The future of universities is up in the air with the recent technological age and changes in the educational world.
While distance or online education allows flexibility it lacks the psychical contact that is necessary for motivation and learning.
The tutors are the motivation and mediators of the learning process. Without this contact, motivation could drastically drop.
One could argue that it is the students choice to go to university and they have to be self-motivated to do so. This is true, however it is also the lecturers and tutors delivering the information and intervening that make the learning experience. This is particularly helpful when someone doesn’t understand content or wants to tease out an issue.
From the outside universities are seen as an ‘ivory tower’ where the university has no real connection or correlation to the real world. This can cause dilemmas with issues about university funding as outsiders may not understand the need for certain subjects.
Universities are made so that everyone is competing with everyone. People, universities, university sectors and departments are all competing and that’s how they keep the system going.
According to Ernst & Young,”We’ve seen fundamental structural changes to industries including media, retail and entertainment in recent years – higher education is next. There’s not a single Australian university than can survive to 2025 with its current business model,” says report author Justin Bokor, Executive Director in Ernst & Young’s Education practice.
The articles also quotes, “At a minimum, universities will need to get much leaner, both in terms of the way they run the back-office, and in use of assets.”
This predicts drastic changes in universities. Funds for certain arts and specialised areas are already being cut and the progression of online studies has increased. For example, the University of Wollongong has established a moodle platform and echo360 to aid education.
While this benefits students it is in combination with university presence and contact with tutors. If we take away the participatory and physical attendance, it may lead to more dropouts, less motivation and less understanding.
Things such as Coursera, that teach online, haven’t got the same impact as an actual university. There is a social and human interaction side to universities that enhances the learning experience.
This all relays back to information and education. Universities are a hub for information and learning. Information has gone from a scarcity to a surplus of information and this has caused students to have to judge the quality of information.
Also Wikileaks shows that information should be available (and the government should be accountable). This is similar to Facebook as it is a platform where information is shared. This is all related to universities which is based around information.
Online information is now costing money to access sites and articles. One could argue that taxes and university fees already cover this and it is an unjustifiable charge.
Boycott Elsevier is an example of going against the organisations that want to charge money for information. They believe it is morally wrong to publish information where people can’t get it. This is in conflict with academic survival in the academy.
Another issue is how long will employers continue to believe that a university degree makes you better? How long will knowing the information and skills keep us qualified?
What makes university information more valuable than online education? It is the contact with others that are learning and being able to converse and discuss the information. This allows a learning experience and environment and allows people to learn skills rather than simply absorbing information.
A distance learning site says that the disadvantages of online learning are a lack of social interaction, not everyone can learn online, some employers don’t accept online degrees and it requires an adaptability to technologies.
The future of universities is a continuing debate that addresses concerns of funding, the relevance of education and the integration with technology. With time we should expect to see drastic changes in the learning environment, one would hope that they keep the contact aspect as online education may not be enough.