The university experience
In the future, learning can take place anywhere, anytime, all life long. What will this mean for you? For our next generation?
This month, thousands of freshmen are arriving on college campuses. Here's how some innovators are re–imagining college life.
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A student enrols in the college of her choice and her academic record is automatically sent online – it is the same one that has followed her through 12 years at four public schools and includes a portfolio of botanical artwork and an audio notebook of references.
During freshman orientation, she signs up for classes, meals, even washing machines, via her laptop or cell phone.
As biology major, she will attend the lectures of a naturalist who lives in Brazil and collaborate on a field research project with students in Hawaii. Her courses will be personalised to reflect her interest in the tropical environment, with skill and knowledge assessments embedded at critical junctures in her studies. Biology is not a department but a tight community of diverse students and experts from around the world sharing her passion.
Her learning will be lifelong – at home, in the field, on the job, in the coffee shop, in the classroom as she advances her career. Then she may change careers several times.
This vision of learning that transcends time, place and economics is ambitious but possible if disparate organisations can connect across the public and private sectors.
"We're early on in deploying this vision but quickly reaching a turning point as more of our constituents recognise the potential of open technologies in helping us get there," observes Michael King, IBM's director of IBM's market development for the global education industry. With open standards and shared technologies, educators, publishers, content creators, government agencies and entertainment companies could connect, share information and deliver an integrated learning system that is personalised to individual students, in and out of the classroom.
"Education is the most critical resource we have in a knowledge economy. We need to manage it strategically like we do other resources, such as land or capital," says King.
Trends shaping education today
Demand for highly educated professionals goes up
Between 2010 to 2020, the U.S., Europe, Japan, China and India will face a shortfall of 32 million well–educated, technically specialised professionals
—"The 2010 Meltdown: Solving the Impending Jobs Crisis," Edward E Gordon, 2005
What will I be when I grow up? IBM helps develop SSME discipline
*Bureau of Labor Statistics, Dec 7, 2005
- IBM is working with universities to develop a new academic discipline: Services Science, Management and Engineering (SSME)
- It comprises computer science, business management, economics, engineering and business anthropology
- All national economies are shifting to services
- Economies of major industrialised nations are made up of 75% services*
- Developing nations are close behind
Here's how some institutions are using innovation to close gaps in student abilities, budgets, and job market demands.
North Carolina State University (NCSU) [home to 29,000+ students] is addressing the demand for graduates trained to work in the IT services sector. This fall, it will become the first U.S. research university to launch a master's–level curriculum in Services Sciences Management and Engineering (SSME). The curriculum–developed with IBM–will combine computer science, computer engineering and management programs as well as a research perspective to services. In spring 2008, the first SSME students will graduate.
Leech Lake Tribal College, MN [grounded in the Anishinaabe culture, offering Associate degrees] is bringing the classroom to the students, including those who live in remote areas of the reservation. A number of strategically located Community Learning Centres are connected through a canopy of wireless technologies. Students can enrol in a business skills curriculum, progressing from basic computer skills through advanced programming and application development. Wireless technology is helping the college provide equal access to education for remote tribal members.
Syracuse City School District, NY [encompasses 35 schools, 3,400 teachers and staff] reflects the major challenges faced by today's American school systems: the need to improve performance of over 21,000 students while stretching limited financial resources. Syracuse launched an advanced communications and network infrastructure that is helping redefine the learning experience with access to interactive Web–based teaching. Instructors can measure the effectiveness and better personalise programs for the learning disabled. And the new infrastructure is addressing the pressing need for Spanish–speaking teachers and advanced placement courses with distance learning across multiple schools.