Future of the University

As a society, our ideas and needs are constantly changing. These changes in needs should be reflected in our education system, especially in institutes of higher education. In our current situation, we have a pandemic that has caused us to shift traditional university courses from classrooms and lecture halls to either completety virtual classrooms, or some hybrid mode of teaching. This shift was forced on the education system in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We need to make changes in anticipation of different sitatuations or by assessing the changing world around us. One such way is to implement more technology (in a meaningul and impactful way) in the classroom and to change the way students are taught [1].

Students should be able to apply their knowledge to real-world problems and develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills during their time at university. While learning the fundamentals and basic theory of any subject is important, the applications to real-world problems are becoming increasingly more relevant for students. This might mean adding more hands-on activities in the classroom or introducing more lab courses where students get a chance to practice and use the theories they are being taught in some physical application. This may even mean that courses can include online materials in place of the traditional lecture, but these materials shouldn’t just be powerpoint slides uploaded on Canvas or a recording of a professor going over their slides. We can tranform online learning to be more interactive for students since many students in the new generations that will be entering college (like Gen Z) have shorter attention spans and are accustomed to using technology and the internet. The traditional lecture may no longer be an effective means of teaching in the future, so we need to think of how we can adapt and insure that we are not using teaching styles that are now obsolete. For example, as virtual and augmented reality become more and more popular, they may be an effective means of teaching in the future that we can start developing ideas for now.

There are certainly many aspects of higher education that need to be changed including addressing rising costs, making more accommodations for students who need them, etc. I think an important thing that needs to be assessed is the teaching style to make sure that higher education remains relevant and that institutes of higher education are not only involved in developing new technology and being up to date on research, but also that they are using new technologies and looking for ways to improve the student experience.


[1] https://medium.com/@14ideas/demand-for-change-in-higher-education-eb871c946194

5 Replies to “Future of the University”

  1. Hi Zakia, as researchers AND educators I think you make such a valid point about institutions needing to stay relevant. Your post also makes me think about the future of the “hands on” classroom. Personally, I imagine we will be wearing masks and social distancing until there is a vaccine for COVID-19 and/or rates of positive cases go down. So, how will “hands on” look if we continue the virtual or hybrid format? What will this look like for group projects where different individuals are expected to work on the hands-on tasks together?

    1. Hey Stephanie,
      That’s a great point! I think this is where the virtual/augmented reality systems come in. If enough effort is put in, I’m sure that students can be given the opportunity to perform tasks and hands-on activities in a VR system. Of course, I would hope that the cost of a VR system does not fall on the system, but universities/departments could have dedicated rooms for these devices where students can schedule a time to come in and perform the activities.
      The lab course that I TA for has a system set up so that no more than 2 lab groups (a total of 14 people, including the GTAs) are in the lab at a time. This has been working for us this semester and everyone present is of course wearing masks and maintaining at least a 6-foot distance between each other. Courses with hands-on activities or labs could also follow this format.

  2. You are absolutely right that students need real -world applications that connect to the theories they are learning. I have a friend in science education who states that students need examples in lessons that they can relate to so they can register the information as useful and retain the lesson. We are definitely in the generation that can facilitate the multiple ways students can understand concepts through various platforms. Virtual or augmented reality is an ingenious way for students to learn while having multiple sense stimulated. I look forward to what the future holds.

  3. Hello Zakia,

    Thank you for sharing your thought with us. Actually, I strongly agree with you that COIVD-19 should change a lot of things in higher education. In the future, traditional lectures will become boring after trying virtual lectures. Faculty members should create a different learning environment to make the lecture as training and workshops with transfer theoretical lectures to be as synchronous courses to save time and effort.


  4. Hey Zakia,
    I think this conversation has always been present and even more now than ever due to the pandemic. It seems like the big conversation is not only about experiential learning but it is also about making sure students get their best bang for their buck. My curiosity leans towards how professors and TAs are going to incorporate this experiential learning if we do have to stay online longer. The student experience is integral – especially for jobs and majors that are incredibly hands on like forestry or medicinal fields. Students also need to put their part though – when I have seen professors attempt to make class more interactive students are reluctant and don’t enjoy the challenge too much. It’s a split responsibility!

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