As MIT Celebrates a Century in Cambridge, we look back and ahead on the state of education. After 100 years in Cambridge, what’s next for MIT? What does the future of education look like at MIT and the world?
MIT asked these very questions at a recent symposium on The Campus – Then, Now, Next. For MIT leaders like Vice President for Open Learning Sanjay Sarma and Anant Agarwal, edX CEO and professor of EECS, the future of education is going digital. “We have come so far in the past five to ten years that it’s absolutely unimaginable,” says Agarwal. “And the confluence of cloud computing, social networking, video distribution at scale, game design, artificial intelligence have really brought a whole new level of performance and ability.”
The digital age of education comes in response to rapid innovations in educational technology and ever-shifting college demographics. The stereotypical 18-year-old freshmen enrolling in a four-year college right after high school is no longer a realistic picture of higher education today. A great majority of college students today are working full or part time, have children, and are taking courses part time and in the evenings.
This shift in demographics has changed the way we offer up education. Online courses and professional certification programs, like MITx on edX and MIT’s new MicroMasters in Supply Chain Management, offer students greater flexibility and control over when and how they learn. But, if online is the hot new thing in education, what happens to the campus? “The world is clamoring for something in between, something more modular, something that you can do flexibly, something that you can do anywhere, anytime, even just in case,” says Agarwal.
While digital learning technologies like responsive assessments and game learning offer new opportunities for a personalized education, the role of campus remains an important site for learning. As Sarma sees it, the campus environment is where the magic occurs, where teams form, where students find mentors and have the formative coming-of-age experiences that propel them forward to future livelihoods. Online is a tool that enriches the onsite, liberating teachers in the classroom to do more hands-on projects and to cherish in-person interactions and peer-to-peer relationships.
Dr. Susan Singer, division director in the division of undergraduate education at National Science Foundation, discussed how online education can not only enrich in-person interaction, but can actually help address worldwide problems by bridging the boundaries of time and place. “As we think about the global challenges, I’d like to challenge all of us to think beyond courses or even modules and consider the online environment as a place to collectively address problems. We think about citizen science, academic civic engagement, classroom learning, problem solving, crowdsourcing all coming together. Isn’t it possible for our students worldwide to be coming together to solve problems that could truly make a difference?”
In 2014, the MIT Task Force on the Future of Education predicted that education in the future will be diffuse, unbundled, on demand, just in time, and just in case. At the upcoming LINC 2016 Conference, hosted at MIT on May 23-25, MIT leaders like Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, Dean Dennis Freeman, and Dean Christine Ortiz will dive even deeper into the subject, with sessions on the future of faculty, future of pedagogy, and the future of the university. The conference will discuss digital learning challenges and opportunities, including a student panel with examples and a digital sandbox demonstration, and will include workshops on MOOC development and various sectors of pre K-12 education.
Interested in attending LINC Conference? Online registrations are closed, but email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure one of the few remaining spots on these forward-looking sessions and join fellow educators, researchers, and technologists to envision the future of digital education, access, and inclusion for learners around the world.