The Future of Higher Education

The Future of Higher Education: 3 M's

Originally posted on LinkedIn 9/4/2018

According to a recent CBS report, 1/4 of all US colleges could close in the next twenty years. There are multiple factors in this estimate: a declining birth rate (affecting the no. of future college students), the growth of online 'mega-universities who market heavily to prospective students and offer flexible degree options, the prohibitively expensive costs of operating a brick-and-mortar campus, and of course, high tuition itself. How can existing schools survive, much less grow in this environment? I think the future of higher education instruction lies in 3 M's: mobile, modular, and micro.


Mobile learning is an extension of online learning, but making sure that all content can be accessed on a mobile phone. Why? Colleges that are growing are ones that target adult learners who squeeze time in their busy schedules for a degree - such as when commuting to work on public transport or between cooking meals.


Modular learning means dismantling the traditional 15-week semesters into course of varying credit hours and shorter lengths. Virtually every online Ed.D. program I had researched had 5-10 week courses for good reason - you can take more classes in a given year without juggling multiple courses at once. Adult learners often need breaks for sanity or recuperating finances. Shorter courses translates to more on and off ramps for students.


Micro-credentials is the creation of certificate programs rather than degree programs. These credentials take much less time than a traditional degree - they can take the form of a single course or a sequence of 5-6 courses. Micro-credentials are a 'win-win' for both students, employers, and universities in that students get to study a specialized topic (ex. business data analytics) that is highly valued in the labor market, saving them the time and money of pursuing an entire degree and giving them market-ready skills. Some universities offer undergraduate or graduate certificates in a variety of topics and some are developing single courses designed to teach a granular skill or competency.

Your Thoughts?

So what are your thoughts? How do you think colleges will survive the upcoming disruption of higher education? Are their alternate forms of instruction or niches that I haven't thought of? Let me know!

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