From the Campus to the Future

Diana G. Oblinger the President and CEO of Educause has written a masterful essay on the purpose of higher education, where it currently stands and where it needs to move forward to be effective. I found the introduction to be the most powerful. I’ve paraphrased it below:

The purpose of higher education is to equip students for success in life — in their workplaces, in their communities, and in their personal lives. Yet though this purpose has remained constant for centuries, colleges and universities themselves are undergoing major change. The campus, the library, the refereed journal article, the classroom, and the traditional-age student — common features of higher education today—may be inadequate in describing higher education tomorrow.

  • Formal, traditional boundaries are becoming more permeable and porous. Interdisciplinary fields (e.g., nanotechnology, bioethics) are increasing. Leading faculty are being recruited worldwide…
  • The classroom is no longer limited to a three-dimensional space for the dissemination of knowledge (see programs like the the University of Southern California’s Master of Social Work). Students have virtually limitless access to information, faculty, tutors, and each other. Digital libraries and repositories make materials instantly accessible. And learning is increasingly facilitated by exploration, interaction, and problem-solving…
  • The library is not defined as a building for books. Many disciplines rely almost exclusively on online resources — whether books, journals, data, or artifacts. Students may consider the library more as a social place than a site for the reference desk or physical books…
  • The digital environment is a “place” for social interaction and community exchange. Although the value of the campus as a physical place continues, an increasing number of interactions for students, faculty, and staff happen online, including the emergence of virtual, multinational research organizations
  • Scholarship and research are becoming more “conversational.” There is less reliance on communication through formal publications as an increasing number of exchanges occur through e-mail, preprints, and monitored blogs…
  • Digital technology and the unprecedented scale of data, as well as the nearly limitless ability to reconstitute the data, have altered the conduct of traditional research and scholarship…
  • The more traditional model of a university or college providing most of its services physically on (or near) a campus is changing. More and more services and programs originate off-site and are shared, distributed, or aggregated by other colleges and universities or outsourced agencies.