The future of university: traditional vs. online?

If you were to ask a lecture hall full of university students where they saw the future of higher education going you’d probably expect the vast majority to say it’s going online. Our opinions of online learning are largely based on what we’ve seen so far; in other words, the widespread rise of online classes.

When we talk about technology-enabled learning, most people probably think of online classes, which have had mixed results so far. On one hand, online courses can make higher education much more affordable and accessible. On the other hand, not all students can stay engaged and successful without regular feedback and interaction with their instructor and other students. Even the best online classes cannot hope to duplicate the rich spontaneous interactions that can take place among students and instructors in the classroom.

Time, distance and affordability are just a few of the reasons why online classes can’t currently match the setting of a classroom or lecture hall. But these limitations will almost certainly be overcome, especially considering the pace of change in technology. With this in mind where would the current tech-savvy, Generation Y cohort actually prefer to study? The results of a recent survey may surprise you:

When students were asked what they perceived the future of education to be like, 39 percent claimed it would be more virtual with 40 percent blaming their reliance on technology for negatively affecting the growth of their interpersonal skills. But it was the 78 percent of students who still contend that learning in a classroom is easier than online that was really surprising.

Despite this revelation that seems to indicate that current students would rather learn in the physical classroom environment compared to virtually, those surveyed still acknowledged the benefits of learning online:

• Only about half of students polled thought that they truly needed to attend a class in a physical setting in order to get a good education
• The vast majority of students were willing to try out getting a professional experience online
• 84 percent of students use a computer in a classroom setting already

“Millennials understand that the future of education is online and since they were brought up with the internet, they are prepared for that change,” explained Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. “Education should not be a one size fits all model because everyone learns differently, regardless of age, occupation and location. More online courses should be offered to cater to those who learn better in a virtual classroom.”

Clearly, the battle lines for the future of University have been drawn. Where do you think it’s heading: Traditional or Online?

Here’s a few thoughts shared on the subject on Twitter:

Sources: The Huffington Post | InTheCapital

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