5 ways higher ed will change by 2020

Say goodbye to the traditional diploma

Communication, technology, and industry will drive major changes in education during the next few years, say leaders of innovative education companies.

Last year, Fast Company asked the world's most innovative companies in education about the future of the classroom, gathering these five key changes expected to take place by 2020:

  1. Students will interact with communities of learning online;
  2. Education needs will drive technology use;
  3. Diplomas will become more competency-based and test specific skills;
  4. Student opinions and feedback will play a greater role; and
  5. Educators and institutions will be shaped less by the United States and more by Africa, South Asia, and China.

Education experts elaborated on the predictions.

In terms of technology use, Shannon May, cofounder of Bridge International Academies, says, "Instead of simply finding ways to put more tablets in kids' hands, education technology will find new ways to supplement the best learning possible."

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Others agree with this supplementary view of technology—that is, that technology will never completely replace traditional education, but will instead add to its possibilities.

Jake Schwartz, CEO and cofounder of General Assembly, says, "Technology is powerful when combined with curricula and programming created and led by practitioner educators. The human factor is always important."

May also predicts that competency-based certifications testing specific skills bundled into professional groupings will take the place of our current diplomas, becoming the "global currency for both employers and job seekers."

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Hadley Ferguson, executive director of the Edcamp Foundation agrees with May: "A new curriculum is going to be created that builds on these possibilities, allowing students to move away from rote learning and tackle real-world challenges and develop solutions for them," she says.

The final "global" prediction lies in the expectation that by 2100, more than half the world's population will live in India, China, or Africa. Because of this, May expects the educational "center of gravity" to shift away from the issues and needs of the United States alone.

Overall, Schwartz says, future educators will shift their focus from specific content and curriculum toward coordinating "complex offerings into a useful package for their students and graduates" (Cole, Fast Company, 3/10/15; Carter, Education Dive, 9/20). 

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