Do universities have a troubled future? Maybe so, but do think twice

Don Tapscott writes an interesting piece about the troubled future of universities in the Huftington Post. I do agree there are difficult times coming, but not always for the same reasons the professor notes.

Are MOOC’s the new gulf of democratisation of education?  They could be, but it is not sure if they will be. Easy access to top professors giving online lectures for free sound great, and it is. But the retention rate of many of the courses are rather low, many students quite during the process. One could argue that this is not a bad thing (hey, the didn’t have to pay for it), but for a strong basis for learning, don’t know. Maybe Andrew Keene was right 2 weeks ago when we talked in Brussels for the media and learning conference. MOOC’s and platforms alike will give lower quality education for the masses, and a select group of very, very good universities (and thus very, very expensive ones) will survive for the happy few. And if MOOC’s are as new pedagogy as some think, do read this analysis by Larry Cuban.

Where I think Tapscott is maybe wrong, is that students want another kind of education because they think and learn different. Sadly, the evidence points in quite the opposite direction. Maybe they are less motivated to keep attention, but a different way of learning, nope. Actually, students are often more conservative than one thinks. This does not mean we don’t have to update education, but please for the right reasons.

There are 2 other problems I see in the near future for universities world wide. No, I have to correct myself, it is maybe already partly happening:

  • Higher education as a the next economical bubble. Getting through college is getting more expensive in many countries and students are putting out loans building up another debt crisis. What if the topjobs students studied for don’t come and money can’t be paid back? If you look at some of the high potentials in the south of Europe, this is already for many the case. I do think Peter Thiel made a good point (although I don’t like his school-bashing).
  • Credibility: maybe I’m biased because I’m living in a Dutch-speaking area of the world, but the big Stapel-gate didn’t do science that good over here. The sad thing is that some of his publications were even published in top ranking journals. The old control systems seem to fail, hurting the credibility of research at universities. The whole system of peer reviewed (expensive) journals is getting more and more under pressure. Open Source journals (like PlosOne) are gaining moment, but the universities seem to have a hard time adapting.

Just my 2 pence…

4 thoughts on “Do universities have a troubled future? Maybe so, but do think twice

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