I went off to college (or university as it is referred to in most places outside of the United States) in the late 1970’s. At that time there were neither personal computers nor laptops in use. My college experience was more like one students experienced thirty years prior than thirty years later.
We have a daughter who is now finishing her sophomore year at college and I’ve begun to wonder if her generation will be one of the last to experience campus life in ways that I remember. It’s no secret that attending a four-year college or university is expensive – sometimes brutally expensive. That combined with continually improving and evolving online education programs which are eminently more affordable indicate to me that future generations may not have the opportunity to experience what might be the best four years (ok maybe five or six years) of their lives.
Like many of my fellow 20th century alumni I could rhapsodize about the many memorable experiences I had while in college (almost all of them OUTSIDE the classroom in case you are wondering). I’m glad that my kids had the opportunity to experience some of their own memorable college on and off campus experiences.
What online higher education has to offer is both greater affordability, and a reduction in the barriers to learning. There have been some indications that performance by online learners can at times be higher than those that actually show up in the classroom. I think it’s safe to say that online learners have no disadvantage in obtaining resources when it comes to doing what it takes to gain a cognitive understand of course material. Questions can be asked online and that’s an important way for learners to gain a deeper understanding of concepts. In the long run there’s really no reason online learners should underperform compared to their in-class university counterparts.
At present U.S. universities are living off alumni contributions to the general endowment as well as foreign students whose parents have the means and desire to pay the full ride in cash. The U.S. has more top-notch universities than any other country in the world. Online education will level the playing field in an academic sense. Yet do we really think things will be this way indefinitely? The conclusion I am reaching is that the on-campus, amazingly expensive, traditional go-away-to-college experience is ultimately doomed although I am not exactly sure how long it might take for that to occur. But I don’t see my children investing $500,000 for a college education for their own children. The trend has to stop sometime doesn’t it?
Do you believe the halcyon days of the college experience to be a thing of the past? If so how long do you think it might take?