The Future of Learning: 12 Views on Emerging Trends in Higher Education: On Behalf of Our Campuses, We Need to Seek out Change; to Be More Flexible, More Thoughtful, and More Open to Student Decision Making; and to Build Outcomes Measurement Feedback into Integrated Planning

By Flynn, William J.; Vredevoogd, Jeff | Planning for Higher Education, January-March 2010 | Go to article overview

The Future of Learning: 12 Views on Emerging Trends in Higher Education: On Behalf of Our Campuses, We Need to Seek out Change; to Be More Flexible, More Thoughtful, and More Open to Student Decision Making; and to Build Outcomes Measurement Feedback into Integrated Planning


Flynn, William J., Vredevoogd, Jeff, Planning for Higher Education


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. These 12 predictions have been identified to inform and assist colleges and universities in that endeavor.

1. Globalization will influence and shape all aspects of teaching and learning.

Global higher education mobility is a rapidly growing phenomenon, with over 2.9 million students seeking an education outside their home country--a 57 percent increase since 1999 (Institute of International Education 2009).

Thomas Friedman (2005), in his best-selling book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, offers this observation about globalization and the contributing role of technology: "Never before in the history of the planet have so many people--on their own--had the ability to find so much information about so many things and about so many other people" (p. 152).

As a result, technology will continue to level or "flatten" the playing field and further increase competition between students in areas such as China, India, and Eastern Europe and their counterparts in the United States.

Advancements in technology will allow other countries to further develop their own university systems, which will likely cause a decrease in foreign student enrollments in the United States. Consequently, U.S. higher education institutions must be receptive to global higher education practices and consider incorporating them into their curriculum to remain competitive.

2. The wide range of ability, preparedness, background, opportunity, and motivation of higher education students will require more varied and holistic approaches to inclusive learning.

Colleges and universities seek and recruit an increasingly diverse student body, yet there is internal resistance to dealing with the learning issues that come with the diverse abilities, aptitudes, and skills possessed by the current generation of students.

How well are today's students prepared to deal with college-level learning? Private liberal arts colleges and research-based universities are particularly challenged by the diverse abilities and lack of preparation of many students. As a result, there are concerns being voiced by faculty in all sectors as to whether the core mission of the institution should include developmental or remedial coursework.

Another issue is the increasing realization that the adult population has literacy issues that extend to include technology competency, problem-solving ability, critical thinking, and communication competency. These issues must be addressed to maintain a competitive workforce in an information age.

Teaching methods and pedagogies, institutional resources and commitment, and the traditional ways of engaging students must be reexamined to meet the contemporary needs of students and workers in the United States.

3. The demand for more experiential, outside learning opportunities will require faculty to respond thoughtfully and proactively.

The newest generation of college students has a preferred mode of activity and interaction that does not align well with the current educational system. Writer and educational consultant Marc Prensky (2001), who coined the term "Digital Natives" writes that today's students are not interested in large lecture halls. They prefer informal small-group discussion, often through text messaging or e-mail, as a means to gain an understanding of curriculum content. They choose search engines to find information and frown on library-centered research methods or the local course management system (CMS). The social nature of Digital Native students, as well as their desire for experiential learning, sends a message to educators that it is important to embed interaction into the college curriculum. …

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The Future of Learning: 12 Views on Emerging Trends in Higher Education: On Behalf of Our Campuses, We Need to Seek out Change; to Be More Flexible, More Thoughtful, and More Open to Student Decision Making; and to Build Outcomes Measurement Feedback into Integrated Planning
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