Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Universities Must Adapt or Die Online Learning, Structural Changes in the Economy and Increasing Competition among Educational Institutions Are Convulsing Higher Education, Explains Engineer/computer Scientistsubhash Kak

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Universities Must Adapt or Die Online Learning, Structural Changes in the Economy and Increasing Competition among Educational Institutions Are Convulsing Higher Education, Explains Engineer/computer Scientistsubhash Kak

Article excerpt

Automation and artificial intelligence technologies are transforming manufacturing, corporate work and the retail business, providing new opportunities for companies to explore and posing major threats to those that don't adapt to the times. Equally daunting challenges confront colleges and universities, but they've been slower to acknowledge them.

At present, colleges and universities are most worried about competition from schools or training systems using online-learning technology. But that is just one aspect of the technological changes already underway. For example, some companies are moving toward requiring workers to have specific skill training and certifications - as opposed to college degrees.

As a professor who researches artificial intelligence and offers distance-learning courses, I can say that online education is a disruptive challenge for which colleges are ill prepared. Lack of student demand is already closing 800 out of roughly 10,000 engineering colleges in India. And online learning has put as many as half of the colleges and universities in the United States at risk of shutting down in the next couple of decades as remote students get comparable educations over the internet - without living on campus or taking classes in person. Unless universities move quickly to transform themselves into educational institutions for a technology-assisted future, they risk becoming obsolete.

Existing alternatives

Enormous amounts of information are now available online for free, ready for watching, listening or reading at any time by anyone who's connected. For more than a decade, private companies, nonprofits and universities alike have been experimenting with online courses, often offered for free or at low cost to large numbers of students around the world. Research has shown that it's as effective for students to use a combination of online courses and traditional in-classroom instruction as it is to just have classes in person.

Providers of massive open online courses, or "MOOCs," are refining ways for people who complete classes to present their accomplishments in ways that employers easily can understand. For example, students in certain classes from major MOOC provider edX can get an official Arizona State University transcript listing their courses and grades. An employer would never know the person studied online. (And BTW, another threat to universities' business model is that students can take classes and get their grades for free; they need to pay only if they are happy with their grades and if they want official college credit.)

This is a period of rapid change unlike what universities have dealt with for centuries.

The evolution of the university

Medieval European universities trained would-be clergy members in canonical law, theological discussion and religious administration. These institutions amassed huge repositories of knowledge, storing and indexing them in libraries, which became the focal point of the campus.

As European countries explored the world and established overseas colonies starting in the 15th and 16th centuries, universities evolved to train officers to manage those territories, study navigation across the oceans and look after colonists' health.

After the Industrial Revolution, colleges changed again, teaching workers how to use new scientific and technological methods and tools.

In the 21st century, the workplace is transforming once more. What businesses, governments and society need from education is shifting, and technology has made the brick-and-mortar library obsolete.

It used to be that users of a technology needed to know how it works. In the early days of driving, for instance, it was important for a driver to be able to fix a car that broke down on the side of the road, perhaps far from any expert mechanics.

But in today's post-industrial economy, that has changed: Even a car mechanic uses a computer to connect to car systems to identify what is not working properly. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.