is an essential part of what the university is. In my mind, the future of the university involves a resistance to people being atomized and alienated from each other by the simulation taking place behind a screen.

  6. Hi, I agree with you. Technology is a double-edged sword; we can use it to our advantage or we can be complacent and let technology take over our education. I believe this will have to be taught very early stage in our education. We must understand that technology is there if we need it and it can enhance our understanding. However, we need to go back to our old days when we didn’t have any technology. There has been many innovations that were discovered still without any Google searches. We will have to find a way to teach our generation and pass it down to the next generation that we shouldn’t be dependent on technologies.

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