Chalkboard to Whiteboard

The effect of technology on the design of space in higher learning.


education into the future

The best way to understand what higher education was like in the 15th century is to walk into a contemporary college lecture hall and just imagine the professor speaking Latin. The professorial lecture has been the mode of choice for imparting knowledge for more than 600 years. Finally, it is becoming passé. Students are more and more put off with traditional methods. They feel that only 26 percent of their readings are relevant to their lives. And they are forcing faculties and universities to change with them.

top ten trends in higher education

Tomorrow’s college experience will be very different from that of just a few years ago, never mind a generation or two ago. This will require designers to think about future higher education spaces in entirely new ways. At least 10 distinct trends will impact them:

1. Flipping the Classroom
What was once classwork or lecture material has now become homework. What were once homework projects have now become in-class activities done in collaboration with classmates and under the supervision of professors. How’s that for change?

In the flipped classroom, students prepare for class by collecting information from various sources on their own time online in their dorm rooms, in a library cubicle, or some other special space designed for that purpose. Then, during class, the teacher answers questions or poses a problem based on that material and then facilitates the students’ efforts to find a solution. Students today are used to collaborating like this, and it builds valuable skills like critical thinking, teamwork, and problem-solving skills.

2. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses)
MOOCs are online courses that are available, usually at no cost, to basically anyone with a web connection. Instead of a professor being able to reach just those in his or her lecture hall, MOOCs enable them to simultaneously teach hundreds of thousands of students.

There are several leading for-profit MOOC providers working in partnership with some of the finest universities in America. This is a trend that has everybody thinking—or rethinking—the entire question of the value of pursuing a four-year degree in the traditional, costly, on-campus setting.

Some traditional universities are already offering MOOC-only graduate degrees at a fraction of the in-person, on-campus cost. Others are incorporating MOOCs into the flipped classroom concept, creating hybrid courses that improve student performance. In one California state university, incorporating content from an online course into a for-credit, campus-based course increased pass rates to 91 percent from as low as 55 percent without the online component.

MOOCs are also a wonderful recruiting tool for universities, allowing them to give students a taste of the experience before they choose to attend. At the moment, most MOOCs are not-for-credit. But a lot of work is being done to try to figure how to give students credit and how to charge them for it. And it is changing fast. Obviously, MOOCs will affect how universities think about, design, and employ their physical spaces.

3. Teaching in Teams
In traditional pedagogy, “the assumption is that every professor is good at everything and needs to be good at everything,” says James R. Davis, dean of University College at the University of Denver and author of “Interdisciplinary Courses and Team Teaching.” “College teachers are specialists in their disciplines, but they have learned almost nothing about how to specialize as teachers, i.e., how to differentiate the tasks of teaching and become experts at different things. Thus, most college teachers do one thing: They go into classrooms and lecture.”

The new trend is teaching in teams. With team teaching, more than one professor, sometimes from different departments or schools, help the students view material from more than one perspective.
This is similar to the cross-pollination that the business world has found productive. It creates a more vibrant, innovative culture, and increases student-faculty interaction to develop an entire community of learners. It has also been found to increase the effectiveness of instruction with measurable outcomes.

In contrast, team teaching allows the team to divide tasks and bring different talents into play. Team teaching is an important and potentially positive trend because it encourages both students and teachers to view material from more than one perspective. Exposure to a team of instructors also gives students access to a broader base of knowledge than is possible from one instructor alone.

Perhaps even more significant is a trend toward interdisciplinary teams comprised of faculty from different departments or schools. We have seen cross-pollination become a credo of the business world where the “creative abrasion of different points of view” creates a more vibrant and innovative culture.

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