Six forecasts about tomorrow's universities

Look for experiential learning, advanced technology, personalization

Today's higher education trends give us a glimpse at the future of residential colleges and universities, writes Steven Mintz, the executive director of the University of Texas system's Institute for Transformational Learning, in Inside Higher Ed

Reimagining experiential learning

1. More experiential learning

Study abroad, mentored research, field studies, and internships already provided opportunities for experiential learning. But those are embedded as "intrinsic and essential" elements in just a handful of schools, writes Mintz.

2. Advanced technology in education

"Technology-enhanced education" includes everything from PowerPoint slides to collaborative creation of blogs, but new technology, such as virtual laboratories, virtual reality, and interactive simulations offers new ways to leverage tech advancements in the classroom.

"These technologies allow students to conduct an experiment virtually or traverse a historical site or engage with a case study—or create a virtual museum exhibition, a digital story, or contribute to an online, multimedia encyclopedia," Mintz writes.

3. Support for entrepreneurs on campus 

Project-based learning helps students develop critical thinking and teamwork skills, often in relation to "real-world" problems.

"Yet outside of business and engineering schools, campuses have only just begun to provide the kinds of holistic support and mentoring that entrepreneurial-minded students need," Mintz writes.

Students need support on issues ranging from legal matters and business planning to technology transfer and commercialization.  

10 ways to improve student entrepreneurship

4. Field lessons

Technology allows students from all over to participate in classroom discussions via mobile devices. This means students in the field, or those in multiple locations, can all contribute to a learning network.

There are already universities with many locations, satellite campuses, and storefront campuses.

"'Edgeless' universities would promote networked, distributed, connected, and social learning. This would encourage collaboration across institutional boundaries, pairing classrooms or creating solver communities or communities of practice," Mintz writes. 

5. Personalized pathways

"Personalization is one of the defining features of the digital economy, and it is only a matter of time before it reshapes higher education," Mintz writes.

New credentials, such as badges, will support each student's pace of learning as well as those who transfer or start and stop school—and start again.

6. Additional alternative models

A majority of colleges and universities operate in the same general way, but "we are beginning to see a proliferation of alternate models," Mintz writes.

These include honors programs, block scheduling, and integrating humanities and STEM fields into a single major. New credentials are popping up as well, such as certificates, specializations, and badges (Mintz, "Blog U," Inside Higher Ed, 3/28). 

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