The future of higher education will involve:
A) The same traditional classroom structure we’ve had for hundreds of years;
B) It does not matter- dolphins will take over the earth;
C) Robots will teach us all; or
D) The use of interactive software in combination with distance learning to supplement current programs
Okay, so you probably don’t think that artificial intelligence will advance so rapidly that robots will become our primary teachers and you probably don’t even think dolphins will take over the earth! What you might be aware of is that the internet is changing the way that education is being administered. You may have taken a distance-ed course or you may have even taken a class that came with a nifty little software package that let you work with the material.
The problem, however, is that not all subjects can be administered through a computer. Sure, one could argue that programs such as accounting, history, or statistics could be completely learned from a distance. After all, these subjects do not necessarily require any face-to-face interaction, but what about programs that do? Clearly, learning a language without face-to-face interaction would be like training for a marathon by running on a treadmill. Marketing and communication programs require face-to-face interactions so that students can learn to make persuasive arguments and presentations. All of the science labs require the presence of students. After all, how many of you would want a doctor that had only practiced on a virtual human. So if the computer cannot solve all our educational needs, what is the answer?
The answer is an integrated approach. If you are anything like this author, you learn 100 times better when you are engaged in the material. Thus, a really well done CD or internet site with interactive games and quizzes will force the students to interact with the material. This distance learning approach must be used as a supplement to traditional classroom methods as it cannot be a substitute for team building, face-to-face questions and answers, or building oral communication skills. All that said, many things currently done in the classroom can be moved online. Group discussions and question sessions can be accomplished via forums and chat sessions, certain scientific concepts learned in lab can be learned through interactive video, and even certain grammar basics of languages can be learned through interactive voice recognition software.
In high school and even some college courses, I was bored out of my mind as long-winded, verbose (yes, that was redundant on purpose) lecturers would go on and on about historical battles or the biochemistry translation process. At the time, I just figured such subjects were inherently boring. After all, how excited could one get about the battle of 1812 or the process by which proteins are formulated? But as I grew older, I became interested in things that I thought I disliked! A movie or an interesting article might turn me on to a subject I previously thought was about as interesting as paint drying. What the heck was going on? I was more engaged in the subject matter, that’s what! And so my crystal ball tells me that even though professors may be going nowhere, fun, educational, interactive games- well, they’re coming!