Technology and Higher Ed: Learnings and Takeaways from Educause 2017 and EdSurge Live (Part 2)

edsurge logo educause PowellNote: This article is Part 4 of a multi-part series.

At a recent Educause 2017 conference, I had the opportunity to listen to theoretical futurist, physicist and author Dr. Michio Kaku and also listened to an EdSurge conference on artificial intelligence. But what do all of these technological changes mean for us in higher education? In this post on the future of higher education, I will address the potential implications in three areas: program currency and relevance; preparing students for the future; and the changing role of faculty.

Program Currency and Relevance: In a world of rapidly changing technology and related job evolutions, the programs and education we provide in higher education also need to change and with greater speed. Think about it…how long does it take to propose, design, obtain approval and implement a new program on our campuses today? I suggest the time frame is frequently months to even years. This is problematic in the fourth wave of technology!

To be relevant, we need to stay close and listen close to emerging technology trends, whether that is through industry advisory groups and/or through partnerships with industry. By the time programs go to market, the world has changed! We need to create processes for design and approval of programs that are timely and nimble in implementation and responsive to changing technologies. Perhaps we also need to focus on the development of the inherent intellectual capacities and skills needed of intellectual workers, including competency in innovation, critical and creative thinking, and the unleashing of student imagination in our programs and offerings.

Preparing Students for the Future: If everything is an open book and readily accessible, how do we educators prepare our students to assess, assimilate, and apply the vast array of information and knowledge immediately available to them? The methodologies by which we teach and the need for creative engagement through experience in the learning process, versus passive listening and writing of papers/assignments, needs re-evaluation across our curriculum.

Perhaps papers and tests may be replaced by application and vision exercises. If information is immediately available, perhaps testing for memory and concepts needs to be transformed to testing of applicability and ability to assimilate knowledge. If workers need to be imaginative, innovative, and critical thinkers in the workforce, then we may need to reinvent how we prepare and develop them throughout their education for this rapidly changing and emerging fourth wave technological future.

Changing Role of Faculty: The role of the faculty today is evolving. It needs to continue to do so as we reflect on not only what we teach, but how we teach. As such, Dr. Kaku proposed that in the emerging technological world, professors are mentors. I can think of faculty who already embrace this idea and others who would balk at the thought of it.

Technological changes are changing academics —what we teach, how we teach, and what teaching/learning means. To remain relevant and prepare students for the future, we educators need to pause and reflect on what we need to do differently in this environment. We need to do it with greater speed and agility than ever before.

As for what more can we do, one action I intend to take is to check out the books Dr. Kaku has written about the future. It’s time to begin to imagine the future’s technological world and to envision how we as educators will figuratively “skate to where the puck is going to be” in higher education.

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